There are several ‘levels’ in automating a pool and the first step is to simply decide what you are trying to achieve. Is it more free time? Better quality, healthier water that does not go green? Energy savings? Elimination of dangerous chemicals from around the house, kids and pets? Getting rid of the regular ‘pool guy?”
Here are some general categories of available systems and what you might expect.
Intelligent Automation is a new concept which is rapidly gaining traction and delivers the highest performance. It does not require you to change any of your existing pool equipment and is a control and sensing layer that is added ‘on top’ of your existing pool equipment converting it from ‘dumb’ to intelligent in about 1 hour. This uses sensors and an Intelligent Pool Controller at the pool, supported by ‘intelligence’ and weather information in the Internet Cloud to optimise pool performance. The intelligence responds to the amount of pool use, the water chemistry, the weather, the forecast, the sunshine on your solar panels, and the energy use by the pool, which is often as much as 40% of the whole house.
Intelligent automation delivers the best quality, healthiest water, dramatically reduces your electricity and chemical use and manages the water chemistry automatically. You should not have to touch your pool or add chemicals for 6 months at a time. You do however, still have to remove leaves. You also get pool monitoring via a Smartphone App and the ability to override the automation and control heaters, sweeps etc. and optionally switch the pool lights and other equipment.
Since Intelligent Automation does not require you to change your pool equipment, it is by far the least expensive option up front: – about $330, but does require you to be part of an on-going Internet based service.
Product Orientated Automation
If you prefer a product orientated approach to achieve a High level of Automation, you will generally need to swap out old-style chlorinators for sensor-based ones, add automatic acid feeders, add sensors, possibly swap the pump for a multi-speed pump and purchase a central Control Unit. This is available from several vendors and has the overall objective of automating the water chemistry. Depending on your starting point, these systems can cost from $3,000 to $8,000. They will deliver high quality water with some chemical and possibly some energy savings, but will still require the regular monitoring of water chemistry with the manual top-up of Buffer, Stabiliser, Calcium Lifter and Acid. These chemicals are not required with the Intelligent Automation Systems that require a chemical top-up of about half a shoe-box, every 6 months. For High Automation, you should go to a pool shop that specialises in it and not attempt to do it yourself or necessarily get the local pool technician as it can be quite specialised.
Medium Automation means that you should get superior quality water but do more work yourself. Medium Automation is available from many pool shops and is some combination of the products that are used in the High Automation area, but without the central Control Unit. At a minimum, you need a sensor-based chlorinator and acid feeder. This will generally cost about $2,000 installed.
Basic Automation means a time-clock and an automatic chlorinator. If you do this, you really need to test the pool and manually trim pH and other chemicals, once a week in most pools. If you do this, consider a salt chlorinator. Some 92% of Australian pools have them as they are better, less expensive and you do not have to lug large containers of liquid chlorine every few weeks. But please do not get a small cheap one. If you do, you will have to run the pool for very long hours in summer to get sufficient chlorine.
For Intelligent Pool Automation, try www.pooledenergy.com. For Product based automation, try www.Astral.com.au or www.pentair.com.au or www.zodiac.com.au . For salt chlorination, consider Watermaid, Astral and Zodiac.