Knowledge is Power: The Benefits of Being a Certified Pool Operator
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
During the last several years, the aquatic industry has experienced a major growth. Innovative and continuously evolving technology has not only changed many of the physical attributes of aquatic centres today, but has also improved the overall swimming environment. With advanced operating techniques, tools, and maintenance practices, swimming pools have become safer, and more enjoyable to swimmers everywhere. However, without proper operation your patron’s safety and health as well as the longevity of your facility could be sacrificed. The training and education of your pools operators is crucial to the success of your facility.
LET'S BREAK IT DOWN
The Certified Pool Operators® (CPO®) course is an educational course provided by the National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF®) that teaches students the fundamentals of pool and spa operation. After completing the course, participants will understand how to reduce risks, improve safety, and decrease liability for employers, facilities and patrons. CPO® certification courses are designed to provide individuals with the basic knowledge, techniques, and skills needed for pool and spa operation. The CPO® certification has provided training in the pool and spa industry since 1972, resulting in more than 350,000 certifications in 94 countries.
Who Should Be Certified?
Pool & Spa Operators
Facility Maintenance Staff
Environmental Health Officials
Facility Managers & Owners
The Certified Pool Operator program requires participation in either a two-day class taught by a certified instructor OR the blended format which combines the online, “Pool Operator Primer™”, and one day of the in-class instruction, “Pool Operator Fusion™”, along with a final examination.
This certification program includes:
Pool & Spa Chemistry
Chemical Feed & Control
Local and State Code Regulations
To complete the CPO® program successfully, participants are required to write an open book final exam and obtain a 75% or higher. Once completed, the certification is valid for five years and can be recertified with only a one day in-class review and exam by a certified instructor.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
This internationally accepted certification is a proven educational tool covering the necessary topics for pool & spa operators.
The comprehensive handbook is the perfect tool for participants attending the class, as well as an excellent source of reference for those who have completed the course.
All courses are taught by an NSPF certified instructor. This maintains the accuracy and consistency of the material.
The course provides participants with a better understanding of the operator’s role in pool and spa care, management, and risk reduction.
The CPO® course provides operators with a better understanding of the importance of water chemistry, which will result in a safer and more comfortable swimming environment, as well as improving the life of the facility.
The materials and topics covered in this course provide you with the essential knowledge to perform preventative maintenance and understand its impact on water purification and mechanical equipment.
The growth of the aquatic industry has created a demand for improved safety, and a higher level of education for the management of an aquatic facility. Although this course is internationally recognized, there are still those who have yet to become certified. It is imperative as an industry, that we encourage those who have not yet received certification, as well as those who have, to stay current and up-to-date on proper operation and maintenance of a safe swimming environment.
As the aquatic industry progresses, our aquatic professionals must also progress and improve. As they say…Knowledge Is Power!
Over the past several years, the aquatic industry has become more innovative, introducing owners and operators to new technologies and advancements which ultimately create opportunities to improve safety, increase longevity of the facility, and even provide energy savings. One of the advancements the aquatic industry has been very enthusiastic about is Variable Frequency Drives (VFD's).
WHAT IS A VFD?
A VFD is essentially a power conversion device. VFD's convert basic fixed-frequency and line power to a variable frequency and variable-voltage output which is used to control the speed of induction motors or pumps. Most VFD's are simple to install and are user friendly, however they are quite sophisticated in relation to their hardware and software operation.
The basic function of a VFD in the aquatic industry is to provide substantial energy savings. This is accomplished by controlling the speed of a pump rather than controlling flow through use of a throttling valve. Essentially, when you reduce the speed of a pump, you create energy savings. In addition to energy savings, the life of the impeller, bearing and seal is greatly improved which leads to longer lasting pumps.
BENEFITS OF USING A VFD
Saves money on energy consumption.
Maintenance costs are lower due to the lower operating speeds resulting in a longer life for bearings and motors.
A soft starter for the motor is no longer required.
Controlled ramp-up speed in a pool system can eliminate water hammer problems.
With a compact and modular design, VFD’s do not take up a lot of space.
Protect against system overloads, motor failures, motor and drive overheating, voltage disturbances, power surges, loss of phase, ground fault, overvoltage, over current, under voltage, external fault, over temperature, etc.
Minimize motor noise and heating with adjustable switching frequency modulation.
WHAT CAN'T A VFD DO?
Boost the output voltage significantly above the input voltage.
Increase the output power of the pump or motor.
Fix mechanical problems.
Variable Frequency Drives are a great addition to any pool equipment room whether it’s new or existing. Not only do they save owners and pool operators on the costs associated with high energy consumption, but they also increase the longevity of the pumps and motors. VFD’s are available in different sizes (HP) and voltage requirements.
As the temperatures begin to drop, the realization that the end of the summer season is approaching sets in. While the colder weather looms in the near distance, our to-do lists grow significantly as we scramble to get all of our summer equipment stored away before it gets too cold. Since most residential, commercial outdoor pools and splash pads close after Labour Day weekend in Canada, closing the pool usually tops the list for pool owners and operators.
For residential pools especially, did you know that it is best to keep your pool open until the water temperature is consistently below 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit)? This allows the water to be a consistently lower temperature which creates a better environment for closing chemicals, ensuring they last until spring.
For commercial pools and splash pads it’s a completely different world. Most large commercial pools are required to be fully drained in order to plug up all of the main drains and ensure all of the systems are completely empty.
Tip! Before winterizing, chemically treat your filtration system. Contact your pool experts to find out how to remove grease and oil from your filters to increase their lifespan and save money for next season!
Use the checklist below as a guideline for closing your outdoor pool.
Remove deck equipment, hardware, and non-permanent objects such as ladders, rails, tot slides, guard chairs, starting blocks, drinking fountains, accessibility lifts, portable ramps, clocks, weirs, and safety equipment to prevent vandalism. Store in a clearly marked, identifiable, weather- protected location. Cap all exposed deck sockets.
Remove the diving boards and store them indoors (upside down and flat to prevent warping).
Follow your manufactures directions for the winterization of any toys and water features in your facility. Some smaller units can be removed, while others, like dumping buckets, remain and have specific procedures to follow for winterizing.
Tip! Isolate your flow cell for your probes before you drain your system.
Completely drain the pool and remove all white goods and skimmer baskets and store in a marked container. Residential Pools only need to be drained down to 1 ½’ below the returns and discharge the lines.
Drain all of the pool equipment including pumps, strainers, heater, UV systems, filters, surge tanks and holding tanks.
Store all probes from chemical controllers in water in a warm environment for the winter months. Do not allow the water to freeze.
Using an air compressor and correct connections, discharge the main drains, skimmer/gutter lines, returns and jets from the mechanical room to the pool.
Plug all of the lines on the pool side with the proper sized fitting or test plugs. Consult your pool specialist for assistance if you need to replace any threaded or test plugs.
Fill your pumps or strainers with pool grade antifreeze to keep the mechanical seals lubricated for the winter. This will ensure a smooth start up in the spring.
Fill the pool for the winter to your recommended depth based on your specific pools requirements. If you're unsure about your facility's requirements, contact your pool consultant or design engineer.
Install pool covers if required in your area.
Turn off the water supply and restroom showers, sinks, and toilets.
Drain all of the pipes to ensure all of the lines are free of water. Remove shower heads and drinking fountain handles.
Open hose bibs and fill spouts.
Have your phone service provider disconnect the pool telephone and discontinue service for the winter season.
Confirm the security of the facility to present unauthorized access.
Ensuring you have winterized properly can be a worrisome, but with the right preparation beforehand and ensuring you have the proper tools, you will be ready. Before you know it, Spring will be upon us and it will be time to open again!
It's that time of year again, the birds are chirping the sun is shining and the snow and frost are behind us. When this happens, professionals in both the commercial and residential aquatic world think of one thing...let’s open the pool!
With the warm April weather, the opening season is underway and in full swing. Are you ready to open your facility's outdoor swimming pool? Many of us made lists last winter with the best of intentions, but as with most things in life, those lists still stare us in the face. So here we are. It's time to finally tackle that list and get your pool open for the summer season!
One of the best strategies is to prepare an opening checklist to ensure your hard work doesn't come to a hault when you find you are missing pieces or in need of parts. Check out our sample checklist below.
Take inventory of all the operational parts like jets, return fitting, weirs etc. (in the pool industry we refer to these as “white goods”).
Ensure your flow meters, pressure and vacuum gauges, and o-rings are ready for opening day.
If during inventory, you find missing or find broken pieces, have them replaced and ready for installation.
Once your inventory is complete, ensure all of the necessary replacement pieces are ordered and ready to go on opening day!
"Did I winterize my outdoor swimming pool properly?" is the biggest worry every pool owner or operator has in the spring. Mother nature can be cruel, unpredictable and a powerful force over the winter, but most of the time it is out of our hands. Performing a walk around and checking the deck and pool area for visible damage and/or vandalism is the first step. Once your visual is done you can start your true opening procedures.
"Don't forget to order and check stock of all your chemicals for start-up and season opening."
Once your inventory check is complete, you've done a thorough walk around and you've ensured your chlorine delivery is ready to go, it's time to start opening your pool. If you're working on a commercial outdoor pool, drain out any of that dirty winter water with a submersible pump and use a power wash to clean up the walls and floor.
Remove any winterizing plugs in the main drains, returns and jets. Ensure that the hydrostats in the main drains are clean and working properly.
Reinstall drain covers and perform an inspection to ensure there is no broken, worn or dated pieces. If you find any areas of concern, consult your pool professional for immediate replacement.
Once everything is clean and shiny in the pool area, move onto the mechanical room. Ensure all the equipment is back together, and all of the o-rings on the pump and strainer lids are lubricated and ready to start.
Now that the pool is full and glistening in the sun and ready for start-up, run through all of your valves and ensure they are in proper operating positioning.
"Always start up the system on backwash. This will ensure that all of the left over sitting debris from the winter goes out to waste and not back into your beautiful swimming pool. Once a complete backwash is finished, start up on filter mode."
Your next task is getting the balancing done and ensuring your stabilizer levels are ready to help battle the hot summer sun and keep your operation costs down.
"Stabilizer is sunscreen for chlorine."
Now that the pool is operating and the water features are flowing, you can sit back, close your eyes and visualize the upcoming summer season.
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.
2 Resolutions that will Improve Your Aquatic Facility
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
January is the month of resolutions. We plan to live a healthier lifestyle, be more financially responsible, and visit with friends and family more often (among others). But what about our aquatic facilities? Improving safety and becoming more environmentally friendly are two resolutions that your facility can make this and every year. The following are ways that your facility can do both:
PLAY IT SAFE
Safety should always be the highest priority at any facility. Improvements can always be made to increase the safety of your pool staff and patrons.
Stay up to date on new changes in codes and policies.
Ensure your staff is equipped and trained on the proper regulations and requirements.
Train your staff (pool managers, lifeguards, operators etc.) in the basics of commercial pool operating and general swimming pool knowledge. This includes chemical testing, accident prevention and the emergency protocols used at your facility.
Ensure all of your staff remains current and up-to-date in all required training (CPR, first aid, CPO etc.)
Inspect all of your safety equipment and keep an up-to-date inventory throughout the year. Safety and pool equipment can age, rust, and become damaged over time. It’s important to be aware of any equipment that needs to be replaced before an accident occurs. Equipment can include first aid kits, spine boards, life rings, safety rope, fire extinguishers, warning signs, deck equipment.
Perform an annual slide inspection. As water slides age they can rust, or become damaged. It is necessary to have a licensed water slide technician inspect the slide to protect and ensure the safety of the users.
When changes are made at your aquatic facility, it is important to update your staff. This includes pool managers, operators, lifeguards, aquatic instructors and anyone else who works in the aquatic centre.
KEEP IT GREEN
Today, everyone seems to be going green in some way. The importance in becoming environmentally friendly has shifted the way we live our lives, and the way we conduct business each day. Not only does going green provide environmental benefits, but green efforts can also lower your operating costs.
Make the switch to environmentally friendly products and replace old equipment with new, energy efficient equipment. This solution will not only improve your facilities impact on the environment, but will also benefit your budget.
Installing a Variable Frequency Drive (I-Pool VFD) can save you $7,000 - $10,000 a year.
Installing an Ultraviolet System decreases chemical usage by 20%.
Reduce chemical use at your facility. Water that is maintained properly and consistently can lessen pool water issues and chemical treatments.
Use an environmentally friendly liquid “pool cover” to decrease chemical usage and save on operating costs by reducing evaporation and heat loss.
Repair any existing leaks and service balance tanks to ensure they are operating properly.
What is Ultraviolet (UV) & How it is Applied to Swimming Pools?
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
The strong smell of chlorine within an aquatic facility is not a sign that the pool or spa is clean. It's actually a signal that there is something wrong. Luckily, there is an application that can be added to your swimming pool recirculation system to help correct this issue, and create a safer and more enjoyable swimming experience - An Ultraviolet (UV) system.
From a hydrotherapy spa to the largest Olympic-sized competition pool, UV sanitation systems are quickly becoming (or have already become, in some municipalities) the most popular method of additional water treatment in the aquatic industry. UV not only destroys chloramines, the unpleasant by-products of chlorination, but it is also a highly effective disinfectant (although the need for chlorine is reduced with the use of a UV system, it is still needed to ensure proper disinfection).
Chloramines are formed when free chlorine reacts with sweat, urine, and other contaminants in pool water. Trichloramines, in particular, are powerful irritants which are responsible for eye and respiratory complaints and the unpleasant ‘chlorine smell’ commonly associated with indoor pools. Chloramines are also corrosive to the surrounding area, and in time can lead to damage to pool accessories, buildings and structures, such as railings, ladders, and ventilation ducts. Any water treatment system that reduces these unwanted conditions is therefore welcome.
UV harnesses the power of ultraviolet light to eliminate microorganisms, lower chemical usage, and eliminate toxic by-products.
WHAT IS UV?
UV is a highly efficient, natural disinfectant that nutralizes virtually all known microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and molds and their spores, by permanently destroying their DNA.
Ultraviolet light is a naturally occurring component of sunlight. It falls in the region between visible light and X-ray in the electromagnetic spectrum. The mechanism of UV disinfection is strong sunlight that disinfects water by permanently de-activating bacteria, spores, moulds and viruses.
These systems reproduce UV radiation inside light chambers via powerful lamps, which emit germicidal UV-C light that is used to disinfect pool and spa water.
UV-C causes permanent damage to a number of microorganisms almost instantly as the water circulates through the light chamber. By disrupting the microorganism’s DNA, protozoans, viruses and bacteria are unable to replicate and remain inert. This light, however, works only on water that flows through the chamber.
HOW IS UV APPLIED TO SWIMMING POOLS?
Ultraviolet is a recommended application that can be added to any swimming pool. However, it should only be used as a secondary pool water disinfectant. A primary disinfectant, such as chlorine or bromine, still needs to be used at all times. Chlorine/bromine have a very important property which UV lacks – the ability to provide a residual level of disinfectant in the pool water contained within the tank itself. This means chlorine/bromine can remain in the pool water actively attacking pathogens at the moment they are introduced, whereas a UV system can only disinfect the water that passes through the UV chamber within the pools recirculation system. Once the water has left the chamber, it is vulnerable to be re-infected by swimmers.
UV systems are particularly suited to both chloramine destruction and disinfection. The resulting effect is a cleaner, healthier, and more pleasant atmosphere both in and around the pool. The potential dangers caused by Trichloramines are significantly reduced, and the danger of infection by harmful microorganisms is also eliminated.
There are a variety of considerations to be taken into account when choosing an Ultra Violet system and different lamps are used in different applications. The nature of the decision can be quite detailed, making it important to find the right swimming pool professional who can assist in finding the right application for you and your aquatic facility.
There are a lot of considerations when selecting a swimming pool contractor to build your pool. Whether the project is a high-end residential project or a multimillion dollar waterpark, it is important to be very diligent in selecting the builder to avoid delays, cost overruns, improper construction and lots of headaches. But what things should be considered?
WHAT DOES THEIR SAFETY RECORD LOOK LIKE?
The safety record of a company should be a primary consideration. A company with a poor safety record attracts a lot of attention (not the kind they want) and can really bog down a project. In fact, a project can be put on hold for an extended period if there are glaring safety infractions or heaven forbid a serious injury or fatality on the job site. Ask the proponent for a copy of their Health and Safety Policy, and safety record. If they don’t have one, or are unwilling to provide information, move on.
PRICE ISN'T EVERYTHING
Price, while always an important consideration is not everything. We frequently hear our clients say “…I wish we had gone with the more reputable builder. This job has become a nightmare…” The saying “you get what you pay for” could not be truer. If the price seems too good to be true, it is. There is no such thing as an extraordinary $7 bottle of wine, and there is no such thing as an inexpensive Bugatti car. The two things are mutually exclusive. The Bugatti and a K-car will both take you to the store, but the Bugatti will take you to the store for decades (and look really good doing it!), and there is no comparing the quality of the two. The same is true in pools. You can choose a method and a builder that may appear to save you a little coin but suffer endless change orders and additions to the project. Or you can spend that little extra bit of money to hire a thorough and reputable builder and have peace of mind for years to come.
DO THEY HAVE A STRONG FOUNDATION?
Like a strong building, a strong company needs a strong foundation. In the construction business, this foundation is in the form of knowledge that is both deep and wide, and can only be acquired from years of experience specific to the industry. A newer business just doesn’t have the history to be as knowledgeable as a well-established company that has been around for a long time. In the experienced company, there are senior people and younger members of the team. There is a combination of high energy and drive and a deep well of information that was developed over decades of practice. The thing about knowledge is that it is often applicable to a wide variety of applications that help experienced builders provide the best outcome for the client. Hydraulic concepts in pools and water management for example, are often applicable to electricity where Voltage equates to Feet of Head and current flow to velocity. Companies who have a deeper knowledge in their art have a broader understanding of the many things they may encounter in performing their work. Look for contractors who have a broad range of experience over a long period of time, senior people who have “been around the block” a couple of times and young energetic and well educated project people.
DO THEY HAVE INTERNAL SYSTEMS IN PLACE?
It is a great thing to have knowledge, but if it is held by a few individuals it often fails to crystalize in the positive outcome of your project. Good companies develop internal systems that reflect the Best Practices that have been developed out of the knowledge gained from experience. It is these companies who seek to establish a culture of quality and caring expressed in writing the form of standard operating procedures. Ask your potential contractor if they have internal systems in place to support quality assurance, delivery, and value added designs, longevity of the product, and so on. A company with systems is a company that cares about what they do, and who they do it for. Also ask if the company has a Mission Statement. The Mission Statement is the guiding philosophy of the company. A company without a mission is like a pilot without a map. Yes, the plane is flying…but the destination is dicey.
WHAT IS THEIR EXPERIENCE LEVEL?
The Record of Experience speaks volumes about the knowledge base of the company. Obviously, the more pools a company has built, the more experience they have. But it is also important to look at the different types of pools that a company has built. Not all pool builders build all pools, and sometimes for good reason. For example, Company ABC may be an advocate for cast-in-place pools through their limited knowledge and experience; they know how to build them, but nothing else. Concrete pools are really good and are considered the gold standard in the industry, however, there are times when another type of pool is more appropriate than a concrete pool. If the pool is going on the top floor of a high rise, weight may be a limiting parameter. It is important to find a builder who has the experience to recognize and understand your options and what best suits your needs. Ask your potential builders for their list of projects (current and complete) and also for a list of references. If the record of experience is small or limited in scope, you may want to look a little deeper into the company. If the reference list seems small compared to the record of experience, it should raise a red flag! A good contractor doesn’t maintain a specific reference list…every single client should be a reference.
DO THEY USE THEIR OWN FORCES?
If the builder you are looking at using has a lot of subcontractors, it may be worth looking a little further. Dividing the scope into different trade subcontracts (mechanical subs, waterproofing, tile, concrete etc.) dilutes and displaces responsibility of the trades and of the general contractor. When something goes wrong, it’s nobody’s fault, and it’s everyone’s fault. A great deal of time is spent trying to figure out if the waterproofing contractor caused the leak, or if the tile contractor damaged the waterproofing. Or maybe the concrete contractor is at fault. It is best to source a contractor who self-performs the entire pool scope with their own forces from the excavation, to mechanical and electrical work, to tile setting and commissioning and training. When there is only one company performing the entire scope for the work, there is no opportunity to cast blame for problems to others. You only have one phone call to make.
ARE THEY FINANCIALLY STABLE?
The financial stability of the company is also an important consideration. Are they able to completely bond a large project? Often tender documents ensure that this is the case, but private projects may overlook the need. What happens if things go wrong, or the contractor walks off the job or goes bankrupt? Who will finish the job? Who will pay for the work? Also, you want to be sure that the company you select is going to be around tomorrow and for years to come. Of course, there is never a guaranty but the best predictor of the future, is a record of the past. If the company has been building great pools for decades, they are likely to be around for a long time to come.
DO THEY HAVE A SERVICE DEPARTMENT?
Once the pool is built, you are away to the races. But what if something goes wrong with the pool after a few years? Who will close the pool for winter? It is always best of the company you choose to build the pool also has a service department who can deal with any problems and to perform regular maintenance. The service department of the company who built the pool is best equipped to service the pool since they will have an intimate knowledge of the pool from the construction phase. There are many “pool builders” out there who actually have no idea how to best operate a pool, and have no service department. It is best to steer clear of these builders. Once the project is complete, you never see them again.
CAN THEY PERFORM?
Finally, schedule can be critical, especially for commercial projects. Liquidated damages can cripple a business that was counting on opening the pool in December, but it didn’t happen until the following May. There has been more than a few projects abandoned or sold for pennies on the dollar as poor performing contractors drove the owner into insolvency. No builder is perfect or immune to making mistakes…things happen. What sets the premium builder apart from others is how they react to the problems. The only way to know how different builders react is to speak with their past clients. Don’t accept a short list of “preferred references”. It is a lot of work to fully research your builder, but it will pay dividends many times over in the long run.
A well-constructed pool delivered on time and on budget will provide decades of enjoyment, or in the case of a commercial project, revenue generation. The best start to this positive outcome is to balance all of these considerations discussed, and make a good decision.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.