Eco-Friendly Pools – 5 Ways To Make a Pool More Sustainable

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Eco-friendly pool options may just be the best thing to ever happen to your home. That might sound like hyperbole at first. But take a moment to imagine what it feels like to jump into a pool on a hot summer day. Now imagine what it feels like to help make the world a better place. Finally, think about the satisfaction you get from saving money. Then combine it all together. That’s the eco-friendly pool experience. And you’ll learn how to have all of that for yourself as you continue to read.

The Major Benefits of an Eco-Friendly Pool

There’s little doubt that pools are an endless source of entertainment. But at the same time you’ve probably wondered about their environmental impact. It’s a rare news cycle that doesn’t raise concerns over the number of harsh chemicals commonly used in the home. And the problems with resource utilization aren’t any better. You’re probably reminded of increased costs for energy production every time you pay your bills. And drought-related issues have been particularly worrisome in recent years. Drought maps will often show most of the US in the midst of some level of abnormally dry condition by the time the summer heat really ramps up. And there are often only small patches of unaffected areas within a kaleidoscope of impacted locations.

However, you might be surprised by just how environmentally friendly your pool can be. There are alternatives to mitigate the impact of most of the resource-intensive areas of pool ownership. And even better, you’ll probably even save some money while helping save the world. The following tips and methods will ensure that your pool use is environmentally sound.

eco-friendly pool logo

Considering Chlorine

Many people think of chlorine as almost synonymous with pool ownership. People have become so used to chlorine that they’re surprised not to smell it by a pool. But while evocative, chlorine has some problems. It’s safe for humans to swim in. However, consider the fact that chlorine works by killing microorganisms with a weak acid.

The fact that chlorine can kill algae is fantastic. But what can kill algae can also cause problems for nearby plants and even the soil they’re growing in.

The problems don’t end on your property either. Chlorine can evaporate along with your pool water. And what comes up must come down again. And descending chlorine may well enter into a vulnerable habitat.

Thankfully the risks are still relatively minor given how dilute chlorine becomes after evaporation. But it’s still a good idea to lower chlorine use both for the sake of your home and the ecosystem as a whole. One of the best ways to do so is to simply perform regular checks on your chlorine levels. Many people simply make assumptions about how much chlorine they’ll need when they perform regular pool maintenance. But environmental conditions, different usage scenarios, and a host of other factors can increase or decrease the need for chlorine. By checking chlorine levels you can make sure that you’re not overusing it.

However, you also have the option to decrease chlorine use by using saltwater. The saltwater vs chlorine pool debate is often misunderstood as a choice between one or the other. But in reality a saltwater pool isn’t entirely forgoing chlorine. Saltwater pools use a small, but still significant, amount of chlorine through a process called electrolysis. Electrolysis dynamically generates chlorine from saltwater. This essentially creates a system that protects your pool through two separate methods.

And while chlorine is still in active use in saltwater pools, it’s at a vastly decreased level than standard chlorine pools but still does its job of keeping the pool clean.

The main downside of saltwater pools is the cost. Saltwater pools are easier to maintain and more environmentally friendly. But the saltwater system itself is more expensive than a chlorine-only system.

Work With the Sun Using Pool Covers

pool cover rolled up next to pool
Pool covers are excellent at trapping the heat in your pool and stopping evaporation.

When people talk about pool covers it’s usually in the context of debris. And it’s true, pool covers are a great way to keep stray leaves, dirt, and other debris out of your pool. Not to mention that doing so can lower your cost to maintain a pool. But pool covers are also an easy way to lower the ecological impact of your pool.

The sun obviously heats things up. And this has two main effects on your pool. Sunlight can potentially raise the temperature of your pool so that you don’t need to rely on your heater as much. Secondly, the heat of the sun can cause your pool water to evaporate. Ironically, evaporation can actually cool your pool.

In some circumstances, evaporation can take away as much as 0.7 °F to every 0.25″ of water.

The process also causes the previously noted issues with chlorine spreading into the larger environment. All that water that evaporates off also needs to be replaced to maintain your normal water levels which increases your water consumption. By default, sunlight is something of a mixed blessing that can either heat or cool your pool.

However, if you use a solar pool cover you can effectively halt evaporation while still harnessing the sun’s ability to warm your pool water. The covers let sunlight in to help your pool. Meanwhile, the evaporating water is trapped by the solar pool cover and returned to the pool. Solar rings provide similar functionality if you have a less conventionally shaped pool. The rings essentially cluster together in a pool to provide similar benefits to a solar cover.

infographic on pool cover benefits

Go Easy on the Pump

Your pool pump moves water through circulation and filtration systems to help it stay clean and safe. In some ways, this process is analogous to your own circulatory system. But there’s one big difference between your heart and your pool pump. Your heart needs to function 24/7. But your pool pump should be used sparingly. This is in large part due to just how much energy a pump uses up. This has an obvious impact on your wallet. But it takes a toll on the planet as well.

It’s estimated that pool pumps in the US are responsible for about 10 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. That’s roughly equivalent to the output of 1.3 million cars.

One of the biggest issues with pool pumps comes from overuse. Imagine what a difference it’d make if those numbers were halved or even quartered? That’s exactly what most people should be doing. Pool owners are typically advised to run a pump anywhere from 6 to 12 hours a day. That’s essentially enough to move the entirety of the pool’s water. But debris aren’t evenly distributed through the entirety of your pool. The debris are generally just in the top layer of your pool water. You really only need to move a portion of the pool’s total volume to keep it clean. Variable speed pumps make it easy to only use a pump when it’s really needed rather than constantly over the course of a day moving gallons of water unnecessarily.

Preventing Algae While Preserving the Environment

Most pool owners think of algae as an annoyance. But it doesn’t just infest your pool. It also eats up your resources. Algae can actually feed on chlorine if the chemical levels are too low. And if the algae get out of hand you might need one or more expensive shocking treatments to fix the issue. Those resources don’t just take a toll on your wallet. They also take a toll on the environment as a whole.

There’s More Than One Way To Heat a Pool

roof with black mats which heat the pool water
Solar mats are black tubes where water flows through them as the sun heats them up.

People often give a lot of thought to how they’re using their pool heater. For example, you might wonder about the best time to start heating your pool if you’re getting ready for a party. But people seldom give as much thought to the type of heater they’re using in their pool. And this is unfortunate, because there’s a wider variety of pool heaters than most people are aware of. Each type of heater has its own relationship to an eco-friendly strategy.

If you’re using an electric heater then, as the name suggests, the heater is probably running off a standard electrical grid. If that’s the case then the best strategy is to simply limit heater usage to those times when you really need it. If you’re not going for a swim then you don’t need to ensure that the pool is at that ‘perfect’ temperature at all times.

If you use a gas heater then keeping it environmentally friendly is going to be more of a challenge due to them naturally not being very energy efficient. Gas heaters have more of an environmental impact than other heating options. As such the best way to limit your overall impact is to just use your gas heater sparingly and only when needed.

There are also some especially eco-friendly methods to consider when planning how to heat a swimming pool. You’ve seen that pool covers can help you use the sun to warm up your pool. And that solar rings can provide a similar function for more aesthetically varied pool designs or for pools that are on the smaller side. But you can also use the sun’s power to heat your pool via solar mats. Solar mats work in tandem with pumps to heat circulating water through the sun’s energy.

You can also combine the sun with other heating methods to create a hybrid eco-friendly pool. For example, solar panels work extremely well alongside an electrical heater.

You can use solar panels as your main source of electricity. And the standard grid will serve as a fallback for days when your solar panels aren’t able to keep up with your usage level.

The previously mentioned solar pool covers also work well in conjunction with the other options. For example, you can use a solar pool cover to help retain your pool’s heat. In doing so you can reduce your need to turn on gas or electric heaters.

Natural Swimming Pools Will Make You Feel Like You’re in a Mountain Lake

a backyard natural pool
Natural pools are the most eco-friendly pools available although they do require more work than a standard pool.

Most of the options covered so far emulate or leverage some aspects of the natural world. But you might be wondering if you could take that a step further and essentially recreate a natural pond environment in your pool. Thankfully, you’re not alone in the idea. Natural swimming pools got their start in the 1980s and have been slowly gaining popularity ever since. A natural swimming pool essentially tries to recreate the conditions you might find in a refreshing and clear mountain lake.

The idea might sound simple at first. But keep in mind that those lakes contain complex and thriving ecosystems. A natural pool might not require an ecosystem of that level of complexity. But you’ll still need a variety of plants, animals, and insects living in harmony to ensure a natural pool stays in optimal shape.

All of that might seem like a lot of work – and it is. But many natural pool owners equate it with having a garden. Taking care of living, growing, things are a lot of work. But it’s a naturing experience that’s often rewarding in and of itself. And in the case of natural pools, you also get a wide variety of practical benefits. The most readily apparent is the total absence of chlorine or other harsh chemicals as well as the energy savings compared to a ‘normal’ pool.

Water is simply pumped to shallow parts of the pool with heavy plant life. The aquatic plants then act as a natural filter to clean the pool water.

Traditional pools are still overwhelmingly more popular as natural pools aren’t for everyone. But they’re arguably the most environmentally friendly pool style. You’re not just reducing harm to the environment with a natural pool. You’re essentially nurturing a natural environment within it.

YouTube video

Now You’re Ready To Take the Plunge Into an Eco-Friendly Pool

At this point, you’ve seen just how much you stand to gain by making the switch to a more eco-friendly design for your pool. But there’s one important point to keep in mind that applies to every option. You should carefully consider which choices would work best in your own unique situation. Climate, cost, pool size, and other options all factor in. But don’t worry, you’ve got the information you need to create the eco-friendly pool of your dreams.

This blog is based on information available at the time of publishing and for the purpose of sharing information with the public related to swimming pools and projects that can be financed through Viking Capital. Although we strive to be complete and accurate, it is not information that is verified or maintained. It should not be relied upon for making financial decisions. An investment such as a swimming pool is significant. Viking Capital recommends consulting with a financial professional regarding your financing decisions and with pool professionals regarding pool options. To learn what financing options are available for you today, please apply with Viking Capital and you’ll receive your free loan consultation. Click Here to Apply.

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