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High-tech Heat

Raypak introduces the AVIA pool heater

Since its modest 1947 beginnings in founder Al Whittell’s Southern California garage, Raypak has manufactured all manner of heating products, including high-efficiency residential and commercial swimming pool heaters. Now headquartered in Oxnard, California, the company has been a subsidiary of Rheem Manufacturing since 1985.

Last December, Raypak introduced the AVIA pool heater, which the company had been working on since 2018. Raypak believed that users would appreciate having automation features within the heater itself, rather than needing separate controls, says Satya Gullapalli, Raypak senior project engineer who led work on the AVIA. Additionally, since there has been a trend toward construction of smaller pools, Raypak needed to ensure that any new heater fit those smaller pads.

AVIA has a built-in Wi-Fi–enabled control system, which allows users to schedule their heater, set up automation and control an additional on/off device, Gullapalli says. “With our Raymote app, they can access and operate the heater on the go, a feature that is useful for both homeowners and pool professionals,” he adds. 

The research and development process included input from customers at every step, looking at aesthetics, functionality and ease of use, as well as a lot of field testing to ensure reliability. Much of this occurred during the pandemic, which presented a substantial obstacle. 

“COVID made a huge impact on the development of the AVIA considering the impact of [the pandemic on] the global supply chain,” Gullapalli says. “Collaborating with suppliers to provide components for the research and development process during these difficult times and working with them in person was challenging, as this is a physical product that needs to be seen in person to be fully understood.” 

After field testing, the AVIA heater was formally launched in December 2021. Gullapalli says the AVIA is the first and only pool/spa heater with a built-in, advanced Wi-Fi–enabled control system, so there’s no need for a separate control panel to manage your pool heater and pool environment. AVIA can automate and manage the pool temperature, learn the size of the pool to estimate heating time; automate and manage an on/off pump or water feature; and provide a smart connection for real-time service alerts and control from anywhere. Raypak has applied for more than 10 patents on the new heater, all of which are pending. 

Aquatic Pool Services in Sherman Oaks, California, installed five AVIA heaters during field testing, four in commercial pools and one in a residential pool. 

“The biggest issue we have in our industry is footprint,” says Chris Burns, the company’s president and CEO. “The AVIA’s compact size gives us the ability to install it in smaller pump pads. We really like the fact that it has a straight tube design, which is a staple in most of the heaters we install.” 

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Features like the ProTEK Shield and the user-friendly controls were also big selling points. 

“Customers are happy with the time frame [in which] the heater heats the pool,” Burns says. “For our non-automated and commercial customers, the ability to see the temperature remotely is key, especially in commercial applications where automation, which is standard in residential applications, is not used. For our property managers who like to monitor the temperatures remotely, it’s been a great feature.” 

Tom Brockett, one of the owners of Aquaman Pool Service, Inc., in Ashburn, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., installed his company’s first AVIA heater in December 2020, a pre-production prototype provided by Raypak for testing in the field. A longtime user of Raypak products, Brockett says the size and weight; Wi-Fi monitoring and other newer technology; and the heater’s higher efficiency all led him to give the AVIA a try. 

“There is always some risk with new technology,” Brockett says, noting that his willingness to test the AVIA heater with his customers came with some reservations. “We installed these units on the pools of fairly high-profile clients and didn’t want to let them down, especially the clients who heat their pool to 86 degrees all year. We can’t afford for the heat to be off when it’s 15 degrees outside.”

Brockett’s company has installed four such heaters so far: three in year-round pools and one in a seasonal pool. Just over a year after installing his first AVIA heater, his assessment is very positive. 

“The heater is well built and has proven to be reliable so far,” he says, adding that the first heater he installed now has over 2,000 hours of operation. The Wi-Fi monitoring capabilities are his favorite feature, Brockett says, and he is looking forward to future models, which are slated to add chemical monitoring features. 

“Installing it as a replacement unit can be tricky because of how power, water and fuel are connected,” he says. “It’s not the end of the world but can require a little reworking of the filter site.” 

Brockett hasn’t heard complaints from his customers using the AVIA heater, some for over a year. “Our clients would only let us know if they are not happy,” Brockett says. “The fact that their pools are warm and ready, and they aren’t upset is the best response we can hope for.”

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