There are over 325,000 in-ground swimming pools in New Jersey and about 7000 more being built each year. New Jersey is among the fastest growing swimming pool and solar pool heating markets in the United States. Consumers of pools are quick to realize that the climate of New Jersey is such that their pools are slow to warm up and quick to cool back down. With a general consensus of warm, comfortable pool water falling between 82-88 degrees, the average pool in New Jersey can only expect on average about 20 days of comfortable, warm water. Of course there will be years when the pool never even gets much above 80 and then years when the pool will maintain 80 or better for a month or more. The point is, with all the money you have invested in your pool, does it make sense to rely only on the weather? Or does it make sense to plan for some reliable heat source for your pool so that you can use the pool any day you want, morning, noon or night, for a full season of 5 months each year! And by using it, I mean to truly enjoy it.
After they’ve spent a considerable amount on a pool and the associated costs, people are inclined to use the pool regardless of the temperature for the first and second seasons. They force themselves to go in the pool. They let the kids go in until they turn blue! They can’t bear the thought that after dropping from twenty-five to over a hundred thousand dollars or more, they have something in their yard that amounts to expensive landscaping most of the time. The husbands will lie and say “I like it cold” and the wives will make creative excuses to almost never go in the pool. The kids, seemingly lacking a thermostat at that young age, will go in at any temperature and whether it’s good for them or not is debatable. Invariably at some point, usually by the first or second swim season, the homeowner will realize that this wonderful backyard addition is not what they had hoped and dreamed for and that they now have a problem: uncomfortable cold water a good deal of the time. The decision is then made to both accept this problem and settle for a good 2-3 week swim season each year or to attack the problem with numerous creative solutions. Cut some trees down, buy a solar blanket, buy a solar blanket reel so that it is easier to schlep on and off, or the most radical and costly solution is to buy a conventional gas pool heater.
COST AND INVESTMENT
The decision to buy a pool heater is easily digestible because in the overall picture, they are not that expensive. Usually $1500-$2500 will get you a contractor willing to install one of the popular models. Then there is the simple matter of finding and hiring a licensed plumber to come and run a generous sized gas line to it. This can run from $800 to $2500 or more depending upon the distance. We have even seen estimates for the gas line alone above $5 thousand! So you spend an average of $3500. to get your heater set up and solve your cold pool problem. Or do you?
The next several months will be remembered as one of the most wonderful periods in your life. You will have fond memories of coming home from work and jumping into the pool every night. You will remember slipping into the pool early in the morning, careful not to make too much noise and wake the kids, of the steam rising off the surface, of your unwillingness to part with this warm soothing sauna and get dressed to go to work. You will entertain every weekend, stock up on chips and soft drinks for the ‘poor’ neighborhood kids who have no heat in their water and your pool will be the center of attraction in the neighborhood, a warm haven, a place where your kids will want to congregate and let you keep an eye on them. Just what you always wanted. Life will be wonderful, like it should be!
Remember how much more wonderful things were before 9-11? How we were laid back and had no idea of the realities of the post 9-11 world? This event changed our lives here in America and caused us to re-think so many aspects of our lives after leaving that sinking hollow feeling in our stomachs.
DECIDING WHICH HEATER YOU NEED
The first gas bill you get from the heater will be dismissed as a mistake or a setup charge or something. The second bill that comes in is when reality sets in, you get that awful sinking hollow feeling in your stomach, and you realize that you once again have a problem, but a different kind of problem. You are hemorrhaging money! There are some serious decisions to be made, some rules to be drawn up, the kids get a lecture on ‘touching’ the heater, arguments ensue, the household stress level rises and the temperature is turned down as you think again about saving for your retirement. To get some idea of scale, lets suppose you had purchased the largest gas heater available for pools at 400,000 Btu. This is a good size for 18x36 or a 600 sq foot pool and larger. As the name implies, the heater consumes 400,000 Btu\hr with an average transfer efficiency of about 80% so that you get just over 300,000 Btu into your water. Most modest sized houses use furnaces of about 85-135,000 Btu\hr. Add to this a gas dryer consuming 50,000 Btu\hr, a large commercial type barbeque at 40,000 Btu/hr, hot water heater at 50,000 Btu\hr, oven at 40,000 Btu\hr, range top burners for another 25,000 Btu\hr combined, Gas fireplace log at 25,000 Btu\hr. Do the math. If you turn on ALL household gas appliances and furnace and have them run at the same time then you are getting close to the 400,000 Btu of a pool heater! Now set them all to run for the first 36 hours straight and then again for 5-6 hours per day for the entire 5 month swim season and you can see how this can become a problem. A MAJOR problem. To the tune of $500 month or $1500-$3000. each season. Even if you go very conservatively with the heater, perhaps only running it on weekends, holidays or special occasions, even if you are willing to have a heated pool only some of the time, then you will still pay your $3500 installation charge along with a minimum modest bill of $1500 for the 1st season for a grand total of $5,000., year 1, weekends only! And of course you will have the next 7-8 years to worry about because that is how long the gas heaters last. Lets suppose that your heater lasted all of 8 seasons with no maintenance charges (virtually impossible) and you decide to replace it year 9. Another $2000. because you already have the gas line. Do the math again for a 10 year cost analysis. $3500 + $15,000 minimum fuel cost, +$2000. replacement heater cost for a grand total, weekends and holidays only, of $20,500. not including maintenance costs! See the problem? If this becomes a little too much for you to handle or if something unexpectedly turns up in the household budget then you will join the ranks of the despondent pool owners and turn the heaters off. And in many cases, just leave them off because you just cant or won’t bear the cost of warming your pool in this manner. There are so many pools out there with big gas heaters parked next to the filter system and water that is ice cold. A gas heater does not a warm pool make, but it is a combination of a commitment to budgeting some serious money each year as well as maintaining upkeep of a hard working, mechanical, and life limited appliance in this harsh chemical environment. Of course, those heaters that are turned on only for rare occasions are the ones that fail to turn on when truly needed, the ones that require the most maintenance, the ones parked next to the ice cold pools.
This whole scenario described above is being repeated over and over again as most people do not know of the viable alternatives to fossil fuel heat for their pools. There are several good heat pumps on the market that use electricity and function like a reverse air conditioner. They run pretty much constantly throughout the season and supply an adequate amount of heat for modest sized pools, usually mid 80’s or better, but they sometimes need to run 15 or 18 hours a day to keep up with the demand. Imagine the electric bill! Nevertheless, heat pumps are still our second recommendation for heating your pool after solar.
KEEPING UP WITH THE TIMES
An entire industry has emerged along side the residential pool ownership phenomena, an industry that saw a need and went ahead to design and build a product to fulfill that need. The Solar Pool Heating Industry is a grassroots American industry. Most major collector plates and all controls are designed and manufactured here in the U.S. with California, New Jersey and Florida leading the field in production and distribution.
Solar pool heating collectors are responsible for over 90% of all solar energy products and systems sold in the U.S. today! They are a perfect example of form following function. Their simplicity, outstanding reliability, and infinite ability to provide comfortable temperatures to a swimming pool are not in question. They have proven themselves to be the absolute least expensive method to heat a swimming pool, while requiring virtually no maintenance and therefore have grown in credibility and reputation. Professional solar pool heating is here to stay because it works so well and costs so little to own. And solar heated pools are the obvious answer to the question: do you own a pool heater or a truly heated pool?