The latest and greatest trends for pools
With the sweltering Southern summers, pools in Atlanta serve a dual purpose of function and fun. A backyard isn’t complete without a place to cool off and, considering the extended warm-weather months, Atlanta is an ideal city in which to own a pool. But the pools of today aren’t the vinyl-lined, chlorine-filled ones of yesteryear. New materials, eco-friendly options and splurge-worthy gear are making waves in the pool world.
Not your childhood pool
Recent years have shown the rise of the pool/spa combination, but now homeowners are spending even more money, investing in not only this combination, but also in fire pits and fireplaces, waterfalls, outdoor kitchens, televisions, sound systems and fiber-optic, colored lights in the pool. According to Rip Hooker, construction and sales manager at Sunbelt Pools of Georgia, gadgets designed to run the pool system with ease are gaining popularity.
“Everyone gets handheld remotes for their system,” he says. “These remotes power everything—including the hot tub and cleaning system—and enable the user to set controls and timers much easier than having to put a hole through their kitchen wall.”
In terms of shape, homeowners are opting for custom, free-form pools. “People are requesting personalized pools. We consider factors like viewpoints from the house, the water features they’ll have, the land in their backyard and the access from the house, and then we design to suit their needs,” Hooker says.
Vanishing-edge pools are growing in popularity, and can be a beautiful investment, if the property is suitable. Mark Spiezio, owner of Atlas Pools, says that custom-style finishes, such as those by Pebbletec (an alternative to a plaster pool), are sought after by homeowners. “These finishes are not only beautiful, they are long lasting and easy to maintain,” he says.
Hooker adds, “Homeowners are seeking features beyond the pool to create an outdoor living room.” Popular items include elaborate waterfalls, waterslides, grottos, beach-entry pools and spas in the middle of the pool, completely surrounded by water. Shelf-entry pools, consisting of a large step for lounging before a drop-off into the water, are also popular, and a great style for most homeowners,” Hooker says. “To promote year-round use, heated pools are the norm,” he notes.
Green living is popular, and while some homeowners might think installing a pool only increases their carbon footprint, there are several ways to create a more eco-friendly oasis.
Alternative sanitizer systems, such as copper-based systems, provide a greener alternative to chlorine. Saline pools are also popular, Hooker says, but still aren’t a 100-percent environmentally friendly option. “With a saline system, you use fewer chemicals, and the maintenance and care is easier. But saline pools still use chlorine. The salt system is used to generate the chlorine,” he explains.
The simplest way to make a pool more eco-friendly is to add a cover. Doing so prevents water loss and conserves electricity by preventing heat loss. Covers also prevent rain from diluting chemicals, eliminating the need to add more.
Solar panels also make pools greener. Depending on the home’s orientation to the sun, solar panels may be added to the roof and used for pool heating. Considering the cost of traditional heating, Hooker says that, solar panels pay for themselves within a few years, so homeowners can save money and the environment.
Splashy splurges: where to spend and save
As if constructing a pool isn’t costly enough, the market is flooded with expensive accessories designed to create the ultimate backyard paradise.
But experts agree: not all expensive add-ons are worth the investment. While in-floor cleaning systems are gaining popularity, Spiezio isn’t sold. “In-floor cleaning systems are costly,” he says. “Other automatic cleaning systems are comparable in performance for a much lower price.”
Deciding to use an in-floor cleaning system takes planning, since the system must be installed during pool construction.
Hooker notes that while pre-fabricated fiberglass pools may be the trend of the moment, they might not be worth the investment. “Build a pool out of concrete and steel and it will last forever, even longer than the home. And you can customize it to any shape, depth or entry. You are limited in size and design with fiberglass pools, since they are prefabricated and then hauled on a truck,” he explains.
Other features homeowners may want to skip include vanishing edges on pools, which are a waste if the homeowner doesn’t have land suitable for this style. Hooker isn’t a fan of sheer descent waterfalls, because he says, “It’s a waterfall built into a wall. For the same amount of money, homeowners can buy much more elaborate water features.”
While some features may have a greater cost upfront, they save money for the homeowner. Pool covers top the list for both Hooker and Spiezio as a sound investment. Whether the cover is automatic or floating, the money saved on energy bills and pool chemicals is enough for covers to pay for themselves within a few years.
Fiber-optic and LED lights are also upgrades worth the cost, as these bulbs last longer and require less maintenance than incandescent bulbs.
Another splurge-worthy feature to ensure family fun is a waterslide. While some may groan at the prospective maintenance, Dave Weathers, general manager of SlideScapes LLC, insists that it isn’t as menacing as one may think. “We recommend waxing the slide from time to time and keeping the slide clear of any foreign debris. If cared for properly, a fiberglass slide can last 10 to 12 years or more.”
A great investment is worthless if it isn’t used, so homeowners are spending their dollars on the whole package, a trend that neither Hooker nor Spiezio predict to die anytime soon. “With the long usable outdoor time in Atlanta,” Hooker adds, “homeowners are investing in inviting areas to enjoy the beautiful weather with family and friends.”
Budget-Friendly Pool-Care Tips
Cover pools and spas. This saves energy by preventing heat loss, prevents rain from diluting costly chemicals and eases maintenance.
Invest in items that may be costly upfront, such as solar panels and fiber-optic or LED lights. These items last longer, resulting in money saved.
Upsize pool filters and increase the size of pipes so flow isn’t restricted and is more efficient.
To save electricity, run pool pumps at a lower speed for a longer period of time.
—Rip Hooker, Sunbelt Pools of Georgia