What’s Cool for the Pool

A beautiful swimming pool
Residential pools, such as this one built by Athens Pool & Spa, are in high demand to provide entertainment and exercise options while Georgia families spend more time at home.

What’s Cool for the Pool

Butch Burnham is busier than ever these days. The co-owner of Bethlehem-based Crystal Clear Pools & Spas says his company’s services are in demand because people are spending more time at home this year.

“When you can’t take your family on a vacation and you can’t go to the gym, you start thinking about ways to enhance what you have at home,” said Burnham, a 26-year customer-owner of Walton EMC. “For a lot of people, right now, that means building a pool in their backyard.”

Even before this year’s increase in demand, northern Georgia already had many homes with a pool, said Mark Tuggman, owner of Athens Pool & Spa.

“A swimming pool is no longer regarded as just a luxury item,” he said. “It’s now a source of healthy, family entertainment. It extends the home living space outdoors.”

Whether for a new install or an existing pool, in-ground or above-ground, consumers are searching for the same things: the easiest, most efficient way to keep their backyard oasis running smoothly. Area pool company representatives detailed popular technology that can save energy, ease maintenance or improve comfort.

LED Lights

One of the easiest and most practical upgrades you can make to an existing pool is switching to LED lights.

“They are long-lasting, so you don’t have the expense of changing them as often as traditional lights,” Burnham said. Durable LED pool lights can last for well over 20,000 hours and might not need replacing for a decade or more.

LED light bulbs use just 10 percent of the energy to produce the same amount of light as their incandescent equivalents.

Though initially more expensive than halogen or incandescent lights, LED lights use less electricity and save money in the long run. For instance, LED light bulbs use just 10 percent of the energy to produce the same amount of light as their incandescent equivalents.

LED underwater pool lights are available in a variety of colors. Many come with an integrated smartphone app that allows users to easily change colors.

Burnham favors Pentair’s Intellibrite 5G color-changing LED lights. The manufacturer provides an online calculator to help pool owners see how much electricity they can save by using LED lighting. 

There are also submersible LED lights now available for above-ground pools, advised John Thompson, owner of Thompson Swimming Pool Supply in Loganville. You can control the color of the lights and their brightness level with a remote.


Local pools are getting “smarter,” said Tuggman, who is also a Walton EMC customer-owner. Over the last five years, he’s seen a steady increase in the installation of WiFi-enabled products to manage pool care from anywhere at any time.

“You can control everything right from your smartphone,” he said, adding that automation offers the benefits of convenience as well as energy savings. Using an app, you can control the pool’s pump, lights, temperature and cleaners. You can also control other outdoor components such as landscape lighting.

Heat Pump with Chiller

“I have people call me all the time in the summer asking how they can cool off their water,” said Burnham. His suggestion: Install a heat pump with a combination heater/chiller.

A heat pump with a chiller can ensure pool water

is refreshing even on Georgia’s hottest days.

This upgrade can extend the swimming season while also ensuring pool water is refreshing even on Georgia’s hottest days of the year. A chiller is recommended for pools that are 6 feet 6 inches deep or less, have a dark-colored finish, get a lot of sunlight or have an automatic cover.

Tuggman recommends AquaCal heat pumps with a combination heater/chiller. To maximize energy efficiency, the pump must be the correct size. Ask a local pool consultant to visit and make a recommendation before investing in this equipment.

Robotic Pool Cleaner

As more pool owners are making the shift to do-it-yourself care, robotic pool cleaners are gaining in popularity, Thompson said. These cleaners are attractive because they have advanced cleaning features, are easily operated and run independently from the pool’s pump and filter system.

Thompson’s top seller is Dolphin, a brand with strong Georgia ties. The U.S. headquarters for Maytronics, maker of the robotic pool cleaners, is in Duluth. The cleaners are manufactured in Dalton.

“It’s plug and play,” he said, explaining that the robot cleaners he sells require only a 120V electrical outlet (with GFCI) for the power supply.

In addition to being convenient and effective cleaners, the units are energy efficient. Thompson calculates that it costs only 11 cents per day in Walton EMC electricity for a Dolphin cleaner to operate for a three-hour cleaning cycle.

Tuggman cautions consumers about buying Dolphin products online, noting that Maytronics only provides a warranty for units purchased from a certified dealer. There are several dealers in the Walton EMC service area.

Variable-Speed Pump Motor

A swimming pool pump motor is one of the largest consumers of household energy. A variable-speed (VS) motor is an energy-efficient solution. It uses 50 to 75 percent less energy than traditional single-speed motors to pump the same amount of water.

A variable-speed pump motor uses 50 to 75 percent less energy than traditional single-speed motors to pump the same amount of water.

“The VS motor is initially more expensive (than a single speed), but you can save a tremendous amount of electricity,” Tuggman said. He urges consumers to calculate their potential energy savings with the calculator offered by Pentair.

Anyone needing to replace a pump motor this year should make the switch to a VS motor, Tuggman suggested.

“Starting in 2021, manufacturers will no longer be making the single-speed motor, so replacement parts will begin to be harder to get,” he explained.

All of the original pump components can be transferred to the VS motor, so the installation is easy. The wiring for a single-speed motor is also transferable.

He adds that the VS motors also have a longer lifespan, which adds to their value. Another benefit: They can be controlled from a smartphone or tablet, allowing you to choose when the pump operates and at what speed.

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