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How to 'green' your backyard pool

pool

Credit: iStockphoto

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Top up with rainwater

No matter how vigilant you are at preventing water loss, the pool will need an occasional top-up. A simple idea is to attach an inexpensive rainwater diverter to a downpipe to direct water into your pool. Some models on the market can also prevent the first flush of leaves entering your pool.

Just bear in mind that during a large downpour you may need to divert the flow back to the stormwater to ensure the pool doesn't overflow. A better but more expensive solution is to install a rainwater tank so you can store water for when you need it.

Create a zero-emission pool

It's an expensive exercise to operate your pool pump continuously - just running it for eight hours a day will cost about $650 per year and emit four tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

The solution is to purchase a solar pump that will cost nothing to run.

At the very least, use a timer to operate the pump during off-peak times - just be sure to adjust it when the seasons change. And for those using an automated chlorinator, consider updating it with a solar model.

Many pool owners like to extend the swimming season by heating their pool - but how do you avoid puffing more greenhouse gases into the air? The answer is to go solar. "Solar pool heating is the most popular way to heat pools," says Wiesemes. There's a good reason for this - as well as saving on greenhouse gases it will save you a tonne of money.

To get the most from a solar pool heater the NSW Swimming Pool and Spa Association recommend an array covering at least 80 per cent of the pool area that's set up on a north-facing roof.

If your roof is unsuitable, a heat pump is another greenhouse friendly option. Heat pumps work by absorbing heat from the air and transferring it to stored water - a bit like a reverse refrigerator. While they use electricity, the amount required is tiny. Traditionally used for household hot water they are now available to heat swimming pools. Since warm water evaporates faster than cold water it's even more important to cover a heated pool - it will also reduce heat loss.

Also crucial for optimum operation is an easy-to-install solar controller that monitors and regulates water temperature.

Cut down on chemicals

Pools use rather a lot of nasty chemicals - of which chlorine is the most significant. The concentrated liquid form of chlorine, sodium hypochlorite (or bleach), is extremely corrosive and regarded as highly toxic by the US EPA. For these reasons it should be securely stored and kept out of reach of children. It is acutely toxic to aquatic organisms, which is another reason to avoid sand filters, which create high volumes of chlorinated backwash.

The need for chlorine can be minimised through your choice of water treatment system. UV and ozone systems cut down the amount of chlorine needed by 70 to 80 per cent, and ionisers also reduce the need for chlorine.

Salt chlorinators have the advantage that you don't need to handle chlorine although you'll still end up with sodium hypochlorite in the pool solution.

You can also reduce chlorine use by keeping your pool clean and preventing its evaporation with a pool cover. Avoid locating plants that drop their leaves close to the pool and ensure filters are cleaned regularly. To avoid chemicals altogether consider a natural swimming pool.

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