Aquabot Cleaners

Another Robotics Choice – Aquabot

AquabotIf you read last week’s blog, you will be familiar with the large variety of robotic cleaners offered by Dolphin. Aquabot brings a similar variety of robotic cleaners to the table. They offer a wide range of cleaners for both above ground and in-ground pools. The prices range from near $340.00 up to $2000.00. Aquabot has been producing robotic cleaners since 1982 and has a solid reputation as an industry leader. Like the Dolphin and Polaris robotic cleaners, the Aquabot not only cleans up visible debris lying on the floor, it also filters the water as it moves through the cleaner, reducing the burden on your main filtration system. I believe that Aquabot is slightly more modest when it comes to the features of their cleaners than their competitors, but it appears that they are very much aware of the technological age in which we live. Although they do not advertise this with flashy graphics, they do offer several cleaners with remote controls, allowing you to spot clean your pool. The one thing that Dolphin offers that I do not see with Aquabot is a cordless design. This should not be a deal breaker, but it is worth noting, especially if you have a very large pool to maintain.

Aquabot’s robotic cleaner lineup is far too vast for me to list it here and their website is actually set up incredibly well, making it pointless for me to try directing you toward which cleaner to buy. Just go to their residential bots page and select your pool type, surface type, and size. This will narrow down your search to just a few cleaners. You can even filter your selections based on price or warranty.

As always, give us a call if you have any questions. We are here to help!

Posted in Chemical, Cleaners, Reviews Tagged with: , ,

Repair to Your Pool

How long should your equipment last before needing repairs?

If you are reading this blog, you may be fortunate enough to have installed a brand new swimming pool in the last few years. The first three to five years are sure to be the best years of pool ownership and then it slowly will turn into repair after repair. You are not alone. Pools are inherently expensive, the equipment will eventually break, and did I mention the leaks? Seriously, I am not trying to frighten you, but it is quite a chore to maintain equipment that is designed to contain and clean water. Let’s look at how many years you should expect to get out of your pool equipment, common repairs, and tips for making the equipment last longer.

Pumps

Pump RepairThe pump is the heart of your water filtration. The main failure with a pump is the motor and this is usually caused by either a leak that goes unnoticed or the collection of mud and debris around the bottom. Both of these problems are easily avoidable by simply keeping the area around the pump clean. Almost all pumps are sitting on a concrete pad and if the pad is visible, leaks are easily detected. An undetected leak will introduce water to the inside of the motor via the motor’s shaft. This water causes the bearings to rust and then the motor becomes very noisy. I find that the average lifespan of a motor is around five years. Motors usually carry a one year warranty and very few will fail in that amount of time, even from a shaft seal leak. Occasionally I find a motor that is way older than the average. Just a few weeks ago, I found a Polaris Booster Pump that was manufactured in 1986 and it had finally failed after more than 25 years of service. That is unbelievable!

The other way to ruin a pump is by operating it with no water in it. We call this “running it dry”. When a pump is left running for hours with no water in it, the parts inside get extremely hot. Any small amount of water inside of the pump begins to boil and steam. This steam enters the plumbing, causing warping of the pipes and valves. In an extreme case, the pipes will lose their seal with the pump or the valves may leak through the stem where the handle is attached. Running the pump dry can also cause the pump basket to melt and it will cause the shaft seal to begin leaking. Very rarely will the damage be so great to require complete pump replacement, but many times there are multiple parts that must be replaced.

Filters

Filter RepairFilters are pretty resilient, but there are certainly situations that can arise. I would suggest that a cartridge filter tank will last for ten years or more, but the actual element that filters the water will only last a few years. A D.E. filter tank should give you about the same ten years of service. The grids that are inside of a D.E. filter, when taken care of properly, should last about five years. A sand filter should give you at least ten years before needing replacement. The sand inside of the tank may need to be replaced at around five years.

There is one major event that will harm any pool filter and that event is flooding of the pool. When I mention flooding, I’m sure you think that I am crazy, but just a couple of months ago we had rain that caused flooding in a few pools. During a major rain storm, a lot of mud can be washed into a pool. This mud will evenly distribute into the water and then the filter starts removing it. The problem is that a filter cannot remove such a large amount of material, and on top of that, the dirt in Georgia is a clay. Once the clay has coated the filter media, water cannot flow through it. This causes very high pressure and possible failure of the tank or internal components.

Heaters

Heater RepairHeaters are a magnet for rust. The base of the heater needs to be kept clean and free from debris. It is important to make sure the pad is visible and that there is no buildup of dirt around the heater cabinet. Even if you keep the heater area clean, I think you should expect about 15 years out of the appliance. Most heaters last about ten years before needing replacement and poorly maintained heaters may only last five years.

A rusted out cabinet is the biggest reason for replacement, but it is not the only source for concern. The most expensive component inside of a pool heater is called the heat exchanger. It sits closer to the top of the heater and consists of several copper tubes that run from one side to the other. These tubes transfer the heated air to the water flowing inside of them. The heat exchanger accounts for about 75% of the price of the heater, so this is a component that you don’t want to fail. Fortunately, there are only a couple of ways to make a heat exchanger fail. The first is to let it freeze. The freezing can occur if we have cold weather and your pump is not circulating water through the heater. The second way the exchanger can fail is from poor water chemistry. The copper tubes are very susceptible to erosion from poor water chemistry.

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Dolphin Pool Cleaners

Dolphin by Maytronics delivers unparalleled performance and reliability.

Dolphin RobotsI remember a time when it seemed like every robotic pool cleaner I found was made by Dolphin. This company really has built a name on cleaning pools and only that. They have been in the game since 1983 and are still going strong designing dozens of robotic cleaners for both residential and commercial pools. I will focus here on the residential lineup, but you should click this link to view their entire lineup. Because of the extreme number of cleaners and options Dolphin offers, I will try to present this article as a guide to help you choose the right cleaner for your situation. The cleaners in my list are separated first by pool size and then by features. I have attempted to order them by price, with the more budget friendly cleaners near the top and the most expensive near the bottom. This guide should be considered a jumping off point, but is by no means a complete and thorough examination of everything these cleaners offer. Check out Dolphin’s Residential Pool Cleaners page for more info.

Pools up to 33 ft in length.

Base models that only clean the floor, but are more affordable.

  • Supreme M3
  • Zenit 10
  • Active 3
  • Smart Active
  • Master M3
  • Thunder 10
  • Swash
  • Swift
  • Moby

Pools up to 40 ft in length.

Models that clean the walls and floor.

  • Explorer
  • Zenit 15
  • Active Classic
  • Easy Comfort
  • Master M4
  • Thunder 20
  • Swash CL
  • Diagnostic 2001
  • Sprite C

Models that clean the walls and floor with advanced brushing.

  • Zenit 20
  • Active 4
  • Comfort Active

Models that have remote control capability.

  • Master M5
  • Thunder 30
  • Swash TC
  • Dynamic Plus
  • Sprite RC

Pools up to 50 feet in length.

Models that clean the walls and floor with advanced brushing.

  • Supreme M4 Pro

Models that have remote control capability.

  • Supreme M5
  • Explorer Plus
  • Zenit 30
  • Active 5
  • Delux Active

Cordless for any size pool.

  • Supreme LIBerty
  • Zenit LIBerty
  • Active 5 LIBerty
  • Delux LIBerty

 

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Solar Heating

Natural gas is expensive. The sun is free. You do the math. Solar heating = $$$ in your pocket.

Solar HeatingWith gas prices constantly rising, it makes sense to look for alternative ways to heat our pool water. If you are fortunate enough to have the right site for solar heating panels, they are an extremely cost-effective way to maintain a comfortable pool this summer. The site is key though since these panels need a lot of sun on them to affect your pool’s temperature. These panels are installed on a roof or a structure is built just for them. The nice thing about building a structure just for the panels is that the structure can provide shade and it can be masked as an arbor or some other attractive feature.

Solar heating for your pool works like this. The pool pump circulates the water through your filter just like normal, but after the water is filtered, it passes through the solar panels. These panels are similar to the radiator in a car. They are comprised of hundreds of small tubes and they are black in color to help absorb heat. What happens is the water flows through the massive array of tubes very slowly. This allows the water to absorb the heat being trapped by the black panels. The water then exits the panel array and returns to the pool much warmer than when entering. The pool is slowly heated over many hours or even days.

In addition to the actual solar heating panels, there is an electronic controller that’s installed with a valve. This controller monitors water temperature and then opens or closes a valve to maintain the desired temperature.

With solar heating, you should not expect a miracle to occur, but it may be just what you need to knock the chill off of a shady pool. The only negative that I can think of is that your pump has to circulate the water to the roof or onto a raised structure. This is a little harder on the pump than normal and could require an upgrade in horsepower if your pump is weak to begin with.

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Polaris Robotic Vacuums

Polaris robotic vacuums have just gotten better!

Over the next few review posts, I plan to highlight some robotic vacuums. At the end of the individual reviews, I want to compare the features and order the cleaners from best to worst. I feel like as we head into Spring, this is a good time to look at the options available. The dreaded Atlanta pollen will be here before we know it, so get ready now.

Polaris 9350Polaris 9350 Sport, 9450 Sport, and 9550 Sport

First off, Polaris has designed a new system that makes removing their cleaner from your pool easier. They have cleverly named this feature “Easy Lift”. My understanding on this feature is that you press a button and then the cleaner drives to the surface at a preferred place. Here, it evacuates all the water from inside the cleaner and then you lift it out effortlessly (compared to lifting a cleaner full of water). This sounds like a nice feature to have because most of these robotic cleaners are quite heavy to begin with. All three of Polaris’ new robotic cleaners have this “Easy Lift” feature.

Polaris VortexAll three Polaris cleaners also feature the same style filter canister shown in the photo at right. They also use a vortex technology to trap the most debris possible inside the cleaner. It sounds like a Dyson technology to me.

Polaris is touting a sensor that they call ActivMotion in these three cleaners. This sensor should prevent the cleaner from becoming stuck on stairs, ladders, drain covers, return fittings, etc. I’m unclear on whether this sensor performs any other functions, but if it truly can help the cleaner avoid getting stuck, that in itself is enough for me.

Polaris Robotic Cleaner CaddyAll of these robotic cleaners come with a caddy that allow you to use the cleaner, the 9550 is the only one that has a remote though. This remote will actually allow you to drive the cleaner around the pool and the remote has motion sensors. I have not tried the remote, but it sounds pretty cool.

The two 9550 and 9450 both have 7-Day programmable timers that allow you to completely customize your cleaning schedule for every day of the week. The lower end 9350 will only allow you to choose between 1.5 & 2.5 hour cleaning cycles each day. There is not a way to change these each day. It will always run at the same time and for the same length of time. All three cleaners have settings to clean either the floor only or the floor and walls. The 9550 will also allow you to clean the waterline only or even customize the locations to clean. I would imagine that you could even have it clean different areas each day. The 9550 also has an indicator to tell you when the canister is dirty, saving you from having to retrieve the cleaner unnecessarily just to check it.

The 9550 and 9450 are both four-wheel drive. The 9350 is only two-wheel drive. This seems like a pretty major drawback to the 9350, but depending on the slope of the pool surface and how hard the transition is between the floor and walls, it may do okay. I would think that the 9350 could have some issues with stairs as well.

Nearing the end of our Polaris robotic cleaner comparison, we have a slight difference in the brush on the 9550. It has a solid blade design as opposed to the 9450 and 9350 featuring a more traditional pleated design. I’m sure that it must scrub a little better with the solid design.

My final point is that the 9550 can be used in a pool up to 60′ long. The other two max out at 50′. This is not a factor for most pool owners, but it’s worth noting.

Prices

Polaris 9350 Sport – $999

Polaris 9450 Sport – $1199

Polaris 9550 Sport – $1399

Visit www.polarispool.com for more information.

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Pool Emergency

When something goes wrong with your pool, are you ready? Read about how to handle your next pool emergency. This is not about a medical emergency, but instead about your pool equipment. If you have a medical emergency, as always, you should dial 911!

I’m sure most of you have had that moment when you suddenly realize your pump sounds funny or there is a leak you can’t stop. After diligently trying to solve the issue, you may have thrown your hands up in the air in disgust and then frantically called the first number you could find for a pool guy. Let’s look at some common options that we have to solve some of these issues.
Breaker Box for Pool EmergencyCircuit Breaker for Pool EmergencyFirst things first, if your pump is loud or making a funny noise, you need to know how to shut it off. This is done in different ways depending on your specific system, but one thing that all pumps have in common is that there is a circuit breaker or quick disconnect somewhere to turn the power off. Circuit breakers are usually at your equipment area and if you don’t know which one to turn off, just start going through them, one by one. Occasionally, your circuit breaker is inside the house in a main panel. In this case, you are usually looking for a double pole breaker (one with the wide handle) and it is going to be rated for around 20 amps. If instead you have a quick disconnect, there will be a small box near the pump with a handle to pull inside, near the top of the box. You simply grasp this handle and pull straight out to disconnect the power. The handle will actually pull out of the box.

Quick Disconnect for Pool Emergency

Now that the pump is off, you can prime the pump with water and try restarting it. If you cannot get it to restart or if you obviously have a bigger problem, you should consider what the temperature is and whether the water in your pipes and equipment may freeze. If the temperature falls just below 32 for a few hours, there is no reason to worry, but if the temperature is dropping below freezing for days then you will surely have broken pipes and you should attempt to winterize the equipment. There are two drain plugs on every pump. Some are twisted out by hand, others need a 9/16 wrench or flathead screwdriver. Your filter will have a drain plug or cap too. Heaters have drain plugs and these are more difficult to find, but they have them. Obviously, I cannot describe every drain plug location, but if there is a piece of equipment installed on your pool, it has at least one drain plug. The more of these plugs you remove, the better. Even after removing all the plugs, you may still have water left in pipes or valves, but at least the most expensive equipment is protected. If unable to find the drain plugs you can help the situation by throwing blankets over the equipment. See this article for more helpful tips.

The big thing to take away from this blog post is that every pool owner should make themselves familiar with how to shut off power and water to the equipment for when you have a pool emergency. Secondly, every pool owner should know the locations of their equipment’s drain plugs. This simple knowledge could save you thousands of dollars in repairs.

 

Posted in Advice

OmniLogic

Hayward is launching a new automation controller called the OmniLogic.

OmniLogicRecently, I was investigating the major manufacturer’s solutions for controlling pools via smartphones and I stumbled upon this. Apparently, Hayward has developed a new automation device. Hayward has manufactured control systems for years. They acquired the AquaLogic control system in August of 2004 when they bought Goldline Controls. Goldline Controls continued operation under the Hayward name, producing a couple more models called the AquaPlus and ProLogic. Now they are preparing to release a new system with a much more modern interface branded as OmniLogic.

For comparison, the AquaLogic can control eight pieces of equipment, operate four valve actuators, and it will act as a salt system if you would like. I believe that the AquaLogic is still available for purchase, but Hayward’s own website no longer lists it with their automation products. Next up is the AquaPlus. It offers all the features found in the AquaLogic plus it will control Hayward’s add-on chemical automation system. This chemical automation will control the pH and chlorine of the water. The ProLogic doubles just about everything that the AquaLogic can do. It is best used to automate an entire backyard including landscape lighting.

The detail surrounding the OmniLogic are not entirely clear yet. One might assume that it would at least provide the same level of control as the ProLogic, but this is not certain. What we do know is that it features a much more user-friendly interface and the fact that it apparently works with smartphones and tablets right out of the box is good. Hayward’s products have been able to communicate with smart devices for a few years, but the equipment to make it happen is prohibitive. Hopefully the OmniLogic will change things to where this technology is actually affordable. The OmniLogic will feature customization of the on-screen controls, offering 50 configurable favorites icons and 25 theme functions allowing the activation of common equipment combos with the press of a single on-screen button.

OmniLogic

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Deck Repair

Let’s discuss deck repair. What should you do with those cracked decks?

We are at the most popular time of the year for major pool repairs. These repairs include resurfacing the pool with pebble and plaster products, replacement of tile, acid washing, and at the top of the list, deck repair and replacement. Some may argue that the condition of a pool deck is more important than the surface of the pool since everyone is able to have an unimpeded view of it. At least the pool surface is camouflaged by thousands of gallons of water. I will lay out some options to consider for your deck repair.

Deck Repair

Replacement

Pool decks can suffer tremendous damage from improper care and poor judgement. At a certain point there is no other option than to replace the concrete. Most pools will have the coping separated from the main deck. This enables the pool professional to replace the concrete without disturbing the perimeter of the pool. The deck pictured here has sustained some pretty severe damage. It looks chemical related to me and I wonder if someone used a lot of calcium to melt ice from it at some point. The entire top layer of concrete has eroded, exposing gravel underneath. In this situation, the affected slab should be replaced and if able, the entire deck may be replaced.

Deck Topping

Kool Deck

Deck Repair - Kool DeckKool Deck is the most popular deck repair product that I know of. It not only hides imperfections and makes an ugly non-uniform pool deck look seamless, but it also reflects the sun and remains many degrees cooler than standard concrete. The process for applying Kool Deck is complicated and best left to a professional. The deck must first be cleaned thoroughly. All of the cracks are opened up with an angle grinder or concrete saw and then filled properly. Care is taken to mask all areas around deck before applying the topping. The deck topping is applied with a sprayer and then, after it dries, the color is sprayed on top. An old trick that I don’t see much of anymore was to add a faux brick pattern to the coping. It really looks like brick and is a very cool touch, especially on vinyl pools.

Rubaroc

Deck Repair - RubarocI have recently discovered another interesting deck topping by a company called Rubaroc. I have not experienced this product first hand, so I can only base my judgement from first impressions made via their website and twitter (where I discovered them). I hope to one day find a pool with the decking or perhaps even use it on a job myself. It certainly does look like a promising product and it should prevent slipping quite well.

Painting

If all the options so far are out of your budget, there is always the option to simply paint a deck. I cannot recommend this to anyone because of the fact that it usually does not last very long, but it may be just what you need to get you through a swimming season. Painting should only be performed on a deck with minimal cracking or damage since the paint will not cover up damage well. Paint is very effective at hiding patches done to a deck, such as when an underground leak is repaired, leaving your deck with a 2′ x 2′ square patch in the deck. These patches are most often a different color concrete and they really stick out like a sore thumb. Painting will make it all blend together again and even though the patch will still be noticeable, it will not draw attention as it did before. I have also seen people strategically place plants or other objects on top of patches in their decks to hide them.

Deck Repair Conclusion

Whatever you decide to do, do it now before the swimming season arrives or save your money and prepare to do it next winter. You don’t want to take on a full deck repair when your wife and kids are ready to go swimming. That would be a disaster.

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V-Green Pump Motors

Following the last article about “Going Green” we should discuss Century’s V-Green motors and show you how much you could be saving.V-Green

I have a couple of energy-saving motors for you to look at this week. Both motors are made by Century (formerly A.O. Smith). A.O. Smith produced motors for all the major pump manufacturers for years before becoming Century and I suspect that their domination will continue under the new name. I have always used A.O. Smith’s replacement motors exclusively and will continue to buy the Century brand now.

The two V-Green motors are identified with the numbers 165 and 270. The V-Green 165 is made for applications requiring between 0.5 to 1.65 HP and the V-Green 270 is used in applications needing 0.75 to 2.70 HP. These motors run longer hours each day, but at slower speeds. Typical usage would be at the lowest speed for around ten hours, medium speed for about three hours, and high-speed for about two hours every day. This increases the number of hours the pump is operating for most pool owners since this amount of time is usually about eight to ten hours. It actually lowers the electricity used because the amp draw is much lower at the slower speeds. How much lower depends on what size single speed motor is replaced.

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios: (We assume that our electricity cost is 23 cents per kWh)

  • We have a 1.5 HP Hayward SuperPump connected with 230V electricity. I am basing this calculation off of a B128 single speed motor. We are assuming that the motor runs for ten hours each day. This motor would cost us $109.69 per month.
    • By using a V-Green running for two hours on high, three hours on medium, and eleven and a half on low, we would spend $82.80 per month.
      • This is a savings of $26.89 per month or $161.38 per season (six months).
  • A 2 HP Pentair Challenger is used. This pump has a B2748 motor. Again, we assume the pump is running for ten hours each day. This would cost us $175.20 per month.
    • The V-Green running for three hours on high, four hours on medium, and six and a half on low would cost $102.47 per month.
      • This is a savings of $72.73 per month or $436.43 per season (six months).

Here is a link to the Century Variable Speed Pool-Motor Energy Calculator if you would like to do your own calculations.

 

 

Posted in Reviews

Going Green

Variable speed pumps are giving pool owners a way to save some green.

I am asked many times each swimming season about how much electricity a pool pump uses and how much it costs. I find that these numbers are hard to determine because of two main variables involved. These variables are the size of the pump (HP) and how long the pump runs each day. Most will agree that the average pool pump is probably accounting for about a third of your electricity bill during the summer. This cost is hard to swallow for new pool owners that are unaware of the costs involved. Other, energy conscious pool owners, may not like the idea of using so much power for the nonessential task of circulating pool water.

Green

The pool pump is one of the most essential pieces of equipment on every swimming pool. Pumps come in a variety of horsepower and flow ratings, but one thing that they all have in common is their love of electricity. It’s hard to go green and keep a clear pool. Green is a word that most pool owners never want to hear, but that is changing with the recent surge of variable speed pumps coming to the market.

All of the major pump manufacturers are now building versions of their most popular pumps with variable speed motors. In addition to that, it is possible to convert any pump over to variable speed simply by replacing the motor. These motors allow you to program the pump to operate at different speeds throughout the day. This means that during heavy use, the pump could run at 100% to cycle the water as fast as possible. The pump can then scale back to a much slower speed to save energy and money during low usage. Believe it or not, there are reports of these “green” pumps saving pool owners between $50 – $90 per month. Some states have even passed law requiring all new pools to have only variable speed pumps installed.

We are entering a time in history where energy savings seems more and more popular. Five years ago, if asked about a variable speed pump, I responded, “It’s a great idea, but the initial cost offsets any savings.” Now, with more players entering the market, I feel that there is a shift in the momentum and it will only be a matter of time before the green pump is the new standard.

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