In October, Clear Comfort, which manufactures AOP systems for pools and spas, co-launched the CYA Smart Alliance, an organization dedicated to promoting better water care and, as its website says, bringing “sanity back to pool care.” Anyone, from manufacturers to local swimming pool builders and service companies, can join the alliance, at no cost. In addition to Clear Comfort, Sigura, HASA and Orenda Technologies are all co-founding members, and the alliance’s membership has grown with pool professionals from across the industry.
“Being CYA Smart is an opportunity for pool and spa professionals to simplify the delivery of care to pool owners,” says Steve Berens, CEO of Clear Comfort. “Clear Comfort is excited to see the broad support for a simple message aimed at educating customers to smarter ways to manage pool water.”
As the parts-per-million of cyanuric acid goes up in the pool water, so does the need to use more chlorine to maintain an appropriate residual. Proposed changes to the Model Aquatic Health Code have spurred some contentious debates in the industry as to the acceptable CYA ppm as well as what the ratio of CYA to chlorine should be. Whatever the industry decides, as the cyanuric acid level in a pool grows, it renders chlorine less effective.
Steve DeCook, owner of E-Konomy Pool Service & Supplies and CYA Smart Alliance member, a swimming pool retail and service company in Tucson, Arizona, helped develop the MAHC. He says that only using stabilized chlorine, which contains CYA, to sanitize a pool is where problems start.
“If you use stabilized chlorine [the CYA is] too high,” DeCook says. “That’s the more critical part of the discussion to me than ‘Is 80 ppm OK?’ or ‘Is 90 ppm OK?’ Those don’t really matter. If you use nonstabilized [chlorine] you can keep the CYA level at whatever you want. [Stabilized chlorine] is good to bring up the CYA levels where you need it because it’s easier to deal with than straight CYA. But once you get it to the level you want, you need to get off it.”
DeCook has all his commercial clients use cal hypo, as well as some alternative methods like AOP from Clear Comfort.
“For me, there’s not too much debate about [CYA],” says Kevin Boyer, COO of Poolsure and CYA Smart Alliance member. Poolsure delivers mini-bulk chemicals to commercial clients, and also provides chemical automation, pool repairs and training to customers and other professionals. “For us, the upper limits of CYA are already dictated [by code], which makes it easier to explain to customers.”
But for pool companies that service residential customers, explaining CYA and how it impacts their pool can be complicated. And with the looming trichlor shortage, that conversation gets even more fraught as the pool pro often has to pitch upgrades that will move a customer away from depending on tabs.
“We really jumped on that,” says Zac Nicklas, co-owner of The Pool Boys and CYA Smart Alliance member. “We tried to get ahead of the shortage and start talking to customers about moving to salt systems. We’ve had 15, maybe 20, of our existing customers convert to salt.”
The Pool Boys, a Texas-based pool service company, joined the alliance right away. Nicklas says they are including CYA Smart Alliance information in the customer success folders they hand out. “Education is going to be our main thing on trying to control [CYA with our customers],” Nicklas says.
Starting with equipment-repair only and branching into service in 2018, The Pool Boys has slowly evolved how it handles CYA conversations with its customers. Nicklas says having an industry alliance support what they’re telling customers is helpful. “A lot of times, you bring it up and [customers] get mad at you or treat you like you don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says. “Where we really switched our tone was [in joining] the CYA Smart Alliance. [The Alliance is] about healthier, smarter water. That’s what our angle is. We’re not talking about a shortage so much anymore, we’re talking about our goal to create healthier, safer, smarter water.”
DeCook says that when someone has been using a product successfully for 50 years, it can be tough to get them to move to a new way of doing things — for both pool owners and pool professionals.
“When the industry is saying we’ve always done this, it’s always worked, let’s leave it alone, that really creates a problem and I think that’s a bigger part of it than the customers,” he says.
Thomas DeHerrera, the commercial manager at E-Konomy says he’s seen an increase in customers coming to him to ask for alternative products. “They’ve been watching and learning as much as they can just via the internet,” DeHerrera says.
In addition to gaining brand awareness and industry recognition, CYA Smart Alliance members can provide customers with additional insight on how to achieve the ideal water quality they are demanding.
The CYA Smart Alliance encourages Smart Oxidation™, like AOP pool sanitation, that uses the most potent and safe methods to deliver oxidation to the water without additional reliance on chemicals that inherently unbalance the water itself.
In order to help aid traditional chemistry, additional oxidation must be delivered by AOP solutions, such as Clear Comfort’s AOP. The patented AOP sanitation method can reduce residential pools’ chlorine down to drinking-water levels without sacrificing protection.
“By offering solutions, like Clear Comfort, that are proven on everything from spas to water parks will help pool pros gain the trust of health-conscious customers,” says Berens.
The CYA Smart Alliance doesn’t promote specific ratios, ppms or parameters of cyanuric acid. Instead, it asks the companies that join to adhere to some basic tenets:
Better Water Care — less is more
Sustainability — conserving water and energy
Healthier Water — resilient water that can keep up with bather loads
Chemically Safe and Consistent — lower exposure to chemicals and a safer swim experience
“It only benefits me if everyone else in my area is CYA smart and trying to handle it the same way that we are,” Nicklas says. “Just be bold.”
To join the CYA Smart Alliance and learn more about the movement, visit cyasmart.org.