Man covering a pool. Source: iStock
Keeping energy costs down can be a challenge when you’ve got a backyard pool! And when you add heating costs into the mix, your quarterly energy bills can be eye-popping! But there are clever ways to reduce pool energy costs in winter – even with inflation and rising electricity costs. Some are free, such as using a pool cover or turning off water features, while others involve the purchase of energy-saving equipment. Either way, you’ll be able to keep energy costs down and still enjoy the health and lifestyle benefits of having a backyard pool.
Reduce the running time of your pool pump
Pools don’t get as much use in winter (unless you live in Cairns or Darwin), which means that your pool pump can run for shorter periods of time. For example, instead of running your pump for 8–10 hours a day, or even 24 hours, run it for 4–6 hours. Depending on your pump capacity and pool size, this should be enough to circulate the water, filter small debris and distribute pool chemicals. To calculate the best running time for your pool size, see this article.
Top tip: Run your pool pump during off peak hours.
Aim the pool jets toward your skimmers
To minimise the use of your pool pump and cleaner, aim the pool jets at your skimmer/s. This will create a circular current that pushes leaves, debris and insects to your skimmer baskets in a fraction of the time. What’s more, by fitting a skimmer sock in the basket, you’ll be able to remove the debris before it gets to your pool filter. Not only will this reduce the amount of backwashing (which can flush out warm water!), but it can also increase the longevity of your pool equipment.
Pool jets. Source: iStock
Run your pool pump during off-peak times
With energy prices skyrocketing, it can be hard to justify running a pool pump in winter. However, if you run it in the evening, during off-peak times, you could pay less than if you run it in the day. Check your provider’s off-peak times and tariffs and program your pool pump to operate during those hours. If you’re worried about waking up the neighbours, use an acoustic cover and/or switch to a quieter variable speed pump.
Top tip: If you’re still not getting the savings you want, consider switching electricity plans. There are plenty of comparison sites online that can help you find an energy plan to suit your needs and budget.
Turn off or limit the use of water features
Water features can add a soothing and natural ambience to your garden, but if you’re not using your pool, they could be wasting energy. In winter, consider turning them off or using a timer to limit their use (preferably when people are using the pool). When you keep them on all the time, it can increase evaporation and cool the pool water. This can lead to frequent top-ups, unbalanced water chemistry and longer heating times – increasing your energy costs further.
Turn off pool lights or switch to LED pool lights
If you really want to save money in winter, turn off your pool lights. You won’t be spending as much time outside in the evenings, so you won’t miss them. However, if you still want to entertain or swim at night, switch to LED pool lights. They last five times longer than halogen lights and only use 7–20 watts per hour. Halogen lights, on the other hand, use 35–500 watts per hour. For even more savings, use a timer to avoid leaving them on all night.
Insulate pool pipework
If you’ve got an above-ground pool, your plumbing may be exposed to temperature fluctuations. As a result, the heated water will cool faster than it would if your pipes were underground. To counteract this, consider adding insulation foam, rubber or tape to exposed pipework. This can also prevent freezing if you live in a cool climate, where overnight temperatures can often reach below zero.
Use a pool cover
If you’ve got a pool cover, consider using it more often in winter. Late leaf falls and storms can introduce debris that can overwork your pool pump and cleaner. They can also unbalance your pool water, leading to chemical adjustments and frequent shocking, which require lengthy water circulation. By covering your pool when it’s not in use, you can reduce debris, evaporation and chlorine depletion, saving you hundreds in energy costs.
If you also want to reduce pool heating costs, consider using a solar pool cover. In addition to maintaining the temperature of your pool water, it has air bubble pockets that trap heat and transfers it to the pool water. This can raise the temperature by up to 8 degrees Celsius, meaning you won’t need to run your heater for as long – or heat your pool water from scratch after a chilly night.
Winterise your pool
One of the easiest ways of reducing energy costs is by closing your pool in winter. This doesn’t mean turning off your pool filter, covering your pool and forgetting about it until spring (unless you want a rude shock when you peel away the cover!). To close your pool properly, you’ll need to use a winter mesh cover, run your pool pump for shorter times, reduce the output of your salt chlorinator (if you have one) and add winterising chemicals.
This will help you save money on pool heating, pool cleaning and balancing your pool water every week. In fact, you’ll only need to do the bare minimum to keep your pool water circulated and algae-free until spring or summer. For more instructions on closing your pool, see How to Winterise Your Pool.
Upgrade to a variable-speed pool pump
While the upfront cost of a variable-speed pool pump is high (about $800 –$2,000), it can cut your energy bills by up to 90 per cent. This could save you hundreds on energy costs each year – and you’re likely to recoup your costs within a year or two. What’s more, shops often run sales during winter, so you’ll probably find a bargain during this time. If you can, choose a pool pump with a high energy rating. The higher the better!
Top tip: If you don’t have the budget for a variable-speed pool pump, upgrade your single-speed pool pump with a controller or converter. Not only is it cheaper (about half the price), but it reduces the power input of your traditional pump and provides similar energy savings to a variable-speed pump.
Use a pool heat pump
If you plan to use your pool during winter, choose an energy-efficient heater, like a pool heat pump. Unlike a gas pool heater, which generates instant heat, a pool heat pump draws heat from the air and transfers it to your pool water. While it takes longer to heat your pool (about 24–72 hours, depending on the size of the pool and the climate), it can save you hundreds on energy bills each year. When choosing a pool heat pump, make sure it has a high COP (coefficient of performance) rating to get the most savings.
Top tip: To reduce heating costs further, put your pool heat pump on a timer, lower the temperature of the water and use a solar cover to conserve heat.
Upgrade to solar pool heating
While solar pool heating can be expensive to set up, ongoing energy savings make it a worthwhile investment. Unlike traditional pool heating, a solar system uses strip/ribbon or panel collectors on your roof to absorb heat and channel it into your pool. Because you’re using the sun – a natural resource – the only expense is the pump that runs it, which can cost you as little as $1 a day. In most cases, your pool pump will have the capacity and flow rate to run your solar heating, but if it doesn’t, you may need a booster pump.
Note: Before choosing a pool solar heater, seek advice from a solar heating specialist to make sure your roof type, orientation and climate are suited to solar pool heating. In some cases, low ambient temperatures and shady roofs can make solar pool heating ineffective.
Strip solar pool panels. Source: Sunbather
It’s no secret that swimming pools can be expensive to run and maintain in winter, but you can minimise those costs by adopting energy-saving habits. While some require upfront costs, others are cheap or cost nothing to implement. But one thing is certain – the more use, the more you save! So here’s a quick summary of how to reduce pool energy costs: