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
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.
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.