Supplement Feature - May 2020
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Aquatic Pros Talk Equipment

Aquatic Systems & Mechanical Design Considerations

By Joe Bush

What kinds of systems improve indoor air quality?

White: Air quality is an essential part of indoor aquatic facilities, especially those with higher bather loads. UV systems actually help reduce the gases that come off the top of the pool, which are the result of the oxidation in the water. These gases cause real problems for competitive swimmers in particular. Breathing in these gases can be very detrimental to the health of athletes. Therefore, UV is an excellent way to help improve indoor air quality and there are several other ventilation systems in the marketplace that focus on removing those poisonous gases from the water surface to help protect the lungs of swimmers from this bad air on the surface of the pool water. Newer pools have ventilation systems specifically to remove that gas from the surface of the pool water. Humidity is also a problem that needs to be considered; ventilation systems need to remove this humidity so that you don't end up with rain in the indoor pool, especially in the winter.

Fowler: Make sure your ventilation in the indoor room is proper, and the air handling system is sized right for the indoor pool facility. Adding UV systems to combat chloramines is a big step in helping to eliminate the chloramines in the air that cause so much trouble to guests.

Where does sustainability fit in?

White: YMCAs, health clubs, municipal and public pools and recreational facilities offer a healthy lifestyle—it's an essential business in our world today. If these commercial aquatic facilities are going to continue to provide swimming facilities, which are an invaluable form of exercise and play to our communities, then these facilities need to be upgraded and renovated with equipment that will allow the facility to operate sustainably.

Not only does this equipment require less energy to operate the pool but also requires less water to be used—so they help save water. Conservation of water and newer equipment functioning with less backwash water are going to be required to sustain aquatic facilities over the long run. Newer filters are also now using less backwash water—traditional sand filters use a tremendous amount of water to wash the filters.

Water is at a premium at many parts of the country. Water rates are increasing just as electrical rates are increasing. If we want to have enough water for pools and enough drinking water, we need to waste less water in our aquatic swimming industry. Additionally, conserving water quality is essential, both in the pool and the water that is returned to the system through cleaning, etc.

What kind of energy cost savings can operators expect from the latest equipment?

Luecker: Energy-efficient pumps with a VFD can save up to 90%. The use of a VFD with your circulation pump can save up to 80%. Pool heaters are 82% efficient for the standard atmospheric heater, 85% efficient for a condensing heater, or up to 97% efficient on the sealed-combustion, high-efficiency units. The use of a pool cover can save from 50 to 70% on an outdoor pool and 25 to 30% on an indoor pool.

Fowler: With pumps using energy-efficient variable speed drives, whether built in or not, I could see as much as 60 to 70% savings, depending on applications and size of pumps. In most cases, these pumps can be slowed down in non-operating hours to aid in the energy savings factor. Heaters in the past were only sending 78% of their heat back to the pool, and some heaters of today are sending as much as 96%. So, based on that, an older model 400,000 BTU heater may have only 312,000 BTU going to the pool, whereas a high-efficiency heater of today would be sending as much as 384,000 BTU back. That lowers heating times and operating costs.

White: More energy-efficient equipment must meet the challenge of keeping operational costs in check so the facility can operate cost-efficiently and provide the benefits of swimming to the community that uses the pool. Manufacturers have risen to the challenge and provide energy-efficient variable speed pool pumps, which by the way, are being mandated after July 2021 by the Department of Energy.

Variable speed pumps also help improve water quality and clarity by dialing in the flow slow enough for the filter to do its job better. Variable speed pumps and variable frequency drives run the pump longer and slower so the filter works better.

What does the future hold for commercial pool equipment?

Fowler: Although you'll always have to have an aquatics service manager on site at an aquatic facility, the modernization of swimming pool equipment in the past years and in future years will help make their lives a little easier to maintain their given facilities and possibly use the savings in operation for other items or programs within the aquatics center.

Luecker: Energy efficiency and helping customers to reduce the costs to operate a facility is always the goal. Improvements to chemical delivery systems and supplemental disinfection systems for operators to run a cleaner facility is good for patrons. Anything safety-related, much like the Virginia Graeme Baker (VGB) Act that helped with suction entrapment and drain safety, would be a focus to improve facility safety.

White: The key word is change. What worked 10 years ago doesn't work today. Today it's efficiency and consistency. New regulations will force these changes. These efficiency improvements in today's aquatic facilities are essential. But even without regulations, aquatic facilities have been focused on reducing operating costs, and in doing so are actually also reducing the amount of chemicals they use, conserving water, using less electricity. By controlling speed they save electricity and still make the turnover, which ultimately allows filters to work better so water quality improves. All of these factors are key to the future. RM