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Aquatic Trends: Pool Accessories

Technology continues to advance in the commercial and residential pool markets, as there are always new products, technologies, and design methods being introduced. Some of the design options and products that will be discussed are not necessarily new to the industry, but thanks to new technologies and innovations, they continue to make an impression on clients who realize they need to have them in their aquatic facilities.

 

Further, as many of these items become more refined and more clients buy them, costs have come down over the years, allowing more designers/builders to incorporate them in any new and/or renovation projects.

 

CLIMBING WALLS

One of the hottest features of late is climbing walls. These apparatus are increasingly being added to existing pools, as well as included on many new pool installations. They are a relatively new option for pools even though people have been climbing on artificial rock walls for years. It was not until recently that designers started placing these climbing walls along the edge of the pool.

 

These products provide another option for bathers to enjoy the pool, while getting in some exercise as well. There are a few manufacturers offering these products, which are available in several colours, as well as clear panel configurations, and in heights of up to 3.6 m (12 ft). The required minimum water depth is typically 2.4 m for a 3.6-m (12-ft) wall. Shorter walls are available for shallower pools. Climbing walls should always be installed according to manufacturer recommendations.

 

TANNING LEDGES

Tanning ledges are also becoming quite popular, as they expand the use of the pool. Typically, these areas have 305 mm (12 in.) of water or less, which makes them perfect for setting up a lounge chair or a place where bathers can simply lay in the shallow water to soak up the sun.

 

They are also great for young children and the family dog. They are commonly found on today’s prefabricated fibreglass pool options, and can be easily incorporated into concrete pool designs. In fact, most concrete pools can be easily renovated to include a tanning ledge and many clients are now doing this.

 

LIGHT-EMITTING DIODE (LED) LIGHTING

LED lighting technology has become much more affordable and refined in the last five years and, in fact, is now the standard. The colour and operational options available are quite expansive, including the ability to control the lights using a smartphone app.

 

There are also removable battery-powered options available that are good for smaller pool applications. LED lights last longer than incandescent bulbs and will save an aquatic facility on hydro costs.

 

FIRE BOWLS 

Fire bowls are now more affordable than in the past and are being included in new construction designs more than ever. Fire features are available in a wide range of configurations and work well to enhance the pool’s surrounding environment. They make for an exhilarating bathing experience, especially when swimming at night.

 

MOVABLE FLOORS

Movable floor systems are not necessarily new, but are still gaining traction in new residential and commercial construction projects. These floors allow program offerings at aquatic facilities to be much more flexible as the pool depth can be adjusted accordingly.

For instance, programs for new parents and their tots are now possible, as the floor can be raised to any depth instead of the standard 1-m (3-ft) shallow end. Then, it can be moved back down to a 0.6-m (2-ft) depth for youngsters aged four to six who are learning to swim, but still want to be able to touch the floor and stand.

 

For residential applications, the same benefits apply, including the ability to fully raise the floor to eliminate the chance of anyone falling into the pool while the homeowner is away or when the pool is not being used. The pool floor can be raised to create more useable space as well.

 

BEACH ENTRY

Beach-entry pools are now the standard in commercial construction. This design comprises a sloped entry that allows accessibility for everyone, a necessity on public pools for several reasons. Having an accessibility lift is also an option; however, a beach entry allows someone in a wheelchair, the elderly, or small children to enter the pool effortlessly.

 

Similar to movable floors, beach-entry pools offer more options for young children learning to swim or those who just want to cool off on a hot summer day.

 

SPLASH PADS

Splash pads are all the rage, with new toys and accessories becoming available all the time. Municipalities and campgrounds—not to mention kids—love them as they provide a great option for people to cool off without the need for a lifeguard. As there is no standing water, the risk of drowning is essentially eliminated. However, parental supervision is still a must. With drain away and recirculation options available, splash pads can almost be installed anywhere.

 

A drain-away design typically makes use of low-flow water features at a location where low- to medium-usage is expected. Water simply drains into the municipal sewage system, or into an underground holding tank where it is used for grey water purposes, typically lawn watering, with an overflow to sanitary built into the system.

 

A recirculating system also uses an underground holding tank where water is pumped through the filtration and sanitizing system to the water features. The water then drains back into the holding tank to be circulated again all-season long.

 

AUTOMATIC POOL COVERS

Automatic pool covers are also gaining ground in the commercial and residential market. Similar to other products of late, these too can be controlled by the owner and/or facility manager via smartphone. This controllability is not only convenient, but also offers many safety and time-saving benefits.

 

There are some restrictions with respect to shapes, however. If the pool is a freeform design, it needs to be sunken down to allow the cover track to be installed above the top of the pool wall. Essentially, a freeform pool still has to have a rectangular cover, if it is automatic.

 

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Meeting & Surpassing Code Requirements

The Ontario and other provincial Building Codes have minimum standards that have been established to ensure that new public pools are constructed to be safe and functional. Following construction, Health Departments are responsible for monitoring and regulating the operation of the pool. The entire content of the code is important, but some items really stand out. For example, strict adherence to the velocity of water moving through suction fittings like the main drains is really important. The velocity of water through main drains is dictated as not to exceed 1.5 fps (feet per second). This low velocity helps decrease the possibility that people might become entrapped or entangled by the main drain fitting.

 

Another really important factor is the turnover rate of the pool. For Class ‘A’ pools (a pool to which the general public is admitted), the entire volume of the pool has to be filtered and chemically treated every four hours. This ‘turnover rate’ provides some assurance that the pool water will be clean and safe for bathers to use. The Building and Health Codes are very important and have elements that work to ensure pools work really well and up to standards, most of the time. As with most rules, there are some exceptions that should be considered. An important question to consider is: When is it a good idea to do more than what the code calls for?

 

CLASS A & CLASS B POOLS

In Ontario for example, a Class ‘B’ pool (a pool operated on the premises of an apartment building with five or more units, a pool operated as a facility to serve a community of more than five single-family private residences, a pool operated on the premises of a hotel, a pool operated on the premises of a campground, a pool operated in conjunction with, a club or a condominium, a pool operated in conjunction with a day nursery, a day camp or an establishment for the care or treatment of persons who are ill, infirm or aged) is required to be designed in such a way that the circulation system exchanges the entire volume of the pools water once every six hours, or four times per day. Most of the time, this is totally acceptable, but there are times when it is not sufficient. At some resorts for example, the pools are shallow and the volume of water is small. This coupled with a very high usage, warmer water and bathers who may not shower as well as they should (especially children) can create a condition that makes the water quality very difficult to manage. We often oversize the circulation systems with larger than required pumps and filters in this instance and add secondary sanitation systems like UV to help ensure superior water quality.

 

The same is true of a Class ‘A’ pool. These pools are required to be designed to exchange the water in the pools every four hours or six times per day which seems like a lot, but again there are some exceptions. If the pool is a therapeutic pool with a higher percentage of elderly users, or users with either a physical or mental disability, there may be a higher risk of contamination by fouling, making it prudent to exchange the water more often and install UV systems. For pools like this we often design the mechanical system to exchange the water every two hours, or 12 times per day, or more.

 

FILTRATION RATE

Another important consideration is the filtration rate of the pool filter system. In all cases this is calculated by dividing the total flow of the circulation pump by the total surface area of the pool and is expressed as GPM/FT2 of filter area. For sand filters, most manufacturers call for a filtration rate of no more than 15 GPM/ FT2. For a pool that has a flow rate of 450 GPM, the total sand area should be no less than 450 GPM/ 15 GPM/FT2 = 30 FT2. This square footage can be achieved by either using one or two larger horizontal or vertical filters, or a ‘battery’ of smaller filters. Is a filtration rate of 15 GPM/ ft2 always enough? For a lesser-used pool with a lower-risk user, and a low bather load, the answer is probably yes, but in instances where there is a high bather load, it may make sense to lower the velocity of water through the filter to improve filtration even more. Sometimes it makes sense to oversize the filter so that the filtration rate is more like 12 GPM/ft2. The same thing can be done with other filter media like cartridge filters or DE (diatomaceous earth) filters. 

 

UV SANITATION SYSTEMS

UV is a secondary sanitizer that effectively renders most bacteria unproductive (and therefore safe) as water passes through the device. UV units are not required by code for pools (UV is required for splash pads) or spas, but may be a really good idea to install anyway. Some bacteria are resistant to chlorine or bromine and can become the source of an infectious condition that can make swimmers sick. This can result in a severe and widespread illness outbreak that could have long term effects or even cause the death of a vulnerable individual. There could also be legal implications for the owner/operator of the pool. Even though the codes do not require it, putting UV systems on a high bather load or high risk pool is a smart and proactive change to make.

 

Finally, the codes are an effective way to improve the overall safety of pools across the community. As with all rules and regulations, not every scenario can be addressed. It is best to look at the particular conditions surrounding your pool and design it appropriately. Since there is no specific  ‘rule book’ to help you decide when code requirements should be exceeded, it is best to consult an aquatic consultant or pool builder who has a long record of experience with a variety of public and private pools. These experienced companies will help you design, build or upgrade a pool that is safe and fun for your clientele.

 

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Dive Stand Manitenance

Dive Stands are a great addition to any facility, but of course have inherent dangers and cost a lot of money to replace. Let’s talk about how you can make your dive stand and spring board as safe as possible, and how to protect your investment!

 

DON'T SLIP UP

The lifeguard staff should check the surface of the springboard to be sufficiently “non-skid” at the beginning of every shift. This should be done with the board wet, to simulate what it is like when in use. If the board is found to be slippery, it should be taken out of service until the issue is resolved. Nobody want to see anyone hurt or to suffer any legal consequences. The owners, supervisors and lifeguard staff could all potentially share a liability if the board were subsequently shown to be unfit for use.

 

What is in the Making of a Slip?

There are a few reasons that boards can become slippery:

  • Dirt and body oil from swimmers and sunbathers can collect on the surface of the board, making it slippery just because of the nature of the material (oils) or by filling in the ‘voids’ of the textured surface so that it effectively becomes smoother and therefore more slippery.
  • Excessive alkalinity or minerals in the water can cause scaling that again renders the textured board smoother, or damages the textured surface.
  • Wearing, releasing or damage of the textured surface.

How do I Prevent the Board from Becoming Slippery?

  • Hose the board down with fresh water (not pool water) every day. This will help keep the textured surface free of contamination. Never use a high pressure washer for this; you will shorten the life of the texture by blasting away the aggregate.
  • Once a month, give the board a good scrubbing wash with a detergent and hot water. This will remove oils and keep the texture in good shape. Always use a soft bristle brush - never stiff.
  • If there is a hardness buildup, a muriatic acid solution can be used to dissolve the minerals. Remember to exercise all appropriate safety procedures when using muriatic acid!

The Textured Surface is Gone…Now What?

Take the board out of service. It just isn’t worth the risk of continuing to use it. Most commercial manufacturers offer refinishing of commercial boards. Contact your commercial aquatics provider, and they will help arrange shipping and refinishing of your board so it is like new, and back in tr-action!

 

The manufacturers use a special epoxy to bond the slip resistant material to the board, and the material itself is designed to reduce surface tension so that water doesn’t stand tall on the board. Don’t try to resurface the board yourself. It won’t be as good as the factory does it, and you accept the liability if there is an accident after you put it back into service.

 

OK…What Else for the Board?

The rubber channels on the underside of the board must be inspected monthly for signs of wear. If they are getting close to being worn out, they should be replaced BEFORE the metal ridges on the underside of the board come into contact with the fulcrum. If left unchecked, the fulcrum AND the board will be damaged!

 

That’s Great for the Board, but What About the Stand?

  • The best and easiest thing to do is to rinse the entire stand with clean water at the beginning and end of every day. This is especially important for indoor pools. When the stand cools off at night, warm humid air will condense on the stand and handrails, leaving a chlorine residue on the equipment and cause it to degrade prematurely.
  • Keep the fulcrum components clean, especially the tracks.
  • Keep the roller clamp lock nuts, and anti-rattle lock nuts, snug and adjusted for a "no-rattle" clearance.
  • The two grease fittings of the roller block should be lubricated every 2 weeks. Use "Mystic JT-6" grease and grease gun.
  • The hinges that hold the board to the stand need 2 drops of oil every 2 weeks. Use lightweight oil as for door hinges.
  • The carriage bolts that attach the diving board to the hinges should be checked for tightness periodically.  The carriage bolt nuts need to be maintained at 110 lbs of torque (You’ll need a small torque wrench to do it properly).
  • Check all handrail and assembly bolts as part of a quarterly preventative maintenance program to keep everything up to snuff.
  • The stainless steel components are 304 stainless, which is a good quality material for swimming pool natatoriums, but like all stainless steel is not ‘rust-proof’. If rust does appear:
  • Clean it immediately with stainless steel cleaner and a cloth.
  • Rinse with lots of fresh water (never pool water).
  • Using an anodizing product or even wax as a barrier will help prevent future rust.
  • Air quality is critical to the prevention of rust on metal components. Good air handling equipment or the addition of a UV system to the pool go a long way toward improving air quality by reducing airborne chloramines.

 

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The Heat Is On - Swimming Pool Heating Options

There are many different systems and options when considering how to heat your swimming pool. Location, pool size and the desired temperature all affect which option is best for your facility. This blog introduces you to the various pool heating solutions available and the important factors to consider in order to make an informed decision.

 

NATURAL GAS, PROPANE & ELECTRIC POOL HEATERS

Natural gas and propane pool heaters are still very common and have become increasingly more energy efficient, which we all know is good news for the environment but also for the pocket book of the person or facility paying for the fuel. These are great options depending on the availability of the desired fuel in the location of the swimming pool. For example, a swimming pool in the city will no doubt have access to either natural gas or propane, however a rural swimming pool will have to look into which option is available and at what cost. If neither natural gas nor propane is available for a reasonable and affordable cost, an electric pool heater may be the solution. As anyone who has had to pay electricity bill on their own knows, electricity does not come cheap. In this case, there are other, more affordable options available such as a heat pump, solar heating system, or even a wood fired boiler used in conjunction with a heat exchanger, all of which will be discussed more below.

 

BOILERS, WOOD FIRED BOILERS & HEAT EXCHANGERS

Boilers used in conjunction with a heat exchanger are another common method used to heat a swimming pool. A typical boiler is gas fired and used to heat the entire building, so tying it into a heat exchanger to heat the pool is a great idea. Again, location determines whether this option is viable depending on the availability and cost of fuel, either natural gas or propane. The boiler must be sized properly for this however; therefore consulting with a professional pool designer at the beginning stages of design and throughout is always a good idea to make sure there are no problems when the facility is constructed. 

 

Wood fired boilers are a great option for a facility that has the outdoor space for it, as well as an abundance of wood to burn. Campgrounds, for example, typically have a lot of fire wood handy from cutting down trees to make campsites, wood left behind by campers, etc. So why not make use of it? In this case, a wood fired boiler connected to a heat exchanger is an extremely feasible option to heat the swimming pool. Keeping the fire stoked throughout the day and night is an important factor to consider before making your decision. Facilities like campgrounds are normally fully staffed throughout the summer season with employees who can handle the task. Delegating this job to an employee who will treat it as their baby and never let the fire die will ensure happy campers all season long!

 

HEAT PUMPS

A heat pump is an environmentally friendly option; however its effectiveness depends on the location of the swimming pool. Heat pumps will only work well in an environment with warm air to utilize. Operating much more efficiently than a natural gas, oil or an electric pool heater, a heat pump can show big monetary rewards in areas with high natural or propane gas costs. To run this efficiently, the heat pump extracts the heat from the air, intensifies the heat with a compressor, delivers the heat to the water, and exhausts the cooler air out the top of the unit. Since it uses the warm ambient air temperature to do the work, it is a very efficient way to heat water.

 

SOLAR POOL HEATING

A solar pool heating system is a great way to make use of the energy provided by the sun and save money with regards to heating a pool. A typical solar heating system has a “collector”, which is the system that the water circulates through, to warm it up using the sun’s energy. The water is pushed through the collector by the pool pump, which has to be sized properly to account for the extra work it has to do in comparison to a pool that does not use solar heating. Generally, the water that comes from the pool is first sent through a strainer, which removes any debris that may be present in the water that could damage or clog the pump and filter. Then, the water goes through the pump into the filter, where smaller impurities are filtered out. Once the water is filtered, it is sent into the solar “collector”, which is usually a series of tubes on a southern facing roof to heat the water inside of them. The warm water is then returned to the pool. This system is ideal, but its effectiveness depends on the location of the pool geographically. The system, as with any other pool heating system, must be sized properly for it to function as desired. 

 

As always, it is best to consult with a professional pool consultant when considering a pool heating option for a new or existing facility. 

 

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Remembering Virginia Graeme Baker

Most pool owners and operators have heard the term VGB compliant as it relates to main drains in swimming pools, and may have heard of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act that was brought into legislation in the United States.

 

As a member of her community swim and diving team, Virginia Graeme Baker was a strong swimmer who could swim unassisted at only 3 years old. Despite this, Virginia (called Graeme by her family) died in a spa (hot tub) after becoming trapped on the single main drain fitting of the spa, even with the frantic efforts of her mother, Nancy Baker to release her from the drain. Eventually, two men were able to release Graeme from the drain, but exerted so much force that the main drain fitting was actually broken in the process. At the very young age of 7 years, Virginia Graeme Baker died from drowning as a result of becoming entrapped on the main drain fitting of the spa.

 

MAIN DRAINS & THE RISKS

The danger of a single main drain in a pool or spa cannot be overstated; when a single main drain is covered and is the sole source of suction for a pump, a tremendous hold-down force is exerted on the person covering the main drain fitting. For a typical residential pool or spa with an 8” round drain, the hold-down force can be in the order of 739 pounds! Even the strongest person would be unable to overcome this kind of force. The larger the surface area of the drain the greater the force, even if the same pump is used. For a 9”x9” main drain, the force will be about 1191 pounds, and for a 12” x 12” main drain the force will be a whopping 2117 pounds! This is approximately the same weight as a skidof bricks! But becoming entrapped by the suction is only one of the dangers of an improper drain installation. People can also become eviscerated if they sit on an improper drain, or become entangled (hair and jewelry) if the velocity of water through the drain is too high, or the drain openings are improperly designed.

 

PREVENTION

Following Graeme’s death, Nancy Baker worked tirelessly as an advocate for pool safety and through the political clout of her father-in-law, former Secretary of State,  James Baker III, and in association with Safe Kids Worldwide, lobbies to congress to bring into law the mandatory use of anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices and methods.

 

Use VGB Compliant Main Drain Covers

Perhaps the most important change was the nature of the drain cover itself. Main drain covers are now required to be VGB compliant, meaning that they have a shape and openings that have been designed to dramatically decrease the likelihood of a person becoming entrapped. The drains are also sized for different flow rates so that the velocity of water moving through the surface of the grate does not exceed 1.5 feet per second. This low velocity decreases the likelihood that things like hair will be drawn into the grate creating an entanglement problem.

 

Use Multiple Main Drains

Another important safety measure in pools and spas is to never have a single main drain. In Canada,  it is law that every public pool and spa have at least two main drains, and that these be spaced apart from each other by at least four feet (1.2m). If one drain fitting is blocked, the water has another path to go though (the other drain fitting) so that an ‘absolute’ vacuum cannot be achieved.

 

Use a Safety Vacuum Release System

Finally, another measure to improve main drain safety is the use of Safety Vacuum Release Systems (SVRS). These devices are installed on the suction side of the pump(s) and are designed to eliminate the suction force of the pump. There are generally two types (mechanical and electrical) which are designed to sense excessive suction and act to relieve this suction. Electrical units work by shutting of the pump, and mechanical systems work by allowing air to enter the pump so that it loses suction.

 

Swimming pools and spas provide a tremendous amount of fun, leisure, exercise and therapeutic benefits to families, the public and patients. But we have to always remember that pools are really machines designed for our aquatic needs, and like all machines, pools have inherent dangers that have to be managed. For decades, we drove cars without the benefit of seatbelts, airbags and so many other safety features. At one time, we didn’t even have windshield wipers! Thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Baker after her loss of Graeme, properly designed pools and spas are now safer than they have ever been.

 

Click here for more information on Virginia Graeme Baker, what you can do to prevent entrapment and other tragedies or to read the Pool and Spa Safety Act.

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Benefits of Commissioning & Training

Following construction, the commissioning of the pool system is critical to ensure that it is working properly and as it was designed, before handing over the operation of the pool to its Owner. These are the people who will be operating and maintaining their body of water on a daily basis.

 

COMMISSIONING

During commissioning, all pieces of equipment are started-up, run, and programmed. I have learned first-hand how important it is to allow for the proper amount of time for this to occur. Allowing a few weeks to complete the commissioning ensures that each piece of equipment has enough time to operate as designed. If anything goes wrong it can be rectified immediately.

 

The set-up of the system begins when the water is introduced into the pool. Once the water starts to run through the piping, it is also running through each piece of equipment that is required to operate the system. Here are a few examples of equipment that requires set up;

 

CHEMICAL CONTROLLER

The chemical controller, which monitors and reads the pools chemistry, requires some initial set up. The controllers parameters are set to ensure that if the chemistry is not within those parameters, the controller alarms to alert the operator that the water chemistry requires attention. This can take time to complete to ensure accuracy.

 

POOL PUMP

After the pump is started up, it should be allowed to run for a period of time to ensure that there are no leaks. Seals in a pump can be dry and cracked before the pump is even installed. You won’t be able to physically see this issue until the water is running through the system.

 

Those are just two examples of the numerous pieces of equipment that are involved in pool systems, most of which require set up. There is always a possibility that equipment can fail, so ensuring everything is commissioned by the time the system is fully operational means less chance of equipment or system failure. When there is a failure after the pool is fully operational, it could mean that the pool would have to be shut down and closed to its patrons. This is something that all Owners want to avoid at all costs.

 

TRAINING

Once the pool is completely commissioned, it is now the perfect time to train those individuals who will be operating the pool on a daily basis. Every pool system is different, so even if a person has experience with pool systems, the new system could be slightly different. A controller could be updated from the previous version, or the system could include a UV system that the Operator has no previous experience with.

 

Training sessions cover many techniques including:

  • How the piping system flows
  • How to operate the controller
  • Understanding what can go wrong
  • What to do if the pool overflows
  • How to adjust chemistry of the pool
  • What to do if the system equipment is in alarm

Allowing those people the opportunity to watch and learn through a hands-on training session has amazing benefits for them in the future operation of the pool. When Operators have the understanding and knowledge that they need, their confidence level is increased, allowing them to maintain the system properly, and promptly deal with any issues that may arise, shortening their down time.

 

As you can see, commissioning and training benefits all parties involved in the operation of the pool system. The time for this to occur should be considered in every construction schedule.

 

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Understanding Pool Filtration & Filter Media

Pool water filtration is one of the most important aspects of a swimming pool. For obvious reasons, it is imperative that the water be clean and clear. Swimmers and lifeguards require this crystal clear water for several reasons, whether it be for swimming laps, knowing when to start a flip turn, or being able to see all of the pool patrons clearly in order to effectively monitor the pool. Furthermore, the water needs to be clean and free of bacteria so that swimmers do not leave with an illness. While there are many systems that work in conjunction with a pool filter to help keep the water healthy, the physical pool filter, which is available in varying styles and options,  is the focal point in providing clean, clear water. 

 

In most cases, pool water is pushed by the filtration pump through the filter system. Other systems operate using the pump on the other end of the system where it can pull the pool water through the filtering system. Either way, what happens is essentially the same – as water passes through the filter media, physical dirt and bacteria are removed, and clean water continues from the filter through the remainder of the recirculation system for further treatment, and returned to the pool. 

 

The style of filter, along with the media being used, will determine the effectivness of the filtration system, as differing types of filter media actually filter different sizes of particles out of the water.

 

#20 SILICA SAND

The reason that pool filters use #20 silica sand (also known as 20 grit or 20 grain, 0.45-0.55 mm sized granules) is that it is small enough to filter out micro bacteria, yet large enough that it doesn’t get pushed through the whole plumbing system and cause other problems. In addition, larger granules are unable to filter the small bits of dirt and bacteria that it is intended to. #20 silica sand can filter out particles down to 20-40 microns in size. As water passes through the sand (which is essentially a really small stone, which is jagged on all edges if looked at through a microscope), the jagged edges catch tiny dirt and bacteria particles, eliminating them from the pool environment.

 

Depending on various factors (bather load, bather cleanliness, etc.) sand filters need to be backwashed every so often to clean the sand. If the sand filter is not maintained, it will stop filtering as it is supposed to. Backwashing is completed by running water through the system backwards to release all of the dirt and bacteria that has been caught by the sand, and must then be removed from the filter tank.  When the water being discharged is clear, you are finished backwashing. Most filters have a sight glass so operators can physically see the dirty water at the beginning of backwashing eventually turn clear when the process is done.

 

Sand is the oldest and most commonly used filtration media, because it is effective and one of the most cost friendly options. However, after many cycles of filtering and backwashing, the granules become rounded, eliminating their filtering capabilities. The sand should be changed approximately every 5 years, depending on usage and backwashing frequency. 

 

ZEOLITE

Zeolite is an all-natural product that is gaining popularity in the pool industry. It is about half as dense as #20 sand, meaning you can use about half as much as what is recommended for the filter. For example, if your filter requires 100 lbs. of sand, you would only require about 50 lbs. of zeolite. This type of filtration media is a bit more expensive than sand, so there will be a higher upfront cost. With the ability to filter particles down to 5 microns, Zeolite is comparable to a D.E. filter, and better than sand, though D.E. filtration systems are much more expensive than a sand filter system charged with a zeolite media. Zeolite lasts about the same amount of time as sand with regular use, which is approximately 5 years. 

 

CRUSHED GLASS

Crushed glass is a new addition to the filter media family. Made from recycled glass (good for the environment) that is crushed to the same size as #20 sand, it filters using the same principles as sand. In comparision to sand, crush glass lasts longer (approximately 10 years) and can help in removing micro particles with its negative charge. When using crushed glass, more of the filter media is used for filtering because it utilizes more of the filter tank, as opposed to sand which typically only uses the top four to six inches. This means there is a shorter backwash time, saving more precious water. 

 

DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (D.E.)

Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) filters the water very effectively, down to two to six microns, however they are more expensive systems and take up a larger footprint in the mechanical room. D.E. is tiny fossilized skeletons of sea plankton that are coated onto a grid of filter elements that sit in a tank where the pool water passes through. The water can either be pushed or pulled through this system.  D.E. is considered carcinogenic, and proper handling and storage techniques, including protective gear and breathing protection, must be adhered to. D.E. filters are able to be backwashed for cleaning, but the media is lost in the process, and needs to be periodically replaced. D.E. systems do not eliminate chloramines which cause the chlorine smell commonly noticed at an indoor pool, so using a UV system is strongly recommended in order to eliminate them (a reccommendation for all pool filters). 

 

REGENERATIVE FILTERS

Regenerative filters are another new option in the pool market. They also utilize D.E. or a synthetic substitute, however are a bit more complex in their design. In a traditional D.E. filter, only the channels and depressions of the surface of the filter media trap particles. The underside of the D.E., the side attached to the grid, has a reduced ability to filter. In a regenerative filter, the media is held on multiple tubes, or “fingers”, that are periodically “bumped”, causing the filter media to fall to the bottom of the tank. The filter media is then redistributed, allowing unused sides of the media to be used for filtration as well. Regenerative filters offer a large amount of surface area with a relatively small footprint and are often toted for their water saving qualities due to the reduced need for backwashing and D.E. replacement. The water savings may or may not offset the cost of these units, therefore your individual return on investment should be evaluated before purchase.

 

Thanks to several innovations and advancements in technology, there are many options available when considering pool filters, and filtration media. It is important to consider all of the factors specific to your project when choosing a filtration system, or to at least understand what you want and don’t want when planning with the pool designer that is working on your project. You want to have the right filtration system and media for the facility to ensure it is operating in the most economical way.

 

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Salt Water Chlorination: Is it the Right Option for your Facility?

Salt or no salt? That is the question! Or at least one of the most common questions being asked by pool owners and operators these days. Every pool owner has their own set of reasons for wanting salt or not wanting salt. There are many questions regarding the mechanical equipment at the facility, finishes of the pool, uses of the pool, local bylaws, (just to name a few) that must be answered before jumping to any decisions. Additionally, the owner must be aware of the many myths regarding salt water systems and chlorine systems alike before making any decisions. They must also understand that a salt water pool doesn’t mean you will be swimming in ocean water! Windows to the Universe team states that salt water pools typically have 3,000 to 6,000 ppm, while the ocean is about 35,000 ppm.

 

MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT

When changing a liquid chlorine sanitized pool over to a salt water system, or when building a pool destined to be salt water, the mechanical systems must be selected properly.  Everything from the pumps, filters and heaters must be designed and approved for use in a salt water pool.  If this is not done, manufacturers will not honour warranties, and there will be damaged equipment much prior to their normal lifetime.

 

POOL FINISHES

The finishes of the pool need to be considered when contemplating a salt water pool as certain finishes do not last as long under salt water conditions.  Liners, tile and plaster finishes all have their own issues when it comes to salt, so owners must investigate each option thoroughly and ensure whichever option is chosen is installed properly. As with any sanitation system, monitoring and proper balancing is also very crucial in the lifetime of the finishes. 

 

Fixtures such as hand rails, underwater lighting fixtures, and rope anchors need to be properly chosen when going with a salt water pool as they will corrode faster without being constructed of proper materials and properly maintained. The image above shows a hand rail in a salt water pool that is rusting due to the salt. Think of what salt use on our roads does to our vehicles and infrastructure during the winter months.  The same type of damage will happen to a pool that doesn’t have all of its components designed for salt water use.

 

POOL USE

Primary uses of the pool under consideration for salt water should also be considered.  A pool that is primarily for lap and competition swimming where there is high swimmer volume and high exertion may want to shy away from a salt system, as it will require much more monitoring of the chlorine levels to ensure they are in accepted ranges.  Yes I said chlorine.  Salt water pools still have chlorine in them.  They use a chlorine generator system involving a process called electrolysis to produce its own chlorine, rather than adding liquid chlorine directly to the water.  A therapy pool with low patron turnover may be a better candidate for salt water, as it will be easier to keep the pool balanced and may increase user comfort.

 

LOCAL BYLAWS

Local bylaws are another very important item to look into when considering salt water in your pool.  Especially for commercial pools, salt is typically not permitted to be the primary source of sanitation.  Most municipalities still require salt water pools to have a secondary sanitation system installed, typically liquid or tablet chlorination.  Furthermore, when draining the pool, salt (and chlorine) levels usually must be brought down to low levels in order to legally be dumped into the municipal sewage treatment system.  Always check local bylaws for your stipulations prior to draining your pool.

 

Pool owners need to ensure that they do as much homework on salt water chlorination as necessary to ensure that they have made an informed decision.  There are too many cases of owners not taking all of the necessary steps required to properly operate a salt water pool, and have a seemingly endless repair bill. As with any large expenditure, always ensure you are working with qualified pool designers and builders when constructing a new pool or doing a renovation, no matter what sanitation system you are going with. 

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Pool Finishes: Options & Considerations

When planning the construction or renovation of your pool, whether commercial or residential, one of the many decisions you will need to make is the pool finish. There are several options available to both commercial and residential pools, there are also many factors to consider when choosing a finish. Cost is usually the first thing on everyone’s mind, when making any purchase. However, there are many other considerations that will often times outweigh the initial cost. The intended use of the pool is an important factor to consider when determining the finish of a pool. Residential pools, which have a lower use, can get away with one of the more budget-friendly options, as there is less wear and tear. A low-cost finish will save some money upfront however, repairs and refinishing will be required much sooner than some of the longer lasting, high-end finishes.          

 

TILE FINISH

Tile has been used as a pool finish for years and is known to be the most durable finish. When applied correctly, a tiled finish can last for decades before requiring any replacement. Tile offers the pool owner a wide variety of colour options and design possibilities. Due to the preparation and labour required for installation, this high quality finish option comes at a higher initial cost. However, over time it will pay for itself, through the savings on repairs and replacements.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Durability & Longevity: A tiled finish will last decades if applied correctly, and compensate for the higher upfront costs.
  • Easy to Repair: If there is an issue with isolated delamination of tile, it is very easy to replace small areas of tile and match to the existing, without having to re-finish the entire pool.

DISADVANTAGES

  • High Upfront Cost: Correctly installing tile, comes with heavy labour including; the preparation of the subsurface, laying the tile and grouting the tile.
  • Deterioration of Grout: Though tile has a very long life span, the grout will deteriorate much quicker. Over time grout will begin to wear out of the joints and discolour. Normally, grout will be required to be replaced much sooner than the tile. 

PLASTER FINISH

Plaster is one of the most prominent pool finishes around, and has been used for several years; a quicker install than products like tile is the main reason for its popularity. Plaster is shot onto the pool walls, similar to gunite, and then toweled to give it a smooth consistent finish. A plaster finish does require some sort of tile border at the waterline as the waves against the plaster will cause it to deteriorate quickly.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Cost & Durability: Even with the high level of durability a plaster finish offers,  the cost is relatively low.
  • Aesthetically Pleasing: Plaster provides a very nice finish which is smooth and able to form to any shape or design.

DISADVANTAGES:

  • Pool chemistry can very quickly deteriorate a plaster finish if not properly maintained; low pH in the water is a big concern and requires experienced supervision.
  • With age, pool plaster will start to delaminate and cause sections of the plaster to pop off, having to re-plaster a pool is very costly.

PAINT FINISH

Painting a pool is a very inexpensive method of finishing any pool, and is typically used in a commercial application for community or public pools. Though painting a pool is an economical and quick finish option, over several years the paint will chip and need to be repainted. A parge coat is required before painting to ensure all honeycombing of the concrete is filled, leaving the floor and walls smooth.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Low Cost & Project Schedule: The cost of the material and labour required to complete the work is extremely low and can be completed quickly.
  • Low Risk of Damage: Since paint is applied to a cementations backing, there are no concerns about damaging or puncturing the finish from items in the pool.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Frequency of Repairs: A paint finish will need to be refinished every 3 to 5 years, requiring the existing paint to be blasted off before repainting.
  • Imprefections: If the subsurface of the pool is not done perfectly any imperfections such as honeycombing or rough parging will show through and can cause injuries to swimmers.

VINYL LINER FINISH

Traditionally Vinyl liners have been a typical residential pool finish, due to the relatively low cost and quick installation. Liners can and have been used for commercial applications however, due to the low durability of a liner it is not very common. Vinyl liners can be used in both stainless steel and concrete pools.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Low Cost: In comparison to other finishes, liners can be an economical alternative. The liner itself is relatively inexpensive, in comparison, and installation labour is a significantly lower cost.
  • Creates a Water Tight Tank: This benefit can be an efficient solution, saving time and money, to a deteriorating concrete pool, which has started to leak. 

DISADVANTAGES

  • Deterioration: Vinyl liners are more susceptible to deterioration caused by harmful UV light and poor water chemistry, resulting in the liner needing to be replaced sooner.
  • Easy to Damage: Vinyl liners can very easily be damaged from foreign objects, such as tree branches or toys falling into the pool. Punctures in the liner will result in water getting behind the liner, causing the pool to leak and the liner to bubble out.
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