Swap the lawn for a pool?

With new technology, swimming pools are low-maintenance and more energy efficient

Special to The TribuneApril 17, 2013 

Custom pools can be built in most any shape or size.

PHOTO COURTESY CAREFREE POOLS

If you’re looking to replace your water-guzzling lawn, Peggy McClure offers a novel option.

“A swimming pool uses less water than the same area of lawn,” she said.

McClure owns and operates San Luis Obispo’s Carefree Pools and Spas with husband Mike and son Rory. The company designs and builds custom pools. It also offers built-in spas, portable hot tubs, outdoor kitchens, as well as maintenance and repair services.

While pools may not catch on as a lawn alternative, new technology has made them more energy-efficient and low-maintenance than they once were.

New variable speed pumps use less than 30 percent of the energy of the single-speed pumps common three or four years ago. In-floor cleaning systems are superior to robotic pool cleaners for a number of reasons. They use fewer chemicals, are less expensive to operate, and are more effective at keeping the pool clean. Because they mix warm surface water with colder water beneath, they also help to keep the pool warmer.

Newer methods for sanitizing pools can cut down on the amount of chlorine needed — a big plus for those with sensitivities. Options include ionizers and ozonators. McClure noted that salt systems, contrary to popular belief, don’t replace chlorine with salt. Instead, they use a chlorine generator that eliminates the need to buy or handle the chemical.

Keeping a pool warm can be a big expense, but there are energy-efficient options. If you already have photovoltaic solar panels on your house, they can be used to power electric heat pumps for the pool. Another system employs in-deck solar panels. For spas, using hot water from an existing 60-to-80-gallon home water heater can be a big cost savings.

If your pool is behind the times, an update might be in order. In addition to new heating and cleaning systems, Carefree often gives tired pools a facelift with new tile, decking or coping. Interiors can be refinished with a spiffy new plaster or pebble finish.

Or, if you’re ready to make the investment, you can turn your pool into a backyard getaway. Resort-inspired looks are all the rage in pool design. You can create a tropical oasis with a waterfall, grotto, tanning ledge, or gently sloped beach-style entry. An in-water table, barstools or bench makes the pool a standout venue for entertaining. Or you can create the look of a high-end spa with shimmering glass tile, color-changing LED lights, a vanishing edge or a perimeter overflow design where the water sits at ground level and looks like a shimmering mirror.

If you’re looking to add a pool by summer, now’s the time to start the process. A typical pool takes two to four months, which includes the permitting process. It could be up to six months for a more extensive project that integrates features such as a built-in barbecue, fireplace, water feature, fire pit or new landscaping — all of which Carefree Pools and Spas is happy to handle.

Carefree Pools and Spas is located at 202 Tank Farm Road, Suite B, in San Luis Obispo, 544-7773, http://www.carefreepoolsandspas.com .

Reach Rebecca Juretic at rajuretic@sbcglobal.net.

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