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Environmentally Friendly Pools and Spas

written by: AngelaC•edited by: Tania Cowling•updated: 3/23/2010

Environmentally friendly pools and spas can be clean, clear and safe. Today’s eco-friendly pools and spas require no costly maintenance or harmful chemicals. Follow these simple ideas and you will be swimming and relaxing in no time!

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    Pool and Spa Building Materials

    When purchasing a new pool and spa, the first decision you need to make is above-ground or in-ground, and vinyl liner, fiberglass or concrete. Many environmentally friendly pools and spas are built with Insulating Concrete Foam (ICF to help minimize heat loss). Rastra is one type of ICF, which is concrete mixed with 85% recycled polystyrene such as old packing peanuts and Styrofoam coffee cups. Durisol is another type of ISF that contains 78% recycled materials, derived from wood waste, chips and shavings, and is bonded with the cement. Spas can be built with multiple layers of high-density foam to help insulate and keep the water hot.

    Paint your pool and spa with a waterborne, acrylic paint that does not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and is water based. Make sure you choose a paint that is strong enough to be used for a pool or spa. You can purchase glass tiles for your pool and spa walls and floor that is made from recycled glass bottles. When filling or topping off your pool and spa, purchase a water tank to store and use rainwater. In fact, many places are passing legislation that bans pools and spas from being filled or topped off from main water lines. To landscape around your pool and spa, choose stones and pebbles that are naturally found in your environment. They will look beautiful and last a lifetime. Building 5885 

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    Pool and Spa Maintenance

    Maintaining a pool or spa can be costly and timely. Making a few eco-friendly choices can help ease the burden of both. All pools and spas require a pump and there are many options available today. Look for an energy efficient variable-speed pump that has different speeds for pool, spa or water feature applications. Then when using your pump, always set it for the minimum speed required for the task. This will allow for less wear and tear on your equipment, lowers operational costs and provides more efficient filtration. If you currently have an older pump or motor you may want to consider upgrading to a newer and more energy efficient model.

    A filter is another must have for all pool and spa owners. For all eco-friendly pools and spas, your best choice is a cartridge filter. Cartridge filters have longer filter cycles and need less cleaning. No sand or other loose particles will cycle back into your pool. When cleaning a cartridge filter all you need to do is rinse it off. You will not have to backwash your pool or spa as frequently, thereby significantly reducing your water consumption.

    The water quality of your pool is of utmost importance. For today’s environmentally friendly pools and spas, is important to reduce and or eliminate the use of chlorine. Today's eco-friendly pool and spa cleaning choices include minerals, salt and ozone. An on-site salt water sterilization system is one chemical free way to keep your pool clean and safe. With a salt sterilization system, non-iodized table salt is added directly to the water. Then the saline water passes through a chlorine-generating cell and low electrical currents transform salt into chlorine. The chlorine kills the bacteria and then it is converted back to salt. Mineral sanitizers use elemental minerals mixed with a small amount of chlorine, to eliminate contaminants. Minerals can generally works for months, provide natural water conditions, and lower the chlorine requirement. In spas, when minerals are used in combination with monopersulfate salts (MPS) as the oxidizer, it completely eliminates the need for chlorine.

    Choosing an ozonation ionization or UV radiation system is one way to have a natural swimming pool or spa that is completely chlorine free if you would like to. The ionizer or UV radiation system is added directly to your standard filter pipes and the bacteria and pathogens are killed as the water passes through the system. Keep in mind that, unlike the other water cleaning options, this method is not effective against algae and you will need to add a chlorine-free algaecide to the water. Advantages to reducing your chlorine usage, along with helping the environment, include not having to store and handle chlorine, reducing the cost of purchasing liquid chlorine, and enjoying swimming and soaking in the naturally softer water.

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    Pool and Spa Accessories

    Pools and spas need to be heated, covered and lit, and there are many environmentally safe ways to do this. Eco-friendly pool heaters are energy efficient and have low nitrogen oxides emissions. Even better is a solar water heating system. Solar blankets and solar heaters are available for both above-ground and in-ground pools. A well-insulated set of thermal blankets can pay for itself in 6 to 12 months. A solar heater may be a little pricier upfront, but within 4 to 6 years, you will have paid for this non-polluting heating system.

    A pool cover is another necessity for environmentally friendly pools and spas. A cover keeps the pool clean, reduces filter maintenance, reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation, and can help keep the water warm.

    Finally when choosing your pool lighting system, aim for an LED or fiber optic lighting system. LED pool and spa lights are the most energy-efficient pool and spa lights available, and cost about half as much to operate. In addition, these lights can last 30,000 hours or more, which means less disposal and replacement of old bulbs. Some people also feel the lens geometry design distributes light more uniformly throughout your pool and spa.

    With a few simple changes, your pool and spa can be a great way to cool off and have fun all summer, while you save some money and the environment!

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    Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons – Building/Nevit Dilmen