8 Ways to Green Your Pool

This story is part of Earth911’s “Green Eight” series in which we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.

Summer’s here! Swimming pools are a terrific way to cool off when the mercury climbs, and they can also be a surprisingly easy way to go green. Whether your style is cannonballs or chaise lounges, here are eight tips designed to turn your pool into a green oasis.

1. Got Salt?

Spend a lot of time in a chlorine pool and you might emerge with red eyes, green hair and itchy skin. Recent findings have even linked regular swimming in a chlorine pool to the development of asthma in small children as well. To combat this, consider switching to salt water. The absence of chemicals means it’s more gentle on the skin, and the salt helps keep the pool naturally clean and algae-free, translating to less money and less maintenance.

2. Reusable Containers

Is there a mountain of bottles and jugs scattered around your pool? Even if you choose natural products to keep your pool clean, all those plastic containers can still add up.

Check with your curbside recycler to see if they accept the bottles. If they held hazardous chemicals the answer is probably “no,” so find out when your next Household Hazard Waste event is occurring and drop-off these containers then.

Also consider buying pool supplies from a company that utilizes reusable containers, such as West Coast-based HASA, Inc.

3. Pump It

Like many household appliances, pumps are becoming more energy efficient. Look for the Applied Research Laboratories stamp, which means the pump meets U.S. standards for saving energy.

Pumps are now available in a wider assortment of speed models, meaning you can turn the motor down for regular daily use or up for shorter, more intense cleanings. Buying a timer for both the pump and the filter will ensure that they will run only when you want them to.

4. Check for Leaks

It may sound like a no-brainer, but even losing an inch of water a day can add up to 102,000 gallons of lost water per year. Mark the water line with a grease pencil and check it 24 hours later. If you suspect a leak, have it fixed as soon as possible. Refilling a pool with captured rainwater is an excellent way to cut down on wasted water, and it doesn’t hurt to give that new border of irises and cattails a drink while you’re at it.

5. Go Solar

solar pool cover

If adding solar heating to your pool isn’t within your price range this summer, try a solar cover for your pool. Make sure it’s manual! Photo: John McCullough

Switching from natural gas, propane or electric heaters to solar energy not only saves you money, but it also saves the environment. One pool alone emits three to 10 tons of carbon dioxide each swimming season. Eliminate that and it’s like not driving your car for a year!

The annual cost of heating a pool the traditional way can easily exceed $2,000 (more if you include service technician’s fees). Sunshine, however, is free. The average cost of installing a solar system for your pool can run between $2,000 and $3,000, but since solar is basically maintenance-free, that upfront cost is pretty much all you’re going to pay.

Check out Find Solar, endorsed by the U.S. Department of Energy, to find installers in your area that specialize in renewable energy. And don’t forget the rebates and tax incentives you’re entitled to claim when you go solar.

6. Cover Up

If installing a solar system seems too costly or too daunting, throw a solar cover on your pool. Not only are you helping to heat the water, but you’re reducing the need for chemicals and lowering evaporation by up to 95 percent. Adding a cover also keeps debris out, meaning less maintenance and more time in the water. Just be sure to choose a cover that you can pull on and off manually, either by hand or with the help of a reel. Automatic and semi-automatic pool covers rely on electrical motors, defeating the purpose of saving energy.

green poolscape

Adding green landscaping around your pool can fight water evaporation and absorb carbon dioxide from pool chemicals. Photo: Steve Elgersma

7. Add Some Green

Another way to combat water evaporation is to increase the landscaping around your pool. Planting shrubs and trees closer to the water means that they can act as a barrier on windy days (just make sure they don’t block out the sun if you rely on solar energy.)

Plants can also absorb some of the carbon dioxide emitted from common pool chemicals. For extra credit, you can even create a water cleaning system for your pool water using certain flora such as irises, cattails, arrowroot and reeds. Have an ecological landscaper place these plants in a gravel area next to the pool; the shallow water they grow in is purified by the natural bacteria in the roots and then re-circulated into the pool through a pump.

8. Subtract Some Green

If you own a pool, you’ve probably done battle with algae at least once or twice. These aquatic spores appear whenever there is a chemical imbalance in the water. It used to be that the only way to prevent and rid your pool of these pesky spores was to douse the water and surfaces with harsh chemicals.

However, eco-conscious companies such as Orenda Technologies are finding safer ways to keep your water clear. By removing the nutrients in the water that algae feed on, the non-toxic and non-hazardous additives prevent algae growth and staining without chemicals.

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  1. Hi Lindsey,

    Thanks for the post and your concern about keeping pools healthy. I support your effort to get the word out on keeping pools clean, but I should note that your first suggestion might not be in the best interest of pool owners and swimmers. While you disapprove of chlorine use, the chemistry used in salt water pool is no different – electricity and salt react to generate chlorine. In regards to your asthma concerns, I encourage you to read an article on Asthma Mom (http://bit.ly/1508Be) on this topic. While past studies have established a connection between children with asthma and swimming in chlorinated pools, more recent studies have shown that there’s simply not enough evidence to make that conclusion. I hope this is helpful and I would love to discuss helping green pools and pool safety further. Please shoot me an email when you get the chance if you’re interested, and I look forward to talking to you.

    Best Regards,

    Jeff Sloan
    American Chemistry Council

  2. Lindsey,

    Wonderful article! We have a salt water pool and we wholeheratedly agree on the benefits! It is wonderful to swim in soft, gentle water, without the chlorine smell, the itchy skin or ruined swim clothes. Although the chemcical process of the salt water pool is to generate chlorine, it is a much better alternative to adding chlorine to the pool. The difference is a harsh checmical water or soft saline. The chlorine that is created by the salt chlorinator is completely different than that of traditional swimming pools. Although a little more expensive on the front end, it is much cheaper, we hardly ever have to add any additional chemicals to the water and we feel our kids are free of the nasty chemicals that burn their eyes and skin. Keep up the great work!

    Susie H.

  3. Jeff,
    My understanding is that while both “salt water” pools and pools that use chlorine are in effect both using chlorine, that the chlorine produce by “salt water” pools is easier on the skin.
    I’ve read that bromine is equally as effective as chlorine in keeping pools clean and is better for people with sensitive skin. Unfortunately from what I’ve seen at my local pool stores, bromine is usually much more expensive than chlorine.
    Another alternative to keeping your pool clean and sanitary without using chlorine or bromine is a shortwave UV filter though this won’t get you chemical free as Hydrogen Peroxide is still used in the sterilization process.

  4. Dear Lindsey,
    Nice article!! As usual, mother nature is ahead of all the chemical only solutions. The company I work for has tapped into the oldest water conditioning process know to man. Sphagnum moss plants have been treating water in Northern Minnesota, Southern Canada, and many other places on our planet for centuries. We have adapted these moss plants into the only “truely green” system in the pool and spa industry. Mother nature created some amazing properties into serveral very specific varieties of this sphagnum moss including its antimicrobial characteristics, powerful buffers that stabilize pH, and structures on the plant that remove most metals from the water. I would invite you to view the very interesting story at our site at http://www.cwsnaturally.com. We allow the reduction of up to 80% of the toxic chemicals. Our system is compatable with most products including salt systems used in pools and spas except Hydrogen Peroxide based chemicals. Feel free to contact me to continue this discussion.

  5. Pingback: making your pool enviromentally friendly « tiny footprints

  6. Jeff is correct, salt water pools ARE chlorine pools! A properly maintained traditional chlorine pool does not cause red eyes, itchy skin and discolored hair, or asthma. Some believe, or have been sold on the cost saving of salt systems, however the repair cost when the salt generator cell goes out, (it lasts about two years on average) results in no cost saving over traditional chlorine pools. The pool pump must be running for the system to generate the chlorine in a salt system, so that runs it out of the “green” arena by a long shot.

  7. Pingback: Ways to Green Your Pool « Green Living

  8. How much salt for an above ground 15ft 42inches? Or Hydrogen peroxide? We want to avoid icky chemicals too! Plus the prices are a rip off!

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  13. Interesting stuff here. I’ve always wanted a pool, but have concerns about the eco-friendliness of having one.

  14. A solar pool cover definitely offers a good amount of savings and a worthwhile investment. We have changed our way of maintaining our pool years ago, no chemicals and our solar cover really makes a difference in keeping the pool water warm and cleaner.

    If you are interested in learning how you can transition to solar energy or incorporate solar energy into your life, check out http://www.solar-energy-advantages-blog.com for a practical approach.

  15. As a swimming pool company sales rep I can tell you that even though we started selling solar pool covers not that long ago – they became popular instantly. And it’s not just about making your home greener – you get to save on your heating costs, since those covers hold the heat in the water all night long.

  16. These are some great ideas both from the comments and article (Thanks guys!). Our family has bought a house with a rather dilapidated pool, and this will definitely be helpful when we renovate it. Does anyone have a basic idea of how much a salt system would be to install vs a UV light one? Both are attractive to me, I hate that chlorine smell. Thanks!

  17. Interesting article however #7

    Isnt adding plant life landscaping going to attract insects?

    Somehow with standing water and then adding plants around it I get visions of West Nile Virus.

    ~Am i wrong?

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