Household costs are increasing – and your pool is no exception. Whether you use it all year round or during the warmer months, you may start to see a hike in your energy and water bills – and it won’t be pretty. But before you panic, there are strategies you can implement to minimise expenses and make your pool more sustainable.
In this guide, you’ll find 16 expert tips to reduce pool running costs and keep them down. Some require set-up or installation, while others won’t cost you a cent. Either way, there’s something to suit every lifestyle and budget. Ready to start saving? Then read on!
1. Upgrade to a cartridge filter
If you want to save on pool operation costs, consider upgrading to a cartridge filter. It’s cheaper to buy and consumes far less water than a media or DE filter, both of which require backwashing. In case you don’t know, backwashing can waste up to 5,000 litres of water every year. Not only does this lower your pool water levels, but it also flushes out valuable chemicals, leading to increased water and chlorine costs.
A cartridge filter, on the other hand, only needs to be rinsed monthly with a hose (or when your pressure gauge is 8–10 PSI above average), using far less water. What’s more, it requires lower levels of water pressure to run. This consumes less electricity over time and keeps your energy costs low.
2. Turn the heat down
It may be tempting to keep your pool toasty all year round, but there’s a downside – it can deplete your chlorine levels. This means bacteria and algae can multiply quickly (particularly at temperatures above 28 degrees Celsius), requiring twice as much sanitiser.
To make matters worse, pool heaters are notoriously expensive to run. To minimise these expenses, lower the temperature of your pool heater, or better yet, limit its use to the colder months. Alternatively, close your pool for the winter to avoid heating costs altogether.
3. Add chlorine at night
Heat isn’t the only thing that depletes chlorine. UV light can break up the ions in chlorine and release them as gases into the atmosphere, which is why chlorine levels drop quickly during the day and need topping up. However, if you add chlorine or shock at night, you allow the sanitiser to circulate and do its job properly – without overspending on chemicals.
4. Monitor chlorine stabiliser levels
Chlorine is an effective sanitiser for your pool, but it oxidises when exposed to sunlight. This can result in cloudy pool water and excessive chemical use. To avoid this scenario, use a chlorine stabiliser, also known as cyanuric acid (CYA). Add it separately to your pool water or buy a two-in-one solution like Stabilised Pool Chlorine. Check levels regularly to make sure it stays within 30–50 ppm.
Top Tip: Just like low levels of CYA, high levels can make your chlorine ineffective. To prevent this, don’t add stabilised pool chlorine if you’ve already added CYA. Stabiliser won’t break down, so if levels are above 50 ppm, you’ll need to partially drain and top up your pool to get it back within range again.
5. Run your pool pump at night
Operating your pool pump at night can save you hundreds every year. That’s because energy providers often have off-peak rates between 10 pm and 7 am. To take advantage of this, automate your pump to start and finish between these times. If you’re worried about waking up the neighbours, use an acoustic cover or switch to a quieter variable speed pump. (On average, a single-speed pump emits 65–90 decibels about a metre from the pump, while a variable speed pump emits 45–50 decibels at its lowest speed – the same as a quiet conversation or light rain.)
6. Use a saltwater chlorinator
If you want to save money on pool chemicals, consider upgrading to a saltwater chlorinator. Unlike manual chlorination, a saltwater chlorinator uses salt to produce chlorine. When the chlorine breaks down, it turns into a salt again and the process continues. This makes it a sustainable and energy-efficient solution for your pool. Some chlorinators like the eXO iQ pH Salt Chlorinator also have chemical sensors that automatically measure and correct your chlorine and pH levels. This can help reduce the use of chemicals and pool cleaners, saving you hundreds of dollars each year.
7. Use a pool cover
One of the quickest ways to reduce running costs is to use a pool cover. Not only does it reduce water evaporation by up to 95 per cent, but it can also increase your water temperature by about 6–8 degrees, minimising the use of heaters. A pool cover also keeps out environmental debris like leaves, seeds and pollen, and prevents rain from diluting or adding phosphates to your pool water. As a result, pool covers keep pool cleaning to a minimum and prevent unnecessary top-ups.
For best results, choose a solar, thermal or winter pool cover. (Avoid liquid covers as they provide minimal protection from debris.) However, if rolling out a cover every day feels like an effort, consider retrofitting an automatic pool cover. It can be operated with the press of a button or the turn of a key, making covering your pool a breeze.
8. Switch to LED pool lights
If you’ve got halogen lights in or around your pool, consider switching to LED lights. Not only do they use a quarter of the energy of halogen globes, but they can also last 5–10 times longer. They’re also easy to automate, so there’s no risk of leaving them on overnight. Plus, they have low UV emissions, which means your pool shell and equipment won’t fade or deteriorate.
The best way to replace existing pool lights is to buy a retrofitting kit (and no, you won’t have to drain your pool!). However, if you’re worried about making a mistake and voiding the warranty, a pool technician or electrician can install them for you.
9. Use a water tank or rainwater diverter
Most residential pools lose thousands of litres of water each year through evaporation, heating, backwashing, vacuuming, splashing and leaks. This means you need to keep topping up your pool, leading to higher water bills.
A great way to reduce water consumption is by using a rainwater tank. This harvests the rain from your roof and diverts it to your tank. When it gets there, a first-flush system removes any debris before the water is filtered into your pool.
While there’s an upfront cost with water tanks, they can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your pool. What’s more, you’ll be able to use the water tank for other purposes too, like irrigating your garden or washing your car.
10. Upgrade to a variable speed pool pump
Because it can operate at lower speeds, a variable-speed pool pump is up to 50 per cent more efficient than a single-speed pool pump. Not only does this reduce energy consumption, but it also provides more effective filtration. In other words, the slower your pump circulates, the easier it is to capture particles. Plus, if your pump is linked to a chlorinator or pool controller, the pump’s filtration speed will adjust to your pool’s needs, saving you time, guesswork and energy costs.
When buying a variable speed pump, opt for an energy rating of 8 or more. This can cut your energy consumption by up to 90 per cent, saving you hundreds every year. And while variable speed pumps are pricier than other models, most will pay for themselves in less than two years.
11. Automate your pool
One of the biggest problems pool owners face is keeping up with pool care and maintenance. Failing to test your water or clean your filter regularly can result in unbalanced water, poor filtration and damaged equipment, which can be costly to fix.
By using a pool controller, you can adjust water chemistry automatically, conduct backwashes remotely, and adapt filtration to your pool’s needs (if you have a variable speed pump). You can also put your lighting on a timer, limit the use of water features and program your heater. Not only does this reduce energy consumption and chemical costs, but it can also cut down on maintenance tasks and prolong the life of your equipment.
12. Consider solar pool heating
Solar pool heating harnesses the sun’s energy to heat your pool, bypassing the grid altogether. It uses your filtration system to syphon water to solar collectors on your roof. Here, the water is heated to about 5–8 degrees and then returned to your pool.
The effectiveness of a solar heating system depends on the pitch of your roof, how much sun it gets during the day and how many solar collectors you have. If the conditions are right, you could be paying as little as R10 a day to heat your pool. While solar heating can be expensive to set up it can last 20–30 years – twice as long as other pool heating systems.
However, if you can’t afford a solar heating system or it isn’t appropriate for your roof, the next best thing is a pool heat pump. Instead of using electricity, it uses heat from the air to warm your pool.
13. Use a robotic pool cleaner
Suction or pressure cleaners rely on your filtration system to run, which can use up more energy and overwork your pump. Robotic pool cleaners, on the other hand, work autonomously to clean the walls and floor of your pool. The units are low voltage and consume 82 per cent less power than traditional pool cleaners. They also have smart mapping features to provide 90–95 per cent coverage of your pool, and reverse motors to get out of tight corners quickly. As a result, pool robots give you a cleaner pool for less time and money.
14. Turn off water features
While water features like waterfalls or jets look dramatic and enhance circulation in your pool, air and turbulence can cause evaporation, splashing or cooling of water, which can increase water bills and heating costs. If you’re not using your pool or entertaining guests, turn the features off or automate them so they’re only on for a short time.
15. DIY pool maintenance
While using professional pool services is convenient and saves time, it can also be expensive. On average, you could spend $1,000 a year on maintenance, depending on the size of your pool and its needs. Instead of paying someone, build your knowledge and skills through free tutorials, blogs and videos line. Alternatively, dust off the manual that came with your pool or visit your local pool shop. (Remember, pool shops offer free water sample tests and provide expert advice to newbie pool owners.) Once you understand how your pool works and what it needs, you’ll be solving common pool problems like a pro!
16. Winterise your pool
An easy way to reduce pool running costs is to close your pool in winter. But that doesn’t mean shutting down your filtration system and draining your pool. You’ll still need to run your pump, add winterising algaecide and check the water balance every two weeks. But most importantly, you’ll need a winter cover to keep out environmental debris or heavy rain. For more instructions on closing your pool, see this article.
Just because energy and water prices are going up, doesn’t mean it’s time to backfill your pool! There are plenty of ways to reduce pool running costs, like upgrading to a variable speed pump, switching to a cartridge filter, installing solar heating or buying a rainwater tank. If you can’t afford these, try low-cost solutions like buying a pool blanket, switching to LED lights, running your pool pump at night, closing your pool for winter or doing your own maintenance. For best results, use a few strategies at once. The more you try, the more you save! For more tips on pool maintenance, dive into our Pool & Spa Guides or chat to one of our authorised dealers.