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UNC Greensboro Aquatics Go Green

By Mike Fowler

Energy Efficiency

Like many university aquatic facilities undergoing updates, the new UNCG pools were equipped specifically with energy-saving equipment in order to reduce energy consumption by their swimming pools and thus reduce operating costs. The main energy saving products used included the Acu Drive XS Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs), Stark Filter systems and IntelliBrite 5G LED pool lights.

The VFD is designed specifically to help aquatic facilities save energy and operating costs by increasing pump performance, saving up to 60 percent or more on the pump's electricity usage. The VFD allows the system to ramp up to full speed during the day when the pool reaches peak bather loads. At night, the drive can slow the pump down to continue filtration but not at full speed while closed. The VFD units have a minimal payback time as they automatically optimize energy. In fact, the VFD units offer a built-in display to show how much time remains until the drive pays for itself. Many utility providers around the country even offer rebates to those that install a variable frequency drive—making the investment in the drive minimal.

"The VFD is the ideal piece of equipment for controlling costs associated with the energy needed to run the pool pumps," Caron said. "VFD units eliminate energy spikes to reduce energy consumption and also help the pump motors run smoother and last longer, as they eliminate the wear and tear associated with starting and stopping. VFDs are part of our energy-saving best practices and have become standard in our pump room designs."

The UNCG facility also installed two sand filter systems. The competition pool has one system comprised of three filter tanks plus a separate two-tank system for the leisure pool. These systems have an integrated automatic backwash control system that makes them highly energy-efficient. The filters are easier to install and maintain because they have a modular design that allows for influent and effluent placement to meet any design requirements. In this case, a side-by-side configuration was chosen. These new green units were chosen for this particular pump room because they occupy as little as one-fourth the floor space of other filters. The filters were ideal for this pump room located below the pools themselves in a relatively tight space. The manway viewport on the front of the filters provides a quick, visual observation of the sand bed during filtration and backwash that allows for better monitoring and maintenance. In fact, the difference between a clean and dirty filter can nearly double the pump's energy consumption, so checking the sand bed frequently is crucial.

Choosing LED lighting is a very important part of the overall plan to reduce energy consumption. Old incandescent lights are inefficient and don't provide the best illumination. Changing aquatic facility lights to LED technology immediately lower electrical bills and maintenance staff will rarely need to change those bulbs. The facility's LED pool lights use 89 percent less electricity than incandescent and halogen pool lights. LED circuits are extremely energy-efficient, and because each light lasts much longer, the bulbs are changed less frequently, providing aquatic facilities additional savings over time.

The End Result

The Kaplan Aquatic Center is now open and running efficiently. The pools meet all the needs of the students, faculty and community. The air quality system has created a superior indoor environment and the green pump room design and equipment ensure that the facility keeps operating costs lower so more funds are available for well programming or other facility improvements.

Mike Fowler is the commercial sales manager for Pentair in Sanford, N.C. He has been with the company since 1992, starting his career in the technical services department at Purex Pool Products. Fowler has held many managerial roles within the company, including marketing, accounting and products. For more information, visit www.pentair.com.