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Thread: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Canada

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    FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Canada

    We were running our swimming pool until January 11th!

    And sometimes ran our pool to 100 degees F (hot tub mode) on some days!

    And this is here in Canada. That said, we've got a Zone 7 climate, so a bit more temperate, but still a feat I'm told.

    Pic taken January 4th, 2016:
    Water Temperature: 97F -- notice the steam


    Pic taken January 9th, 2016:
    Water Temperature: 97F -- notice the steam


    (Earlier in the season) September 27th


    (Earlier in season, fog example) Pool toy shows laser rays through the steam of high pool temperature in cold weather


    Our natural gas bill, lower than expected

    Note: It was, indeed, an unusually warm December, but... still lower than expected. (We ran some weekends, not continuously -- so we let the pool cool down when dormant for a week, and resumed hot-tub mode later via a long heat-up)

    Summertime image showing our relatively unusual (for Canada) foilage.
    foilage.jpg
    (earlier summer time image)
    About the redwood tree: We've even tentatively traced it to Connon Nursuries, an Ontario tree nursery that's been around for over 100 years, and been selling these trees for a long time as well:
    About the japanese maple tree: It got removed from the backyard later due to poor tree health, so not pictured in more recent photos.

    January 2016 poolside snow, below-freezing temperature -- toasty steaming-hot 95F hottubbed pool.

    (snow, snow!)
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    I'm adding this thread since I seem to be our neighborhood's Physics 101 expert in thermal management of our outdoor backyard swimming pool. We have a swimming pool in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada which is a Zone 7 climate. Friends have asked how I did it so I've decided to post here, and link them to this thread, so they know how I kept running the pool so late into the season.

    Important Note

    Natural gas prices varies quite a lot from territory to territory. What may be affordable in one territory may not be affordable in another territory. However, these tips will dramatically lower costs. Different heating systems (heatpump, solar, insulated plumbing versus uninsulated plumbing) will create different results. Regardless, these tips are is useful if you want a single "Swimming As Hot Tub Weekend", or want to extend your pool season by 2 months (or heaven forbid, even running year round without a pool winterization!)

    These instruction assumes natural gas heating, but similar behavior will occur with other types of heaters such as propane.

    To keep budget simple, you can hottub the pool for only 2 weekends a month (4 swimming days/6 swimming nights). That's not terribly expensive at all, if managed properly. Or you have a 1-week Christmas vacation as a staycation, and you decide to run the pool hot for the whole time. Done properly, with proper thermal management techniques, this is still far cheaper than the airfare for 1 person, to a tropical locale.

    Thermal Management Of Swimming Pool

    When Running Hot, Always Cover The Pool When Not In Use
    Always have an easy-to-roll-unroll thermal blanket on the ready. Cover the pool whenever the pool is not in use. That means our pool stays covered for ~21 hours a day. Use as efficient thermal blanket you can afford, that's still easy to roll-unroll. Ours is single-layer bubble foam type pool blanket, but double-layer is even better.

    Minimize Ground Cooling Effect On Pipes
    - Our pool plumbing is in-ground and uninsulated but if you're lucky to still be doing installation, or have above-ground plumbing, INSULATE THE PIPES!!!!!
    - Always turn OFF pool pump when turning OFF heater. This minimizes time of water circulation through cold ground.
    - Ground cooling effect will be most intense for the first day (heater efficiency reduced) until ground warmed up. Then easier to maintain.
    - Avoid inefficient thermostat cycling (especially if using uninsulated in-ground plumbing)
    - Always run heater at full throttle (especially if using uninsulated in-ground plumbing) and turn off at target temperature.

    Give the natgas heater lots of air
    Our natgas heater is inside a pool shed, and it performs better when well-ventilitated. We kept the poolshed window open a crack (half an inch). More oxygen, more flame, more heat.

    Turn Off Pool Pump When Not Heating: KEEP WATER STATIONARY!!! !!! !!! !!! !!!
    The ground cools-down the water, especially with uninsulated plumbing. Imagine running heater, then air conditioner, then heater, then air conditioner, then heater, etc. You want to avoid that inefficiency. You don't need to filter 24 hours a day for a healthy pool. So, TURN OFF THE POOL PUMP whenever you turn off the heater. Prevent circulation through cold pipes that "air condition" the water.

    Always Heat At Full Throttle, Don't Use Thermostat
    This assumes you've got ordinary thermostat cycling (pool pumps keeps running while heater cycles) rather than true variable heating. Set thermostat to maximum, and always heat full throttle. Once you're at or beyond target temperature, turn off the heater (or right after you are finished swimming). Heat at the fastest speed you can. Minimize time of water circulation through cold pipes that "air condition" the water.

    Keep Your Pool Shed Warm (aka above freezing)
    Whatever shed you use to run your pool pump and pool heater, should be an enclosed space where you are able to run a small heater in, e.g. 400 watt electric heater -- to make sure no freezing occurs on below-freezing nights. Use a heater that's appropriate for your shed. Ours is a fully electrified dry room, as an old converted 1920s brick garage now converted to a pool shed / change room / workshop -- but your shed might be a garden shack. In this case, you may need to use an outdoor-rated heater. (Adding insulation to an uninsulated pool shed will make a difference, if you're able to do that) You just need to keep it above freezing, not necessarily room temp, and you only need a few hundred watts in most cases, and don't need a 1600 watt fire hazard.

    Surviving Unusually Cold Nights
    We had to run our swimming pool through a -15C night. In this case, we strategically left the pool heater on during nighttime, and turned off in the morning after a morningtime swim. Also, we have a space heater inside the pool shed that has a lower-temp mode (400 watt) which is plenty enough. There are also wall-mounted low-wattage heaters, we have purchased one which we will install for next year to keep the pool shed above-zero. On cold days it is still safe to turn off the pool pump for several hours because the ground has spent quite a lot of time being heated up by hot water in the pipes, that it's going to take several days for the ground to freeze over and start being worrisome to the pipes. This is usually not a risk factor unless you turned off the pool, or if you've got over-the-ground plumbing. Just don't keep the pool pump turned off for 2 days nonstop during below-freezing temperatures. If this bothers you, install a digital thermometer in strategic locations in the ground where your in-ground plumbing is -- and put the remote thermostat displays in the pool shed. That way, you can monitor ground temperatures, and you know it's safe to keep your pump turned off for 12 hours, etc. We don't do this, and don't feel we need to do this, but we mention it, if you're worried about freezing pipes.

    Safety: Do Not Let It Get Too Hot
    For the human body, of course. Our pool temperature record is 103F when we accidentally forgot to turn off the heater; it plateaued at that temperature (thermal loss balancing out thermal gain). That felt lovely, but was somewhat dangerously hot for dips longer than 15-30 minutes. We recommend no higher than approximately 93-98F, depending on air temperatures. 95F felt lovely to float in for 2 hours with the ambient air above the pool sometimes below freezing. The majority of the, however, was always above 0 though, and got colder towards Jan 11.

    Get Familiar With Speed Of Heating
    Our heater is able to heat up 20,000 gallons (75,000 liters) at between 0.5F to 2.0F per hour, depending on how cold the ground is. If you heat at full throttle, it will accelerate in heating as the ground warms up, then decelerate in heating as heat losses start to increase at higher temperatures, until it hits an equilibrium of sorts. I have now generally used the guideline of 1F/hour. So if my water is 85F and I want to start a pool dinner party, then I turn on the heater 10 hours in advance to heat it back up to the desired hot-tub-style temperature.

    85F-90F feels too cold when air is only 32F
    Heat it to 95F instead. We've found it feels toasty warm even when the air above is below freezing. Like a norwegian spa. We've even had snow around the swimming pool while we jumped into the hot, toasty swimming pool. Hottubbing the pool feels good in the late fall / winter.


    Useful Tips

    Use Pool Lighting!
    Fall and winter birngs shorter daylight hours. Put up some lights to pretty the yard up, so it doesn't look like a depressing cave. Get some lighted pool toys and poolside lighting (e.g. PLAYBULB Candle or PLAYBULB Garden), etc

    It's still cheaper than buying a hottub
    You can do this trick only 2 or 3 weekends a year, and it's still cheaper than buying a hot tub.

    If you only swim fall/winter weekends, let your water slowly cool midweek
    Once your hottub 95F weekend is finished, let the pool slowly cool off but not too much. Run the heater full throttle intermittently for a few hours every other day to keep the water at a 75F-ish temperature (70-80F). This keeps the ground warm to keep the pool as insulated from cooling down fast. (We find if we let the pool cooldown to 50-60F, it's a lot more effort to heat it right back up again... Do the full cooldown only if running dormant for 2 weeks between hottub temps) Once the weekend approaches, run heater to heat it up to your desired target temperature (e.g. 95F).

    Turn Heater Back On Strategically
    If you know you're going to swim mainly in the evenings, then turn off the heater right after you're finished, keep heater off during the night and restart heater at the appropriate moment the next day (see "Get Familiar With Speed Of Heating"). Likewise, if you mainly swim in the mornings, turn the heater at nighttime and let it run overnight. [IMPORTANT: Make sure your pool heater/furnace is designed for unattended operation, with autoshutoff if water flow stops, and you comply with laws of your territory]

    Calculate how much it costs per hour
    1. During a warmer day when you're not using gas (furnace off, no cooking)
    2. Read your natgas meter.
    3. Turn on your pool heater at full throttle for exactly X hours.
    4. Read your natgas meter again.
    5. Subtract the two values (value from 4 minus the value from 2)
    6. Divide this value by X (hours you ran the heater).
    7. Now you know the volume per hour of your heater in actual practice (actual, not rated). e.g. N cubic meters per hour.
    8. Get your gas bill. Divide the price by the volume. Now you know the price per specific unit of volume (e.g. 15 cents per cubic meter).
    9. Multiply the two values together, and you've got DOLLARS PER HOUR cost of your pool heater.

    NOTE: In our experience, running the swimming pool as a hottub, cost less than $100 per weekend. The unusually warm December weather helped a lot, but towards the end of the Xmas vacation time period, there were some nights with very cold freezing temperatures, we had to get through. It's worth it for a party weekend.

    Running The Pool Dormant Between Weekends / Or For Weeks
    We were very busy in the Fall, so we left our pool unused for more than 2 weeks. Don't forget your chemical management -- especially your chlorine, so you avoid the accidental petri dish effect the moment you start heating up the pool. Maintain your pool chem levels even if you're not using it for weeks, before starting the pool back up during Halloween / Thanksgiving / Christmas Vacation / Etc. Then running the pool in hot tub mode is relatively painless.

    Minimize Time Water Is Circulating In Uninsulated In-Ground Plumbing
    With uninsulated plumbing, the name of the game is keeping the pool as hot as possible, while mimizing the amount of time water is circulating through the pipes (due to cold ground). That means heating at full throttle, and always turning off the pool pump whenever turning off the heater. Do not rely on common thermostat cycling to maintain pool temperature. Less time for ground cooling effect.

    Keep Heating Contiguous Where Possible
    It's more efficient to heat for 8 hours nonstop, than four separate 2 hour boosts of heating. This is for several reasons, including the cooldowns that occurs in between, as well as the fact that it takes time for ground cooling on in-ground pipes to disappear on uninsulated plumbing while the heater is on. (i.e. heating is not very efficient because the ground has cooled down around the in-ground pipes ... and it takes time for the ground to warm up as heated water circulates through in-ground plumbing). This varies by pool setup to pool setup, but generally a large burst is far better than many shorter bursts.

    Get An Easy Pool Cover
    If handling pool cover is a hassle, get something better, or strategically adjust it to make it easier. One with a much easier roll-out-roll-in operation. Ours is just simple bubble foam with a simple aluminum roller, but our pool is also rectangular so it keeps things simple. The roller is at the end of the deep section, so we're able to easily pull it in out like a blinds roller. On cold nights, we are able to pull the bubble foam cover while still swimming in the pool, getting out of the pool only after we've pulled the cover up to our heads up to the shallow end like a bed blanket! That way you can keep the heat in.

    Protecting Pool During Vacation
    For us, this was one wintertime exception to running the pump without the heater. We have to prevent the pipes from freezing. If you're going to stop swimming for 2 weeks (e.g. vacation), it's best to just let it fully cool down without midweek boosts and you can run the pool pump unheated. The good news is that in the cold season, pool will fall to 40-50F rather easily, and sit pretty sparkling clear for even two or three weeks with just only a good initial boost of chlorine and chem balancing (basically a temp mini-winterization). We kept the heater off, and just let our pool pump run 24/7 with pool cover, but comfort of running pool pump unattended varies from pool to pool, and pump to pump. Use a pretty safe thermostat-operated heater (e.g. baseboard, or wallpanel heater, etc) in the shed to prevent the pool equipment from freezing up. If you have a diverter (we now have one) to bypass the pool heater, empty the water from the pool heater, so you don't have to worry about water freezing inside the pool heater upon electrical failures, etc.

    Thermos Effect: Slowest Thermal Loss
    The moment of slowest thermal loss is a covered pool with the pump turned off, in ground that's already warm (e.g. pool's been heated for days typically means the ground is already warmed up). Thermal loss was sometimes as little as 1F overnight if the ground was warm! In practice, it's about a 5F thermal loss (5 hours to reheat to target), and about 10F after really cold below-freezing nights. (10 hours to reheat to target).


    Mistakes to Avoid

    Avoid The Petri Dish Effect: Don't heat with near-zero chlorine!
    CHLORINATE PROPERLY! I discovered there is a petri dish effect if you run the heater to high temps without first chlorinating the water properly. If you left your pool dormant, and let chlorine get very low, then chlorinate first! A mistake I made one weekend in the past, turning on heater overnight at maximum throttle, without first checking chlorine level. Ooops. You should always check chlorine levels before turning on the heater. Cold water tends to stay clear with very little or no chlorine for a long time. But as soon as the water is heated up, you create ideal temperatures for growth of algae/bacteria -- like a petri dish. One time, we witnessed very, very fast clouding that occurs in mere hours (instant overnight clouding) that was time consuming to treat and fix. Not "bloom"; it was "KABOOM". Petri dish. You definitely should also steer towards hob-tub recommended levels of chlorination, if you run at hot-tub temperatures. Definitely get a proper test kit (TF100 etc) and manage your chlorine, but definitely use higher chlorine levels at the 90F-100F range than when running the pool at common swimming temps (70F-80F). Hot tubs recommend higher levels than a swimming pool, so I went with those guideline, and it works well. Other than that, I used pool-style chem management, just with a higher desired chlorine target level.

    Do Not Leave Pool Uncovered Overnight / And When Not In Use
    Bye bye $$$, ten-dollar-bills dollars flying away from just one night of accidentally forgetting to cover up. Pool cooling down fast, especially during cold windy nights. Ten or twenty of dollars fly out of the window when you do this. Keep the cover on the pool when not in use. It really, really saves tons of money keeping the heat in, with a good insulating cover. The thicker the better, even one of those thicker inflatable covers with air between two bubblewrap-style layers rather than one, though the thicker the more difficult it is to do the "cover-every-after-swim" habit. Even a single layer of bubble foam is vastly better than nothing -- and that's what we have.
    We often kept the pool covered 21 hours a day between swimming everyday during our Xmas staycation. (we ran hottub temps every evening Jan 1 thru Jan 10, after we returned to town ... so it was paramount to protect the warmth when not in use)

    Running Pool Pump Without Heater (Thru Cold Ground) For Extended Periods Is Like Running An Air Conditioner
    Especially uninsulated plumbing. The cold winter ground cools down the water really fast. The water at the nozzles/jets will gradually cool down, and in about 5-10 minutes (After turning off heater) feel colder than the pool itself. So you're now running an air conditoner to cool down your pool fast. So, TURN OFF THE POOL PUMP when you turn off the heater! Anyway, you only need to run filtration for few hours a day on a healthy pool, it's not needed 24/7. If your goal is thermal management (aka "keeping a pool hot as cheap as possible"), turn off pool pump when you turn off the heater! Turn pool pump OFF whenever not heating. And always heat full throttle. The general rule of thumb is to simultaneously turn on/off both (heater and pool pump).

    Wasteful To Keep Pool Hot On Weekdays If You Swim Only Weekends
    There's no need to keep the pool at 95F during weekdays if you're only swimming weekends. Let the pool cool down slowly, but don't let the ground get too cold. If you're swimming the next weekend, then a few midweek boosts of full-throttle heating is all you need (e.g. keep pool above 70F-ish between weekends if you plan to swim on the next weekend) to prevent the ground from getting too cold again and prevent pipe-cooling effects from getting too intense. Don't bother doing this (except for frozen-pipe prevention) if you're skipping a weekend (e.g. 2+ weeks between swim weekends). Once you're ready to start a swim weekend, do one sustained big boost of a heating up (beginning Thursday or Friday) for Friday-Saturday-Sunday swims. Much cheaper on the natgas bill.
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

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    Mod Squad Patrick_B's Avatar
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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    This wouldn't be possible in my situation. Not for that kind of money, so good for you!
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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Mdrejhon, I live in West Michigan (but hail originally from Ontario). That's quite a feat you've pulled off, ahem, in the name of science

    My equipment is also located in a heated pool house. Presently, I close the third week in October.
    When we bought the house, it was a foreclosure, but we eventually tracked down the original (not the foreclosed) owners who built the pool. They had told me that in winter they often didn't actually "close" the pool...I had originally taken that to mean they didn't drain the equipment...which is in fact a hassle since its in a finished pool house.

    But your post now has me wondering...and debating

    I do have a hot tub, so don't really "need" to heat the pool as you do...but would love to swim year round.

    I've looked at domes, etc. designed to create a year round enclosure, but have an awkward footprint with a tiered terrace that complicates things.

    Just so you know if you ever decide to go truly year round, there's an engineering company near you in Toronto (they travel) that constructs sliding enclosures -- at about $80 per SF. I would have to ruin my terrace to do so, so its a no-go for me, but I thought you might be interested.

    To that end, here's a link: Retractable Pool Enclosures | Opens with a push of a button | Pool Enclosure specialists
    In ground extended Grecian, 22,000 gal, Hayward 220t sand filter, vinyl liner, dolphin m4 supreme.
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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Awesome pointers. Gives me hope for the early spring time.

    Couple of questions:
    1. So when you say the pool pump is off, you are referring to your pool filter correct. I don't see in your signature if you use a salt cell are not, I presume you may run straight bleach given the above. But as far as pool turnover time ect, I assume 3 hours is enough for you

    2. What pool cover company do you use.
    55,000 gallon freeform L-shape 40x50ft, 3'8-10', 150' perimeter, gunite, pebbletec (tbd), sand filter, 2hp Ecostar variable speed pump, 400k gas heater, Aquacomfort heat/chill pump, 8 jet spa with 2hp blower, limestone grotto waterfall, 20 ft BYOS slide with arch and water fall, grand effects wall torches and fire bowls, 1m diving platform with 14ft board, gold line salt system, full automation, stamp, stained and salted concrete

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Thanks for taking the time to post this. I would not think it was possible (or affordable), but now I know it is
    Inground, vinyl liner, 16 x 32 (approx. 21k gallons), roman end w/ bench, 2 Jandy LEG lights
    Pump: Jandy Flopro, 1.5 hp Heater: Raypak, 266k btu (P-R266-A-EN-C; nat gas) Filter: Jandy C340 (cartridge filter)

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Quote Originally Posted by TulsaKevin View Post
    Awesome pointers. Gives me hope for the early spring time.
    We plan to reopen in late March or early April, but are considering even earlier.

    Depending on how early you open, be prepared for one big ~24-to-48-hour nonstop full-throttle heating (for a 20,000 gallon pool) at the beginning, to warm up the very cold surrounding ground for the first time. Once that's done, it's smaller 12-to-24 hours Friday reboosts before weekend swims.

    If you can tolerate a winter-sized natgas bill lasting further into spring, then my advice is, once your furnace is rarely running (i.e. only brief moments), it's time to begin running the pool heater. That's often when nighttime temps begin hovering slightly above freezing. For us, when late fall/early spring nighttime temps are near freezing, the heating cost of weekend hotubbing a 20,000 gallon pool (75,000 liter) appear to be significantly less than the midwinter heating cost of a 2,500 square foot home -- relatively speaking on a furnace-versus-poolheater (weekends-only) basis. But your situation may vary, house or pool efficiency.

    Check the 14 day weather trend. When you see nighttime temps barely above freezing (or only a couple nights below zero), that's when we reopen the pool nowadays.

    However, if this is your first time and you don't know how expensive it will be, run your pool heater for 1 hour (while your furnace is not running & you're not cooking anything on a gas stove) and find how how many cubic feet / cubic meters your gas meter ticked through. From there, you can calculate the cost of running the pool heater. Now, run the pool heater for 5 hours, measure pool temps before and after, so you know how many degrees it went up. From there, you can calculate how much it costs for the initial boost heating (for example, $100-ish for us). Subsequent re-boosts for subsequent weekends will be less (like $50-ish for us), since the ground is already warmed up. Some places will have high natgas costs and others very low. Your heating cost may cost less than a dollar an hour, in others it may cost more than two dollars an hour. And the heaters will often draw gas at a different than expected rate, so calculating from a manual doesn't always work.

    So if worried about cost, do.
    - 1 hour of test heating (natgas cost measurement: check before/after gas meter)
    - then a few hours of test heating (temperature rate-of-increase measurement: check before/after water temperature)
    - then proceed with the nonstop 24+ hours (actual hottubing) if all checks out acceptably.

    You'll find a temperature sweet spot, but if doing it, commit, don't skimp. During cold weather, 88F will feel too cold for many people. You really want to run hottub temps (95F) especialy if there is still leftover melting nsnow/ice in the nearby gardens. You'd rather have a frequently used 95F pool rather than an avoided 88F pool.

    Quote Originally Posted by TulsaKevin View Post
    Awesome pointers. Gives me hope for the early spring time.
    Couple of questions:
    1. So when you say the pool pump is off, you are referring to your pool filter correct. I don't see in your signature if you use a salt cell are not, I presume you may run straight bleach given the above. But as far as pool turnover time ect, I assume 3 hours is enough for you
    -- Yep. All power to all pool equipment completely turned OFF. Zero. No water circulation.
    -- We don't use a salt cell.
    -- Yes, mostly straight bleach.
    Mostly generic Canadian Tire pool bleach jugs -- not much more than the cost of laundry bleach anyway -- though we also use some pucks in a chlorinator too.

    The power-off step (combined with the pool cover ~21hours/day), saves >70% of the heating cost for us.
    Stationary water, little heat lost.
    (What one would normally spend $1000 heating now becomes only $300, for example.)

    Many recommendations say many pools only need filtering about 4 hours a day so we've got plenty of off-time for maximum preservation of all joules of specific energy injected in the big concrete bucket of water molecules....er, I mean heat.

    So there we go, we had a good excuse to turn off the pool pump in the name of heat preservation. Thermostatting is wasteful for common pool heaters because of its alternating heat-AC-heat-AC-heat-AC effect (The AC effect is because of water going through pipes in cold ground) so only full throttle max-efficiency heatomg + complete pump power off when not heating -- in those rest periods between the full throttle heats (zero water circulation whenever not heating).

    Science fact -- A large mass of heat cools more slowly than a small mass of heat! The bigger the mass, the slower it cools. Did you know that the energy from the centre of the sun, takes thousands of years to finally reach the surface of the sun? The primary way for the water in the center of a stationary unpumped heated pool, to lose its heat, is via convection, which is much slower than the motion of a running pool pump. Less water circulating against the edges/top/bottom of pool, less heat lost. Keeping the heated water as stationary as possible, makes a huge difference.

    (Note: We're still refining our chlorine routine, having owned a pool for only two years. I now realize I shouldn't use the pucks due to rising CYA, but now we just use that to maintain/touch off the chlorine levels and we do replenish the pool as it repeatedly evaporates below full level.)

    Regarding the liquid pool chlorine from Canadian Tire ($5CAD/jug ~= $3USD/jug at current pathetic-to-me exchange rates). They're larger than the common Clorox sized jugs and I don't have to worry about unexpected scents that are often in many laundry bleaches. We do have to run the chlorine a little higher than normal (hot tub recommendations 2-3 P.P.M. though it falls quickly to 1 P.P.M. at the end of a pool party...we'll often push it much higher right after the weekend, like 10 P.P.M. to prevent it from falling below 1 P.P.M. when we next use the pool next Friday) as during those moments we are defacto running a pool-sized hot tub and the pathogens love multiplying at the high temps, petri-dish-style. So normal pool recommendations need to be hybridized with hot tub recommendations when hot-tubbing a whole pool. For a pool heated at 100F, running at only 0.5 P.P.M. (cold pool recommendation) is risking a petri dish sudden-clouding if you slack off accidentally for a day during situations like when more fall foilage than usual blows under the edge of the pool cover on a windy night, eats up the chlorine overnight, so need to aim at hot tub levels. Chlorine levels of a hot pool falls much more quickly. You need to buy more than twice as many jugs than usual.

    (Note: We're still refining our chlorine routine, having owned a pool for only two years. I now realize I shouldn't use the pucks due to rising CYA, but now we just use that to maintain/touch off the chlorine levels and we do replenish the pool as it repeatedly evaporates below full level, helping keep CYA in check.)

    Quote Originally Posted by TulsaKevin View Post
    2. What pool cover company do you use.
    No idea.

    It's just simple "solar blanket" bubblewrap type pool cover, the very common kind. It came with the pool when we bought the house.

    As far as I know, the pool cover itself cost approximately $800 CAD, not including the roller.

    Next time we get a new cover we're probably going to upgrade to something thicker. For cold-weather operations, I'd recommend something a bit more upgraded like a double-layer bubblewrap (layer, air, layer) so cold rainwater that falls into the pool, is insulated by air away from hot water. This is probably significantly thicker so add corner pull-handles and a very high quality roller, so it's easy rollout-rollin everytime you exit the pool for the night. A double layer would probably roll up into a meter-thick roll, so I'd recommend the thickest possible pool cover you can easily roll/unroll, and if it's heavy, add handles to the corners of the pool cover with really good load-spreading attachment so you don't rip trying to pull open/closed.

    Also, get your roll-unroll routine well down without causing tangles.
    We now can roll and unroll the pool cover in less than 15 seconds.

    Unless there's lots of tree debris on top, then we have to spend 5 to 30 minutes sweeping the top of the pool cover (especially in the fall!!) before rolling open the cover. Fortunately that's debris that's never fell into the pool -- so there's many times we've successfully been able to avoid much vaccuuming with our foilage-filled pool area.

    Obviously, rectangular pools are /much/ easier than kidney/oval-shaped pools. And you absolutely must be religious about covering up your pool when not in use. Certainly it isn't too harmful to keep the pool uncovered for an 8-hour-long pool party, but we never keep a heated pool uncovered overnight during cold weather (mind you; the latest was ~4am, because of leftover people swimming late during a pool party). Also, when uncovered during cold weather, the heater+pump is always running in order to counterbalance heat losses while people are swimming (unless the pool gets too hot -- hottest was 103F by accident -- then we turn off both heater+pump for a bit before resuming). And the hot water coming out fo the jets always feel nice, too.
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

  8. Back To Top    #8

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Quote Originally Posted by Swampwoman View Post
    Just so you know if you ever decide to go truly year round, there's an engineering company near you in Toronto (they travel) that constructs sliding enclosures -- at about $80 per SF. I would have to ruin my terrace to do so, so its a no-go for me, but I thought you might be interested.
    Thanks for the link!

    Unfortunately, we have such a compact foilage-filled backyard -- literally a miniforest -- that we love during the summer, so we would need to be able to completely disassemble the pool cover every spring. I'm not sure where we could store the structure

    One of the best options I've seen that fits our situation, is an inflatable dome for our pool.

    pool-dome-main[1].jpg

    That would be perfect for our situation. Cost approx $5K including blower. Inflatable dome should probably allow us to be able to run year round. Like the stuff they use for hockey rinks and tennis courts, but designed for pools. There would be a cost of keeping it inflated (fan electricity) but it seems manageable (less than $100 extra per month) and optionally we might heat the interior ($1K extra for dome blower heater powered by heated pool water exchanger) during big snowstorms to make sure snow melts off before it weighs down the inflation. And it would all stow into a washingmachine-sized bag whenever spring came around, so not bad on storage!
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

  9. Back To Top    #9

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    For completeness' sake:
    To keep this thread up to date, here's our January 2nd-February 1st bill (in addition to our December bill already pictured above)

    Normally we travel but we were still on stay-at-home Christmas vacation until January 11th (staycation) so we had the pool at approximately 95F (93F-98F depending on night that's ~35-37C in Centigrade...) every single evening from January 2nd through January 10th (8 days of pool sized hottubbing...skipped 1 evening).



    This includes natgas for:
    -- cooking
    -- heating the house
    -- AND heating the pool to 95F (8 pool sized hottub evenings).

    The routine was to turn off the pool heater right after our evening hottubbing and cover up the pool. Keep the water stationary/stagnant/insulated (pump off, heater off, covered up with solar blanket). We turned heater back the next day roughly around lunchtime or early afternoon -- depending on how much the temperature fell overnight. The goal was to bring the temp back to 95F for the evening pool-sized hottubbing (because we knew we heated up at approximately 1F/hour). My suspicion is that the pool accounted for roughly half the bill (heated pool cost of under ~$20/day average!).

    That's less than airfare for 1 to flying to a tropical beach.
    Not a bad staycation!


    (And more environmentally friendly, apparently than that said flight (per passenger!)...for those of us concerned about the morals of running a pool heater into the winter...)

    This includes several below-zero freezing nights (usually just a few below, but as low as -11C causing our footsteps to freeze into slippery mini-spots of ice in our rush back to our heated poolshed) and a couple nights snow sitting on our patiostones while we swam.

    With the pool that hot during below-freezing evenings, the pools steams up a lot and actually kept the first few inches of air above the pool warm warm so it wasn't uncomfortable. Our bigger problem was the windier nights, but we solved that by putting up temprary barriers (benches flipped on side) to keep wind away from our heads.

    With our thermal management techniques of unpumped covered-up stationary water (when not in use), I suspect our natgas bill would still be under $700 if we heated almost every evening for the whole month, or under $500 if we resumed every-weekend heating after our staycation vacation. But it was also an unusually warm January (albiet much colder than December).

    Depending on what further thermal management techniques we add (add insulation and/or temporary inflatable dome for winter), this may be the last season (or 2nd last) we shut down our pool for the winter. We will see. We had to dash to Canadian Tire to buy more jug chlorine. Fortunately, they still had a few left. I think we bought the last jug of chlorine We'll have to figure out how to keep chlorine stocked midwinter, but the yearround pool store (longer drive) does sell liquid chlorine too in yellow 2.5 gallon containers (10L) at a reasonable price.
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

  10. Back To Top    #10

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Fellow Hamiltonian! I just posted a newbie thread about intex-style above ground pools and raccoons. I may hit you up for advice soon, even though you have an in-ground.

  11. Back To Top    #11

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Quote Originally Posted by Gobi View Post
    Fellow Hamiltonian! I just posted a newbie thread about intex-style above ground pools and raccoons. I may hit you up for advice soon, even though you have an in-ground.
    Running an above ground pool hot through the winter would probably be much more difficult to do cheaply because the ground provides a thermal throttling/insulation effect -- especially when ground is already warmed up from several days of hot water pool.

    If you do plan to run very closer to the winter, do a lot of research on insulation, including around the pool wall and maybe (or maybe not) some below the pool's bottom (if the pool is safe/easy to lift/move when emptied). And optionally, for yearround operations in Hamilton, maybe an inflatable dome to help further. And definitely need to build a heatable shelter around the pool equipment. If pipes are bare above ground, definitely insulate them too. This retroactive modifications could get expensive if doing it well (or ugly looking if doing the plastic-foam-and-duct tape route!) depending on your goals.

    We were lucky we needed no modifications to run the pool hot in a way we could afford...
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

  12. Back To Top    #12

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    We are about to reopen the pool in a few days, as nighttime temps are no longer consistently below 0 (just occasionally).

    This is our shortest pool season ever, indeed! Barely two months closure. Just like last year, it should be easy to reopen with a top up, simple vacuum and the 48 hour one-a-season pool-reheating ground-reheating blast of nonstop pool heater at max. The water is currently crystal clear and very little debris. That said, we could have been open three weeks ago easily.

    (I wonder: Is two months enough for pool closing chemicals to have dissipated sufficiently? Amongst other reasons, we will send away a sample for an annual complete water quality/safety test -- the one that is not just the usual pool chems but also lead, mercury, et cetra -- just to be sure.)
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

  13. Back To Top    #13

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Alas, after a warm February and March with some days almost jacketless (one day hit 70F/20C).... Freezing weather hit us really hard and a blizzard occured!

    BAM -- worst case scenario: Expecting out-of-town guests who loves the pool, and the temps skyrocketing afterwards, we had to begin opening the pool while it was still below freezing, after a workday when it was still dark:

    Tuesday April 5th
    AIR TEMP: ~25F / -4C
    WATER TEMP: 35F / 2C -- with some sections of thin ice film floating on top of pool
    Deadline: Swimmable & 95F by Friday



    -- Pool water is sparkling clear due to cold
    We dug the snow out of the way the best we could. Then we peeled open the cover to reveal sparkling clear water with only minor biofilm on the vinyl.
    -- Lesson: Chlorine not easy to measure without pump running
    I had poured half a whole jug of chlorine to prep the water the day prior, but the pump is not yet running so it is hard to measure since chlorine likes to settles to the bottom.
    -- Wintertime snow/precipation apparently refilled the pool
    During our January 11th closing, the pool was drained to below the jets and we had air in the plumbing (no water to freeze). But the pool was full, almost 2 inches above skimmer centerline, thanks to melted wintertime precipation/snow. Cool, no need to refill the pool -- thanks for the free water, Mother Nature...





    We inspected the plumbing. We had been heating the pool shed for a while, so it was about 60F in the pool shed.
    - Everything checked out
    - Set the diverter to bypass the heater (initially)
    - Reassembled including reinstall of the drain plug on the sand filter
    - Set filter to "DRAIN" setting, refilled the pool pump with water, uncorked skimmer drain, and turned on.
    - Drained for about 60 seconds to refill the skimmer pipe and flush it of any stagnant water. No ice blockages found.
    (There was a tiny bit of environmentally-friendly antifreeze in the air-filled piping, as an earlier winterization precaution), it should be hereby noted this water goes into the same drain as our stormdrain which is far more toxic anyway (road dirt, road salts, and far-more-toxic car windshield antifreeze/oil/hydrocarbons that drips from cars), and we drained barely more than 2 cubic meters, lowering our overfilled pool level by single-digit millimeters, solely for the purpose of flushing the pipe.

    The "no fun" part
    Having to reach my arms into literally ice-water to remove winter caps from the pool jets.
    - Turned off pump, set pump to FILTER setting
    - Worked relatively quickly, since I didn't want ice to form in pipes (wasn't sure how cold the ground was)
    - Temporarily peeled open corners of winter pool cover
    - Reached my arms into the ice water to uncork the jets.
    - Even wearing nitrile gloves (latex-like gloves) the ice-cold water stung every time.
    - Had to run my arms in hot water every time I removed a tight jet seal.
    - Turned on pump
    - Lots of bubbling ensured for 5 minutes as the filter filled up & the air-filled pipes filled with water
    - Flow looked good. No ice was expelled out of the jets, so there was no ice formation.
    - Turned off pump
    - Reached into water again to install the nozzles (jet-direction diverters)
    - Turned on pump
    - Let it run for 30 minutes.

    Chlorine should now be reliably measurable at this stage
    - Measure chlorine again now that the pool is stirred up. (It measured almost 10ppm -- literally shock level). All other pool stats looked reasonably good, with only minor adjustment needed. Should be a much easier pool-open than last year.



    Time to turn on the heater!
    We changed the water diverter to reroute to the heater, then flicked it on too quickly, and saw water leaking out of the bottom of the heater -- OOPS.

    We forgot to screw-back-in the pressure switch (winterization step done by a jobber we paid to do this for us, but didn't realize it at the time). Fortunately, no electronics got wet, just the bottom metal plate. Removed heater panel, screwed back on pressure switch, and turned on the heater again.

    HEATER PURRS!

    LESSON: Always check the inside of your heater before turning it on for the first time in a season
    We found out that pool winterization often involves removing the pressure switch to empty the pressure switch hose. This really isn't necessary for us as our poolshed is never below freezing, but it was a winterization step done anyway.

    We reinstalled the winter cover corners, and kept the winter cover on. As the water was extremely clear, with neutral Ph and high chlorine level, we would wait 2 days before vaccuuming the pool.

    Before bedtime, pool was 37F, so the heater was clearly working.

    The next day, we double-insulated. Since we weren't vaccuming until Thursday evening, we used double-insulation by pulling the existing bubblefoam cover on TOP of the winter cover:




    Holy temperature increase batman! Increase of ~30F in just ~24 hours.

    The temperature is rising much faster than I calculated. I'm not sure why, but the ground may have still been warm from our unseasonably warm February/March, and we did better ventilitate the pool shed which may have led to a hotter natgas flame. And the double-insulation effect.

    Tuesday 9pm: 35F (with ice floating in the pool)
    Wednesday 8am: 50F
    Wednesday 7pm: 62F
    Wednesday 11pm: 65F
    Thursday 8am: 75F

    Ahead of schedule, with snow still nearby! Should be 85F tonight. We might try to swim tonight. Checked and refilled chlorine to maintain 5ppm (it quickly dropped to 3ppm), chlorine now starting to burn faster at higher temperatures, and will burn up the chlorine really fast when vacuuming/scrubbing the biofilm -- PAY attention to sudden chlorine consumption rate increase. Have extra jugs handy!

    Once a season
    This long 48hr+ heat-up is a once-a-season process, since the pool water tends to never fall below 60F until the next winter due to the ground-insulating effect. I estimate the cost for this once-a-year major >48hour nonstop heating boost will be approximately $120 worth of NatGas to go from 35F to 95F for 20,000 gallons / 75,000 liters. This is far by the biggest temperature delta we attempted (+60F increase). Heat maintenance is easy afterwards via touch-up boosts.

    Isn't this environmentally unfriendly?
    Being unsure of how environmentally friendly/unfriendly -- the guilt factor -- I did a calculation and found it was a carbon emission impact far smaller than one passenger-seat airplane flight to Orlando on a typical trip -- not even a whole family's worth to Disneyland! (And that's the whole month of 95F weekends, not just the initial heat-up boost -- at least when using the efficient heat-preservation techniques outlined in this forum post).
    Takeaway: NatGas is clean, relatively speaking

    Okay, not too bad since we've been travelling less partially thanks to our pool. Besides, in 5 years, we'll likely be using solar or heatpump heating for the water, with natgas only used for boosts.

    Depending on how the vaccuuming goes -- we might even do a trial swim tonight with water ~85-88F only 48 hours after 35F! After a couple of hours of filtering after vaccuum & letting chlorine coast downwards to hottub-league recommendations (2-3ppm).
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

  14. Back To Top    #14

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Pool now 85F. It was 83F just before I started vacuuming.
    The vacuum was easy, but had to vacuum really slowly due to the floaty black particles.





    We backwashed the filter four times during mid-vacuum. Might not be needed but we wanted to make the water as swimmable as early as possible.

    While not normally recommended, we do it anyway: For efficiency's sake and avoid ground cooling effect -- we kept the heater running while vacuuming, after ascertaining the pressure switch was working fine (heater safety shutoff on water flow stop).

    Overall, took two hours to vacuum including the vertical sides -- this is our shortest pool opening ever.

    We put the bubble cover back on temporarily to insulate.
    We will jump in tonight at 11pm as the temperature reaches 87F -- only 48 hours after a 35F temperature when we began heating!

    Chlorine consumption was slower than expected (compared to last year's first vacuuming) -- guess there was almost no "living stuff" stuck behind the near-nonexistent biofilm buildup. So chlorine is slightly high-ish at 5ppm but that is fine, and we'll shower afterwards.

    14 day forecast shows spring weather coming.
    Weekend forecast is below freezing during daytime, but we are swimming anyway, Norwegian-spa-style!
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

  15. Back To Top    #15
    MarkTX's Avatar
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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Wow! I don't know if I'll ever heat my whole pool but if I do I will check back here first. Outstanding thread. Thanks
    30,000 gal free-form IG w/ spa, PebbleSheen Blue Surf, Pentair cartridge filter, Pentair 3 HP Intelliflo, extra pump that is way over-sized for weeping moss rocks, Dolphin Oasis Z5, municipal water, all built Jan-Feb 2016. TF-100, SpeedStir, Liquidator 3/8", borates. My build thread http://www.troublefreepool.com/threa...-in-Cypress-TX

  16. Back To Top    #16
    Mod Squad pooldv's Avatar
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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Wow! Ya'll are pool heating crazy people! Amazing. Thanks for all the info.
    TFP Moderator
    If TFP helped you or saved you money - Become a TFP Supporter! <--Click here
    2012 build and pics, 20k gal gunite, black onyx pebblesheen, OK flagstone, IntellifoVS, cart filter w/Pleatco, IC40 SWG, Solartouch, 5 12'x4' solar panels, HP50HA heat pump, 8mil solar cover, borates, TF-100 test kit, SONOS, Doheny's Discovery Robot, hot tub on bleach

  17. Back To Top    #17

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    The most extreme pool opening we have ever done:

    These photos are less than 60 hours apart.

    Tuesday April 5th, 2016 at 10pm ET
    Water temperature: 35F

    Friday April 8th, 2016 at 730am ET (before work)
    Water temperature: 94F





    Less than 60 hours apart!
    The steam from the hot pool into the cold air.

    Weather forecast is 19F / -7C this Saturday night. It will be a real Norwegian spa briefly.
    Spring weather is coming quickly, but we're now ready for expected out of town guests.
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

  18. Back To Top    #18
    aussieta's Avatar
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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    i cant believe how cheap your gas bill is
    melbourne, australia
    our total bill for about 100 cubic metres was $123
    our supply charge is $37
    you used 10 times as much gas for $125 more
    if we were to try that we would have over a $1,000 gas bill
    SWG inground peanut shaped painted concrete pool
    50,000 litres 13,000 gallons
    Lincoln Salt Chlorinator, 25 gram cell Sand Filter
    Taylor K2006-C test kit, Taylor K-1766 salt test
    are you taking care of your pool or is the poolshop taking care of you

  19. Back To Top    #19
    Mod Squad pooldv's Avatar
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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Wow! Looks like a good time!
    TFP Moderator
    If TFP helped you or saved you money - Become a TFP Supporter! <--Click here
    2012 build and pics, 20k gal gunite, black onyx pebblesheen, OK flagstone, IntellifoVS, cart filter w/Pleatco, IC40 SWG, Solartouch, 5 12'x4' solar panels, HP50HA heat pump, 8mil solar cover, borates, TF-100 test kit, SONOS, Doheny's Discovery Robot, hot tub on bleach

  20. Back To Top    #20

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    Re: FAQ: Cheaply Keeping a Pool Hot -- 90F,95F,100F -- How we ran till Jan 11th in Ca

    Our numbers are in Canadian dollars, just so you know!

    Which is apparently almost identical to an Australian Dollar at this moment.
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.

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