Your Take: Is the Pool and Spa Industry Innovative?

Photo of a pool with a grid patternWe surveyed the industry on the subject of innovation and while there were some predictable responses — overwhelmingly, pool and spa people believe the variable speed pump is the most important innovation in the last ten years — some of the answers surprised us.

For instance, the second most popular reply was mobile communication and computing — i.e., the smart phone — something not always identified as an industry-changing innovation as it originated elsewhere. But imagine what work would be like without it?

What would you say is the most important product innovation in the last 10 years and why?

Variable-speed pumps, because …

  • They have come of age and are now competitively priced.
  • We’ve known for years it’s better for the pools to be circulating 24/7. Now people are able to do this affordably.
  • Energy savings. And they’ve raised awareness of the importance of proper hydraulics.
  • It gives the customer an option, within the same brand of product. If a customer has a round dial clock, the variable speed pump has freeze protection built in.
  • They have changed the way pool builders and service technicians analyze and discuss water movement.
  • Tremendous energy savings.
  • Variable speed motors are the most important, but the problem is the cost — what is the payback for the consumer with a pool season of less than 120 days a year! — Northeast Region

Field Communications/mobile computing, because …

  • It has allowed for people that work in the field to keep up with emails, invoices, and work orders.
  • What would I do without my cell, go find a pay phone?

Reliable salt water chlorination systems, because …

  • I’ve sold the hell out of ‘em.
  • They have increased end users knowledge of the importance of proper water chemistry.

Advanced controls, because …

  • You can monitor and control swimming pool and spa functions remotely through a smartphone, iPad, and computer.
  • They make the pool area much more energy efficient.

Consider the products, companies and business practices found in the pool and spa industry. Would you say this is an innovative industry?

Yes, because …

  • Just look at how much spas and pools have improved since the '70s.
  • The pool and spa industry is constantly trying to make backyard living and leisure more convenient, more practical and reasonable. With new building materials, pools can be built in places they couldn’t before, with electronic controls, people can easily maintain their system and with green products, people can enjoy their backyard without having to worry about the impact on the environment.
  • There is not another industry that combines electricity, water, mechanical and structural components and then judges itself on how it looks...
  • Our entire industry has been devastated over the past five or six years, and while many companies have “hunkered-down” or pulled back in their R&D departments, many of the forward-thinking pool and spa manufacturers have continued to develop new products and features that will ultimately raise the quality of the wonderful products our industry has to offer...once people have money again to buy them. :o)
  • Adopting technology from other industries has been crucial.
  • Look at spas. They use less chemicals, are easier to maintain and cost less to use. And they deliver better therapy.
  • There have been great strides in products to improve water quality and conservation.
  • I’ve been in the business since 1986. We tested water with OTO and Phenol Red. The Polaris 180 and Arneson Sweep were pretty much the only cleaner options. LED lighting wasn’t around, nor were automated controls, salt systems, mineral systems, and a host of other things. And I’m just talking about pools here, not hot tubs. That’s another story by itself.
  • The pool industry has grown from an old-style mentality of doing the same thing over and over the same way to a new, younger breed of people who thrive on knowledge and technology both in design and equipment.

No, because …

  • Overall, the changes haven’t been significant in the past 30 years. I attribute that to people in the industry emulating one another instead of being innovative. Most specifically, in sales of pools and remodels.
  • It’s a reactive industry.
  • There is so little research guiding our product development and innovation. Most pools are treated with the same old chlorine products. Most public promotion remains focused on pool features rather than the impact on health and family. Most pools use the same pump technology as decades ago. Most pools that are automated still use ORP, which is a marginal analysis method (better than nothing, but not terrific).
  • Not much has changed with hot tub design in the last 20 years.
  • Internationally, we lag behind Europe and other areas in making use of new technologies available to our industry, especially in the area of water parks and extremely large facilities.
  • This industry is still way behind in many aspects. It is changing daily, and starting to catch up, but the newer most innovative products are still quite “young” and have not been tested in the field for any long period of time. Also, the newer products tend to be less “service friendly.” Very few of the new products can be after market installs — most must be installed at time of pool installation or spa manufacture.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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