Pool and spa control and automation products

Green AutoopenDealers and builders looking to tap into the growing green movement tend to focus on more-obvious methods and products than controls and automation. They may talk to their customers about water conservation, high-efficiency equipment, solar heating panels and the like without thinking about how much pool and spa controls and automation can do to increase the efficiency of those products and reduce depletion of the earth's and their clients' resources (natural and monetary, respectively).

But manufacturers of these products are certainly aware of what they can do, and because the pool- and spa-buying public is increasingly concerned with reducing waste, they're doing all they can to get the word out.

"I think automation of pools fits in really nicely with the whole green movement, mainly focused around the area of scheduling," says David MacCallum, product manager for lights and automation for Pentair Water Pool and Spa, the Sanford, N.C., company that makes the IntelliTouch system, which gives users the ability to control between five and 40 functions, including pumps, heaters, lights and water features. "It gives iron-clad support to the homeowner for exact scheduling of when they want their equipment to come on."

Useful functions such as these were at one time viewed largely as mere conveniences by most homeowners. They could set up color-changing light shows to kick on when the party started or have a heater fire up in time for a Friday night hot tub soak. But recent, interest in controls and automation as a means of saving energy and money has been rising nearly as rapidly as fuel prices, and manufacturing executives like MacCallum and Stuart Baker, of Goldline Controls, think that newfound interest is here to stay.

"I think the trend is not just in the pool business, but just generally," says Baker, vice president and general manager for the North Kingston, R.I., division of Hayward Pool Products. "Look at a lot of consumer marketing. And if you watch television advertising there are lot more green campaigns that are running now."

Baker admits that even his company didn't originally position its flagship Pro Logic control as environmentally and economically responsible. Instead, the message focused on how controls made owning a pool and or spa easier, because that's what the company believed was the key buying factor for homeowners. What triggered the change in attitude? Mostly, says Baker, it was the industry-wide wakeup call provided by the California variable-speed pump regulation and incentives from power companies to reduce consumption.

"I think the more manufacturers and homeowners got clued into how much they were paying for their pools in terms of electrical consumption, the greater awareness [became] that a pool is actually a pretty expensive thing to run in terms of electricity. So [consumers] became very quickly educated and have been asking questions of us, the manufacturers, about how to reduce the costs.

"Originally it was about bringing convenient products to market, and that's now quickly switched to how those products can save money."

Baker says the best way to maximize money and energy savings with the Pro Logic control is to add an Aqua Pod remote control unit because of the convenience it provides.

"The energy savings associated with remotes really comes down to the fact that you're more likely to micromanage the pool," he says. "By that I mean if you're sitting in the spa and the water feels a little too hot, you really don't want to get out of the spa, walk over to the corner of the fence where the pool pad is and then press a button to change something. If you have a little remote in your hand, you're more likely to just press a button and kill the heater."

Customers Care

Pool and hot tub owners are convenient punching bags for politicians and energy company executives looking to pin blame on a group for wasting energy. But in reality, the majority care about the environment and are receptive to sales messages centered on the concept of green. Of course, as with any group, there are those who care somewhat less about the environment. Perhaps they're more interested in a different kind of green.

"There are all kinds of customers out there," MacCallum says. "You've got the ones that are very concerned about the environment just for the environment's sake, which is great. And then you've got more that are sort of a hybrid that think that way about the environment but also say to themselves, I need to save some money. Then there are the ones who only want to save money and don't think so much about the environmental impact."

These disparate customers may approach the issue in different ways, but in the end, they're all easily convinced that taking control of energy consumption just makes good sense.

"The main benefit of having an automation and control system is it kind of prevents the 'oops' factor," MacCallum says. "So many people that don't have automation go out to the side yard and flip the little time clock lever to turn on the pump and then later they're like, 'Oh, yeah! The pump's still running. Oh my gosh I've left it on for four or five days!'"

Meter Reader

"As energy costs continue to go up, I think it's causing all of us to stop and pause for a moment. For example, when I'm driving to work, my car has a little digital readout of what kind of mileage I'm getting. I never used to look at that, but now I look over and see that, 'OK, I'm getting 16.2, but if I let up on the gas a little more, hey, it's up to 17. Cool.' I think that kind of mentality is going to spill over into everything as prices keep going up."

- David MacCallum, Product manager for lights and automation, Pentair Water Pool and Spa, Sanford, N.C.

Content Library
Dig through our best stories from the magazine, all sorted by category for easy surfing.
Read More
Content Library
Buyer's Guide
Find manufacturers and suppliers in the most extensive searchable database in the industry.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide