Our environment is changing! No, I am not espousing (nor denying) global warming. I’m speaking of the business environment for commercial pools. Local government budgets are under scrutiny. Universities, hotels, condos, fitness clubs and country clubs alike are being asked to justify their swimming pool staff and pool expenses. In addition, we are in a new world of public aquatic legislation.
Fortunately, advancements in aquatic equipment promise to change the landscape just as much. New innovations will bring more value to your members and guests; reduce the cost of operation; and perhaps even bring you some peace of mind.
At the equipment room level, these changes won’t be obvious. In fact, I don’t expect the look of the equipment room to change much. Basic equipment will improve incrementally, while many of today’s optional components will earn their worth as standard equipment. But changes will still happen. Pumps will continue to pump, but at what speed? Heaters will heat, but what will be their source of energy?
Filtration will undergo a similar quiet evolution. Look for tank materials to continue their evolution toward polymers and away from metal. Manufacturing processes may become more efficient, and there will be incremental improvements in installation and serviceability. A sand filter — substitute media notwithstanding — still will be the basic sand filter as we know it. And the conventional cartridge filter will remain the conventional cartridge filter.
A potentially significant change in filtration could be a shift toward diatomaceous earth and DE alternatives. They could — and should — receive extra attention because at least they approach a level of effectiveness against cryptosporidium.
Indeed, one likely difference in future equipment will be the ability to respond to crypto outbreaks. Immediate containment is beyond the scope of the equipment pad. But it’s likely future equipment will limit the spread of infection and dramatically reduce downtime by accelerating response.
In the absence of a silver bullet to fight RWIs, it may be better to think of a multidisciplined cavalry. Look for a cooperative force of finer filtration and alternative sanitizers that are generated or dispensed automatically.
Automation itself will be one of the biggest changes. There’s a growing expectation that in the decade ahead, automatic sanitization will be a requirement. This movement will be led by salt chlorine generation and supported by a variety of supplemental sanitizers generated at the pad, including ozone and UV.
No longer the exception to the rule as it is now, total chemical automation will become typical. This includes automatic sensing and recording of all critical indices for the pool. As post-crypto-outbreak managers have learned, there is no leniency for sporadic record-keeping for sanitizer levels and other water quality indices. This may even include water turbidity metrics. Remote monitoring and management of chemicals and equipment at multiple facilities via telemetry also will become the norm.
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act is the first nationwide legislation for our industry. You can expect equipment innovations that provide additional layers of protection for your patrons. Advancements will reduce the nuisance trips that have discouraged installation, or at times actually resulted in the equipment being intentionally deactivated.
Though nothing will ever take the place of vigilant lifeguard/adult supervision, there will be advancements in safety equipment that sense and sound an alarm when someone enters the pool or pool area in off-hours.
A chief safety challenge that remains during operating hours is distinguishing between a distressed bather and active play. Technology exists that can actually recognize a person who has become motionless. The opportunity will be for this technology to reach price points affordable for most public pools.
Again, there is no substitution for an alert lifeguard, but redundancy is what advances a system toward the required success. New pools will have suction systems that are intrinsically safe when managed and maintained properly. And, of course, it follows that there will be monitoring equipment that supports those systems.
Advancements in energy efficiency, meanwhile, will continue at an epic rate. However, the adoption rate will be dependent on manufacturers’ ability to prove the return on investment for the commercial pool.
Energy savings will be garnered from improved plumbing hydraulics, as well as the hydraulic design of the equipment in the water’s path — filters, feeders and the like. While some pumps have brought new efficiency to the hydraulic (wet end) of the pump, great advancements have occurred at the motor and motor control end of the pumps — with continued advancements in multiple or variable speed pump technology.
Gas heating, both natural and propane, will slip out of vogue. There will be no less demand for comfort and no dramatic shift in membership to the Polar Bear Club. But there will likely be an increase in more environmentally friendly heat sources. Commercial heat pumps will gain popularity, with a reduction in heating costs of up to 80 percent compared with gas heat. Solar heating is on a resurgence. Expect further improvements in efficiency, reliability and simplicity of control. One could also assume the inevitable financial support of the federal government and power authorities.
Exponential advancements in LED white lighting will prove its worth in energy savings and reduced maintenance. Not only can you deliver comparable lumens at energy savings upwards of 85 percent, but also time between service calls is increased 15-fold. A 30-minute bulb change every 2,000 hours may not seem bad until you find yourself managing 40 lights at a single facility or resort. Rather, with LED think of a light change every 10 or 15 years.
One of the most dramatic changes in future commercial pool equipment will actually expand how the pool is used. And it’s already begun.
Underwater lighting is no longer limited to the functional white lighting introduced in the 1960s. Your pool can become the backdrop for major nighttime events. In fact, it can even become the focal point of nighttime events. Imaginative event planners already are using pool lighting as a thematic device, such as patriotic red, white and blue political pool parties, or 100,000 gallons of kelly green water for the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Ever see a pool dance the mambo? A bride can even have the country club pool custom-match the color of her bridesmaids’ gowns. It is all being done!
Your resort can have a pool light show scheduled on the hour after the sun goes down. Imagine the buzz of patrons planning and gathering at poolside to see the show. Think Disney’s Electric Light Parade or the Eiffel Tower’s light spectacular!
It’s only going to get bigger, better and brighter (or subtler — depending on the ambiance that you want to set).