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Everyone loves a backyard pool. It’s perfect for entertaining kids, swimming laps after work and hosting pool-side parties. But there’s one major downside – the expense. To make things worse, the cost of a pool can vary depending on location, the size of your pool, equipment, installation and fencing – and that’s not even taking into account yearly maintenance.
No wonder prospective buyers are confused!
But it’s not all bad news. In this guide, we break down the costs* of installing different types of pools based on your needs and lifestyle, and then we look at common maintenance costs, such as running your filtration system, cleaning your pool and keeping your water balanced. In the end, you’ll have a better idea of how much a swimming pool will cost – both before, during and after installation – and whether it’s a practical choice for your lifestyle and budget.
Ready to join millions of pool owners across Australia? Then let’s jump in.
Pool installations are one of the biggest expenses you’ll face as a homeowner – right behind buying or renovating a property. Generally speaking, inground fibreglass pools can range from $30,000 to $75,000, with some premium pool installations going as high as $100,000 or more. If you think that’s a broad price range, that’s because it is. Ultimately, the price depends on five key factors:
There are three main pool types available for in-ground pools in Australia – vinyl, fibreglass and concrete. All of these come at different price points that reflect their longevity and maintenance needs. Let’s break these down to understand their features, benefits and costs.
1) Vinyl liner pools: Vinyl liner pools are one of the easiest and most affordable pools to install. They have a thermoplastic or steel shell covered by a custom-made vinyl liner, which fits tightly to the shape of the pool. These liners come in many colours and patterns and provide a smooth, algae-resistant surface for your pool. Depending on the size, vinyl liner pools cost about $20,000–$50,000 to buy and install. However, the liner needs to be replaced every 6–10 years as it can be easily damaged by poor water balance or a dog’s claws. On average, a replacement pool liner can cost you about $4,000, including purchase and installation.
2) Fibreglass pools: The most common type of inground pool sold in Australia today is the fibreglass pool. Fibreglass pools are premade shells that can be installed (via crane) in one piece in your backyard. Made from a strong material (plastic reinforced with glass fibres), it’s covered in a gel coat that’s resistant to UV and chemical erosion. Because they’re premade and quick to install, most pool owners can expect to pay about $25,000–$50,000. On average, fibreglass pools have a lifespan of 15–20 years. After this, the gel coat will need to be reapplied, which could cost you about $10,000 – or more if you’ve got a big pool.
3) Concrete pools: Concrete pools are still very popular in most parts of Australia. That’s because you have unlimited options when it comes to size, shape and site access – and the surface is generally more resilient than vinyl or fibreglass. You can also choose the finish you want, such as paint, tiles or pebblecrete. Due to their flexibility and strength (they can last more than 40 years), concrete pools range from $30,000 to well over $100,000. However, concrete pools are porous, which means they can harbour bacteria and algae. As a result, you’ll need to give them an acid wash every few years. This can cost $500 or more, depending on the size of your pool and how stained the surface is.
The pool size you choose will depend on how much space you’ve got available on your property. In general, the larger the pool, the more you’ll pay. Not only will the builders need more materials, but they’ll also need more time to excavate and build/install the pool. On the other hand, a plunge pool or swim spa – which is smaller in size – could cost as little as $13,000, including installation. Plus, if you want other features, this can add to the final cost. For example, an integrated spa could increase the price by about $10,000–15,000, and a water feature by $2,000–$8,000.
The shape of your pool can also play a role in the price. Curved or free-form concrete pools are generally more expensive because they’re trickier to design and build. What’s more, the coping and tiling/decking are more time-consuming to install. Geometric pools, on the other hand, are easier to build and landscape, keeping installation prices to a minimum.
Before installers can quote you for a pool, they need to inspect your property to determine what the local challenges might be. For example, if you’re buying a fibreglass pool, you may need to pay for a crane to place it in your backyard (unless you’re on a rural property with plenty of open space). Or if the terrain is rocky, it may require more jackhammering than usual. Last, if you’ve got a sloping block, it may pose safety risks or challenges to the design and installation, which could add even more to the final cost.
When installing a pool for the first time, you also need to buy pool equipment, such as a pool pump, pool filter, heater, chlorinator (if required) and pool cover (if built-in). Let’s take a closer look at what your options are and how they can affect your costs.
1) Pool pump: Your pool pump keeps water circulating and it’s one of the most important components of your pool. Most installers will give you options and let you know the best size for your pool. The cost will depend on whether you get a single-speed or variable-speed pump, but it could be anywhere between $350 to $1,800. In general, the less you pay upfront for a pool pump, the more your pay further down the track (in running costs). Similarly, the more you pay upfront (for example, for an energy-efficient variable-speed pump), the less you pay later.
2) Pool Filter: Another important component of your pool is the filter. Like pool pumps, the costs will depend on the size and type of filter you choose. Cartridge filters are the most affordable option and cost between $400 and $700. However, these need to be washed every month and replaced every 3–5 years.
Media filters are the other option. Unlike cartridge filters, which capture particles on the cartridge element (usually made from paper or cloth), media filters use sand, zeolite or glass. The cost of media filters can vary from $650 to $1,000, depending on the size. Typically, sand is the cheapest filter media, with glass being the most expensive. However, glass offers improved filtration of particles and only needs to be replaced every 10 years or so, while sand needs to be replaced every 3–5 years, depending on pool usage.
3) Chlorinator: Some pool owners prefer sanitising their pool with liquid chlorine. However, if you want to take the guesswork (and effort) out of pool water sanitisation, you might want to consider getting a chlorinator. High-quality chlorinators can cost you between $600 and $2,000, depending on the size of your pool and additional features, like temperature sensors or automation capabilities.
In addition to the chlorinator, you’ll need pool salt or pool minerals, which need to be added to the pool water regularly. Salt is less expensive at around $8 for a 20 kg bag, while minerals can cost up to $100 for a 15 kg bag. While a chlorination system may seem expensive at the start, it can result in a cleaner pool and reduce maintenance costs (i.e. the use of chemicals or pool cleaners) further down the track.
4) Pool heater: Whether you get a pool heater depends on your location. Tropical or semi-tropical areas may get away with a solar blanket during the cooler months. Those in southern climates will need heating if they want to swim during the off-season. Here are three common pool heaters to choose from:
In Australia, all new pools must be fitted with fences that comply with national standards, and like most supplies, fencing prices depend on the quality of the product, the scale of the project and the city you live in. According to hipages, a treated timber pool fence can cost $200–$350 per linear metre, a frameless glass pool fence can cost about $275–$600 per linear metre and aluminium fencing can be $130–150 per linear metre.
In-ground pools will also require landscaping, which can vary based on your tastes and needs. Coping and paving could cost $6,000–$10,000, depending on the scope of the job and the materials used.
PRO TIP: Before you sign a contract with a pool builder, make sure the scope of works is set out clearly and that the pool company is reputable and/or a member of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Australia (SPASA).
Once your pool is up and running, you’ll need to factor in ongoing maintenance costs. For a start, you’ll be running your pool pump for 6–8 hours a day, particularly during the swimming season (although this will drop during winter). For an average swimming pool that’s 8 x 4 metres big, this can cost you $80–100 per month in energy bills, depending on your energy plan.
For those who have heating, the costs can increase further. Solar heating is by far the cheapest at $100–$200 per year, even though set-up costs are high. Electric heating can cost you $250–$750 per year, although this can be lowered with the use of a solar blanket or pool cover. But the most expensive is gas heating. Even though it offers the fastest and most reliable heating option, it can cost you $500–$1,500 per year.
Another cost you need to consider is pool cleaning. While your filter does a good job of keeping your pool clean, you still need a pool cleaner to remove stubborn debris from the base of your pool. Pool cleaners can range from manual models that cost around $100 (where you do all the hard work) to high-end pool robotic cleaners that cost $1,000–$3,000.
Balancing pool water is another ongoing task that can increase maintenance costs. First, you’ll need a test kit to measure chlorine, calcium hardness, pH and alkalinity. These kits can cost you approximately $40–$60 per year, depending on how often you’re testing. Then you’ve got the cost of chemicals. If your pool is large and heavily used, you could be spending about $200 a year on chemicals to balance your pool water. And if you’ve got cloudy water or algal blooms, you may need to buy additional algaecides, clarifiers, phosphate removers and flocculants to correct these problems.
You’ll also need to replace lost water from your pool. If you’ve got a media filter, you’ll be losing water due to frequent backwashing of your filter. Typically, backwashing can use about 1,000–5,000 litres of water. This can cost you $2–$10 per backwash. If you backwash every month, this can put you back $24–$120 each year. On top of this, water can be lost through evaporation, splashing and high temperatures. This means you need to keep topping up your pool, which can further increase your quarterly water bills.
While pool installation and maintenance costs may look daunting, there are many ways to bring those costs down and make your pool more affordable and sustainable. Here are seven ways you can do this:
If you’ve got a limited budget, consider getting an above-ground pool. Depending on the size, these can cost about $10,000–$20,000, including installation and fencing. For a detailed comparison between in-ground and above-ground pools, see this article. Decking, if required, will be an additional cost. If space is limited, consider a swim spa, which combines the features of a spa and swimming pool (it’s got swim jets that create a current for swimming). Prices for these units range from $16,000 to $40,000, not including fencing.
As mentioned earlier, geometric pool designs, such as rectangles, are cheaper to design and install than curved or freeform pools. Also, forgo the spa if you want to save an extra $10,000–$15,000.
In general, pool installers aren’t as busy during the cooler months – and they often run sales. Not only can this get your pool built faster, but it can also save you thousands on the cost of your pool.
Compared to a single- or two-speed pool pump, a variable speed pump can run at different speeds during the day, minimising energy consumption and improving filtration. While it has a higher upfront cost, you could save about 70 per cent per year on running costs.
Most energy providers have lower rates at night, usually between 10 pm and 7 am. Try to run your pool pump during this time to keep bills low. And if you’re worried about noise, use a variable speed pump. Not only is it more energy-efficient, but it’s also quieter than other pool pumps.
A great way of eliminating or minimising the use of a pool heater is by using a solar blanket. The unique bubbles in the blanket help absorb heat and transfer it to your pool water. This can increase the temperature by up to 8 degrees. Plus, solar blankets minimise evaporation by up to 95 per cent and keep out debris. This means you won’t need to add as many chemicals or run your pool cleaner as often, which can reduce your pool maintenance costs even further.
Regular pool maintenance is the key to a healthy, swim-ready pool. By staying on top of weekly tasks like water testing, cleaning, backwashing and equipment checks, you can minimise problems that could cost you hundreds of dollars down the track, like algal growth, corrosion or blocked filters.
PRO TIP: Most fibreglass pool manufacturers offer 15 years or lifetime warranties to cover structural defects, but what you may not know is that these warranties could be challenged if your maximum chlorine readings have exceeded 5 ppm. If you find it difficult to monitor yourself, it would be best to pay a service guy to do a monthly call-out to check the pool chemicals to abide by the strict warranty.
Buying a swimming pool is one of the most important decisions you’ll make, which is why it’s important to weigh up all the costs before signing on the dotted line. Having said that, estimating pool costs is never easy because a range of factors can affect the price of your pool, such as location, site access, shell type, size, features, equipment and landscaping.
However, based on our research and calculations, the average backyard swimming pool will cost you between $30,000 and $75,000 to install and about $800 to $2,000 a year to maintain. While these figures may seem high, there are several ways you can minimise them, such as choosing a small or above-ground pool, purchasing during the off-season, using a variable speed pump and covering your pool with a solar blanket. Advancements in swimming pool technology over the past 10 years have really helped to reduce the cost of maintaining a pool.
Whether you use one or all of the strategies, you’ll be able to reduce your upfront costs, minimise quarterly bills and make your pool the affordable luxury it was meant to be. Want more expert tips on pool ownership and maintenance? Then dive back into our blog or contact one of our authorised dealers.
* NOTE: Costs cited in this article are estimates only. Final costs depend on your state/territory and market fluctuations.