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Pool heating: give guests an all-year experience at minimum expense

A pool is a huge draw for guests and a selling point for accommodation providers: guests want to enjoy your pool for as much of the year as possible and that is why it makes sense to try to extend its usage well into autumn and early spring if possible.

Pool heating is an additional burden to bear for managers as a swimming pool heating system can be a large initial and on-going investment. This is why it is imperative to consider all factors before going ahead. You should consider your accommodation, its location and your guest’s needs, also the size of your pool and what type and size of heater you need to efficiently heat it. Pools in this industry are used constantly and need to be prepared for swimmers on a moment’s notice. Therefore you will need something that can heat your pool in the most cost-effective way.

We asked John Dixon from Sunbather Australia for his recommendations on what to consider before making a commitment. With over 40 years’ experience, Sunbather has a very strong understanding of what is required when designing a pool heating system. He said, “We start the process with a resort/commercial pool heating audit, this will outline the type of use the pool has, its individual factors that influence the pool temperatures prior to heating and then identify the best solution to meet the needs for this particular swimming pool.”

AMG51-Solar Heating- generic 4This audit gives Sunbather the knowledge to develop a plan to improve the heating performance of the pool with the most cost-efficient system available. “This plan will explore all heating options: solar, gas, electric heat pump and pool covers or a combination of these methods with heating performance graphs, set up costs, running costs and an ROI against the existing heating systems, if applicable,” Mr Dixon explained.

Often accommodation complexes need their pools to be an “all-year experience”, especially in the tropics. Even in climates like Cairns, pools can drop to uncomfortable temperatures during winter and some form of heating is required. In these cases, solar might be the most popular option.

However, if having a discreet heating unit is a priority for your swimming pool, one that blends into the landscape, you might want something more compact than solar panels fixed to the top of your lawn or roof. In this case there are a handful of different swimming pool heating options.

One option is to use a gas-powered heating system. This type of swimming pool heating system will work quickly to heat all of your pool water by using propane gas to heat the interior chamber that contains copper wires. The water is pushed over these copper wires during which time it heats up quickly and efficiently. Of course, the downside is that you need to invest in new gas every month and with higher costs for gas, this is not necessarily a sustainable option.

Another option is a geothermal pump. This is a pump that pulls heat from water. There are also air pumps that operate in the same fashion, taking heat out of the air around your pool to heat the water within the pool.

AMG51-Solar Heating Generic 1“Where we don’t have conditions that are suitable for solar pool heating, mostly due to a lack of available roof area, we look at alternative heaters. Heat pumps have become popular in recent years due to imported products reducing purchase costs, however the selection is critical to the performance. When the weather cools off, there is less heat in the air to draw from, so the performance can suffer if undersized, this is where we spend time computerising the performance chart to ensure we get the result specified,” Mr Dixon clarified.

According to Mr Dixon, swimming pool water at 28⁰- 30⁰C is the preferred relaxing temperature and the beauty of this in a place like Queensland is that the sunniest months are the cooler months therefore solar pool heating is most often a great solution, either stand-alone system or as a supplement for a fossil fuel heaters like gas or electric heat pumps.

Gas heating is undoubtedly the fastest performing pool heating system, but Mr Dixon agreed that it comes at a running cost. He said, “We would choose a gas heater for ‘heat on-demand’ quick heating up for occasions, weekends and public holidays etc, and it is ideal for spas as well. Solar pool heating and gas are perfect partners where solar is set up as the primary heating source and gas used to quickly bolster pool temperatures when needed.”

The running cost of fossil fuel heaters must be a consideration with energy costs constantly rising. With larger resort pool this can run into many tens of thousands for dollars per year, not to mention the cost to the environment.

AMG51-Solar Heating generic 2“Solar pool heating certainly has the mantle of the green heating system, using the suns natural heat to power the roof mounted heat exchanger, it’s extremely efficient and unbelievably cheap to run with the use of a small thermostatically controlled pump,” Mr Dixon added.

Pool covers are a game-changer for cost-effective pool heating and remember they are now part of the Australian Building Code for gas and electric heat pumps. By pulling the covers over the pool at night, up to 50 per cent of thermal losses can be cut as well as reducing water evaporation and minimising chemical use.

Mr Dixon added, “At Sunbather we have had much success with thermal pool covers rather than the bubble type covers, the reason being that the R-value (thermal insulation) for thermal covers are nearly twice that of bubble covers, this equals a substantial saving of both heat and dollars.”

All these products have unique benefits to the end user, each particular pool should be assessed and a pool heating and cover solution should be developed. The gravest mistake a property manager can make is to just commit in a generic heater for their pool. It is always a necessity to call in the experts, seek their advice and create a plan that works for you, your guests, the environment and your budget.


Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke is managing editor at Multimedia Publishing.

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