Automation that doesn’t break the wallet.
I recently had an inquiry about swimming pool automation. My customer has a very nice gunite pool. The equipment configuration is quite simple since there is no spa. Essentially, we have to control a circulation pump, heater, Polaris cleaner, lights, a water feature that operates with a valve, and a salt system. Currently there are two Intermatic timers that control the main pump and cleaner pump. The salt system is a Jandy AquaPure and the lights operate by a standard light switch.
Let’s look at the main manufacturer’s offerings.
Starting with Jandy, my personal favorite for pool automation, we have the AquaLink RS, AquaLink PDA, and AquaLink Z4. The AquaLink RS is going to be overkill for what we are trying to achieve here. The AquaLink PDA is very hard to recommend for a few reasons. The “PDA” remote control that it comes with is slow to connect with the system and it is very laggy when trying to move through the various menus. With the alternative to use a smartphone, tablet, or computer to program and control the pool, the AquaLink PDA seems like a relic that should be retired. Next up, the AquaLink Z4 is a product that I have little experience with, but for the situation I laid out above, it seems to be the best Jandy product for the job. The Z4 has a controller integrated into the main panel. This controller can be mounted in another location if desired. It is also compatible with Jandy’s iAquaLink interface, which allows connection by smart devices and computers. We’ll come back to this later on after a look at what else there is out there.
Hayward has five offerings for pool and spa automation. In order of price/performance, they are OmniLogic, ProLogic, AquaPlus, E-Command 4, and OnCommand. Once again, the top end options will just be unnecessary for our example, but they may very well be relevant to your needs. I have only seen the fairly new OmniLogic automation installed on a pool one time. It was quite a pool and it definitely made good use of the technology. The ProLogic has been around for quite some time and it was Hayward’s top end automation before they introduced the OmniLogic. AquaPlus grew out of a product that was previously called AquaLogic. It is Hayward’s mainstream control system, combining functionality with affordability. The last two entries are very similar. The E-Command 4 maintains the same style, large sub panel enclosure as the higher end AquaPlus or ProLogic panels. It will only control one body of water, so no pool/spa combos here. It will fit our needs well for the scenario we outlined at the beginning. The OnCommand box is styled very differently than any of Hayward’s other products. Even the onboard controls are extremely different. Function-wise, it appears to be much like the E-Command 4, controlling either a pool or a spa. Previously, I mentioned Jandy’s iAquaLink smart device/computer integration. Hayward offers a similar product called AquaConnect. I will get into the details of both of these systems closer to the end of this post. For now though, it appears that Jandy’s iAquaLink is actually much easier on the wallet than Hayward’s AquaConnect. This is mostly due to the difference in the way the two system’s connect to your home network and internet.
Pentair is a well known brand among pool professionals. They manufacture some of the best filters and pumps in the business. Having said that, I’m not too sure about their automation systems. They have a few models to choose from; the EasyTouch, IntelliTouch, and SunTouch. The IntelliTouch is Pentair’s premium automation choice, offering the same types of features as Jandy’s or Hayward’s top end systems. Once again, the feature rich IntelliTouch is just too complicated for what we are trying to achieve here. EasyTouch is one small step down on the Pentair ladder. It comes with a sub panel breaker box if that is desirable for you. The SunTouch is Pentair’s answer to the budget automation market. It is considerably cheaper than pretty much anything I have written about thus far. The biggest problem that I see with it, is that there is no smartphone/computer support for it. As far as the IntelliTouch and EasyTouch automation systems go, Pentair offers what they call ScreenLogic2 to make either controllable from a smart device or computer.
I could ramble on for days about all of these automation choices and, make no mistake, these are not the only options that exist out there. I chose to focus on these because of the reputation of the manufacturers. After thinking about my customer’s situation, the equipment that must be controlled, and mixing in my personal preference, I would recommend the Jandy AquaLink Z4. My reasons for this recommendation are as follows. My customer already has all Zodiac/Jandy equipment, so we are sticking with the same brand. The AquaLink Z4 automation system is sold in several configurations and one of those is including the antenna needed for connecting it to the internet. I think that this is an important feature and I also believe that Jandy has the best way of implementing the internet connectivity. You see, with Jandy’s iAquaLink interface, the automation system connects to an antenna. That antenna receives the WiFi signal from your home’s router. That’s all there is to it. Once the automation is connected to your home’s WiFi, you can access the system from anywhere in the world, as long as you can connect to the internet. For comparison, the Hayward AquaConnect system requires a bit more. Much like the Jandy version, the automation system connects to an antenna. Hayward’s antenna doesn’t connect directly to your router’s WiFi. Instead, there is a device (much like another router) that connects to your router and this device communicates with the antenna connected to the automation system. It sounds convoluted because it is. It is more expensive than Jandy’s solution as well. As far as Pentair’s ScreenLogic2 smart device/computer interface goes, I would just leave it alone. It seems to be more complicated than the Hayward AquaConnect and judging by reviews I have read, it is extremely unreliable and an unpleasant user experience.
Hayward’s OnCommand is worth looking at if you are not interested in the smart device or computer functionality. I would recommend using the 6 button waterproof remote with it for easy control of the equipment. You can’t program the system or set temperatures with the remote, but it will allow you to use up to six functions like turning the lights on or activate a water feature. Programming can be accomplished at the main control box.