APC Heaven

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Perimeter overflow pool with a double auto cover installation; Photo courtesy of Automatic Pool Covers, Inc. Product installed by Poolsafe, Calif.
Perimeter overflow pool with a double auto cover installation; Photo courtesy of Automatic Pool Covers, Inc. Product installed by Poolsafe, Calif.

Because of their cost, automatic pool covers in intensive pool-building states like California, Arizona, Texas and Florida are sometimes considered to be the province of upper-class pools. But in Indiana, Michael Shebek, CEO of Automatic Pool Covers, estimates that more than 90% of new swimming pools are equipped with an automatic pool cover. The reason for that overwhelming popularity, he says, is due to a combination of factors, not the least of which is a state law that allows auto covers to be used instead of mandatory fencing.

“It’s a big driver of pool cover sales, for sure,” Shebek says. “No state requires an automatic pool cover, but there are lots of places you have to have a fence. Indiana was very progressive on this issue in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, requiring fences for safety purposes. When my dad started the business in 1979 and was putting on these covers, it was amazing how many homeowners were applying for variances, wanting to use an automatic cover instead of a fence because they are much safer and they offer other major benefits.”

In 1995, Shebek’s firm saw its last application for a variance. After that the state amended the law to allow for choice between a fence or cover that meets ASTM 1346, which essentially mandates an automatic cover, or “powered pool cover.”

“It follows I-70 from D.C. all the way to Colorado, that corridor is pool-cover heaven,” Shebek says. “It’s where you get an extra month, or even two, by using a cover because you’re going to keep the water warmer, and cleaner. You extend the season a month at the beginning and at the end of the season, now a six-month market becomes an eight-month market.”

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“In those markets, covers just make sense,” says Tom Callahan, director of operations for Poolsafe, an automatic pool cover installer and service firm based in Boise. “When it’s cold much of the year, you know you need a cover if you want to have a pool in order to make it a practical purchase. It’s not just a safety device; they serve other purposes, they save water, they save energy, they save the time and effort of maintenance.”

As for the favorable regulations, Callahan says, “There’s no question those rules allowing for a cover instead of a fence benefit covers in those markets. Indiana led the way and the same thing happened in Utah, among other areas. What we’ve seen is how the climate and the regulations all kind of join together to create a strong demand for automatic pool covers.”

Still, for all the benefits beyond safety, Shebek says that preventing drowning is still the big-ticket draw for APCs. “We are able to argue that a fence protects everyone outside the yard, but it basically traps you and your kids inside the property with the pool,” he says. “An auto cover keeps you and your family safe, and everyone else.”


In markets where fences are not required, and by extension APCs are not a necessary alternative, automatic pool covers are not nearly as popular. In some areas only a fraction of new pools have them, a factor that is also heavily influenced by warm temps.

“When you go south to Florida, southern Texas and Arizona, you don’t want to heat your pool — you may even want to cool it — so in those markets, selling auto covers is mostly about safety,” Shebek says.

“I don’t know that they’re any less necessary, because the main reason that people buy covers is for safety, and that doesn’t change in warm climates,” Callahan agrees. “If you have kids, a cover makes sense. And even in those warmer climates, you still benefit from saving energy.”

Callahan also believes that some stylistic trends in the Sunbelt can work against cover sales. “In those warm-weather markets, builders and designers tend to focus more on what you might call resort-style pools,” he says. “They have their rock formations, waterfalls and all sorts of features where they want it to look as much like a resort pool as possible. Some of those simply can’t have an auto cover due to the complex design.”

While unique freeform shapes can be next to impossible to cover with an APC, Callahan points out that other features such as vanishing edges, perimeter overflows, raised bond beams and even rock work in some cases can be made to work with a cover. “Sometimes, designers might be surprised at what they can cover, if they just coordinate with their builder or cover installer during the planning stages of the project,” he says.


While APCs have benefited from rules that have developed on local and statewide levels, the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance is backing up the cover industry’s momentum on the national stage.

“Often these types of rules and regulations get started on the state level before they’re adopted on a national basis,” says Jennifer Hatfield, director of government affairs for PHTA. “Indiana was definitely a leader on allowing automatic pool covers as an alternative to fencing. Now we’ve seen that spread.”

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Hatfield is working with an alliance of cover manufacturers that includes Aquamatic Cover Systems, Cover Pools, Latham and Automatic Pool Covers, for WaterSense certification, and also working to promote adoption of the International Swimming Pool and Spa Code, which includes covers as a safety option. “In the barrier provision it allows for an APC in lieu of a fence,” she explains. “Of course, states have the option of adopting the code, changing it or using some other pre-existing set of rules.”

The ISPSC has been adopted as a mandatory code in 13 states, and as an optional code in 19 states and 311 local jurisdictions, mostly in Texas. “That alone will very likely further increase the use of automatic pool covers.” Hatfield predicts. “But it depends on the state and how they apply the code. In Massachusetts, for example, that state adopted the code with no changes and you can use an APC as a stand-alone safety barrier. In New Jersey, they altered the code so APCs do not replace fences.”

Hatfield reports that regulators are by and large very receptive when learning about the benefits of APCs. “Sometimes they don’t even know what an APC is and are thinking in terms of bubble covers you remove by hand,” she says. “The first step is getting these regulators to understand what we’re talking about.”

Ultimately, she says, the industry’s position is all about empowering the consumer. “We believe if a consumer chooses a cover, they’re going to use it. They can open and close the pool with the touch of the button. They’ve invested in that convenience, which means they’ll use it and that makes the pool much, much safer. And it saves energy and water. That’s an extremely convincing argument.”

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