Eco Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs

Photo: istockphoto/haveseen
Green alternatives to heating and cleaning your pool

As much as swimming pools are an escape from the summer heat, they are also an escape for many from a dirty dip in an algae-coated pond. That less-than-tantalizing prospect, plus the serpentine muckiness of an unclean pool, created a long-standing stigma around the notion of "green" swimming. But nowadays, green swimming means more than a dive on a dare or a dip in the minnowy slime.

Instead, the equally un-tantalizing prospect of chlorine and other chemical cleaners, as well as the cost in both energy and dollars for operation and maintenance, have spawned a surge in popularity for a whole new kind of green swimming pool.

And riding along on the eco-train to green backyard heat relief is backyard cold relief, i.e. spas and hot tubs. These jet-setting muscle relaxers are big-time energy consumers and typically waste a lot of water every time it must be changed.

Here are some ways to green your swimming pool or add an energy efficient new pool or spa.

Natural Swimming Pools

It turns out you don't need much (if any) chlorine to enjoy a refreshing swim in water that is both clean and clear. For decades, natural swimming pools, or "swimming ponds," have been popular in Europe, but they're just starting to catch on in the United States. Natural swimming pools are self-cleaning mini ecosystems. All cleansing of the water is achieved only through bio-filters and hydroponically rooted plants. The use of natural filters and plant life creates a haven of vegetation that is both serene, and if managed properly, contains water clean enough to drink.

Alternative Pool Systems

Chlorine may keep pools clean and clear, but it also raises health and environmental concerns. And some people find the odd blue coloring resulting from chlorine not very attractive. Some companies offer alternative pool filtering systems that greatly reduce the need for chlorine. For instance, TechnoPure systems treat water by channeling it through titanium plates coated with copper and zinc ions. DEL Ozone manufactures ozone injectors that purify the water and can reduce the need for chlorine by up to 90 percent. Some systems rely on a combination. Saltwater pools are another cleaner option, although the very existence of salt results in the formation of some chlorine in the water.

Solar Pool Heating

Diving into a heated swimming pool is like jumping squarely into the lap of luxury. It's wonderfully refreshing but not too cold. Better yet, the water is comfortable on cool mornings or after dark, and in some climates, that makes the pool usable year round. The problem is it takes a lot of energy to heat anything, let alone a large body of water in the backyard. Fortunately, it's not hard to harness the same solar heat that makes us want to go swimming in the first place.

Pool pumps are used to circulate pool water and keep the entire system clean. A solar pool heating system simply carries that water up onto the roof to be heated in solar energy collectors and then back to the pool. Solar pool heaters can be incredibly effective and save a good deal of energy. For that reason, they are eligible for tax incentives or rebates in many states, especially those with high swimming pool demand and solar insulation, such as Florida and Arizona.

Eco-Spas

Hot tubs and spas are wonderful. They sooth sore muscles, can be relaxing or romantic, and create fond memories of unseasonably comfortable nights under starry skies. But, like pool pumps and heaters, they require a lot of energy to function...it's not so easy to heat water to over 100-degrees on a 40-degree night. Moreover, hot tubs become regularly unsanitary, often requiring a change of water in just a few months despite filtering and chemical treatments.

Eco-friendly spas and hot tubs take measures to mitigate those issues. For example, Hot Springs Spas offers a wide array of green options. Their specialized filtering systems help water last much longer than conventional hot tubs and reduce the need for chemicals, resulting in water that, when changed, may be reused for outdoor cleaning, irrigation or fountains. Certain models are made with a 100-percent recycled substructure and all built-in hot tub surrounds are made with at least 50-percent post-consumer materials and are 100-percent recyclable. Hot Springs Spas also utilizes green manufacturing techniques that improve the greenness of their company and the life-cycle of their products.

Dan Harding is a well-versed veteran of solar critique, commentary and reporting.  He has published well over 1,000 articles on a wide variety of solar industry topics, ranging from cutting-edge technology and gadgetry to political satire and powerful editorials. CalFinder is proud to tout Dan as our resident solar expert. He holds a B.A. in English from Michigan State University, and enjoys reading, writing and home construction.