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How to Build and Operate an Energy Efficient Pool

General questions you should consider when building a new pool.

Please note that this is general advice.

How do you want to use the pool?

It sounds simplistic, but you really do need to answer this carefully as it affects many aspects of your pool.

  • If you want to swim laps, get a long pool where the steps are not in your way.  This probably means a concrete pool as fibreglass ones are limited in size.
  • If you want the kids to play in the pool, you should consider a wider pool than a lap pool.
  • Odd shape designs are the only fit in some sites, but these designs often need special attention to plumbing to ensure good water circulation.
  • If you want pool heating, plan and install plumbing for a heater, at the construction stage.
  • Infinity edges and waterfalls are very attractive but these designs create large amounts of evaporation, using up considerable amounts of additional water and chemicals and cool the pool significantlyYou can minimise these problems and still have a waterfall if you use the correct plumbing and control system. Please feel free to discuss details with us.

Specify and supervise the plumbing in the pool shell

Your pool builder may not be pleased when you suggest this, but the unfortunate reality is that less than 5% of the pools we see are correctly designed for efficient water flow and good circulation.  You do need to get involved if you want the best result.

If you follow some simple rules and spend a little extra in getting the plumbing in the pool shell correct before the concrete is poured, you will make significant savings on your electricity use for the life of your pool.  You will also get a cleaner pool with less debris and lower chemical usage.

Please see https://pooledenergy.com.au/wp-content/uploads/PE-BuildingANewPool-14-0002-006.pdf for details of our plumbing recommendations.

Simplistically, the energy used by a car on narrow winding roads with tight turns is far more than on wide-highways with sweeping turns.  The same applies to water flow.  Use larger (50mm), stronger (Class 12) pipes with sweep bends and avoid up and down gas traps.  Make sure the return-to-pool outlets are away from the skimmer inlets and work to circulate water effectively.  Put the skimmers in the down-wind long wall.  Please read the FAQs for more details.

Heating the Pool

There is a detailed discussion on heater types at What are the relative performances of Solar, Gas and Electric Pool Heaters

In summary:

  • Solar Heaters add warmth and do prolong the season but that are as unreliable as the weather.  The heat may be free, but pumping water up to the roof requires a large pump whose energy is not free, and which often uses expensive on-peak electricity.  You may be better off with other forms of heating.
  • Gas is great for occasional use of heated pools, that is, if you know when you want to swim and you can schedule the heating.  Gas heats fast (1°C/hour typically) but is quite expensive if used continuously.  You have to keep gas heaters away from shrubs, chemicals and anything that is heat sensitive as the exhaust is hot!
  • A Heat Pump is the least expensive, reliable heating system for a continuously warm pool.  It is slower than gas (0.5°C/hour) but you do need to run it off-peak, at night, to get the cost advantages.  It may not work effectively mid-winter unless you get an extended-range heat pump, and you will probably need a pool blanket for at least the shoulder seasons and winter.

Remember that all heaters MUST be correctly sized for the individual pool.  We are happy to advise you as to the type of heater that is best for you.

The surface finish of the inside of the pool

Please see here  for a general discussion of pool surfaces.

The best thing is to avoid choosing chemically active surfaces as these usually need the addition of large quantities of acid to the pool, often for years after installation, until the surface settles down.  The more inert the surface, the easier it will be to manage.  Please call us to discuss this in more detail.

The pool surrounds

If you have sandstone, marble or travertine surrounds, it is likely you will need a Magnesium (Mineral) salt pool and not the usual Sodium salt to protect the stone.

Please see  Sandstone/Travertine/Marble Ledges and Copings for details.

Sanitising the pool

99% of pools world-wide are chlorinated and this is the preferred option and the easiest and the best way.  There are however, other options, which are discussed at Choice of Sanitisation Methods

The main advantages of chlorine are that it is a good sanitiser and that it stays active in the water for long periods, thereby reaching into the remote corners of the pool and deep into the plumbing.  Ozone and oxygen products are ‘point’ sanitisers that work where they are injected, but do not persist like chlorine.  You are more likely to get ‘dead’ spots with these products and have to run your filter harder and longer.  Ioniser systems are not recommended and have had health warning issued about them by the Government Health Authorities, see http://archive.apvma.gov.au/use_safely/pool/background.php

If you choose chlorine as we recommend, you can add it to the water in several ways:- powder, liquid or make it in the pool water using an electrolytic cell installed after the filter.  This last method, “Electrolysis”, is used in 92% of Australia’s outdoor pools and is the best, easiest to control, as well as less expensive and least trouble to operate.  Making chlorine using off-peak electricity, is 38x less expensive than buying the liquid variety. It also does not self-decompose in the container as does the liquid variety.

If you have an indoor pool, then please discuss with us as indoor pools are usually not suitable for salt-water chlorination.

Powdered chlorine will tend to upset the Calcium balance of your pool after some time, and is not suitable for automatic dosing.

Floating tablets are good for short periods but not for continual use as your pool will eventually ‘lock-up’ and may go green due to the excessive stabiliser introduced by the tablets.

Pooled Energy offers an Advanced Water Chemistry that is automatic and provides considerably superior water quality.  It is automatic, requiring a small top-up, once or twice a year when the water dilutes due to rain or backwashing.  Vision is usually spectacular with a 20 cent coin visible under water at 11 meters.   Details are at Advanced Water Chemistry

Advanced Water Chemistry is only available as part of the Pooled Energy packaged offer.

Pool Equipment

Pool equipment can be bewildering, but the best way to look at it is to break it into three conceptual parts:-

A. The MINIMUM you need in any pool.  There are several possibilities, however our universal recommendation is:

  • a single speed pump,
  • a media filter with glass filter media,
  • a salt water chlorinator

All of these have to be correctly sized for the pool but you should budget on an installed cost of about $3,500.  You can get this equipment from your pool builder, elsewhere, or from Pooled Energy. With a new pool, it does not matter from whom you get the basic equipment, as long as it is correctly installed, preferably using 50 mm pipe and with sweep bends, however, it will be better integrated and have more emphasis on energy efficiency, if installed by Pooled Energy.  Pooled Energy will optimise the installation for better water flow and for the subsequent addition and integration of our sensors and automation.  Having Pooled Energy install all the equipment also simplifies warranty and support, however if you have a preferred supplier or pool builder we are quite happy to work with them.

Please ask us about sizing.  This is really important as undersized equipment leads to long running times and lots of maintenance, while over-sized equipment leads to  increased running costs.  You should chose the equipment you need based on specifications for your particular pool and not just what happens to be on special that week.

B. The RECOMMENDED EXTRAS. The two main extras are:

i. An automatic pool cleaner.

If you want a pool rather than a hobby, please get an automatic pool cleaner.  You can chose from 3 basic types, which are discussed here  Types and benefits of Pool Sweeps with more details here Cleaners.    In short, suction cleaners are not recommended.  Please get a pressure cleaner as the easiest as you can leave it in the pool, or a robot if you have the time to manage it. There are under-floor cleaners as well but these are more expensive, generally use more energy than other types and are more prone to problems, in our experience.

ii. A heater as discussed above

You should budget on $1,600- $1,900 for an installed pressure cleaner or quality robot, depending on type, and assuming the pool is pre-plumbed.


If you want an automated pool with spectacular water, you can’t get that with manual control.  You need automation of the chemistry. Chlorine in water can halve in as little as 35 minutes in strong sunlight.   If you use simple time clocks, the pool will operate the same way every day, irrespective of use, chemistry or weather and you are unlikely to get a good result.  You need sensors and a control system if you want a good result.  The Pooled Energy system does all this with major savings in energy, chemicals, time and support costs while extending the life of the pool, its surface and equipment.

Solar PV Panels and Batteries

Despite what you may hear from the Solar Industry, you will not be able to totally power your pool from solar panels.  Furthermore, if you attempt it using conventional time-clocks to turn the pool equipment on for the average 6 or so hours a day window when solar energy is available, you will reduce the amount of energy you draw from the Grid but you will almost certainly increase your electricity bills.  The reason is the weather, the length of time almost all pools need to run, and the fact that almost all pools normally operate their pumps at rated capacity.

A key feature of the Pooled Energy solution is that (for a range of beneficial reasons), it continually varies the speed of the filter pump to match the needs of the pool.  For example, it intelligently uses one speed for a clean filter, another for a dirty filter, another when the solar is running and yet another if some other heater is running, all as required.   This results in a reduction of power consumption of typically 50% and sometimes 70%.   This makes the aggregate energy consumption of the household across daylight hours, significantly lower. For most houses with PV arrays this is important as it significantly widens the window to cost effectively use solar PV power for the pool.  It also and improves the payback on investment in the solar PV system.

Following the end of the NSW Governments generous subsidy for  Solar Feed-In tariffs in December 2016, you will now typically receive around 6c/kWh from Electricity Retailers for electricity generated by solar panels and fed back into the electricity Grid. The best use of the energy generated by solar panels now is to use it at your house. At first glance, the logical approach is to set your pool equipment to operate from time clocks from about 10 am -4 pm to maximise self-use of PV power.  However, there are an average of only 109 sunny days a year in Sydney, and on those days this works . You will get 4-6 hours of useful solar energy dependant on panel orientation and layout.  However, you do need to run pools for 10-12 hours in summer to get sufficient filtration and chlorination and so, you will be running a further 4 or so hours off-peak.  Still, this is a significant savings, but………on the 129 average overcast and rainy days however, the pool will draw Grid power at shoulder and on-peak rates and wipe out your sunny days’ savings by around a factor of three.  On the remaining 127 unsettled and partially cloudy days, you will be paying the equivalent of the sunny day savings by about a factor of two. Panels produce very little or no energy without direct sunlight.

Pooled Energy offers a solution where it uses weather control to operate your pool equipment from PV power when it is reasonably available, and from off-peak energy, when it is not.  Please contact us for details as it is the most effective means for making solar panels effective and saving money.

Pooled Energy is a strong supporter of batteries as they help with Pooled Energy’s objective of stabilising the Grid, however, with installation costs, they are still quite expensive and the payback in most situations is much longer than the Batteries’ warranties.  Please talk to us if you would like further details.

The Pooled Energy System

We are pleased to invite you to join us in a new era in swimming pool automation with:

  1. Significant reduction in the capital cost of the pool equipment.
  2. Sharply reduced energy use.
  3. On-going, on-line management.
  4. Fewer chemicals.
  5. Spectacular, healthier and more reliable water.
  6. No need for regular pool technician support or costs.

If you sign up with us, your pool will be automated using equipment whose less-capable nearest equivalents would cost $5,000-$8,000, together with additional, continual management via the Internet.  Our up-front costs are considerably less.  This automation is installed an a control layer on top of the existing pool equipment, which needs to have at least the ‘minimum’ equipment described above.  You can get the basic pool equipment from your pool builder, elsewhere or from Pooled Energy, but it will be better integrated if you get it all from Pooled Energy.  On signing with Pooled Energy, the pool equipment will be upgraded with an Intelligent Pool Controller, true variable-speed pumping, water quality and electricity sensors, and Internet communications to our Network Operating Centre. You will also receive an Advanced Water Chemistry set-up.

You will save on energy use,  pool technician costs, pool maintenance time, test kits, your time and chemical usage.  You will need someone to clean the skimmers and strainer and the pool sweep leaf-bag.  The filter will need a 5 minute semi-automated backwash every 2-3 months when we advise.

Our offer is for a bundle of electricity for your home and automated swimming pool services.  Pools can often use 30% of the energy of an entire household and, with our automation, customers save up to 60% of the energy your pool uses. These energy savings are on average and every pool is different.

Most importantly, you will have cleaner, healthier, more reliable water.  Many customers have said it is better than they would have believed possible. Even better, nearly all pools using Advanced Water Chemistry, do not need regular acid treatment.  Advanced Water Chemistry operates at the natural pH of the pool and has the benefit of greatly reducing the amount of chlorine compared with your current set-up.  If you do choose a chemically active surface, you may need some acid even with a Pooled Energy system while the surface ‘settles-down’, but it will typically be 10 x less.

Instead of running on time clocks and doing the same thing every day irrespective of usage and environment, with Pooled Energy, your pool operations will now be set up considering the time-of-day, time-of-year, swimming activity, water quality, the cost and price of electricity and the technical state of the Grid, the weather and the forecast.

Your pool, and others managed by Pooled Energy  will be part of our energy savings goal to enable the retirement of a thermal power station from the Grid by the mid 2020’s and to help stabilise the Electricity Grid.  This is discussed in more detail on our web-site at Helping the Energy Grid

To achieve all this, Pooled Energy is both a pool company and a fully authorised Electricity Retailer focused on Energy Savings. Our bundled offer is for a 2 year contract. Please note that there is an exit fee within the first 12 months after start-up, to reflect the value of the Pooled Energy equipment provided on-site.    There is no exit fee after the first year as we believe you will be so delighted, you will not want to change.

Please consider the holistic benefits.  This is not just about the electricity bill.  While the amount of electricity you use will be sharply reduced compared with conventional pools, you will also save on chemicals, hassle, life of the pool shell, surface and equipment, carbon use and hassle.

Please contact us for details at info@pooledenergy.com or 1300 364 703.


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Everything you ever wanted to know about Pool Automation in one simple guide.

Before you consider Pool Automation read this free no-nonsense guide:

  • How Pool Automation works
  • What it won’t do
  • How installation works
  • What are the benefits
  • Understand your options
  • Pricing options

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