Pentair’s IntelliConnect helps bring old pools into the app age
By Andrew Lisa
Pool automation is one of the fastest-growing and most exciting trends in the industry — and in most cases, it’s a race to turn pools into spaceships. Many offer complex systems that run macros, control dozens of themes and integrate multiple systems into one control center. Pentair IntelliConnect, on the other hand, is designed to bring aging, non-automated pools to life — but just barely.
IntelliConnect: Entry-Level Automation
Pentair’s IntelliConnect automation system is new for 2018. A departure from Pentair’s existing automation systems, it’s made for the huge number of older pools that don’t have much to automate.
“The market that we’re going after is the simple pool,” says Rodney McCall, global growth process leader at Pentair. “We figure 80 percent of the market does not have automation. They just turn their pump on manually or they have a time clock. This allows the customer who doesn’t need full automation to move from a very simple pool — the pool that might have a single-speed pump and a light or a single-speed pump and a cleaner/booster pump — to one where they can control their pump and turn their light on and off from their phone.”
Like most automation systems, users control IntelliConnect with a mobile app. Unlike most, however, IntelliConnect doesn’t require a variable-speed pump. This is a huge differentiator in a market essentially closed to pools with single-speed pumps. IntelliConnect provides that option at the customer’s discretion.
“In the future, if a customer wants to upgrade, IntelliConnect will work with our IntelliFlo variable-speed pump,” McCall says.
Marketed Not for What it Does, But For What it Doesn’t Do
McCall says the era of pool automation dates to the first pool/spa combos. These exciting but complex machines were hard to control manually.
“It became very complicated to operate your pool without emptying your pool into your hot tub or draining your hot tub, so that’s where automation came in,” McCall says. “Instead of turning valves, you could just press a button and go to pool mode or you could press a button and start heating your spa. Your newer pools have built-in automation. Your older pools are just a single body of water. That’s where IntelliConnect comes in.”
All of Pentair’s other automation systems operate valves on pool/spa combos. IntelliConnect does not. Larger automation systems run macros and set up programs that can engage waterfalls, laminars and party or romantic mode themes with a single command.
IntelliConnect doesn’t do that either.
Instead, it offers only the most basic automation for the most basic pools. Use IntelliConnect to turn on single-speed pumps, booster pumps or lights. If you have a colored light, you can use the app only to turn it on and off, not to switch the colors.
Future-Proofing Your Pool
One feature IntelliConnect offers is automatic updating.
“Many devices in the field right now [require you to] go to the device and physically change the board out if you want new firmware,” McCall says. “If you want new features, you have to take the old PC board out and replace it or get a pool professional out to flash it with their computer. The beautiful thing about this product is that it’s over-the-air updateable.”
For example, Pentair plans to add colored light options to IntelliConnect in the near future. Existing users will only have to accept the update on their app, the same way they would for an update to their phones or computers.
It’s also easy to install. McCall insists that the product should be installed only by an electrician or qualified pool pro. But in reality, a skilled, competent DIYer would need only to run either a 110- or 240-volt line from a breaker and divert it to a relay from an existing piece of hardware, like a cleaner/booster pump.
The current climate of automation one upmanship has flooded the market with systems capable of creating dazzling displays and impressive unifications of multiple systems. IntelliConnect is not that — nor does it strive to be. Instead, it’s simple automation for simple pools that can bring old pools into the modern era for not much more than the cost of a basic timer.