Feature Article - April 2017
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Essential Aquatic Maintenance

Facilities Need Planned Maintenance, Energy-Efficient Solutions

By Deborah L. Vence

In an article by Wayne Smith, president of the Ellensburg, Wash.-based pool equipment company, he cited a client example about McMenamins Anderson Hotel in Bothell, Wash., which features a 170,000-gallon salt water pool with a water temperature held at a constant 90 degrees. He said "maintaining a pool of that size at that temperature poses some significant challenges."

Pools (and spas) running at higher temperatures require more chlorine to keep them free of nasty pathogens.

But, Smith's company, together with the team at McMenamins, designed and constructed one of the most cost-efficient mechanical rooms in the country. "In fact, several smart choices in the design actually pay for themselves while operating," he stated.

"Pools (and spas) running at higher temperatures require more chlorine to keep them free of nasty pathogens. Shipping and storing enough chlorine for such a large pool would present significant challenges for any facility," Smith stated. "McMenamins packs a full-service hotel, brewery, three restaurants, five bars, movie theatre and conference rooms into a former junior high school, and as you can imagine, that left little room for chemical storage."

On-site chlorine production using a salt chlorination system was at the top of the list of must-haves even before the savings such a system could deliver were considered. Smith explained in the article that "Daily maintenance includes adding salt directly to the pool, which is then passed through the chlorine-generating cell in the … system where an electrical charge is applied to produce the necessary chlorine for the pool."

Meanwhile, the company provides a free operational cost analysis report to clients such as McMenamins prior to installation and the numbers reveal payback and positive ROI in a matter of months, meaning that installing and operating an on-site chlorine production system can pay for itself.

Myron Clifton, director of marketing and sales operations for a Concord, Calif.-based national distributor of commercial swimming pool equipment, chemicals and aquatic supplies, said that "For both older and newer facilities operators should consider upgrading to new energy-efficiency products: solar systems, high-efficiency pool heaters (up to 98 percent efficient), LED lighting, pool cover systems, and variable frequency drives (VFDs) all contribute to reducing costs, reducing pool maintenance and helping to save energy."

He said, "Solar systems and high-efficiency heating systems help you to reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat your facility to your normal operating temperature.

"Many customers are also adding LED lighting to their pools because not only do the lights use less energy—using only 55 watts of energy compared to 500 watts with standard lighting, LED lights are designed to create a wider beam of light with more uniform light distribution and a crisper light color," he said.

In addition, swimming pool covers can help retain the heat that normally radiates from a pool, whether indoor or outdoor, which saves money.

"VFDs allow you to lower your pump speeds during non-peak use periods and by reducing the power frequency which will help you lower your energy operating costs," he added.

Renovation Options

Options for renovations at your aquatic facility depend on what type of facility you have to begin with.

"Most operators should review their facilities and come up with creative ideas to improve the facility to meet the needs of their patrons and community," Hefter said.

A well run pool makes you look good and your patrons happy to be swimming at your facility.

"Any way that you are able to increase attendance and use your facility for multiple uses at any given time will assist with this," she said. "We are starting to see more and more partnerships being developed in the industry when it comes to aquatic facilities. Communities are coming together to ensure that the needs of the community are being met in various ways."

And you don't have to break the bank. Small renovations can go a long way.

"Adding spray or floating features, small drop slides or water climbing walls have seen a big increase in attendance while seeing only a moderate cost for renovation," she said.

Meanwhile, Fowler noted that energy-efficient pumps, VFDs, higher efficiency heaters and automated chemical controllers are good renovation options.

"In a lot of cases, commercial pools are in need of lots of renovation because of [the] age of equipment and possibly budget restrictions at a facility. When looking at replacing equipment, it's always a good case to look at more energy-efficient options when putting in new stuff," Fowler explained.

"It may be a little more out of pocket to start, but the ROI is much better than older equipment of yesteryear," he said. "If budgets allow, an automated chemical controller system would take the worry [out] of having to have someone hand check chemicals all the time and could be used to properly maintain the correct levels."

In addition, the pumps on these projects, in most cases, are oversized and a facility is probably using butterfly valves to slow the flow down through the pump, which adds much more pressure on the pump and can shorten its life.

"With pumps that [have] VFDs built into them or attached to it, gives the opportunity to dial in these pumps to exactly what is needed while also streamlining the costs to run them," he added.