7 Questions To Ask Before Choosing a Commercial Pool Automation System
October 19, 2021
Imagine being able to monitor your commercial pool equipment and chemical levels right from the palm of your hand, anywhere and anytime.
A pool automation system not only ensures proper water chemistry, but it also gives you remote and real-time control of your pool. It basically puts the pump room in the palm of your hand.
With the right system, you can monitor your water quality, review your tank levels, and be aware of leaks — without ever stepping foot inside your pump room.
But all pool systems aren’t created equal! If you want to find the right system to help you save money and provide the safest water possible, here are seven important questions to consider before making a decision.
What Combination of Hardware and Software Do I Need To Manage Chemical Dosing?
For many years, commercial facilities relied on hand dosing or chemical erosion feeders. However, as public safety has become more regulated, most building and health department codes now require some form of automation for the management of commercial pools and spas.
Traditional chemical control systems rely on a set of sensors to "sense" water chemistry levels and then include programming to "dispense" the right level of chemicals (i.e., liquid bleach, cal hypo, muriatic acid, etc.) to keep water appropriately balanced. While such systems offered an advancement over hand dosing, many operators have continued to struggle with the required calibration, the cleansing of probes, and other related tasks.
In recent years, the level of innovation around control systems has increased significantly. Newer systems, including our VivoPoint system, now provide online connectivity, modular sensor capabilities, 24/7 monitoring and more. In effect, the new systems are not just "controllers" but water managers that can reduce chemical costs, extend the life of equipment, and provide safer water.
Does the System Have an ORP Probe?
Traditional pool automation systems use an oxidation reduction potential (ORP) probe.
ORP is the most common type of probe and has been used in the pool industry for many years. ORP is not a direct measurement of chlorine. The sensor doesn’t measure any specific chemicals, so it won’t differentiate between chlorine and bromine, for example.
ORP measures the water’s ability to oxidize any sanitizer present. If chlorine is free and available, it will oxidize and generate an ORP reading. If chlorine isn’t available, there won’t be a reading.
ORP readings are generated in millivolts, which can be difficult for the operator to understand. This can also cause issues for the health department, which will generate readings in true parts per million (PPM).
...Or Does It Have a Parts Per Million (PPM) Probe?
Chlorine testing using a PPM probe has become the standard in recent years. Although this type of technology is more expensive, it’s easier for owners and operators to use because it’s a direct test of the amount of chlorine in the water.
There are three primary methods to measure PPM: Calculated PPM, Selective Membrane PPM and Colorimetric PPM.
Calculated PPM — This is calculated based on the pool’s ORP and pH, and many pool automation controllers use this to provide a free chlorine measurement.
Selective Membrane PPM — Using a special membrane that only free chlorine ions can pass through, this system provides true readings of chlorine instead of indirect values derived from ORP and pH.
Colorimetric PPM — Colorimetric is a measurement system that uses chemical indicators for chlorine. The indicators react with the chlorine and produce a visible color change in the solution. The more chlorine present, the darker the color.
Choosing ORP vs. PPM
Both ORP and PPM probes have advantages and disadvantages, but the most important thing is to understand how the readings are generated in your pool automation system. Then you can determine your water’s chemistry and know what changes you need to make.
Some higher-end platforms show both ORP and PPM readings and allow you to see the correlation between the two. Although this isn’t a must-have, it can be nice to see both outputs to compare if either number is off or if one of the sensors is bad.
Can I See Flow Rates?
A proper flow meter takes the guesswork out of pool filtration. Flow rates allow you to determine proper circulation and optimize the pump speed for your pool.
The first thing you should be able to see is whether the flow is on or off. This is a very basic output, but it’s not offered with every pool automation system.
You should also have access to the flow rates for your pool. This will help you understand if you need to backwash your filtration system or if there’s a blockage. Certain components in the pump room will not work unless you have the right flow rate, so being able to monitor this number is crucial to keeping your pool system running smoothly.
Does the System Have a Water Usage Sensor?
A water usage sensor answers a simple yet important question: how much water is going into your pool on a daily basis?
A water usage sensor can alert you if the property operators are doing too much backwashing or if there’s a leak somewhere in the system. If you’re losing water unnecessarily, you’re also losing money.
These kinds of water problems will also cost you money in heating the pool. When new water enters the pool, it needs to be heated. So if you’re constantly having to replace lost water, then you’re using more thermal energy in the heater system and incurring additional costs.
Does the System Have Tank Level Sensors?
Maintaining consistent levels in large, commercial swimming pools can be extremely challenging without tank level sensors.
Without these sensors, monitoring the chemical levels for your pool becomes a manual job to be carried out on a daily basis. If your facilities are outside or in a hard-to-reach area, this is a time-consuming process, and one that can easily be overlooked.
Perhaps you have large bleach tanks and rely on an outside provider to fill them. Tank level sensors allow you to monitor the level of bleach in the tanks remotely, get insights before the tank is empty, and contact your provider to refill them, all without having someone physically check the levels inside the tanks.
What Type of Online Connectivity Do I Need?
Of all the questions to ask when choosing an automated pool system, this one may be most important. Does your pool automation controller have instant-on capabilities?
Every automated pool system promises connectivity, but many of them rely on local Wi-Fi or ethernet. The problem with these options is two-fold. First, Wi-Fi can be very difficult to access, particularly in enclosed pump rooms with cement walls. Second, very few facilities have ethernet running to their pump room 100 yards from the main building.
Instead, look for a system with instant-on connectivity through cellular. With VivoPoint, real-time access puts the pump room in the palm of your hand — anytime, anywhere.
Does the System Come With On-Call Access to Expert Support?
Managing a commercial pool is not simply a 9-to-5 job. Your guests use the amenities day and night, and equipment can break down at the most inconvenient times.
Look for a system with access to expert support that will help you in real-time to keep minor issues from becoming major problems.
At VivoAquatics, we offer chat, phone, and email support, as well as 24/7 monitoring and notifications for all of your chemical readings via VivoPoint.
We also provide training and documentation to help you get started with your new pool system and educate any new operators who join your team. It doesn’t matter how good your automated pool system is if you don’t know how to use it!
If you’re interested in a smart, connected automated pool system that helps you monitor and manage your water, visit our website to learn more about VivoAquatics. VivoAquatics delivers safety and satisfaction for guests while also providing cost savings, efficiency, and sustainability for your business.