The No-Drain Option

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Eric HermanLast week AQUA reported that the state of California had signed into law “AB 2114, a bill sponsored by SPEC that will modernize building codes governing the construction of swimming pool and spas. There is nothing in the legislation that requires changes to existing pools or equipment, but by explicitly allowing the construction of drainless pools, the new law may have an effect on the future of the industry.

“AB 2114 spells out support for the construction of drainless pools, so long as such alternative methods of circulation comply with the turnover requirements contained in Title 24.”

The idea of a “drainless pool” is not new; a number of people in the industry have been exploring and promoting the idea for years, especially in the wake of the now-famous VGB legislation. The concept is simple enough: the best way to eliminate suction entrapment is to eliminate drains themselves. After all, you can’t be trapped on a drain that doesn’t exist. 

Proponents of the idea point out that in many instances, drains aren’t necessary, so long as the vessel is designed with proper turnover and chemical distribution in mind. Others’ have pointed out that there are instances where drains are necessary, such as in spas where there’s no skimmer. 

Almost immediately after the story appeared on AQUA’s News pages online, a number of people chimed in with a variety of responses. Some were grumbling about the fact that the matter was legislated at all and pitied Californians for being forced to contend with added regulation. 

While I do agree that in many instances regulations are burdensome and sometimes even unnecessary, this particular bill doesn’t require any action at all. Rather it simply allows for the no-drain option and updates the language replacing the term “drain and main drain” with “suction outlet” — an appropriate adjustment given that main drains really aren’t drains but are, in fact, suction outlets. 

One respondent protested by saying: “How do you do a start up when you can't vacuum? Sweep the plaster dust etc in circles?”

I was a bit puzzled by that response in that there’s nothing in the bill that prevents suction outlets used for vacuuming. I’ve personally maintained pools in the past, one of which had a main drain that didn’t function. Like most pools, it required routine vacuuming. I connected the vacuum at the skimmer. 

Another reader commented on the need for sump pumps in draining pools without main drains. “I guess the use of an electrical sump pump to drain pools will be the norm. So more people and animals can be injured, or worse , electrocuted.?No drain also means no using of the pool water for fire extinguishing.”

That seems a bit alarmist in that sump pumps are used all the time for finishing the draining of pools as well as for things like removing water from flooded basements. In those situations, isn’t the presence of a GFCI the appropriate safety precaution? 

As for the concern about not being able to use pools for fire safety, many consumers equip themselves with portable pump and hose systems that in no way rely on a main drain for safety. (A close friend mine used such a unit and his pool water to save his house in the Trabuco Canyon fire of 2007.)

Finally there was this response: “The new California drain law is very short-sighted. The most revolutionary ‘green' advancement in swimming?pool energy savings is the in-floor circulation system. In-floor systems dramatically reduce chemicals?and heating costs. Extensive testing has shown in excess of 50 percent chemical savings and up to 40 percent in pool heating. In addition, circulation from the pool bottom will keep the pool cleaner and healthier for our families ?to enjoy and reduce the filter run times required.”

Aside from the fact that manufacturers of variable speed drive pumps might take exception to that statement, it’s a point well taken: There are great benefits to in-floor cleaning systems and nothing in this bill prevents their use. (Obviously suction outlets in the floor are necessary for in-floor cleaning systems, but there is no ban on drains here, just the elimination of the drain requirement.)

In fact, one might argue that the bill encourages the use of in-floor returns, which also provide savings in heating costs and promote complete circulation. 

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