Sink or Swim

Keep your commercial customers from drowning in operating costs

Part of being a pool service professional is to make customer recommendations that result in optimal operation of their facility. Commercial pools burn a lot of energy making the water pristine for patrons. However, if the parts and chemicals aren’t working efficiently, your customers are likely wasting money.

“Pool service companies should be auditing facilities upon every visit,” says M. Troy McGinty, global commercial product manager for Hayward Commercial Pool Products in Rockville, Md. “Simply reviewing the circulation and filtration equipment to ensure that the system is properly sized for the particular body of water is, by far, the most important factor.” Specifically, McGinty says that means looking at energy costs, water consumption, gas consumption, chemical consumption, bather load and age of the equipment to determine what equipment needs attention or upgrade.

Wes Burdine, owner of Aquatic Energy Consulting in Kingsport, Tenn., says many facilities will simply lower pool temperatures or the level of chlorine in the pool to offset operating costs, but that there are inherent problems with these tactics. “Temperature can affect the chemistry [of the pool],” he says, “but the main problem would be the people in the water usually want the pool to be kept warmer than it is. Lowering it would only cause more complaints.”

Mike Fowler, commercial marketing and sales manager for Pentair Commercial Aquatics in Sanford, N.C., says he believes the biggest expense in a commercial pool is the circulation pump. “Many times, especially in older installations, these pumps have been in service for years and are just not efficient, and especially not as efficient as they were new,” he says. “Many of them will be oversized and run 24 hours a day.” Pool lighting can also be a concern, he says, especially if the lights are incandescent and run nonstop.

McGinty, Burdine and Fowler say that adding a variable-frequency drive (VFD) to an existing pool pump is one of the most effective ways to immediately reduce electrical costs. In addition to adding a VFD and switching to LED lights, other recommendations include properly maintaining and changing out filters; using cartridge filtration to reduce waste water; installing water chemistry controllers to reduce chemical usage; and installing low NOx energy-efficient gas heaters or heat pumps.

Fowler, in a white paper, wrote that even with the advantages of reduced operating expenses, some commercial pool operators still find the cost hard to justify. He recommends comparing the cost of a new pump (or any new equipment) to the expense of doing nothing. “With the substantial energy-use rebates that some local power companies offer, in conjunction with the savings in daily operational expenses, some end-users are getting back approximately 50 percent of the pump’s cost in less than a year,” he writes.

Burdine recommends showing facility owners, through monitoring, how long it will take to recoup the cost. “Present it as though it’s an investment in the facility, not an expense,” he says. “Most facilities look at an under-five-year return on any capital expenditure. If the savings alone can pay for the equipment within a five-year period, why not move forward? Once the equipment is paid for, the savings continue to be returned to the account.” Any time you help a facility reduce its cost to operate, Burdine explains, you are opening the door for other opportunities — and freeing up money to be used for back-burner items. “Maybe now they can afford to add the climbing wall to attract more patrons,” he says, “or have the pool resurfaced.”

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