If you’re climate-conscious, building a pool may be the last thing on your mind. After all, it can use a lot of water, energy and chemicals – and when you consider the effects of climate change and the global energy crisis, it can be hard to justify the cost.
But the pool industry has changed, and there are now plenty of ways to build a pool that’s both functional and environmentally friendly. It all comes down to buying the right equipment, limiting energy or water consumption and choosing sustainable materials. Read on to find out how to make your eco pool a reality.
Before you start planning your pool, find a pool builder with Climate Care Certification. This national program is run by the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Australia (SPASA) and takes all the guesswork out of building and maintaining an eco-friendly pool.
Certified builders will ensure that the pool design, position, piping layouts and equipment meet the highest sustainability standards. Not only does this minimise your pool’s environmental impact, but it can also save you hundreds in running costs further down the track.
While manually chlorinated pools are common in Australia, they’re not always the best choice for the environment or your wallet.
A saltwater or mineral pool system, however, uses sustainably sourced salt or minerals to sanitise your pool. After being added to the water, the salt or minerals pass through a chlorinator and produce chlorine, keeping your pool free of algae and bacteria. You can increase or decrease the chlorine output depending on your pool’s needs, eliminating chemical waste and manual dosing.
If you choose a mineral system, you also benefit from magnesium and other minerals added to the pool. Not only does this magnesium help hydrate your skin and soothe muscular aches, but it also clumps microparticles so they can be removed by your filter. This keeps your water crystal clear, reducing the need for flocculants or excessive cleaning. Plus, the backwash from a MagnaPool can be diluted and used on garden beds, saving you on watering bills (note: MagnaPool is unique in this regard from all other mineral pools which you cannot re use for irrigating your garden).
Not all pool equipment is created equal. If you want to save energy and water, here are three pool components you need to get:
A cartridge filter is one of the most eco-friendly filters available. Unlike a sand filter, which requires frequent backwashing and uses up to 5,000 litres a year, a cartridge filter only requires a rinse (or a soak in a pool filter cleaner), minimising water consumption. What’s more, it can trap 10–20 microns of particles, while a sand filter only captures 20–40 microns, reducing chemical consumption and pool cleaning.
Cartridge filters also perform well at a low speed, allowing you to operate your pool pump at a lower setting. This reduces your energy consumption and puts less pressure on your pool pump, resulting in fewer replacements and less landfill.
Unlike a single-speed pool pump, which operates at the same speed all day, a variable-speed pool pump adjusts its speed depending on your pool’s needs, whether you’re backwashing, circulating water or running a pool cleaner. Not only does this make the pump quieter, but it also reduces your energy consumption by up to 70%.
What’s more, variable-speed pool pumps provide better filtration at lower speeds, and when you combine this with a high-performing cartridge filter, you won’t need to run your cleaner as often or use extra chemicals to keep your pool water balanced. For more, see Choosing an Energy-Efficient Pool Pump.
While robotic cleaners are more expensive to buy than suction or pressure-side pool cleaners, they’re more energy efficient and can help you save up to 82 per cent on your energy bills. That’s because they work independently of your filter, using a low-voltage motor to clean your pool.
What’s more, pool robots have advanced brushes and smart navigation that clean your pool thoroughly in about half the time, as well as contains a canister to collect both large and small debris. In addition to keeping your pool cleaner, they also reduce backwashing/rinsing and keep energy consumption to a minimum.
It’s not unusual for pool water levels to drop as a result of evaporation, backwashing, splashing and vacuuming. This means you could lose thousands of litres of water each year. To avoid this – and reduce quarterly water bills – consider getting a rainwater tank or diverter.
This allows you to harvest rainwater so you can use it to top up your pool (among other things!). Just make sure you’ve got a leaf guard in your gutters and a first-flush system to remove debris. However, before installing a tank or diverter, make sure your roofing doesn’t contain hazardous materials, such as lead or particulate matter.
Solar energy is one of the most efficient ways to run your pump and/or heat your pool. There are three ways you can do this. First, you can use grid-connected solar panels on your roof and hook them up to an existing pump. This will circulate your pool water and use less energy than grid electricity.
If your existing solar system isn’t big enough or you want a separate system for your pool, you can install panels (either on your roof or on a nearby structure) that exclusively power your pool pump. However, this is an off-grid method where excess energy won’t be stored or sent back to the grid.
Last, you can install solar strips or panels that collect heat from the sun and transfer it to your pool water. Compared to heat pumps (another eco-friendly heating solution) solar heaters only release about 40 kilos of greenhouse gas emissions per week, while a heat pump can release about 290 kilos per week.
The only negative with solar panels is that they can be expensive to install – and they don’t work for every home. Check with a solar energy provider to ensure that solar panels suit your home’s orientation, roof type and climate.
Lawns are popular for pool landscaping, but they aren’t the best choice for the planet. In fact, caring for a lawn can have a significant impact on the environment. In addition to requiring frequent watering and pesticide application, the emissions from petrol mowers can add to your carbon footprint.
Instead of replacing your lawn after the pool is built, consider planting native ground covers and succulents. These hardy plants will provide form and colour without requiring frequent watering or maintenance – and they’ll minimise the environmental debris blown into your pool.
If you’ve got a bigger budget and want to avoid chemicals or high energy consumption, then consider building a natural pool. This usually requires two pool zones: a regeneration zone filled with aquatic plants and a swimming area. A low-voltage pump circulates the water from the regeneration zone (where biological processes filter our bacteria and algae) before pumping it back to the swimming area.
Because it’s all-natural, you don’t need chemicals to keep the water balanced, and the low-voltage pool pump keeps energy costs to a minimum. To keep it clean, all you need is a pool cover and an energy-efficient robotic cleaner to remove debris.
Natural pools often require a lot of space, which means you need a large property to make them work. Plus, the regeneration area needs to be maintained to ensure optimal filtration. However, if garden space is limited, you can still build a natural pool and install a biofilter either inside or outside the pool. It uses the same processes to filter your pool water without requiring the same footprint as a regeneration zone.
Building an eco-friendly pool doesn’t have to be daunting – or prohibitively expensive. By following the guidelines above, you can have a backyard pool that’s gentle on the environment and your bank balance. Here’s a quick rundown: