A well-maintained swimming pool is a soothing sight for the eyes and offers reasons to stretch, relax, and enjoy the summer to the fullest. Although owning a swimming pool has been a dream for many, the pandemic gave reasons to materialize it. Many pool manufacturers and installers have confirmed new pool installations and renovations. Building materials, pumps, heaters, and chemicals required for pool maintenance were out of stock for several months. However, that has not deterred new owners from installing one in their backyard or available place.
Although a swimming pool can be a great asset to any property owner, it comes with its big maintenance costs. The average cost of building an inground pool may range between $28,000 to $55,000. Gunite and fiberglass pools will have a higher installation cost and a freeform pool with water features, pools capes, and outdoor kitchen will be significantly higher. Keep in mind, there will be regular costs associated with pool maintenance. The water chemistry will need to be maintained to avoid water-based allergies to swimmers, surface damages, bacterial/algae growth, and overall clarity of the water. Optimal water recirculation and filtration is necessary or the pool water will become stagnant and serves as a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, and accumulates contaminants like dirt, lotions, urine, and so on. If not appropriately addressed, these issues may aggravate, leaving your pool unfit for use. This whitepaper explores different aspects of pool maintenance, including repairs, electronic equipment, chemicals, cleaning, and water volume of different types of pools. Among these, chemicals, which add to the cost, may seriously affect human health. There are several chlorine-free or chemical-free pool cleaning alternatives that you can consider.
Annual Pool Maintenance Costs Debunked
The average annual pool maintenance costs may range up to $1000 depending on the type of pool and maintenance activities performed. Generally, the maintenance may involve minor repairs, water, electricity, chemicals, and more. This differs from pool types such as fiberglass, concrete, and vinyl liner pools. Here’s a breakdown of these costs.
- Electricity Costs: Most pools feature pumps, filters, heaters and coolers, and water dehumidifying systems. All these equipment are electricity driven, which would increase your electricity costs. The average electricity costs in a year would be from $800 to $1200 depending on the type of equipment used and the size of the pool. Many homeowners witness their electricity bills altering by 20% to 35%, depending on the season.
- Chemicals: Swimming pools are prone to algae invasion. This invasion may be brought about by many factors, such pH levels being out of range, low disinfectant levels, or poor water circulation. This is where chemicals can help. Various chemicals like chlorine, bromine, algaecides, and phosphate removers are used for algae removal. Additionally, chemicals like stain removers are used to address stains on steps and pool surfaces. The chemical costs would vary depending on the type of pool. For instance, concrete pools are more prone to black algae invasion and may require more chemicals than others to maintain water quality. The average DIY annual cost of pool chemicals for a concrete pool is $750; a vinyl pool is $400, and fiberglass pool is $175 (excluding opening and closing).
- Maintenance Activities: This would include skimming, vacuuming, brushing, filtering, and so on. Depending on your pool type, these would cost around $960-$1800 (including electrical cost). Adding to this, some pool owners may have a policy rider or additional homeowner / liability cost.
- Water: The cost of water is an important aspect to address. It would increase your maintenance cost from $45 to $245 annually. The cost of water differs across regions. For instance, one gallon of water may cost $0.011 in San Francisco and $0.002 in Tennessee.
- Repairs: The annual repair costs of swimming pools range from $400 to $1000+, with an average monthly cost of $250. These costs may be incurred due to factors like the water pump and motor and water heater repair, plumbing issues, vinyl liner repair, pool cover changing or repair, and pool lighting.
- Pool Cleaning Services: Pool cleaning is a broad term encompassing a broad range of services undertaken to keep pool water safe and clean. It may involve pool draining, acid and chlorine wash, pool brushing, pool vacuuming, spring and winter cleaning. The average hourly costs may range from $60 to $90. If you are cleaning the pool for the first time then it may cost you up to $120.
The above section offers a brief idea of pool maintenance costs that you would incur on a yearly basis. Additionally, you need to address a more serious issue of using chemicals for pool maintenance. The next section offers insights on common types of chemicals used.
Common Pool Chemicals
The following are a few common pool chemicals regularly used by pool owners worldwide.
- Chlorine: This is the most common pool sanitizer, which is proven to be effective against algae and oxidizing contaminants.
- Bromine: This is a chlorine alternative and is a halogen like chlorine. It is often used for indoor pools and spas. Bromine losses its effect in outdoor pools because the sunlight breaks it down and is harder to stabilize.
- Alkalinity Adjusters: These chemicals help adjust your pools’ pH values. Too high or low alkalinity can affect the water quality. This can be easily adjusted using alkalinity boosters (baking soda and soda ash are commonly used).
- pH Increaser/Decreaser: Managing pH balance in the water is quite important (acids and bases). The pH may rise or fall due to various reasons such as rain, make-up water, addition of any of the above chemicals. Most of your time is spent keeping your pH in balance and it is the single most important variable.
Chlorine is the most commonly used pool sanitizer on this list. It also has come under attack for its adverse effects on human health. This is where chlorine-free alternatives can help. The next section focuses on different chlorine-free pool alternatives.
Chlorine-Free Pool Alternatives
Chlorine has been used for water sanitization since 1900s. Recently, there have been increasing concerns on the effects of chlorine on human health. Firstly, when organics are present and mixed with water, chlorine is known to produce toxic byproducts such as trihalomethanes (THMs), chloramines, and haloacetic acids; all of which can cause severe health risks to swimmers. Sometimes, chlorine, even in proper levels, can cause skin allergies in many people. To avoid these, nowadays, people are choosing chlorine-free pool alternatives for sanitization. Some common examples include:
- Ozonation: This is performed using a device called ozonator, which injects ozone into the pool water. This gas is distinguished by its pungent odor and helps reduce the quantity of organic contaminants in water. However, ozonation is not an effective technique in itself. You have to use little chlorine or other chemicals to augment its effectiveness.
- Polyhexamethylenebiguanide or PHMB: This is a popular pool disinfectant to deactivate and kill viruses and algae respectively. Baquacil and Soft-Swim are two popular brands of PHMB. Unlike chlorine and bromine, PHMB is not an oxidizer and is not affected by sunlight. This chemical causes no irritation. However, the high cost of this chemical and its reaction to certain other chemicals listed above can be a concern for many users.
- Pristine Blue: This technology utilizes a form of copper (copper sulfate pentahydrate) for sanitization. Formulated and patented by Earth Science Laboratories, this product is used to control the growth of bacteria and algae in swimming pools. Copper ions become the active ingredients in Pristine Blue and they destroy negatively charged microorganisms in water. Pristine Blue is known to be an effective chlorine-free alternative; however, it may lead to extremely high maintenance costs.
- Mineral Water Pool Systems: These systems are equipped with mineral cartridges, which disinfect microorganisms that flow through it. Generally, mineral water pool systems are attached to pipelines for proper functioning. Mineral water systems cannot work independently and are used in conjunction with chlorine. The amount of chlorine required would be just half of any chlorinated pool. This is still perceived as a concern by many users. Additionally, the mineral cartridges may require regular replacements.
- UV Light: The technology uses UV light to destroy microorganisms in water. Like many other techniques listed above, this technology also relies on chlorine for effective functioning. It breaks down the formation of chloramines in the water. Although this technology has been used for several years, many studies have proven that UV light cannot work effectively for a long time. Many microorganisms may replicate a lot quicker than the water can be recirculated through the UV light chamber.
- Pool Ionizers: Copper ionizers are proven to be the best alternatives for chlorine in swimming pools. They are fitted with copper electrodes, which release ions into the water upon passing the current. The copper ions attract negatively charged algae and bacteria and penetrate deeply through their cell membranes, thereby inactivating them. More copper ions are produced when the water is circulated through the device. Copper ions are known to cause no harm to the human body and are considered GRAS (generally regarded as safe) and organic (cupric copper can be found naturally occurring in water). Over the years, various studies have firmly established antimicrobial properties of copper. In 2008, it was recognized as the first metallic antimicrobial agent for surfaces by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Pool maintenance is essential to maintain the health of pools and swimmers. This is accomplished by a series of activities such as cleaning, repairing, washing, and chemicals. Pool water care chemicals have been prevalent for several years. Many of these chemicals help maintain the health of pools with proper pH values and more. However, chemicals like chlorine are purely used for sanitation purposes. The chemical comes with its own downsides. Chlorine is considered to be the most affordable chemical of all pool sanitation chemicals. It helps you cut down the maintenance costs in the large run but may affect your health adversely. It is always better to switch to healthy chlorine-free alternatives always. Pool ionizers have proven to be the best alternative in comparison to chlorine. Unlike these chemicals, these devices rely on natural sanitizer and anti-microbial agent – copper. Copper ions can tackle bacteria and algae at the micro level, thereby bringing you large benefits. Also, like chlorines, copper ions possess no side effects. They do not cause any harm to your pool equipment, too. If you have been looking for a safe chlorine-free alternative for the pool maintenance, then ensure to source your pool ionizers from trusted brands like Intec America. The company was one of the first to commercialize the ionization technology developed by NASA for swimming pools. Since its inception, Intec America has successfully installed customized copper ionizers in in-ground, indoor, above-ground, and converted saltwater pools.