What are the Best Practices for a Pool Equipment Pad?
If you are building your pool there are many best practices to discuss with your builder and contractor. One of them is the Pool Equipment Pad which will house your pumps, filter, pool heater, and related equipment. Before using the tips below, always check your local code and safety requirements or restrictions.
Location and Layout
Consider the location carefully so that it is both easily and quickly accessible. Many Pool Builders will put the equipment where it is convenient for them. Have it put where you will be able to access it easily and quickly if needed. The equipment pad should be a reasonable distance from the pool so that you can move between the pool and equipment without a long hike.
Most pads require a minimum of a 4’x4’ area and depending on the equipment it could be up to a 5’x10-12’ area or larger. A pool pad can be too small to easily work with the equipment after it is installed, while the pad is rarely too large. You will be the one working around the pool equipment on the equipment pad, not the Pool Builder or plumber, so make sure you have adequate space.
A typical equipment pad layout is pumps on one side, filter in the middle, heater on the other side and pipes from the pool coming up from gravel along the side of the equipment pad. There should be enough spacing between and around equipment for regular service and repairs including access at the rear of the pumps. Room to move around means you should be able put your feet between the equipment and pipes and behind all equipment.
The plumber should place the equipment for the least amount of turns in the pipes as possible. That is an art into itself and some plumbers are better at equipment layout and pipe runs then others. A good plumber will leave extra pipe and straight runs between joints allowing space for cuts in the PVC to be made for repairs or additional equipment. The pipes coming out of the ground next to the equipment pad should have at least 6”, if not more, of pipe above ground before a 90 degree fitting or valve is glued onto it. Some plumbers will cut those pipes close to the ground leaving little extra pipe for when the valve needs to be replaced or the plumbing changed.
The equipment pad should be raised at least slightly from the surrounding ground for water drainage. Your property’s storm run-off and surrounding ground conditions are of particular importance in choosing the location. Additionally, a solid structure, such as an existing wall or new wall created by posts and 2 x 10’s, will be necessary for mounting control panels.
A side note on working with contractors — some will take direction well on what the customer wants, while others will bristle and tell you about all their years in the business and they know how to do things. Few contractors like their customer trying to tell them how to do their job. It is best to ask probing questions to discover what you should expect. And then keep a watchful eye on the work and see if it is meeting your expectations. PVC is cheap and changes can be made easily if they are immediately brought to the contractors attention. Providing water, coffee, doughnuts, or pizza goes a long way to getting contractors to put extra effort into your project. Make your project a place the contractors enjoy working at.
Equipment Pad Surface
The equipment pad should be of poured concrete and not simply some composite pads layed on the ground. No pipes should come up through or be under the concrete pad. Instead, bring pipes up through crushed stone on the side of the concrete pad to allow easy access for repairs in the future.
Ventilation and Sun Protection
Good airflow is important to your pool equipment’s lifespan and proper operation. Heaters need a high volume of air intake to operate properly and you need to consider where the hot heater exhaust will blow if you have a gas heater.
Pool equipment and pipes need to be protected from the sun, especially in areas of intense sun like the Southwest USA. The suns UV rays reduce the impact resistance of PVC pipes over time. UV also causes a brown discoloration on PVC pipes. At a minimum the PVC pipes should be protected from the sun's UV rays by spray painting the pipes.
If you have decided to have an enclosed pool pad you could use a 3’-4’ fence with a small roof. Special considerations need to be given when enclosing a pool heater both for sufficient air intake and for the exhaust of a gas heater.
While not necessary, it is common for a small, short fence or shrubs or plantings to be built on two or three sides to conceal equipment and act as a slight noise barrier for the pool pump.
At least one 120V GFCI receptacle near the pool equipment pad is among modern best practices. Many automation panels have a space for a 120V GFCI receptacle in their Load Center.
In addition, a switched overhead LED floodlight will allow you to check equipment at night. The overhead equipment pad light can be turned on and off through an automation panel if you have one.
Water Around the Equipment Pad
A water spigot connected to house water should be convenient to the equipment pad for cleaning your filter and priming the pump.
Working around pool equipment can be a wet process. Identify where water will drain to when you need to clean the filter. Should any of the pool equipment spring a leak where will the water run to until you discover it and can turn the equipment off?
If you have a DE Filter or Sand Filter it will need to backwashed occasionally. Backwashing runs pool water through the filter medium to remove the dirt and drains the dirty water out a waste line. Determine where the waste line will dispose of the effluent and if your local codes allow the backwash line to be connected to your sewer line.
If you do not have an overflow drain in the pool you will need a convenient way to drain some pool water after storms or sustained rainy times. This maybe from a waste line into a sewer drain if your local codes allow or a spigot through a hose. Consider where the water will run to as it can be hundreds of gallons.
Use re-buildable diverter valves such as from Jandy, Pentair, Hayward, or CMP . The "ball valves" found in big box stores are not recommended as they are problematic, stick over time, handles can break, and are difficult to repair.
All of the equipment should be connected with unions for cost savings over time, and for repairs to occur without cutting the pipes. The extra cost up front will prove useful the first time a repair is needed.
Labeling of all Pipes and Valves
Additionally, all valves and pipes should be labeled for function and flow direction, with permanent labels or light engraving. For good measure take a picture and print it out in case the labels fade or fall off.