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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Movable floors and bulkheads are becoming more common in aquatic facilities throughout North America. Although they offer similar benefits to an aquatic centre, there is a big difference between the two options.
Movable floors change the depth of the swimming pool water, while bulkheads act as a divider in the pool. Adding a movable floor and/or bulkhead will create endless opportunities for many different programs and activities within one body of water. Imagine the difference a movable floor or bulkhead could make in your swimming pool!
With a movable floor system the programming opportunities at your aquatic centre expand; traditionally you would need numerous bodies of water to offer these types of programming:
Swimming lessons (0.5M-1.2M)
Lane Swim (1.1M-1.35M)
Synchronized Swimming (2.0M-3.0M)
Water Polo (1.8M minimum)
Aqua Cycle (1.0M-1.2M)
Water Walking Programs (1.2M-1.5M)
Physical Rehabilitation (Beach entry or 0.5M-1.5M)
Competition Training (1.2M-1.5M)
The photo above shows the movable floor at the new Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey, B.C where the water depth changes several times a day in order to accommodate various programs at the facility.
The addition of a bulkhead at your facility can allow you to accommodate many different programs and activities individually or simultaneously! Large, single activity pools can be divided easily to create separate swimming areas for:
Swimming lessons, fitness programs and other aquatic classes
Swimming competitions, water polo competitions and other sports events
Diving and synchronized swimming
Other special aquatic programs
The photo above shows the bulkhead installation in action at the Roosevelt Park Pool in Rapid City, South Dakota. The facility includes a 10-lane, 50M outdoor pool and when the Bulkhead is in the middle park position, the pool transforms into a 20-lane pool! This pool also features water polo courses for both men and women.
MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE
When choosing a movable floor or bulkhead manufacturer, it is important to consider the following:
What is the installation time and complexity of the bulkhead/movable floor?
Is the operation of the bulkhead/movable floor easy and user-friendly?
Are the maintenance and service costs low?
Are the metal parts made of non-corrosive 316 stainless steel or special bronze?
Does the bulkhead/movable floor offer an aesthetically pleasing appearance?
Movable floors and bulkheads offer the ultimate aquatic versatility for your facility. The addition of a movable floor to a swimming pool can make it simultaneously a deep diving pool, a child friendly shallow depth pool or a mid-depth pool for exercise and water games. The addition of a bulkhead can transform a large single activity pool into separate swimming areas for classes, sports events, or special activities. Installing a movable floor or bulkhead will increase water usage and maximize the swimming pools potential. One pool with unlimited possibilities!
As temperatures cool and holiday season’s approach, most of our fitness progress made in the warmer summer months is replaced throughout the fall and winter with growing regret. Whether it's due to the cooler weather, the loss of convenient outdoor exercise or our weakness for delightful holiday foods, throughout the cooler months of the year we would prefer to stay at home, cocooned in a blanket with a piece of pie and a TV series to binge watch than take on the cold and head to a gym. Unfortunately, this change of behaviour can lead to a decline in our overall health.
HEART WORK PAYS OFF
An energy surplus (when you consume more energy than you burn) which can lead to many different health issues including insulin resistance – the very first step to diabetes, and other serious metabolic problems. Committing 30 minutes of physical activity daily can go a long way.
Exercising doesn’t need to be a chore. In fact, many of the activities we enjoy during the summer can now be found indoors as well. Many gyms have tracks and treadmills for those who prefer walking and jogging, bikes, basketball courts and for one of the most effective forms of exercise, swimming pools!
SWIM FOR YOUR LIFE
Swimming is a low impact activity that is mentally and physically beneficial. Unlike many other forms of physical activity, swimming is both cardiovascular and strengthening at the same time. Although swimming is easy on the body, it makes use of all major muscle groups including shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips, and glutes. Here is a list of some of the incredible health benefits swimming can offer throughout the entire year.
Aquatic exercise has been found to improve cardiac function in mild to moderate chronic heart failure.
Swimming provides a total body workout, as nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming, which can help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and strengthen your heart – all factors which help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Swimming has been recognized as one of the most effective calorie burners. Regular aquatic exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, healthy heart and lungs.
Swimming reduces the impact on your body, while still providing a complete body workout making aquatic exercise more beneficial to individuals suffering from obesity and osteoarthritis than forms of land based exercise.
Swimming and aquatic exercise increase’s muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance.
Aquatic exercise has been shown to improve respiratory function, and provides an opportunity for individuals with asthma to work out in a moist air environment, reducing exercise induced asthma symptoms and improving asthma overall.
Regular aquatic exercise reduces the risk of diabetes by controlling blood sugar and lowering body weight.
Exercise is extremely important for individuals with diabetes in order to increase insulin action and keeps blood sugars at a healthy level. Due to the buoyancy of the water, swimming does not put pressure on joints and eases the stress on the body, including feet making swimming ideal for people with diabetes.
Swimming can evoke relaxation, alleviate stress and improve overall mental health. The stress relieving benefits of swimming are comparable to those found in yoga.
Swimming improves coordination, balance and posture and improves the quality and quantity of movement for those suffering from joint pain.
As swimmers, swimming pool operators, or facility owners, we are subjected to countless myths and legends that have been floating around the aquatic community for years. These wives tales can lead to misunderstandings, and for operators, can lead to the improper care of your swimming pool. It is important to be aware of the myths, lies, and assumptions, as well as understanding the truths in order to do our part in maintaining a comfortable swimming environment for all. Here’s a list of some of the top 3 myths affecting swimmers, and operators!
"CHLORINE WILL TURN MY HAIR GREEN!"
Although believed to be the causing factor by many, chlorine is not responsible for hair discolouring. If a swimming pool has caused your hair to turn green, it is likely due to the presence of copper in the water. Metal plumbing or algaecide can cause copper to reside in the pool water.
"CHLORINE MAKES MY EYES RED AND SORE!"
We have all experienced irritated eyes and skin after swimming, and likely we have all deduced that our eyes sting and our skin is dry because there was too much chlorine in the swimming pool. Unfortunately, we have been misguided.
Swimmer “red eye” is actually caused by chloramines which are formed when nitrogen (found in urine and sweat) is combined with chlorine. These chloramines are to blame for irritating our eyes, skin and even our respiratory systems. In fact, if these chloramines exist, operators may very well need to add MORE chlorine to the pool water in order to reduce the formation of chloramines. If the pH is too low or too high, swimmers may also feel some discomfort and irritation. Human tear ducts have a pH of 7.5, which means operators must ensure the pH remains between 7.4 and 7.6 and the combined chlorine stays at 0.2ppm or below in order to maintain a comfortable swimming environment.
"THE POOL MUST BE CLEAN BECAUSE I CAN SMELL THE CHLORINE!"
When you walk into an aquatic centre and you smell the strong scent of chlorine, our automatic response is to assume it must mean the pool is clean! Maybe we relate it to the smells of cleaning chemicals, but whatever the reason, this idea is wrong. It is actually the opposite; a properly cleaned swimming pool should not smell like a chemical factory. The strong smell that we have all experienced so many times is really due to chloramines – the result of a reaction caused by the mixing of chlorine and contaminants carried into the water by swimmers.
These contaminants can include but are not limited to:
A strong smelling swimming pool can indicate that the chlorine is working harder than necessary, due to the presence of contaminants in the pool and may really mean that the pool is in need of further chemical intervention.
Swimming pools are an excellent way to stay active and have fun in the summer, but if you live or operate a swimming pool in a colder climate, there comes a time at the end of the swimming season when pools must be winterized. Not winterizing a pool in a colder climate is simply not an option, unless you want a hefty repair bill come spring.
The power of water when it freezes and thaws is absolutely amazing. In colder climates, like Canada for instance, pools that are not properly winterized will experience all kinds of damage, such as cracked and broken pipes, pumps and filters.
In addition to winterizing the entire mechanical system for the pool, the pool shell itself requires protection against frost. The simplest way to protect a pool shell is to leave it full of water for the winter. When filling the pool for a winter hibernation, care should be taken to allow room for the water to rise with rain and snow. Typically the water level in a pool is left 12-18" from normal operating level at the time of winterizing.
To complete the winterizing, the pool should be completely drained, and compressed air used to blow out water from the recirculation piping. All returns, water inlets, drains, etc. need to be capped or plugged to keep water out. Play features in pools also need to have all the water removed from them and in some cases some water features will need to have antifreeze introduced into them to prevent low lying fittings from collecting water and freezing. Items such as skimmers should also have expansion devices installed to prevent these items from damage due to freezing expansion. Once all of the piping has been cleared of water and properly sealed up, the pool shell can then be filled and chemicals added. Items such as pumps, filters and heaters in the mechanical room also need to have all drain ports opened up and drain plugs removed.
When winterizing a pool, it is imperative that the time is taken to do it properly, in order to avoid any future damage and additional repair costs to the facility. Taking the proper steps can not only help preserve the condition of the pool tank and the mechanical equipement, but these simple steps can also help increase the longevity of the grounds, building, and deck equipment. Here are some tips to closing a swimming pool, recommended by the National Swimming Pool Foundation.
Adjust the chemical balance of the pool water to the recommended levels.
Treat Facility water with appropriate products to minimize algae, bacteria, or damage to surfaces.
Clean and vacuum the pool.
Empty and store skimmer baskets and hair and lint traps for the winter.
Backwash the filter thoroughly and clean the filter media or elements.
Drain sand filters. Remove cartridges or D.E. filter elements, inspect for tears or excessive wear, and store.
Lower the water level to below the skimmers and return lines for plaster pools. If needed, remove the remaining water from the recirculation lines using an air compressor or industrial type tank vacuum cleaner.
Open all pump room valves and loosen the lid from the hair and lint skimmer. However, if the filter is below pool water level, close the valves leading from the pool to the filter.
Grease all plugs and threads.
Add antifreeze formulated specifically for recreational water applications to the pipes to prevent bursting. Do not use automotive antifreeze.
Plug the skimmer or gutter lines. Winterize with antifreeze and expansion blocks. Secure the skimmer lids to the deck to prevent their loss. Plug wall return lines and the main drain.
Make sure the hydrostatic relief valve is operational.
Drain and protect pumps. If a pump and motor will be exposed to sever weather, disconnect, lubricate, perform seasonal maintenance of the pump, and store. Add antifreeze to help protect pumps and seals from any residual water left after draining.
Clean surge pits or balancing tanks.
Disconnect all fuses and open circuit breakers.
If underwater wet niche lights are exposed to the elements, remove them from their niches and lower them to the bottom of the pool.
Drain the pool water heater. Grease the drain plugs and store for the winter.
Turn off the heater gas supply, gas valves, and pilot lights.
Install the winter safety cover.
Properly store any unused chemicals as described on their labels to prevent containers from breaking and the mixing of potentially incompatible chemicals. Dispose of test reagents, disinfectants, and other chemicals that will lose their potency over the winter.
Disconnect, clean and store the chemical feeder, (Remember - Only Water can be used to clean out the chemical feeders) controllers, and other chemical feed pumps. Store controller electrodes in liquid and in a warm environment.
Clean and protect pressure gauges, flow meters, thermometers and humidity meters.
Store all deck furniture (chairs, lounges, tables, umbrellas, etc.) Identify and separate all furniture in need of repair.
Remove deck equipment, hardware, and non-permanent objects such as ladders, rails, slides, guard chairs, starting blocks, drinking fountains, handicapped lifts, portable ramps, clocks, weird, and safety equipment to prevent vandalism. Store in a clearly marked, identifiable, weather-protected location. Cap all exposed deck sockets.
Remove the diving boards. Store the boards indoors, upside down and flat so they will not warp.
Turn off the water supply to restroom showers, sinks, and toilets. Drain the pipes and add antifreeze.
Remove shower heads and drinking fountain handles. Open hose bibs and fill spouts.
Inventory all supplies and equipment. Make suggestions for preventative maintenance and repair, upgrading, and needed equipment purchases.
** ALL COMMERCIAL POOLS ARE DIFFERENT – ENSURE YOUR PERSONAL CLOSING PROCEDURES FOR YOUR POOL PRIOR TO COMMENCING WORK.
Every year people die by electrocution, and some of these incidents are associated with pools. In fact, In September 2016, a young girl working as a lifeguard at a swimming pool in North Carolina lost her life when she was electrocuted as she entered the water. So let’s talk a little bit about this, and how we might reduce the risk of electrical injury associated with pools.
Electrical energy acts a lot like other sources of energy in that it moves (flows) from one area to another when there is a “potential difference” in the voltage of those areas. Like a waterfall plummeting from a high point to a low point, so does electricity from a higher voltage (a live wire or battery terminal for example) to a lower voltage (ground).
Electricity generally speaking, needs a “conductor” to move or "flow" through. This flow of electricity is expressed in terms of Amperes or Amps. Some things are better conductors than others. Copper, aluminum and gold are excellent conductors and pass electricity, while things like the human body are less apt as conductors, but can certainly still pass electricity. Other substances like some (but not all) polymers and glass are insulators. Still others are classified as semiconductors (like doped / contaminated silicon). Uncontaminated water is actually an insulator when pure (distilled), but becomes sort of a semiconductor most of the time. In pools, it is usually a pretty fair conductor having been “contaminated” with minerals, chlorine and sometimes salt. The human body is a mediocre conductor, but also a poor insulator. Being that we are largely made up of contaminated water, electricity from a source will pass through our bodies on the way to ground…the lower voltage. On the way through it can interfere with nerve impulses including those activating the heart, and cause damage, seizure or in the worst case death by cardiac arrest.
So how can we make the seemingly unsuitable bed partners of pools and electricity less…shocking?
BONDING AND GROUNDING
Bonding refers to bringing all of the conductors around the pool (the reinforcing steel, handrails, light fixtures, pump cases etc.) to the same electrical potential by connecting them all together with a conductor (a ground wire). This eliminates the possibility of any potential difference between these various items; whatever voltage one item is at, the same voltage will be seen at all of the other items. But bonding alone does not render the items safe. You can’t get a shock between one item and another, but what if a stray voltage is energizing the bonding wire to some higher voltage? Then any of the items could give you a shock if your body is grounded (for example, being barefoot on the deck). To ensure the items are a zero volts, the bonded items have to be grounded. This simply involves running a wire from the bonded loop to the ground lug in the distribution panel.
KEEP ELECTRICAL ITEMS AWAY FROM THE POOL
It is never a good idea to have an electrically powered item near a swimming pool. Things like radios, blenders (for those summer margaritas) if dropped into the pool, can electrically charge the water and potentially shock bathers. Even if the device is away from the pool on the deck somewhere, someone who has recently been in the pool could drip water into the device and create a conductive path with the water from the device, through them to ground…not fun!
USE GFCI DEVICES AND BREAKERS
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupting (GFCI) devices work by comparing the current flow in the hot (supply) wire to the current flow in the neutral (return to ground) wire. In any circuit, the current flow should be the same in both ‘legs’. If it isn’t, it means the current is going somewhere else - like through you! The GFCI device will trip to disconnect the power supply if there is a difference of 6mA (that’s 6/1000 Amps), and does so in a fraction of a second to protect us from being shocked. GFCI devices are a great way to protect people from any electrical device, but are particularly appropriate for things like underwater pool lights where electricity is so close to the water.
PERFORM REGULAR ELECTRICAL REVIEWS
It’s a fact of life on this planet of ours that things change, materials degrade, corrode, erode, oxidize and just plain wear out. Your electrical system is no exception. Electrical distribution boxes and the breakers within become corroded and fail. Plastic wire insulation dries out and cracks, ground points become corroded. Corrosion is exacerbated by exposure to salt water because of its electrolytic properties. Having a reputable electrical contractor visit the site periodically may flag some of these issues before they become a health and safety concern. In addition to a visual inspection, they can perform tests (like high voltage meggering) to assess the condition of various electrical insulators in the system.
Heat Loss Prevention: Solar Blankets or Liquid Pool Covers?
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
When I think about heating an outdoor swimming pool, the first method that comes to mind is a solar blanket, or solid cover. Usually, this means a large blue bubble wrap sheet that covers the entire surface of your pool, and is stored on a reel when the pool is in use. However, did you know there is another option to help keep the heat in your pool? Let’s take a look at two of the most common, but different options.
A solar blanket retains heat, and radiates the heat to the pool water when the sun is shining. When purchasing a solar blanket, you have several options you can choose from including, but not limited to size, shape, colour, density, and type of material. With the array of sizes and shapes, there will always be something that will fit your pool almost perfectly or, in some cases, after a little trimming. All colour options are equally effective, so the choice of colour is ultimately based on the pool owner’s preference. The density of the cover will usually determine the life expectancy of the cover.
Solar blankets can help protect your pool water from debris that could blow in on a windy day; however, solar blankets can also become a breeding ground for algae if left on for too long in the heat and humidity. Below, are a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of solar blanket heating options.
Solar blankets have an insulating quality (provided by the air pockets that make them up) that liquid covers do not.
Can help prevent some debris from entering the pool
Solar Blankets don’t last long. After approximately 3 seasons, the blanket will need to be replaced.
Labour intensive (If you do not have a reel for your solar blanket, you need two sets of hands to lift and fold the blanket before and after pool use)
Solar blankets are not aesthetically pleasing.
They can be very dangerous if trapped underneath.
Not environmentally friendly. Did you know you can make tens of thousands of sandwich bags from the material used in a solar blanket? Process to manufacture uses oil to produce the plastic.
Although a solar blanket will prevent some debris from entering the pool, most of it ends up in the pool when you take the cover off.
LIQUID POOL COVERS
Liquid covers reduce heat loss in your swimming pool by reducing evaporation of water from the surface. There are a number of liquid pool covers currently on the market by many different manufacturers. However, one thing that seems to be consistent throughout the market is the environmentally friendly factor. Liquid pool covers are usually biodegradable and made with an alcohol based product, which won’t harm your pools chemistry when used in the correct dosage. Most importantly, liquid pool covers are safe for your family, and even your four legged friends!
The ingredients used to form a liquid pool cover are not the only safety feature. When considering safety, liquid pool covers are by far the safer option in comparison to a solar blanket. If you have children or pets and use a solar blanket, there is a potential risk of entrapment. Once submerged, a solar blanket can be difficult to escape for people and animals of all sizes. A liquid pol covers invisible film is impossible for something or someone to get caught underneath, eliminating the risk of entrapment entirely.
When taking operation into account, liquid pool covers have their disadvantages as well. Since the liquid is a thin layer, it can be disturbed by movement in the water and from wind. The liquid pool cover will only resume its total pool coverage once the water movement has stopped.
The convenience of a liquid pool cover is another benefit. There is no labour required to use this product. On top of that, how many times have you thought to yourself, “I’d like to go for a swim”, only to realize that your solar blanket is on and to go swimming, you not only have to find another set of hands, but you also have to remove it? Sometimes, going for a swim isn’t really worth the effort. A huge benefit of a liquid pool cover is the immediacy. Do you want to swim right now? Great! With a liquid pool cover all it takes is a big jump and you are swimming, without the worry of lugging that large wet plastic tarp off of your pool. Below, are a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of liquid pool covers.
The danger of entrapment is eliminated with the use of a liquid pool cover
There is no labour requirement
No need to worry about replacement covers
Very aesthetically pleasing. The cover is completely transparent, and invisible to the naked eye. Swimmers won’t even know it is being used.
Environmentally friendly and biodegradable
Must purchase the product
Not suitable for disturbed water
Will not stop debris from entering the pool
Solar blankets and liquid pool covers both have their benefits, but they also have their downfalls. They are both effective at preventing heat loss from your pool, however, there are some differences. After considering all of the factors for each option, and weighing them against some of your needs you can determine the benefits you value the most, which in the end, will help you make a decision.
There is nothing more appealing than the thought of jumping into a swimming pool or lake on a hot summer’s day! There are so many benefits to swimming at any time of the year, but it particularly brings an extra layer of enjoyment on hot summer days. Along with talking about all the benefits of swimming, it's very important that we also discuss water safety.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, and the highest rates are among children. Three children die every day from drowning, the leading cause of injury death among children aged 1–4 years. Drowning is not only a risk in swimming pools and lake’s, but it's important for people to understand that children are susceptible to drowning in as little as one inch of water.
The most important thing to understand about drowning is that it does not resemble what you see in the movies (arms flailing, splashing, or screaming). In reality, drowning is completely silent. The warning signs of drowning may include:
Someone who is drowning remains upright in the water and is not kicking and not able to wave or call for help
Someone may appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
Hair may be over their eyes and or forehead
Eyes are glassy and unable to focus
Head may be low in the water and tilted back with mouth open
Someone is looking towards the pool deck, sky, or shore and appear in shock
If a child goes silent something might be wrong
While these statistics are alarming there are a number of ways to prevent drowning.
LEARN LIFE SAVING SKILLS
Swimming lessons are very important and the first step to having safe water fun! Everyone should know the basics of swimming and take the extra step to be trained in CPR and First Aid. Many municipalities and YMCA’s offer swimming lessons at a very reasonable price. There are also many free or subsidized learn to swim programs that may be available in your area.
FENCE IT OFF
If you have a backyard swimming pool it is recommended that you have a separate fence just for the pool area (separate from the house and other yard space). In some States this is a requirement for backyard pools, but even where it's not a requirement it's highly recommended. This prevents someone from accidently accessing the area when the pool is not in use. If a fence is not an option, there are other things available on the market, like alarms which can be installed on the doors going out to the swimming pool or on the pool itself.
MAKE LIFE JACKETS A MUST
Children, inexperienced swimmers and boaters should wear life jackets in and around bodies of water.
BE ON THE LOOK OUT
When kids or weak swimmers are in or near water, they should be closely supervised by a confident swimmer. Adults watching kids in or near water should avoid all distractions like reading, surfing the web, answering the phone, playing cards, and drinking alcohol. It is always wise to designate a “water watcher,” someone who is specifically responsible for watching the kids in the water.
Swimming is a fun and safe activity for all ages when everyone does their due diligence with these water safety practices! These tips are just a few of many to keep people safe during the summer season and while enjoying the water all year round!