Swimming pools are the quintessential symbol of summer. Nothing is as relaxing as a pool, perhaps with a trendy inflatable swan floating in it. Traditional swimming pools however impact the environment in three ways: high water use, high energy use, and harmful chemicals, and the specific impact of your pool depend on your energy and water sources.
Is your home powered by solar energy or coal? Is freshwater abundant in your region, or is it pumped from far away? So how can you reduce the environmental impact of your pool?
Here are some tips on how to make your pool more environmentally friendly:
1. Take Cover!
The best thing to save water and energy is to use a pool cover in hot, dry regions, where pools constantly lose water through evaporation. Covers also keep the pool cleaner, so you do not have to pump as often (see tip #2).
Ideally, it would help if you covered your pool whenever it’s not in use. If you cannot cover every summer night, consider extending your pool’s “off-season” – covering it for extra weeks each year can save you hundreds of gallons of water.
A tight-fitting safety cover saves energy and water and prevents it from becoming a death trap for pets and wildlife.
2. Turn on the Pump
Pool pumps that pump water through the pool’s circulation system uses a lot of energy. Aside from heaters and air conditioners, they use the most electricity of any household appliance. In 2008, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that swimming pool pumps in the U.S. can generate up to 10 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year – equal to the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions from 1.3 million cars.
Many pool technicians recommend running pumps between 6 and 12 hours per day to push a pool’s entire water volume through the filter. However, most debris are only in the upper part of the pool, so you can probably run your pump for less time without any adverse effects. To meet a pool’s specific needs, install a variable speed pump and program it to save hundreds of dollars each year. For maximum efficiency, choose a pump that is Energy Star certified.
3. Limit High Chemical Use
Chlorine and other harsh chemicals kill bacteria and algae in your pool water. However, these chemicals can irritate the skin and eyes if not balanced correctly in your pool. To save you time and money make sure to routinely check your pool’s chemical levels and keep them in balance to limit the number of times you need to shock your pool throughout the year. Routine cleanings and water testing will help you to limit the number of chemicals you will need to use to get your pool back into balance.