Cool Pools

Some pool possibilities
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Ever dreamed of having your own swimming pool so you could splash your cares away on a whim?

You can make that dream come true—and with today’s “green” pool options you needn’t fear that energy-sucking cleaning and heating equipment and harsh chemicals will make you an environmental bad guy. 

A new backyard in-ground pool will cost from $30,000 to upwards of $100,000, contractors say. Choose durable equipment and pick a reliable contractor (you can find one through the Better Business Bureau of new Jersey or NESPA, the northeast Spa and Pool association), advises Steven Metz, president of Central Jersey Pools in Freehold. And beware money-saving shortcuts (such as going with less durable materials, older equipment models or a less-established contractor) that could end up costing you more in the long run. “Remember,” says Metz, “you’re making a signature investment in your property.” If you decide you’re ready to take the plunge, it’s time to consider the kind of pool you want.

Eco-friendly pools

Those looking to go green should consider a saltwater pool. Increasingly popular in the last decade, they rely less than conventional pools on abrasive chlorine, which leaves a pungent odor and can damage skin and hair. An electronic box conducts small amounts of electricity, which reacts with saline to make chlorine that is then distributed to the water, explains William schweizer Jr., a partner at Add-On Pools Inc. in Middletown. You needn’t add chemicals, only regulate pH levels.

Solar heating systems, including solar panels and covers, are another environmentally friendly option. The solar approach is less energy-wasteful than electric heaters, says Gene De Falco, owner of De Falco Pool & Spa Inc. in Fair Haven. “From June through September, solar works great in New Jersey,” he says. An added bonus: if you use a solar cover, it holds in heat and keeps your pool debris-free, making its whole cleaning system run more smoothly.

These days, automatic controls are available for solar heating systems and other equipment, such as covers, lighting, spas and traditional heaters. some can even be controlled by your smart- phone from afar, says Schweizer. That adds convenience— and efficiency too.

Variable-speed water-cleaning pumps can be programmed at different speeds or flow rates so pool owners can set them at the slowest setting necessary to accomplish a task. That can save energy, says Schweizer, but unless your pool system has features like a fountain, waterfall or spa, it’s not a must. “For most of us, two-speed pumps are fine— and more affordable,” he says.

Another eco-friendly option is a mineral pool, which uses minerals such as silver and copper for cleaning, greatly reducing the amount of chlorine needed in the pool. perhaps in another 10 years they will enter the mainstream, says Metz, but the technology has not been perfected, so for now they are not as convenient or practical as saltwater pools.

Other trends in pool design

Your backyard oasis needn’t look as if it escaped from a ’50s motel. “I like a natural pool that fits into the landscaping,” says De Falco. To achieve this look, many clients use stone and slate tile rather than ceramic and opt for colors that are found in nature. popular fea- tures include grottoes, waterfalls and elevated spas, and the pool or spa may have a vanishing edge or overflowing water that makes it look like an ocean or river with no end, says De Falco. “These features give landscaping more depth,” he says. “When you add lighting, it makes for a nice package.”

Do you have young children? Are you into water polo or water volleyball? For these reasons, some families are choosing pools with a consistent shallow depth instead of the usual deep end. Of course, even a conventional pool is cool. “There’s always a segment of the population that wants a pool that looks like a pool,” says Metz. They can turn to the comparatively economical vinyl pools or to ceramic-tile pools that come in a variety of colors.

What else to consider

Whatever pool you choose, give thought to its surroundings, including decks and landscaping. A fence for safety is a priority, especially for those with young children or young neighbors. Pool decks in New Jersey are often made of travertine, which is light in color and tends to be cooler on bare feet, or blue- stone, which provides a classic look but can be hot underfoot, says De Falco.

Make sure surrounding trees don’t provide excessive shade, says Schweizer, especially if you’re using solar panels that need to soak up the sun’s energy. And avoid having leaf-shedding plants and trees too near, warns De Falco— their leaves can clog your filtering system and dirty the water.

Most important, become an educated consumer before investing in a backyard swimming pool. If you’re not sure what you’d like your pool to look like, you can see images of all sorts of pools on the websites of pool contractors and landscapers, and a Google images search will bring up countless more. Do your research on cleaning systems and materials, and get quotes from three to four contractors before you proceed. “sit down with someone reputable and start a dialogue,” says Schweizer. “Decide what you want— and also what you don’t need.”

Click on the photos for some cool pool design ideas.

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