For many homeowners, summer marks the time of year when the expense and effort of owning a pool can finally be justified.
Pool owners can spend anywhere between $800 and $1200 per year maintaining a pool, with electricity to run the pump making up the bulk of this expense.
But smart strategies and upgrades to your pool and your home’s energy system can significantly reduce the impact your pool has on your household budget.
Power your pool with solar
Solar panels work best in conjunction with battery storage because the energy generated during the day when the sun is shining can be stored and used in the evening when residents are at home.
But pool owners can take advantage of solar panels without having to fork out about $10,000 for a battery because power-hungry pumps can be scheduled to run when the panels are generating electricity.
SolarQuip principal Glen Morris says homeowners who can use solar energy when it’s produced, such as pool owners, can see the biggest benefit and recoup the cost of solar panels quickest.
But before investing in a solar system, Morris says home owners should focus on efficiency.
“If you don’t have solar, schedule the pump to run when the power is cheapest. If you do have solar or you are considering solar, schedule it to run during the solar period.”
Canstar Blue editor Simon Downes said it was worth investing in solar, provided home owners understood it was a long-term investment.
“Any savings made will be further down the track once the system and installation costs are paid off,” he said.
Whether or not home owners would save money by powering their pools with solar comes down to their feed-in tariff, according to Downes.
“If the feed-in tariffs available are modest in your area and because your solar system is new you’re not receiving a premium rate, then it’s probably beneficial to use the power you generate rather than exporting it,” Downes said.
“If you do receive a premium feed-in tariff … then it makes more financial sense to export your solar power rather than use it during the day.”
Downes suggested pool owners talk to their energy retailer about controlled-load pricing, which involves installing a separate meter for the pool pump.
“Controlled load pricing is generally much cheaper than a general usage tariff,” he said.
Data-driven pool pump savings
If the expense of setting up solar power is a barrier, Sydney pool owners seeking lower running costs and automation have another option.
Technology company and energy retailer Pooled Energy has created a system it claims reduces the energy consumption of pool equipment without having to replace existing components.
By monitoring water quality, weather and energy prices and analysing the data at a control centre, the system remotely triggers pool pumps, heaters and chlorinators to run more efficiently.
“An average pool represents about 40 per cent of the electricity consumption in the house,” said Pooled Energy co-founder Greg Irving. “A typical pool runs about 1.5 kilowatts. We reduce that by two-thirds in most cases.”
Most pool pumps are fixed speed and use more energy than necessary for most tasks. A key component of the Pooled Energy system is a smart controller that dynamically adjusts the speed of the filter pump as required.
“It changes the amount of electricity that’s delivered to the pump and the frequency of that electricity, and by that, it’s able to vary to the pump’s power consumption,” Irving said.
“You just plug a normal pump into our system and it decides how to run it and when to run it.”
The system also replaces traditional pool chemicals with a unique formula, reducing the number of chemicals and the quantity required to keep a pool healthy, which reduces the load on chlorinators.
Home owners need to sign up to Pooled Energy as their energy provider, and pay a $330 installation fee and $67 monthly management fee. The chemistry has an initial cost of $150 to $200, with periodic top-ups for about $100 every six months.
The offering appears to come at a cost, as although the company claims to reduce energy usage, it doesn’t offer discounting and pricing is among the highest in NSW, according to a Canstar Blue comparison.
“We don’t discount our electricity because our experience is the reduction in energy consumption will match pretty much any discount in the market,” Irving said.
While it’s available only in Sydney, Irving said there are plans to roll out the system to the rest of NSW and Queensland.
Tips for cutting pool power consumption
- Switch to a variable speed pump: Analysis from the Department of the Environment and Energy revealed that a variable speed pump can cost twice to buy as much as a fixed speed pump, but half as much to run over the life of the pump, saving pool owners far more than the difference in the purchase price.
- Take advantage of peak and off-peak pricing: Households that take advantage of time-of-use or flexible pricing for electricity will generally see the biggest savings by running pumps between 11pm and 7am. On the other hand, power will be the most expensive between 2pm and 8pm.
- Adjust your maintenance schedule: Set your pool pump to the minimum runtime that still keeps the pool clean. Empty the skimmer basket regularly to maintain good water flow and reduce the load on the pump.