Pools Go Green

Pools Go Green

In the past, a green backyard pool was likely to be suffering a "fungus among us" or some other affliction that threatened green hair and ruined swimsuits, preventing pool owners from enjoying their backyard investment.

In today's world, however, green pools are all the rage — and not in a way that has anything to do with the hue of the water.

While pools are far from being considered a boost to the environment, certain technologies and practices are on the rise to lessen the likelihood of wasted water, excess energy consumption and swimming in toxic chemicals.

First and foremost, chlorine being the most offensive aspect of swimming pools, Luxury Lagoon Pools owner Chad Lowder says salt chlorine generators are increasing in popularity, producing a far less irritating type of chlorine and requiring fewer parts per million to keep water clean.

Salt generators can be plumbed into existing pool systems, usually for between $700 and $1,100. Backwash systems should be outfitted with cartridge style filters that minimize contaminates entering the water system.

"Even with salt, it's still chlorine no matter how you look at it, but it's a more natural chlorine. It works like a water softener almost," says Lowder. "You can open your eyes in it, swim in it all day without baking your skin in bleach and it's better for the environment."

Another alternative for eliminating contaminants from pool water, ozonators inject ozone to destroy everything from bacteria and mildew to sunscreen residue without the need for harsh chemicals.

"I've used ozone in my own spa at home for 14 years, and I wouldn't use anything else," says Orley's Pools and Spas owner Larry Milligan.

Ozone leaves no unpleasant chemical taste, is less corrosive than chlorine and, once dissolved in water, will not irritate eyes, nose and ears or leave chemical residue on skin. If ozone comes with a downside, it's the initial setup cost.

"Most people don't use ozonators because [they cost] $1,000 and up to $2,000," he says. "It's a case of just how much money does a person have to play with."

An outside-the-box idea, some homeowners with bigger budgets for backyard setups are creating man-made bodies of water closely resembling ponds, with plant life for filtration and ozonators to keep the water crystal clear.

As far as heating any body of water, solar has caught on with homeowners around the country.

"Gas and electric systems cost too much but solar panels use nature's own heat and it doesn't cost anything at all after the initial installation," says Milligan. "I've got some customers who say they have the biggest spa in town. Their pool gets up to over 100 degrees using just solar panels."

Panels for solar heating systems can be added to a basic system for starting around $360 for a basic setup. An add-on, solar blankets prevent heat loss overnight and keeps water cleaner. As an incentive for going solar, government rebates offer homeowners who install solar power appliances hefty tax rebates. A $5,000 to $6,000 solar heater setup, for example, brings a $1,500 to $1,800 rebate.

Water treatment and heating sources aside, go green in other areas that connect to backyard pools. Shop for green products such as solar lighting, decking made of recycled materials and even furniture made from recycled plastics.

"Our economy is getting to a situation where we've got to look for alternative sources of fuel and greener ways of doing things," Lowder says. —¦ We might save money in the long run, but the important thing is we're not polluting the environment or wasting our limited resources."

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