Chemical balancing is the bane of pool owners everywhere. It’s time-consuming, and there’s always some guesswork involved. Some people hire a professional to maintain their pool, but the limitations of manual chemical balancing still remain, and at an exorbitant cost nonetheless.
Ideally, you should test your swimming pool’s pH and chlorine levels two times a day and adjust them accordingly. If you want to spend more time swimming in your pool, getting your pool swim-ready, a water chemistry automation system is the way to go.
Residential pools are sensitive to changes in organic matter volume and swimmer load. The more debris, sunscreen and sweat particles that float around in the pool, the more chlorine must be used. Often, people resort to frequent shocking or struggle to keep pace with their pool’s chemical demands. Automated chemical monitoring and dispensing will prevent algae growth, physical irritation and cloudy water.
Once only found in commercial pool setups, chemical automation is finally gaining traction in the world of residential swimming pools. Our guide takes a look at some of the best and most streamlined pool water chemistry automation systems available. To help you gain a better understanding of how you can automate this essential pool maintenance task, we also included a buying guide.
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Best Pool Water Chemistry Automation Systems
Pool Water Chemistry Automation System Buying Guide
In general, you have two choices when it comes to pool water chemistry automation systems. You can purchase an entire system complete with sensors, a controller, chemical feeders, injectors and dedicated pumps. Alternatively, you can create one piece by piece and knit together a customized setup. There are even smart home options such as apps and voice commands.
While you’re choosing a chemical automation system, you also have to consider other aspects you want from your system. This buying guide will introduce you to the major facets of an automated pool water chemistry system and steer you toward the right choice for your swimming pool.
For an automated pool chemical system to gauge the hygiene of the water and subsequently add a sanitizer or a stabilizer, sensors are used. Depending on the system you choose, there may be a sensor for the pH level, the PPM (parts per million) and/or the ORP (oxidation-reduction potential).
At the very least, you should opt for a chemical system that can detect the pH level as this measurement indicates the acidity of the water. The system should also be able to sense the PPM, so you know the quantity of sanitizer in the water whether that sanitizer is chlorine or bromine.
Some people prefer an automated system that detects the ORP instead of the PPM. ORP is measured in millivolts (mV), and it indicates the sanitizer’s oxidation activity. There are unique merits to measuring the PPM as well as the ORP. Plenty of systems can measure both, so you don’t have to choose.
Look for high-quality sensors with a low failure rate. For chlorine swimming pools, sensors with a platinum tip are a great choice. Gold-tipped sensors work well in saltwater pools. Some even come with a flow cell that resists skewed readings that pool chemicals inadvertently cause on occasion.
As the sensors gather data, that information is delivered in real-time to the controller. The controller is usually mounted to the wall, and it lets you view all the data that the sensors collect. Depending on the water chemistry system, the sensors may be programmed to take readings at 1-minute or 5-minute intervals.
The controller may allow you to choose a setpoint for the pH level and feed cycle within a specified range. Some systems link to the manufacturer’s website, so you can customize the settings remotely and sign up to receive text and email notifications.
Many pool owners prefer having accessibility to all functions on one controller. In addition to chemical automation, you can also connect the controller to the swimming pool’s filter, heater, pump, lights, and other features. The number of relays on a multi-function controller determines the number of functions you can add to it.
Smart Home Integration
If you want to maximize the convenience of your pool water chemistry automation system, you can get a system that works with a monitoring app on your smartphone or via a smartwatch. There are also systems that you can pair with an Alexa or Assistant device for voice-command control.
However, to make smart pool chemistry automation run smoothly, you need high-speed internet access. Most of these systems connect to a Wi-Fi network, but there are some that can be wired with an Ethernet cable. Make sure the system comes with a localized wall-mounted controller as a backup if your internet goes down.
Liquid and Erosion Feeders
The data gathered by the sensors is used to calculate the exact amount of sanitizer and stabilizer the feeders need to add to the swimming pool. Feeders come in two varieties – liquid and erosion. Liquid feeders are connected to their own peristaltic pump, which releases the chemicals. This pump requires annual cleanings, and it must be kept in an enclosed room.
Erosion feeders are usually plumbed into the pool’s pipes after the filter and the heater. As the water flow dissolves the tablets, the sanitized water is injected into the pool’s return line. You can install an erosion feeder offline if you don’t have room to plumb in the feeder, but offline setups have a greater tendency to clog.
If you’re like most people, you want the ability to control every component of your pool from a centralized location. Of course, the more functions that you automate, the greater the complexity of the system.
When there are only a few basic functions that you want to connect to one controller, you can get all the components from one brand or mix and match brands. While manufacturers are starting to collaborate in terms of cross-brand automation integration, it’s best to stick with a single brand for complicated setups.
Grounding and Safety
Whether you have an indoor or an outdoor swimming pool, grounding is a must-do to prevent electric shock during a lightning storm. As you probably know, water is an excellent conductor for lightning to discharge electricity. Sensors can also attract electric currents. When your pool is grounded, that energy is transferred to the earth, and the automated system’s sensors will remain accurate and last longer.
Chlorine gas is another important safety concern. If the circulation pump stops running, but the feeder keeps adding sanitizer into the return line, chlorine gas can form, causing pulmonary edema, shortness of breath and vomiting. Pool chemistry automation systems with a safety pressure switch will not inject chemicals into the line if the water isn’t flowing.
What Features Should I Look for in a Saltwater Chlorine Generator?
Contrary to popular belief, saltwater pools are not chlorine-free. The salt used by the swimming pool passes over a cell in the chlorine generator, which converts the salt to chlorine. Some chlorine generators can operate on their own or with a controller.
To get the stable performance from a salt generator, look for one that has a sensor to confirm there is water flowing over the cell. Also, make sure it is designed to automatically shut off when the water gets too cold as salt cells aren’t able to work when the temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
What pH, PPM and mV Levels Are Hygienic?
The pH, PPM and mV levels in your pool must stay within a certain range to keep the water clean and safeguard the integrity of the swimming pool’s components. The ideal pH level ranges from 7.2 to 7.8. When the pH level falls below 7, swimmers may experience eye and skin irritation and metal parts will begin to rust. A pH above 8 promotes cloudy water and scaling.
You also want to hit a sweet spot with the level of disinfectant. If you opt for chlorine, a healthy level ranges from 2 to 4 PPM. For bromine, the pool will require a greater quantity – 4 to 6 PPM. To prevent the growth of bacteria, the ORP should be at least 650 mV.
Will I Still Have to Maintain My Pool?
Unfortunately, technology has not reached a level of advancement that eliminates the need for pool maintenance. However, a chemical automation system can extend the time between maintenance tasks for as long as 4 weeks.
Even an automated system requires maintenance from time to time. Sensors need periodic cleanings, and systems must be calibrated for accuracy.
Pool Water Chemistry Automation System: Recap
No two swimming pool environments or pool owners are exactly alike. Although every chemical automation system on our list is of high quality, some may lack certain functions that you want. Others may be overkill for your swimming pool.
You have to decide on the feeder style and the types of reading sensors. You also have to choose between a wall-mounted or a portable controller. If you go portable, there’s the matter of whether you’d like the system to be integrated into your home’s Internet of Things. Once you imagine how your system will behave, you can use our list to narrow down your options.