By Paula Minahan

Swimming pools are a big draw in summer, but when it comes to energy consumption, they can be a big drain. Award-winning green architect Peter Pfeiffer shared his own experience on how to reduce “pain at the pump”:

Here’s a great story about building my own home. We installed solar panels on the roof through a city program that pays 70% of the system’s cost. It was a $25,000 system and we ended up paying about $6,500; the city paid the rest. The system saves us about $35-$50 a month; that’s it. If you run the numbers, and let’s be generous, it saves us around $500 a year.

Even with the city paying 70% of the cost, it’s still going to be a 13- to15-year payback; maybe less if energy rates go sky high. If it wasn’t for the city’s participation, it would be a 25- to 30-year payback and it’s questionable if solar panels will last that long.

A swimming pool pump runs a lot. I looked at our pool motor, saw the amperage draw, did some quick math and found it ran 12 hours a day. That’s $100 bucks a month. So, I put a meter on it and, sure enough, it was using between $95-$110 worth of energy a month. I replaced the pool pump with a quiet, very energy-efficient one. Then I went into the pool and drilled out the jets to make larger holes, so they don’t have to work so hard to push water out.

With the meter on the pump, I can keep track of exactly how much electricity goes into running our pool. We’re saving between $65-$70 a month. By spending $800 on a more efficient pump and enlarging the jet orifices, I’m saving twice as much energy as our $25,000 solar system is producing. All for under $1,000.

Here’s another example. A man in Dallas hired me as a $225-an-hour consultant after he’d already decided to replace his water heater with a tankless model and go with a geothermal heat pump. I went to his house, saw his high utility bill and also saw he had a pretty big pool. Well, he had three pool pumps running 24 hours a day; they were using more energy than all his air conditioning units combined. So it was just a matter of switching to one really energy-efficient pump. That saved him $150 a month, but he’d never thought about that.

For less than a $500 consultation, I saved him about $15,000 on a geothermal heat pump. What they do is tap into the heat of the earth to heat your home in the winter; in the summertime, they dump the heat into the ground to create a more efficient air conditioner. The problem is they sometimes stop working well after about seven years, because the ground gets too hot to be a good air conditioning heat sink. And a system costs a lot of money. Whereas replacing this guy’s pool pump was under $1,000 and it saved much more energy.

The lesson is that energy conservation is much more cost effective than trying to be your own energy producer or going with an exotic system. You can take that concept and apply it across the board in green retrofitting.
Copyright © 2008 | Distributed by Noofangle Media