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If you own a swimming pool you know the joys associated with it. You may use it to teach your children to swim, hold an annual neighborhood party, or spend endless romantic evenings with a loved one. Regardless of what you’ve used it for, swimming pools are always better when the water is just a little bit warmer. There are a variety of ways to keep your pool warm and each comes with its own pros, cons, and costs.
Swimming Pool Gas Heaters
Gas heaters are more popular in places with colder climates. They are powered by either propane or natural gas, heat water faster than other methods, and work better in low temperatures than heat pumps. A gas heater may sound like the ideal heater, but there are some drawbacks.
While they may be incredibly efficient at heating water, gas heaters are the least energy efficient option. Since energy efficiency dramatically impacts the cost of running a pool heater, gas heaters can cost anywhere between $300 and $500 per month to operate. Before you decide monthly cost isn’t an problem, it’s also important to note that gas heaters have a lifespan of about 5 years before they need replacing, which adds another $1500 to $2000 to the cost.
Air-Source Heat Pumps
In contrast to gas pool heaters, air-source heat pumps offer an energy efficient way to heat your pool water. Air-source heat pumps operate by transferring heat from the air to the water by way of a coil filled with a refrigerant fluid such as freon. This energy efficient process generally costs about $50 to $150 per month to operate, and the unit itself can last up to 20 years with proper maintenance. As a high efficiency option, air-source heat pumps are also more environmentally friendly than gas heaters.
Water-Source (Geothermal) Heat Pumps
A fairly new technology, geothermal heat pumps operate by transferring heat from water sources such as lakes, wells, and ponds to swimming pool water, by way of an evaporator coil. Geothermal heat pumps are very energy efficient, have a very long lifespan, are environmentally friendly, can be installed indoors or outdoors, and can also be used to heat the water in your home. While geothermal heat pumps sound like the best solution for heating a pool, they do come with a heavy initial price tag, which involves digging a large well if water source isn’t available, and running long water lines.
An Affordable Solar Blanket
Using a solar blanket is one of the most common ways of heating a pool, either on its own or in addition to another heat source. A solar blanket uses the heat from the sun to warm pool water and reduce the amount evaporation, which is a major reason for heat loss. As there are no associated monthly costs, solar blankets are affordable and environmentally friendly pool heating options. When combined with other heating methods a solar blanket will offset it’s own initial cost in no time by increasing the efficiency of a gas heater, heat pump, or another heating source. Depending on wear and tear, a solar blanket can last up to 20 years before it needs replacing.
The Joy of Warm Pool Water
Whether you want to spend a lot or very little on heating your pool, increasing the average water temperature makes swimming, and spending time with family and friends that much more enjoyable. At the very least a solar blanket can provide limited heating at a fairly low cost, while a gas heat pump provides an expensive but fast heating option.
What Does Your Pool Deck Say About You?
Once you’ve decided on the type and size of your pool, the next important decision is what type of decking you want to put around it. There are many material options to consider that will impact on the look and feel of your backyard oasis. Factors such as cost, usage, size, and appearance are all important to consider when designing and building your deck. Regardless of the type of material you decide on, getting the size right from the beginning is ideal. In terms of materials and construction costs, it’s cheaper to add square footage during the initial construction than later on. You’ll also avoid issues that arise with matching material colors and patterns.
Standard Stamped Concrete
Stamped concrete is exactly what it sounds like, it’s concrete that’s stamped or textured to look like patterned stone. Stamped concrete is ideal if you want to match the look of any house colour or texture, and can be patterned to create a less slippery surface. Pricing will vary depending on the size, amount of labour involved, and the complexity of the design.
Don’t Forget to Brush
Another affordable pool deck finish is brushed concrete. Like stamped concrete it pretty much describes itself and is a fairly affordable option. Basically, concrete is poured and then as it dries is manipulated with brooms, brushes, sponges, trowels, and other tools to create a slip-free textured finish.
Elegant Flagstone Pool Decking
Flagstone creates a very beautiful natural look and is a popular design element for gardens, walkways, and pool decks. With a fair selection of natural colours available, flagstone can work with just about any colour scheme or design. A Flagstone finish can provide an elegant and high-end look that completes the natural design of your backyard paradise. It has natural anti-slip properties with a slightly rough, but not abrasive, texture.
The downside of flagstone is the material and installation costs. It’s fairly labor intensive to install, and because it’s a porous stone it requires a sealant to protect it from pool chemicals and other spills. Additionally, darker shades of flagstone can become quite hot in the sun over the course of a day and could lead to mild burns on your feet.
Exposed Style, Exposed Aggregate
Like flagstone, an exposed aggregate finishing has a natural looking finish. It involves pouring a concrete base and then topping it with small gravel or crushed stone. The crushed stone top is then washed to expose the many colors and shapes in the little crushed rocks, while creating a light texture. Exposed aggregate is a very affordable option for poolside decking because of its simple installation and affordable materials. While it has a very complementary and natural look, exposed aggregate can be hard on the feet and can heat up just like flagstone.
Wood is one of the most affordable and easy options for completing a pool deck. If you have the necessary skills, you can avoid contractor costs and have all the materials delivered to your home. Wood is fairly easy to manipulate and can be customized to work in almost any situation. Although the initial cost of wood is lower, its main drawbacks are the side effects of exposing it to water over time. Continued exposure to the elements, and constant soaking and drying around the pool can lead to warping, cracking, and rotting. The lifespan of wood is limited in comparison to other decking options, and can lead to short-term issues like termite infestations. There are more expensive options like wood composite, which is a combination of wood fiber and recycled plastic, that will last much longer.
Generally, the type of decking you put around your pool and throughout your yard is your choice, but knowing the options, and the benefits and pitfalls of each option is essential to making an educated decision.
A Short History of Swimming Pools
Swimming pools are places of congregation, relaxation, and competition. They’re popular venues where people cool off on hot summer days, learn to swim, and compete for records and titles. Swimming pools are generally monitored by lifeguards and are safer than lakes, rivers, and oceans, and are used by people of all ages. Generally, it’s no secret what a swimming pool is and what it’s used for, but does everyone know who built the first swimming pool, where it was located, and what some of the largest pools in the world are?
Taking A “Great Bath”
According to archaeologists, a pool known as the “Great Bath”, located in Pakistan was most likely the first swimming pool ever built. Dating back to the third millenium BC, this 39 ft x 23 ft pool was built with small bricks and a tar-like sealer to help it hold water. Cleverly engineered, the Great Bath featured staircases for entry points on two sides and a hole for emptying the water. More recently, Ancient Greeks and Romans constructed artificial pools to serve a variety of functions such as athletic training, nautical games, and even military exercises. The Romans are also responsible for building the first artificially heated pool.
Building Indoor Pools
Indoor pools in Great Britain increased in popularity in the 19th century. As early as 1837, indoor pools were built throughout London, and swimming clubs followed shortly thereafter. As pool popularity grew, races, diving contests, and water polo matches soon became commonplace in London pools.
When the modern Olympics Games were introduced to the world in 1896 and included swimming races among the events, the rest of the world began to take note and the popularity of pools blossomed. As overall Olympic popularity grew among nations, the number of public pools worldwide grew as well. In colder nations and places with cold seasons, indoor pools were constructed to cater to year round recreational use and training. Outdoor pools were still popular in cold regions, but have led to the need for winterization procedures to avoid costly damage from the cold.
Records & Notable Pools
The largest swimming pool in the world, according to Guinness World Records, is located in Algarrobo, Chile. Completed in 2006, the San Alfonso del Mar seawater pool measures 3223 ft long, 11 ft at its deepest, and covers an area of 20 acres.
The West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada holds the record for the largest indoor wave pool, while the overall largest indoor pool is located in Houston, TX at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.
When it comes to heated pools, the Fleichhacker Pool in San Francisco, CA holds the record for the largest one ever. Opened in 1925, this saltwater pool was so large that lifeguards originally used Kayaks to patrol the waters. Sadly, it closed in 1971 due to low attendance.
General Swimming Pool Usage
While swimming pools have been used for everything from military and space training, to Olympic training, pools are also used recreationally to teach children and adults to swim. Since the increase in pool popularity the costs of pool installation has dropped, and the appearance of private backyard pools has drastically increased. Private pools are commonly used to host parties, birthdays, and family gatherings.
Private swimming pools add additional work and home maintenance, but the density of pool ownership in neighborhoods has led to private companies offering services to open, close, and maintain pools. Swimming pool maintenance companies are essential in providing time for owners to enjoy the water and sun with their friends and families.