Swimmers and the environment bring all sorts of things into the pool with them: skin oils, dirt, sunscreen, bird waste, debris, bacteria — you name it, it’s probably in the pool water. As a service professional, you see the worst of it in poorly functioning pool filters, water chemistry frustrations and the cumbersome ring that develops on the sides of the pool at the water line.
That ring around pool tile is the worst when opening a pool after winter is over, according to Joe Koch, owner of Blue Wave Pools in Audubon, New Jersey. “Because the water level has dropped for winterizing, the ring is even more pronounced and visible than during the season,” he says. “It’s natural to get a ring with the organics accumulating at the water’s surface.”
But he and his crew have since started using enzymes in pool maintenance, helping eliminate that problem not only at pool opening, but also throughout the swimming season, reducing the amount of maintenance work on its customers’ pools year round.
Contaminants that infiltrate the water cause a biofilm at the surface of pool water, says Rick Woemmel, president of Bi-State Pool & Spa in O’Fallon, Missouri. “This biofilm is where a majority of RWIs (recreation water illnesses) hang out,” Woemmel says. “With enzymes eliminating both the biofilm and the RWI’s, sanitizer does not have to work as hard at sanitizing the pool and thus can be lowered.”
Pool sanitizers oxidize the entire molecule of pool contaminants, essentially burning the molecules away. This is what creates the smell many of us associate with a chlorinated pool. Alternatively, enzymes (which are living organisms) break contaminants down molecularly in the water, says Koch, using complex chemical reactions so the organic waste is metabolized until it’s nothing but water and carbon dioxide.
“Nonliving organics or oils are ripe for this type of catalytic reaction,” says Jarred Morgan, president of Orenda Technologies in Fairview, Texas, manufacturers of the CV-600 Catalytic Enzyme Water Cleaner. “As the carbon bond in the oil breaks apart, then the oil does not exist as that oil molecule anymore, and continues down the cleaving path.”
This does not, however, mean that you no longer need to use sanitizers in the pool water. “Enzymes are not meant to replace sanitizers or balancers, only to help enhance a pool program to its maximum potential,” says Jamie Novak, brand manager for NC Brands, the parent company of Natural Chemistry, which manufactures pool enzymes along with other products.
While there are certainly believers in enzyme use for pool-water care, the industry as a whole isn’t fully on board just yet. “We feel that the resistance to enzyme use in the industry is because people don’t understand the full scope of their benefits or capabilities,” Novak says. “There is a lot of misinformation out there in the marketplace — that all enzymes are the same, that enzymes are detergents, that they don’t actually do anything. We work each day to clear [this misinformation] up.”
Many people want instant gratification and simple explanations, which keeps them from seeing the benefits of enzyme usage, Koch says. “Enzymes require consistency and are more complex than the unsophisticated approach of ‘Chlorine is good, chlorine kills, I like chlorine.’ ” he says. “A savvy pool professional knows that there is more to clean. Healthy water is more than just a satisfactory sanitizer level.”
Woemmel also sees a push-back from customers for using anything other than chlorine. “All customers know about chlorine,” he says. “It’s our job as pool professionals to educate them on issues such as saturation indexes, algaecides, clarifiers, borates and enzymes.”
Enzyme benefits reach further than eliminating that pesky (and time-consuming) ring of residue around the water’s edge on the pool. “I have to admit that my customers using enzymes in their pools are much less likely to have really bad filter cartridges at the end of the season,” Koch says. Woemmel adds that, by making the filter run longer and better, enzymes allow for less backwash, less heat loss and less chemical usage.
Essentially, Novak says, enzymes make a pool professional’s job easier. “They can spend less time on the job site because the enzymes are doing a lot of the work for them,” she says. “By incorporating an enzyme maintenance product into their routine, pool pros won’t have to spend time scrubbing unsightly scum lines or manually cleaning filters.”
Enzymes are essentially a supplement to sanitizers, reducing the demand for and required levels of sanitizers and providing a cleaner, more pleasant swimming experience, according to Koch. “Many people remark that the water of pools treated with enzymes feels better or softer on their skin, often without the knowledge that enzymes have been introduced,” he says.
While enzymes are great for regular pool water care, Koch mentions that they’re also amazing for cleaning pools that have suffered vandalism, an accidental introduction of excessive oils, or similar circumstances. A few years ago, he had a commercial pool customer where an old chemical feed pump with an oil fill chamber was mounted to the top of the chlorine vat. The diaphragm of the pump was leaking, resulting in an excessive oil spill into the water.
“We went in that evening and applied a lot of enzyme products and, by morning, I would say that 95 percent of the oil had dissipated,” he recalls. “It was amazing and, in my mind, solidified the benefits of enzyme use.”
While Scott Heusser, owner of Idaho Pool Remodeling in Boise, Idaho, has seen the benefits of enzyme use in pool maintenance — especially in pools with really high bather loads — enzymes are only a piece of the puzzle. “Sanitizer is needed,” he says. “I have yet to see an enzyme-only system that is capable of keeping water safe for bathers, so I’m not convinced that enzymes are effective sanitizers.”
Some enzyme products are, in fact, limited in their capabilities, Novak says. “For example, manufactured products often contain high concentrations of few enzymes, which limit their ability to break down a variety of nonliving organisms,” she says. “Therefore, it is ideal to use a broad spectrum enzyme, which has the capability of creating thousands of reactions.”
Enzymes do no work well in environments with extremely high levels of sanitizer and they work best when utilized on a regular, consistent basis, Koch explains, encouraging pool professionals to consider these things when implementing enzymes into their maintenance regimen. He also recommends metered pumps to help with regulation so that small amounts of enzymes are constantly feeding into the water, especially with commercial pools that have a high bather load and, therefore, excessive water contaminants.
Morgan points out that sometimes excessive use of enzymes can result in an overdose, which can lead to foaming or bubbling in the water with high aeration or flow. So he recommends following the directions on the bottle and avoiding the mentality of ‘if a little is good, then a lot is better.’
A prominent customer concern with enzyme usage is higher cost associated with treatment. However, this perceived drawback is all in how you approach the matter, Novak says. “Clients don’t care if time or work is reduced for the pool professional,” Novak says. “They feel that is what they pay for in the service rate. Pool professionals can justify an enzyme maintenance treatment to their customers because it will continue working long after they’ve left the backyard.”
“Costs of enzymes are simply accepted by people who trust us as pool professionals,” Woemmel says. “If your customer has a scum ring around their pool, let them know that they need enzymes. As long as it works — which it should if using a quality product — hopefully it will become a part of their routine dosing program.”
Morgan recognizes that some service professionals are leery of adding enzymes because they will have to eat the cost of usage, since their customers won’t want to pay for them. However, he thinks that, as the experts, a case can be made for the use of enzymes through proper consumer education. “And if pool professionals looked at time as a form of currency, I do not think spending a couple of extra dollars a month to use enzymes would create a leery feeling.”
Heusser doesn’t give his clients a choice, making enzymes a part of his pool water treatment program regardless. Koch does the same with his residential accounts, including the cost of enzymes in the service fee, allowing him to add enzymes into the pool with every service visit.
The justification of the cost really comes down to a higher standard of customer service. “Service professionals who incorporate these high-performance products into their program can deliver superior water clarity and exceed their customers’ expectations,” Novak says. “This consumer satisfaction translates to positive reviews for their business and quicker maintenance visits, thereby justifying the small additional cost.”
By Michelle L. Cramer