Feature Article - April 2014
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Keeping Pools in Tiptop Shape

Automation and More to Boost Pool Maintenance

By Deborah L. Vence

As water balance continuously changes, the need for automation is essential due to problems associated with chemical imbalances in pools.

"These are all challenges that can be circumvented with proper training and execution at the facility," he added.

White explained that if the sanitation system in a public pool, which requires chlorine delivery and adjustments of the pH, had an employee standing there all the time, chlorine would have to be distributed into the water manually.

And, "You can never put chemicals in while swimmers are in the pool," White said. "It has to be injected well away from the people … mixing in with the water."

Furthermore, Mike Fowler, a commercial marketing manager with a Sanford, N.C.-based manufacturer and supplier of commercial pool products, pointed out that depending on how water is sent to a pool, "a lot of water is not good quality, thus prompting the need for proper maintenance.

"Also, bather load affects the chemical balance of the pool tremendously as does rain water," he added. "A hot day in the summer with a fully loaded pool can cause much stress on a pool, and chemicals during times like these may need to be raised to higher levels for proper balancing."

Innovations in automated pool maintenance have enabled pool operators to address such problems more quickly or avoid them altogether.

"Advancements in chemical controllers, salt chlorine generation systems and automatic pool cleaners have made swimming pool maintenance a lot easier than in years past," Fowler added.

The chemical controller product that Aqua Guard uses, for example, enables pool operators to regularly check the status of their pools remotely.

Installed at each property, the chemical controller has an Ethernet option that includes Internet access, enabling a pool operator to view the status of the chemical controller online at any time, day or night. Pool operators then can check the pH, ORP, temperature and water flow from any location with an Internet connection as well as graphs of past data with time stamps. Data also can be sent to a remote server that operators can log into to view past data. Wi-Fi also allows a connection directly to the chemical controller to view current readings and settings and edit operational parameters.

Richards noted an example of a larger resort area in Michigan that Aqua Guard manages that has one person who is responsible for all the pools there.

"They have one guy who is responsible for their pool. The guy on the phone can check all five pools … check, monitor and manage the pool. He's going to get information sent to his smartphone. He gets an alert and pulls out his PC or laptop and makes adjustments from a remote area," he explained.

Undeniably, sanitation systems are essential in order for a pool to be maintained properly and ensure its longevity.

"We can automate chlorine by way of electronic equipment. The ORP measures electricity in the water, the amount of chlorine," said Steven R. White, certified service professional, education director, Region IX, Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, NSPF, CPO Instructor, and president of Underwater Pool Masters Inc., a full-service swimming pool company in Central Massachusetts that specializes in preventing, diagnosing or solving problems with residential and commercial swimming pools.

The amount of chlorine that's in a pool can be regulated much like a thermostat. "When the chlorine demand increases in a pool," he said, "the chlorine—instead of being depleted—is injected by automation. That automation program depends upon the equipment that can make a momentary judgment on the need for increased sanitation by the reading that the device gets."

White went on to say that the reading is done in millivolts (mV). "The control device reads and, typically, we set chlorine levels with standards that we have in Massachusetts—1 to 3 parts per million. In any case, if I set it at 2 parts per million, it might be like 650 to 800 millivolts," he explained. "We set it for that program."

But, when chlorine demand increases, and the number drops down to 600, for example, the automatic pumping device then opens and adds new sanitation levels in to raise it back to 700. "It is the best way of keeping up with the sudden demand in a public pool," White explained. "It frees up somebody from testing the water all the time."