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Easy Solar Breezy

Pool service providers are using the Solar Breeze NX2 to streamline service visits

Meet the Solar Breeze NX2. At 11 pounds and 2 feet long, this solar-powered robot skims the surface of a pool, removing 90% of the debris and contaminants. Created by Solar Pool Technologies in Tempe, Arizona, the NX2 works by cleaning debris before it can sink to the bottom of the pool and decay. SPT says this technology reduces pool pump run time by up to 60%.

In the mid-2000’s, Terry Maaske and Denis Ruzsa invented and patented the idea of a solar-powered robot pool cleaner that would clean debris from the surface of the pool. By 2009, after several prototypes, the inventors were approaching market release, but did not have the funding to move forward. Paul Sim then came on board as president and Solar Pool Technologies, Inc., was established. Financing was raised to finalize development and the Solar Breeze 2.0 was introduced in 2011.

While the technology was taking off, SPT lost its primary source of working capital and was unable to build product for the 2015 season. Fortunately through a successful crowdfunding effort, the company raised enough money to relaunch and this time it’s hitting its stride. In 2018, SPT released the Solar Breeze NX2.

“We’re selling 5,000 to 6,000 units a year,” Sim says, “but we’re gaining traction and we really think there’s the capacity to grow the business to 15,000 [or more] units a year. We’ve just scratched the surface in terms of market acceptance for the product.”

In 2018, the International Federation of Robotics reported annual global sales of robots at $16.5 billion. The IFR expects a 12% growth per year from 2020 to 2022. “We might have been ahead of the game when we first brought this product to market in 2011,” Sim says. “Robotics in the pool industry and in consumer products in general has gained a much higher level of acceptance. Consumers almost assume that there’ll be some level of intelligence in the products that they buy.”

Solar Pool Technologies’ emphasis on earning customer trust is reflected in its research and development process. During the early days, the company had customers who volunteered as beta testers. “As we’re developing new products, new ideas, new software, even software updates, we test them in pools before they get shipped out to customers,” Sim says. “We take feedback from the marketplace and we use that to do reengineering and address issues as we see them arise amongst our customer base.” The company is in the process of another product development project that will be released in late 2020 for the 2021 season.

For many pool service providers, however, skepticism makes sense. Wouldn’t installing the Solar Breeze NX2 just decrease the number of pool technician visits? Not necessarily, Sim says: “We have a couple of service guys now that if they take on a customer that has a pool with a lot of debris issues, they almost insist they have a Solar Breeze in the pool,” Sim says. “Otherwise it’s just so difficult to keep those pools properly maintained.”

Most customers don’t want to get rid of their servicers, Sim says. “Even if the pool is cleaner when they arrived, they need to test the chemicals, balance the chemical, etc.,” he says. “Skimming and removing debris from the pool is only a small part of what most service professionals are doing these days.”

Jared Tomlin, the owner of Blue Envy Pool Services, just 30 minutes outside of Orlando, Florida, has been using the Solar Breeze for the past three years. Tomlin says that the technology has dropped his service time by over 50%. Instead of causing him to lose money, he says the Solar Breeze has enabled him to grow his business.

Tomlin says for the first pool he started using it on, he spent an average of an hour there every week; when he installed the NX2, his service time dropped to 15 or 20 minutes. He is now able to add more accounts to that route. The Solar Breeze also keeps Tomlin’s customers happier by keeping the pool cleaner between his visits. “Otherwise, if we have a heavy storm the day after I leave, then the pool’s a mess until I come back the following week,” he says.

Sim says Solar Breeze is passionate about helping service professionals become dealers. “I would encourage people to get a unit, put it in a customer’s pool, try it out, and develop an understanding of how it can benefit both your customers and yourselves,” Sim says. “We’re pretty confident in the value proposition for the product and we’re confident that if people get units and try them, they’ll be convinced there’s real value for their customers.”

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