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Photo courtesy of Your Wildest Dreams

Every pool owner wants nothing more than to enjoy the pool as much as possible throughout the year. And, thanks to todays innovative pool technology, owners now can spend more time doing just that instead of continuously caring for their investments.

Pass the salt
In years past, pool owners dealt with a variety of chemicals to keep their water sparkling. From chlorine to algaecide to shock treatments, maintaining the proper chemical balance played a key role in clean water. While this is still important, its now easier to achieve. More pool owners are turning to a salt chlorination system to purify their water. Salt systems are the big thing right now, says Richard Fricker, owner of Specialty Pool & Spa in Roswell.

In a salt chlorination system, salt is placed in a cell or electrode, which receives a safe, low-voltage current from a power unit. As a result, chlorine gas is produced, which purifies the water like traditional chlorine. Unlike traditional chlorine, however, there is no strong chemical smell, and the water actually feels softer than traditionally chlorinated water.

Photo courtesy of Neptune Pools Inc.

Plus, owners dont have to keep adding chemicals on a weekly basis. Once its installed and you load the salt, you dont have to go out there with 50 pounds of chlorine, says Mark Spiezio, president of Atlas Pools in Doraville. Basically, you never run out of sanitizer. Its very effective. Actually, salt eventually will need to be replaced, but usually only every six months or so.

Because you are not using as many chemicals as a traditional chlorination method, salt systems tend to recoup their costs in a short period of time. Theyre getting to the price where people can afford them, says Jim Armes, president of Executive Pools & Spas in Canton. On average, salt systems cost between $1,000 and $2,400
to purchase.

Jack Kelly of North Atlanta Pool & Spa, a division of Montgomery & Co. in Roswell, says most pool owners will save between $300 and $400 per year in chemical costs, therefore paying for the salt system within four to six years, depending on the system purchased.

Filter out the dirt
Of course, chlorination systems dont work alone, but rather in tandem with a filtration system to keep water looking its best. In todays filtration market, three types continue to do the job: sand filters, diatomaceous earth filters and cartridge filters.

Traditionally, sand filters were the norm for all pools. Sand filters, which use sand to trap dirt particles, generally are easy to set up and operate. However, because the sand needs to be clean to be effective, sand filters require regular backwashing (usually once a week, sometimes more if there is a lot of debris) to cleanse the sand. This takes time as well as up to 100 gallons of water plus chemicals for each backwash cycle. Also, the sand will need to be replaced after five or six years.

Photo courtesy of Hilltop Pools

In recent years, the diatomaceous earth, or DE, filter systems have gained in popularity. Simply put, DE powder is used to coat
filter grids within a filter tank. This powder traps the dirt particles, down to three to five microns (the lower the better), in the grids. Maintaining a DE filter system consists of regular backwashing and replacing the DE powder approximately every four weeks.

Perhaps the easiest to maintain, cartridge filters operate with a cartridge similar to an automotive air cleaner that traps dirt particles between 25 and 100 microns in size. There is less to do for the homeowner, Kelly says. Its more customer-compatible. Although backwashing is not necessary with cartridge filters, approximately once a year the cartridge will need to be soaked in a cleaning solution and thoroughly rinsed before being returned to the pool. Eventually, the cartridge will need to be replaced, usually after two to five years.

Selecting the best filtration system for your pool is based on your budget and how much time you want to devote to maintenance. On average, sand filters cost between $400 and $800, while DE and cartridge filters run between $800 and $1,400. Also, check with your neighborhood, county and city ordinances for any restrictions or guidelines on backwashing; these may affect your decision as well.

Clean it up
Always a necessity for any pool, vacuum systems are more sophisticated and easier to operate than ever. For most pool owners, gone are the old manual vacuum and hose systems. Todays vacuum systems run automatically with little required maintenance.

Suction-side automatic vacuums use water flow to power themselves around the pool floor and walls as they suck up debris. They can be set up to run in tandem with the filtration system, and pool owners generally never have to mess with them. Average costs for this system range between $99 and $500.

Photo courtesy of Anthony & Sylvan Pools

Pressure-side vacuums utilize a booster pump to deliver water to the pool cleaner head to not only pick up debris but also to propel the vacuum around the pool. Debris is collected in a compartment attached to the pool cleaner head, so it will need to be emptied on a regular basis. Average costs for this system range between $750 and $1,200.

Robotic vacuums use low-voltage electricity to move about the pool, scrubbing the surface and vacuuming up debris. Like pressure-side vacuums, robotic vacuums collect debris in an attached bag or filter, which should be emptied as needed. Average costs for this system range between $300 and $1,800.

In-floor systems, also gaining in popularity, consist of networks of piping placed under the pools floor. Water jets direct debris to a main drain so it will be removed by the filtration system. Its similar to a sprinkler system, Fricker says. Because its installed in the floor, this system must be selected prior to pool installation.

Average costs for this system generally start at $3,000 and go up from there. I think its for the buyer with the bigger budget, Fricker says. Also, take a good look at your pools surroundings when considering this system. I dont think in-floor systems are most effective with heavy leaf and pine straw debris, Spiezio says.


Once it starts to heat up outside, enjoying your pool will be easy. Just remember, as much fun as the water may be, there are dangers involved that must be taken seriously. Even if you dont have children in your own home, remember that neighbors kids may be tempted to sneak over for a swimor may just wander into your yard by accident. A few simple precautions can ensure that your pool remains a fun spot instead of a dangerous one.

Every pool is required to be fenced in. In Georgia, each county has height requirements for pool fences; whoever installs your pool should know the requirements, but make sure to check with the county yourself to be sure. Most counties require a 5-foot fence. The gate to the pool area should have a lock (dont forget to lock it!), and its best for the fence to surround the entire pool, separate from the home and play areas in the yard.

Make sure your pool has a sturdy cover for the off-season. Covers should be secured tightly around the outside edges of the pool and should not have cracks that can allow small children or pets to slip in around the edges and become trapped underneath.

For added safety, it cant hurt to go high-tech. Pool alarms use sonar detection to alert you when a person or pet enters the pool. Try one like the SonarGuard system, which creates an invisible net across your pool. When the net is broken, an alarm will sound. The system is designed to ignore surface disturbances like wind or small toys, and it stays on all the time. Just put it on standby mode while you use the pool, and if you forget to reactivate it, dont worryit will turn itself back on after an appropriate period of time. For dealers, call
(877) 467-6627.

Stay in control
Remote controls for pool operations continue to improve and gain favor with pool owners. Thanks to technological advances, many pool maintenance and aesthetic functions can be handled without leaving your home. Its a huge convenience, Kelly says. Ninety-nine percent of the pool functions can be done away from
the pool.

For example, with todays remote systems, owners can set the time for the filter to run, program when the vacuum should start and stop, or turn on the heater or lights. They are easily programmed by the homeowners once they learn how to use them, Fricker says. And they can tie in with existing home-automation systems. On average, remote control systems for pools cost between $2,500 and $4,500.

Pool maintenance and upkeep is easier now than ever before. And, unlike audio, video and computer technology, which seems to change and evolve on a daily basis, you can rest assured that whatever systems you choose, they will stand well against the test of time. The pool industry [and technology] is like a glacier, Kelly says. It continually moves, but not real fast.

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