Feature Article - April 2014
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Keeping Pools in Tiptop Shape

Automation and More to Boost Pool Maintenance

By Deborah L. Vence

The first thing Ron Richards does every morning at 6 a.m. is check his board for the latest information on any of the 25 pool properties his company manages in Michigan.

"The board actually is a listing of all the properties we manage and has real-time information on it. I have an application on my laptop where I can go into that and then make physical adjustments from there," said Richards, a managing partner with Aqua Guard Pool Services LLC in Walled Lake, Mich. "We can see if there is something red and go right into the property and go right into the unit. We set parameters for the ORP [oxygen reduction potential] or chlorine [levels]."

Alerts are set up that can send an immediate message to Richards on his smartphone, letting him know if any of the pools need modifications, such as to ensure that the water is chemically stable.

A special pool chemical controller product, designed to automate the chemical balancing activity within a commercial aquatic environment, "takes the readings of the pool and sends it to our [data] server [every 15 minutes], and our server has limits and guidelines on the piece of equipment. If it wanders out of proper balance, it sends us an alert on our smartphones," he explained. "Whenever anything gets out of whack, I can drill down and see exactly what's going on. Then, "I can get online and make physical adjustments. I can monitor them."

As an example, if Richards received an alert that the pH was high at one of the pools, he would be able to go on his smartphone and take a look at the pump run times on that property.

"If the pH is high, it's not getting enough muriatic acid, and I look at the pump run times. It recognizes the imbalance and tries to fix it. The pH in a pool needs to be between 7.4 or 7.6," he added. "It's a tremendous amount better than any manual system. If you're manually adjusting chemicals, you are peaking and valleying all over the place. You can misread it."

As swimming pool maintenance becomes more automated, pools also have become safer and more likely to stay in working order regularly, as industry experts discuss in the following article—along with the importance of human intervention in ongoing maintenance.

Automated Superintendent

As water balance continuously changes, the need for automation is essential due to problems associated with chemical imbalances in pools. A common complaint from customers includes bathing suit color fading, which can happen if the chlorine level is too high.

Thus, aquatic facilities that automate have a greater opportunity to survive and prosper.

"Automatic sensors and feeders have been available for decades, and they continue to become better. In addition, web interfaces and data tracking is common," said Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Generally speaking, "Large bodies of water have inherent risks," Lachocki said. "People can't breathe in water. Water harbors disease-causing germs that can grow and make people ill. Chemicals used to keep disease-causing germs out of the water are hazardous. Pumps and other electrical devices used to monitor, circulate and treat water place electricity near water, creating an electrical hazard. Pumps also create a suction entrapment hazard within a pool. In time, wet and humid facilities can corrode or deteriorate.