Advantages and Disadvantages of a Solar Heater

Eco-friendly and energy efficient, solar swimming pool heaters can be a great alternative to gas and electric models. A solar heater turns the light and heat from the sun into energy to heat up your pool. These heaters are very popular in different parts of the world, particularly areas with higher temperatures and a lot of sunshine.

How Do Solar Heaters Work?

If you already have a pump and filter set up for your pool, then all you need to set up solar heating is a kit with solar panels and a few other installation necessities. However, even if you are a pretty handy person, it is usually best to let a professional install your solar heating kit. Typically, the solar panels are mounted in an area that will get the most southwestern sunshine in a day, usually on a roof or a rack of some sort. Five to six hours of sun per day is ideal. If you do not have access to that type of sun exposure, you can still use solar heating by increasing the square footage of the solar heating panels for greater temperature rise in the water. Solar pool heaters work well in most parts of the United States and are incredibly low maintenance.

Once installed, solar heaters heat your pool by pulling the water from the pump to the black panels. The water travels through the panels, absorbing any heat picked up by the sun before flowing back through the pump and filter and into the pool.

Advantages of a Solar Heater

Heating your pool by using a solar heater provides one advantage that no other heater does: no direct operational costs. You can enjoy a heated pool all year round without having to worry about huge increases in your energy bills. People tend to use their pool heaters during peak times, which also happens to be when energy costs are the highest, but this is not a worry if you are using a solar heater.

Solar pool heaters are also more eco-friendly than most other options, since you are using natural resources to heat your pool, as opposed to using gas (which can emit carbon dioxide and other harmful elements during heating) or electricity (which requires the burning of fossil fuels to harness). If nothing else, solar heating is far more convenient and can usually be set up with whatever existing pump and filter you have, so you don’t have to worry about having to buy or set up new equipment.

Disadvantages of a Solar Heater

While there are several advantages to choosing a solar heater, there are a few disadvantages as well. Solar heaters do cost less in the long run when it comes to their operational costs, but the initial installment can be expensive. Depending on the size of your pool, they can also take up a considerable amount of room, so it is important to consider whether you are okay with solar panels taking up room on your roof, lawn, or anywhere else you may need to set them up.

The other thing to consider when it comes to choosing a solar heater is the wait time; a common complaint is that solar heaters do not heat as well (or at least as quickly) as gas or electric heaters. Solar heaters can take longer to heat the pool water, since they use energy and heat pulled from the sun rather than a separate heating element. Also, since a solar pool heater does pull its power from the sun, it is subject to weather conditions. On windy or cloudy days, you will not get the same results as you would on a bright and sunny day. A pool cover will allow the heating system to retain heat during those cooler, overcast days.

There are several options when it comes to deciding how you would like to heat your pool. Solar heating tends to be popular for its environmentally friendly process, low-cost use, and convenience, but there are disadvantages. It is important and recommended that you research different options to see what will work best for you before making a choice. Always consult a professional before attempting to install or set up any heating system.

To ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays chemically balanced, consider pHin. It constantly monitors your water and tells your smartphone what you need to do to keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. Use it with your own chemicals for flexibility or get our single-dose, pre-measured chemicals delivered to your door. If you need someone to service your equipment, Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.

When Should you Drain and Refill your Hot Tub?

Preventative maintenance goes a long way with hot tubs. Here is a simple plan to make draining, cleaning and refilling yours easy.

(Please check with your manufacturer’s instructions if those are available. The points below are fairly universal, still, checking with your manufacturer is highly suggested.)

Clean Filter

Open the filter well and have a look at your filter. If it’s been a year or so, you’ll want to replace the filter. If the filter is still in good shape, give it a quick rinse to get the grime off and use an approved spa filter cleaner, and either soak the filter element in a diluted solution or simply spray the concentrate and follow the directions on the label. Ensure you rinse the filters thoroughly as the residue can cause foam.

Click here to purchase Leisure Time® Spa Instant Cartridge Clean.

Shock (Optional)

If you have time for a deeper cleaning, then it is a good practice to super-shock the hot tub water. This will kill bacteria that are present in the water and allow the purge product to work effectively. With the hot tub running and jets off, add shock to the hot tub water. Circulate the hot tub for at least 30 minutes. Do not put the hot tub cover on, as shock needs to oxidize or time to release gases. Do not turn on the jets while shocking, as the product will oxidize too fast.

Purge Plumbing

Your hot tub plumbing can harbor a lot of nasty biofilms. A biofilm is a buildup of dirt and grime in the form of bacteria and other organic contaminants. Your hot tub plumbing is a great place for bacteria to hide and grow. Biofilm is effectively controlled with a plumbing purge, using a product containing enzymes that loosen up biofilms.

Pour in a hot tub specific plumbing purge product. Follow the directions on the bottle for the amount as each manufacturer differs slightly. To avoid under treatment, make sure to know the water volume of your hot tub. Turn on the jets and allow the system to circulate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours to thoroughly remove biofilm.

Drain and Scrub

Drain the water completely from your hot tub. Don’t use a soap based cleaner as it leaves residues and causes foam. An equal part of white vinegar and water does a great job or you can use a spa surface cleaner. Don’t forget to clean the hot tub cover, top and bottom with products designed specifically for hot tub covers.

Refill, Balance & Sanitize

Now that your hot tub is clean, it’s time to replace the water. This will take time and it’s a good time to walk around and check for leaks. Fill the tub by sticking the hose in the filter well. This directs water through the filter and pipes first to avoid trapping air in the system. Trapped air in the pipes can cause airlock and damage the pump. Once full, follow the instructions in your pHin Mobile App to balance and sanitize the water in this order: Adjust Total Alkalinity (TA), then pH, then sanitizers.

 

Simple Fixes for Common Plumbing Problems in Your Pool

Part of owning a pool or hot tub means taking care of any problems that might occur, preferably while it’s still early days and the problem is easy – and inexpensive – to fix. While some issues, such as chemical balance, are simple to understand and correct, dealing with plumbing problems confuses most people.

Plumbing issues in particular require swift action. Waiting leads to further damage and expensive repairs. While fixing a plumbing problem may seem daunting, there are simple solutions to common plumbing problems pool owners experience.

Air in the System

Any air in your pool system can be a serious issue, as it restricts water flow. This may cause cloudiness in the pool or even lead to the filter tank bursting due to pressure build-up, which may not be apparent when viewing the filter pressure gauge. One symptom of an air leak in your system is when streams of air bubbles come from the water inlets into the pool. There are a few things that might cause air to enter your system, all of which have a simple remedy.

Check the water level of the pool, as a low water level can cause the surface skimmer to pull in air. If low water is the only issue, refill the pool to the proper level. Speaking of the surface skimmer, another component to inspect is the skimmer weir. The weir is the “flapper door” inside to mouth of the skimmer. It’s purpose is to actually create the “skimming action” by free-floating on the uppermost surface of the pool water level. The weir can become faulty and stick in the mouth closed position, literally creating a dam effect inhibiting the flow of water.

Other common causes can be the circulation pump and valves, typically located on the suction side and in front of the pump. The circulation pump has a hair and lint strainer pot with a cover and gasket / o-ring. When the gasket o-ring becomes flattened or the cover becomes damaged (cracked or warped), it can break the airtight seal, allowing air to flow into your filtration system. For valves, a cover is sealed by a gasket or o-ring and may begin to leak, the lid can warp or crack and let in air.

To determine if the circulation pump or a valve is the culprit of your air leak, start up the system and relieve any existing air by opening up the air bleed valve on top of the filter tank. Once the gauge has achieved the expected pressure, turn off the system and watch the pump area. If there is a small spray of water in any of these areas, then you pinpointed the leak. From there, replace all necessary parts and remember that you should never let an air leak go unattended.

Dirt and Debris

Dirt and debris is at the forefront of every pool owner’s mind, though usually in the form of thinking about cleanliness and water chemistry. However, dirt and debris can enter the plumbing and cause problems for you and your pool. Debris entering the filtration system can cause clogs or even wedge itself in valves and covers, letting in air. If the filter or strainer is clogged with debris, clean the strainer, then backwash the filter or change the cartridge. Dirt and debris may also clog the skimmer line, so your pool filter fails to work properly. If this is the case, turn off the pool pump and (if possible) the power to the motor. Clear any existing debris from the basket and use a plumbing snake designed for the particular type of plumbing to remove the clog from the skimmer’s piping.

Changes in Filter Pressure

The filter in your pool or hot tub must work perfectly to ensure optimum water safety.  A change in filter pressure is a common problem that, luckily, has an easy fix. Decreases in filter pressure are usually caused by clogs, trapped air, or incorrect valve settings. This can be remedied by checking valve settings, clearing suction lines, or replacing damaged hardware. Increases in filter pressure are usually caused by something blocking the filter, such as debris or an algae bloom blocking inside the filter. This can be prevented with regular pool cleanings and consistently clearing your pool of algae.

A pHin smart monitor helps ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays perfectly balanced. If you prefer to hire professionals for your plumbing issues, check out Pool Service on Demand, where you can connect with qualified, local pool care professionals.

10 Ways to Maintain An Eco-Friendly Pool

The post 10 Ways to Maintain An Eco-Friendly Pool first appeared on Swim University.

No, we don’t mean turning your water green with algae. We all want a pristine blue swimming pool, but we can be eco-conscious about it. Check out the top ten ways to be an environmentally friendly pool owner.

1. Switch To A Greener Cleaner

Chlorine is the most commonly used chemical to clean pools, mainly because it works so well. But, did you know that chlorine is considered a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency? It can be harsh on hair, skin, and eyes, and misuse can result in illness, injury, or worse. If not handled properly, chlorine can be very dangerous. It can also wreak havoc on the plants and animals in your backyard.

However, there are several chlorine alternatives that are better for you and the environment. These include bromine, PHMB (polyhexamethylene biguanide,) Ozonator systems, and natural mineral sanitizers. With any of these systems, you may occasionally have to add chlorine or algaecide, but they’re still more eco-friendly in the long run.

f you want to go completely chemical-free, consider a natural swimming pool that uses plants to clean the water. These types of pools need a bit more time and effort to maintain, but once a balance is struck, they can be a safe place for your family, friends, and pets to swim.

2. Switch To A Solar Heater

It’s always a toss-up as to whether having a pool heater can even be considered green at all. On the one hand, the less energy you use, the greener you are. On the other, a heater allows you to use your pool for more months out of (or even the whole) year.

The principles of green living involve conserving water and getting the most out of what you do have. Not having to drain your pool every fall and making the best use of your backyard feature are definitely good things.

When you want to conserve energy, but you also want to use your pool to it’s fullest potential, what’s the best way to go? The answer is definitely a solar heating system. Solar-powered pool heaters use a series of tubes that absorb heat from the sun to warm the water after it passes through the filtration system.

Harnessing the sun’s power won’t only save energy; it will save you money on your energy bills each month. While switching to a solar heater involves an initial investment, the returns will be worth it in the end. Heat from the sun is renewable, and it will always be free.

3. Install A Heat Pump

Solar heaters are a great, green option, but they may not be necessary in all climates. If you live in an area with warmer air, or in an area where the water only needs to be heated a little, a heat pump is the greenest way to go. Heat pumps use minimal energy because they don’t actually generate any heat: they draw thermal energy from the air and transfer it into the water.

While heat pumps are electric for the most part, they consume much less energy than their counterparts. To make sure you get the most from your heat pump, be sure to maintain it properly by cleaning debris from the intake and keeping it in an area with good air flow.

4. Use A Robotic Pool Cleaner

Robotic pool cleaners are one of the simplest, quickest, and most inexpensive ways to green your pool. You can make your pool instantly greener today if you want. Most are ready to use out of the box, and only require that they be plugged in or charged before use. There are also solar cleaners on the market, if you want to conserve even more energy.

Robotic pool cleaners are green for a number of reasons: first, they reduce the amount of chemical cleaners your pool needs. Second, they reduce the amount of times you’ll have to clean and change your pool filter. Third, they are over 90% more efficient than a traditional pool filtration system, and cost less than five cents an hour to run.

5. Clean Your Filters

Another way to ensure that your pool utilizes less energy is to keep your filters clean. A dirty filter doesn’t work as well as a pristine one, causing your pump to work harder more often and your cleaning agents to be less effective.

Cleaning your filters is generally very easy, so there isn’t much reason not to keep up on this task. Backwashing a sand filter is a minimally involved process, so is backwashing a DE filter (DE stands for dichotomous earth.)

You should backwash both of these types of filters once a month, or when the pressure is 8-10 above average PSI (pounds per square inch.) You should also remove and clean the entire filter once a year, and occasionally replace the materials.

Cleaning a cartridge filter is a more tedious process, but you won’t have to do it as often, and replacing the cartridges is much easier than replacing sand or DE. No matter what type of filter you use, keeping it in tip-top shape will ensure that the rest of your equipment runs smoothly.

6. Add A Timer To Your Pumps

Most circulation pumps are running more often than they need to, which consumes unneeded energy and costs you more money than it’s worth.Energy.gov recommends you only run your pump for six hours a day, which should be sufficient so long as your pump is sized properly to your pool’s volume.

However, turning it on and off daily can be a hassle. This either leads to your pump running unnecessarily, or your pool’s circulation suffering. Adding an automatic time clock to your pump system is the best way to make sure your water gets filtered regularly without consuming unneeded energy.

7. Cover Your Pool

Eco-conscious pool owners know that the simplest and cheapest way to conserve water and energy is to cover their pool when they’re not using it. Pool covers keep heat in and debris out, and also discourage water from evaporating out.

Sealing heat in means you’ll use less energy heating your pool. Keeping debris out means you’ll use less energy filtering your pool. More water staying in your pool means using less water to refill it.

Your best bet is a solar pool cover, which will do all those jobs plus it will seal heat in and trap warmth from the sun to be absorbed by your pool, which means even less energy consumption and cost.

8. Add A Windbreak

A pool cover can cut down on debris and evaporation, but that’s not the only thing that can help. A windbreak can be installed around some or all of the pool. Windbreaks come in many different forms. Anything from a fence to a custom-ordered windbreak to fit your pool dimensions will do the trick. If you want to be extra-green, you can even plant your own windbreak using trees, shrubs, or local foliage.

Windbreaks not only provide privacy; they also make your pool eco-friendly by lessening the amount of water evaporation and helping to keep out debris that need energy to filter out. Not to mention that they provide relief from harsh winds, and whatever dirt and dust they may be blowing around.

9. Install A Pool Enclosure

If you’re after the ultimate in comfort, privacy, and eco-friendliness, a pool enclosure is the way to go. Having your pool partially or fully enclosed will provide shade and seclusion, and keep the ground around the pool from getting too hot. On top of all of the comfort benefits, there are green ones too.

A pool enclosure will help keep your pool cleaner and warmer, and lessen evaporation of precious water into the air. You’ll be able to clean, heat, and fill your pool less often. A pool enclosure will also extend the amount of time you can swim, or even turn your pool into an oasis that’s swimmable year-round.

10. Party Green

Don’t forget to keep things green when you party! There are lots of ways to throw an eco-friendly pool party: from the grub to the decor, you can be an environmentally conscious host. There’s no need for wasteful paper invitations and plates. You can invite friends through email or Facebook, and invest in reusable plastic plates and servingware that won’t shatter if dropped poolside.

You don’t have to buy disposable decor to make the place look festive, just get creative with the home decor you already have. Try to find locally sourced and humanely treated food to serve your guests, and use LED string lights if your party will roll on into the night.

How Do You “Green” Your Pool?

These are just the top ten ways to be a green pool owner. What are some of your best tips for maintaining your pool while keeping the environment on your mind?

3 Easy Ways to Extend the Life of Your Hot Tub

The lifespan of a hot tub can vary greatly, depending on its quality and price tag. A low-end hot tub may only last five years, while a high-quality one may still be bubbling away twenty years later. But the single most important factor in determining the life of your hot tub is not the manufacturer’s warranty: it’s how well you take care of it.

This article breaks down some simple pHin tips that will keep your hot tub clean and enjoyable to use for years to come.

  1. Keep Your Water Balanced

Imbalanced water is not only unsafe to soak in and unpleasant in appearance; it can also corrode the equipment and electrical or even scale up your hot tub’s pipes.  This will shorten the life of your tub. Test the water every few days to ensure that all chemical concentrations are well within their limits.

Maintain your pH between 7.2 to 7.8, with a chlorine level of 1.5 – 3.0 PPM (Part Per Million) or a bromine level of 2.0 – 5.0 PPM and a total alkalinity of 80 to 120 PPM. Also, you want to keep an eye on the “total hardness” level, which is a measurement of how much calcium, magnesium, and other minerals are in the water. This should be kept between 100- 250 PPM for an acrylic hot tub finish, and 250-450 PPM’s for a plaster finish. If the hot tub’s calcium level is excessive or you visually detect a scale-like crust at the waterline, you can use a product to assist in preventing scale in hard water environments.  

But while balanced water is great for your hot tub’s parts, the gases released every time you add large amounts of chlorine or bromine to your hot tub are hard on your hot tub cover. Save your cover’s underside from peeling or going brittle by leaving your cover off for twenty minutes after shocking your tub. This will prevent a buildup of chlorine gas.

pHin Tip: You may also consider adding a floating blanket to further prevent sanitizer gasses from deteriorating your expensive hardtop cover! A floating blanket increases the thermal insulation threefold by creating an insulative, dead airspace between the convention cover and the floating blanket.

But won’t the tub lose a lot of heat that way? Given the fact that you shouldn’t soak in your hot tub for at least twelve hours after you shock it, it makes sense to turn the temperature down to 101F for a while. This will not only save you energy, but also gives your heater a break, thus extending its life. Next time you want to use your tub, simply turn it up again to your desired temperature an hour beforehand. 

  1. Keep Your Water Clean

Keeping your water clean is actually quite different from keeping it balanced. You may think you’re quite clean when you step into the hot tub, but the reality is that the average body is coated in perspiration, natural oils, cosmetics, and other body contaminants. 

Showering before using your hot tub is an excellent way to prevent this. Not only will this reduce the ‘chlorine-smell’ (a result of chlorine broken down while fighting contaminants) but less body oil in the water will keep your filter running well.

Regularly removing your hot tub filter and cleaning it according to the manufacturer’s instructions is another great way to extend the life of your hot tub. A clean filter is more effective and results in less stress on the pumps. 

pHin Tip: Do not use household products to clean your filter as they often contain ingredients which are not compatible with hot tub chemistry. This often results in uncontrollable foaming.

There is a limit, however, to how clean you can keep your water with regular hot tub use, and eventually the old water will become difficult to balance. Some suggest changing it as often as every three weeks, while others claim that you can keep it clean for months with the right maintenance habits. As a general rule, if your water is starting to foam, look cloudy, or leave a ring around the edge of the tub, it is likely time to change it. A good rule of thumb is 3 months. 

Those who live in colder climates should keep in mind that it’s not wise to drain a hot tub when the temperature is below freezing. Frozen water expands by nature, which can crack pipes and do all kinds of damage. Try to time your water changes accordingly so that you’re not stuck with gungy water in the middle of February.

  1. Pamper Your Cover 

The hot tub cover will typically begin to show its age far before the rest of the tub, so it’s extra important to give it the maintenance it needs. Tips to extend the life of your cover include:

  • Protect it from the sun and elements. Hot tub covers that are protected by a gazebo or similar shelter will last longer.
  • Do not allow anyone to sit on the cover, even pets or small children. This will cause it to sag or break. Hot tub covers are built to keep heat in, not to support weight. 
  • If you live in a climate with cold winters, brush any accumulated snow off the cover. Be sure to use extra caution to avoid tearing or damaging the cover.
  • If possible, remove the inner foam sections from inside the cover and flip them once a year. This will help prevent sagging. 
  • It is recommended that you regularly treat your hot tub cover with some kind of vinyl protectant. Research your specific cover type and learn the best way to protect it.

Don’t Procrastinate

Everyone knows that problems ignored are far more likely to get worse than better. Tears in your hot tub cover can start the spread of mold and mildew. Under-chlorinated water can become contaminated with algae. Dirty filters are not going to magically clean themselves. All these problems, if not dealt with, will shorten the life of your tub. 

Treat your hot tub well, and you should be enjoying warm and relaxing for years to come.