The recession has not drowned pool maintenance expenses.
From summer 2008 through the beginning of 2009, increases
in the cost of chemicals have cumulatively added anywhere
from 15 to 30 percent to the cost of chlorine, algaecides
Chlorine costs are generally the highest chemical costs
for most pool operators, noted John Whitmore, recreation
superintendent for the city of Denton, Texas, and president
of the National Recreation and Park Association’s
Aquatics Branch. And one of the biggest impacts on price
increases has been the cost of raw materials.
In the aquatics industry, raw material costs are
especially critical. Unlike other household products, which
may be diluted heavily with water, the make-up of most
sanitizers is primarily raw chlorine. Even most algaecides
are 40- to 50 percent active.
As such, raw materials pricing weighs heavily into the
operating costs of a manufacturer.
“The most important thing in our industry is
material costs,” says Charlie Schobel,
BioLab’s vice president and general manager, pool
and spa products.
The largest determinant of raw materials pricing for
aquatic chemicals is the chlor-alkalai market, which has
been in a state of flux for some time. Plants that produce
chlorine also product alkalai, or caustic soda, and the two
don’t necessarily find the same kind of
High fuel costs are another factor because manufacturers
pass on surcharges incurred from freight carriers, along
“Many areas that are dedicated to using sodium
hypochlorite (bleach) are seeing costs rise due to
transportation costs,” Whitmore said.
Like gas and oil prices, packaging also is influenced by
market fluctuations. Consider that the primary raw material
that goes into packaging is polyethylene, which is used to
make soft plastic bags and rigid 5-gallon buckets.
“If you rewind and look at the prices for those
raw materials a year ago, they were on the verge of
reaching their all-time historical high,”
explained Howard Rappaport, who studies the plastics and
polymer markets for Chemical Market Associates Inc. in
Ultimately, some say the price hikes are the result of a
long period of artificially low-cost pool chemicals.
“At the end of the day, chemicals in this industry
have been a bargain for a very, very long period of
time,” said Manuel J. Perez de la Mesa, CEO of
PoolCorp in Covington, La.
While no one will forecast when markets will stabilize
again, Whitmore believes it’s likely to have an
impact on decision-making as operators plan ahead.
“The swing in its cost is nowhere near the
swing in natural gas and electricity we have seen in the
last several years. Pools had to absorb those costs and
that just about sums up what pools are doing with other
increases in supply costs,” he said. “I
think the long-term result will be that operators will be
taking longer looks at chlorine generation such as with