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Pool Automation In 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

As a pool owner, you are undoubtedly aware of what needs to be done to maintain it in pristine condition. You may have a maintenance schedule that assists you in remembering what to do and when to do it, but what happens when you’re away or too busy to spend that time at the pool? Pool automation in 2024 is sophisticated enough to take most, if not all, the chores off your hands and perform them perfectly.

Pool automation can program maintenance schedules and monitor all aspects, including water chemistry, filtration activity, heating or cooling the pool, switching lighting on and off, and activating automatic pool covers. All this information and overall control can be communicated via smartphone.

Home automation is much more sophisticated than when it was first introduced commercially in 1975. Today, there’s very little that can’t be done robotically, from waking you and running your shower to keeping the refrigerator stocked with your favorite foods. Pool automation became a reality in 1986 and has also come a long way since then. I’ll examine the details in this comprehensive guide to pool automation.

Table of Contents

Pool Automation In 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

Automation is a general term, so let’s explain exactly what pool automation involves, its pros and cons, costs, evolution, and future.

What Is Pool Automation And What Are Its Benefits?

What maintenance tasks can a pool automation system take over from you?

A Brief Explanation Of Automation

Level 1: This involves nothing more than a timer to switch your filtration system on and off instead of doing it manually. It can also be used to inject chemicals into the water on a timed basis if the device is installed, but there is no measurement or adjustment of levels.

Level 2: Widely used in residential pool automation, the second level involves monitoring certain variables in the pool, such as chemical levels and temperature, and using this information to automatically adjust those levels via a control panel or a smartphone.

This is the first level of intelligent automation, where information is obtained from sensors, and adjustments are made at the right time to keep the pool in a healthy condition. For example, the pool pump will run for a period of time based on water temperature, and chlorine will be added regularly to keep the level with preset parameters.

Level 3: This is a more sophisticated level of automation, where different devices are activated automatically at the same time based on centralized information. For example, the heat pump is activated when sensors detect that the water is cooling down, but with the rise in temperature comes an increased generation of bacteria. The system will then also:

  • Automatically inject chlorine.
  • Increase the filtration time.

The best automation systems will provide complete control for all devices and cover the following functions:

  • Cleaning and maintenance of the pool.
  • Monitoring and adjusting the chemical balance of the water.
  • Lighting, including LED illumination of fountains, bubblers, sprays, and lighting of pool surround.
  • Other devices such as temperature regulators, pump timers, and water level sensors.

The Benefits Of Pool Automation

  1. Time-saving: You no longer need to take manual readings of your pool’s chemical levels, which can be time-consuming and not necessarily very accurate. And adding chemicals by hand also becomes a thing of the past.
  2. Consistent chemical balance: Adding chemicals by hand results in levels fluctuating considerably from day to day, giving bacteria and algae a chance to grow and necessitating clean-ups, shock treatments, and additional chemicals to get the water clear and healthy again.
  3. Remote control: You can go away for a day, a week, or a month, and your pool maintenance program is unaffected by your absence. Connected pools keep you fully informed regarding their condition, but you don’t need to be there to keep them in shape.
  4. Cost Savings: Yes, pool automation systems can be expensive (more about costs later), but they can save you money in the long run by eliminating the need for a paid pool service, reducing the amount of chemicals needed to correct imbalances, removing algae growth and restore pool health when your manual maintenance schedule hasn’t been followed.

How Has Pool Automation Evolved?

The automatic pool cleaner had its origins, believe it or not, in 1955, but the first commercial version was produced in 1958, as backyard pools became a popular feature of many homes.

1975: True pool automation was first developed in this year by Peter Bajka, the “father of pool automation,” and introduced to a skeptical pool industry two years later. He invented motorized pool and spa valves but was told that electronics and pools didn’t go together.

1986: Jandy introduced the first commercial pool automation system in the US, developed by its founder, Andy Pansini.

1990s – 2006: After the success of analog control panels using electric timers, digital control panels (PCBs) offered the possibility of controlling more equipment, such as pumps, lights, and heaters, all in one box with an indoor wired display panel.

2007 – present: With wireless digital control panels, it was no longer necessary to come inside to control the various pool devices, and then with the internet, wi-fi, and smartphones becoming integral in the everyday life of every household, “connected” pools now give owners the ability to control every function of their pool from anywhere in the world.

The Most Reliable Pool Automation Systems And Their Features

There are some clear favorites when it comes to the best pool automation systems in the US today. In no particular order, as they are all excellent products, these are:

  1. Jandy Aqualink RS: It’s a versatile control hub, with the base model able to control heater and pump plus 3 other gadgets, but upgrades that can control up to 36 pool gadgets. The iAqualink software package is free and enables you to control every function from your Wi-Fi device or smartphone wherever you are in the world. The Aqualink RS is fully integratable with home automation systems.
  2. Pentair Intellicenter: The IntelliCenter Pool Control is easily expandable to control multiple devices, with control panels with color touchscreens both inside and outside the house accessed from wireless remotes. In its latest version, the Intellicenter now interfaces, through the ScreenLogic2 app, with iOS and Android devices and also to Apple Watch, so control is at your fingertips from anywhere you happen to be.
  3. Hayward Omnilogic: Hayward is regarded as one of the top names in pool automation, and their controllers and software are intuitive, easily installed, and upgradable. Using the Omnilogic app on laptops, tablets, or smartphones, it is a simple process to incorporate a pump, heater, chlorinator, cleaner, lighting, and up to 40 functions into the control system as and when you add them to your pool. Omnilogic works with voice control systems like Alexa and Google Home.

Integrating Pool Automation Systems With Smart Home Systems

This is a surprisingly complicated topic because while it seems to make sense to integrate pool and home into one automation system, some experts disagree with the idea.

Before looking into integrating pool automation with smart home systems, I want to clarify the difference between smart homes and home automation.

Both are means of automating certain functions in the home, such as security, lighting, heating, curtains and blinds, audiovisual devices, and more. Still, while most discussions use the two terms interchangeably, the difference between “smart home” and “home automation” is that smart devices need the internet to send and receive data from a server such as Amazon or Google. In contrast, home automation systems control functions through a central unit installed in the home, working with the internal electrical system.

The Argument Against Integrating Home And Pool Automation

In the early days of pool automation, when only a few basic functions were involved, incorporating those into a home automation system was uncomplicated, involving a few additional relays and wiring, and provided the homeowner with a convenient automation “package.”

As we’ve seen, pool control hubs today can give bi-directional connectivity to up to 40 devices, measuring and adjusting chemical balances, water temperature, pump pressure, and cleaner activity while controlling lighting, setting up the pool area for a party, or closing the pool cover. Just to mention a few!

With the advent of smartphones, the internet, and worldwide connectivity, the convenience of having pool and home in one automation system became largely irrelevant, hence the reason for some system designers keeping them separate.

Integrating Smart Home Systems And Pool Automation

Having to toggle between two different apps for home and pool is no hardship, but integrating the two is undoubtedly feasible for those looking for the ultimate in automation.

  • Hayward Omnilogic is probably the easiest to integrate, as it is entirely compatible with Alexa and Google Home.
  • iAqualink also links seamlessly with Alexa and Google Home, allowing you, for example, to say, “Alexa, turn on the pool heater,” or, if you have pre-arranged settings, “Switch on party mode at 7 pm,” which will then set up lights, music, and other features in both the house and the pool area.
  • Apple HomeKit is a home automation software that aims to simplify smart home management by controlling things like lighting, thermostats, locks, security cameras, and motion sensors. The downside of this system is that it requires all devices to be HomeKit-compatible, and certified devices tend to be pricey.
  • If you have to purchase an extensive range of compatible devices, the Home Kit set-up could be costly. However, Homebridge is free, open-source software that you can download, allowing you to link non-Home Kit devices, which should solve the problem.
  • Control4 Smart Home System is a highly regarded automation system that works with an extensive range of third-party devices in the home and pool, and can be made to integrate with almost all other systems, as well as being operated remotely through internet.

Considering Costs and Potential Benefits of Pool Automation

An investment in pool automation is considerable, but there are long-term savings as well as other benefits to take into account.

Initial Set-up Costs Of Pool Automation

Depending on what level of automation you choose and which system you decide on, the initial cost for a complete automation can be as high as $ 20,000. Apart from the control hub, the touch screen, and the reliable internet connection, you may have to install a variable speed pump and ensure that all your devices are compatible with the new system.

Then there’s the labor costs. If you’re tech-savvy, you might be able to set up the system yourself (more about this later). Still, my advice is to get an expert to do the job who will be available in the future to sort out any issues that may arise.

The Long-Term Savings Of Pool Automation

The obvious saving for pool owners who automate is that of time — all the hours spent cleaning, dosing, testing, and maintaining the pool are now reduced to a minimum. But you’ll also save on:

  • Energy costs: As your variable pump will operate as slowly as possible to maintain optimum circulation, energy costs can be reduced by as much as 70%.
  • Chemical costs: Requirements are constantly monitored, and the need for shock treatments, algaecides, and other chemicals is continuously controlled.
  • Repair costs: These can be high if the pool is neglected for any reason, if algae have damaged the pool surface, or if chemical imbalances have caused staining or damage to the lining — all this can be avoided by an efficient automation system.

Other Benefits Of Pool Automation

Many of the benefits of automation are cost- and time-related, but there are some less obvious ones:

  • The fact that your pool is automated will make the home more appealing to buyers and add more to its value than it costs to install.
  • The fact that your pool is being looked after while you’re away means you can do just that and get away more often, whether for weekends or weeks at a time.
  • Creating the system for your pool makes it possible, and easier, to automate other features in your house, turning your property into a smart home.

Is It Possible To DIY Pool Automation – What Are The Potential Pitfalls?

If you’re going to install a pool automation system, my advice is to get a professional unless you’re a tech boffin and a qualified electrician. It is possible to do it yourself, but my reasons for not attempting it are:

  1. The electrical side of the installation must be according to code, and you may not be aware of the details of local and state statutory requirements.
  2. The equipment you install, in terms of the control hub, the relays, and the devices themselves, have warranties covering their quality and ability to perform. These warranties may be voided if an unqualified person installs them, and that could cost you more than you saved by doing it yourself.
  3. Getting an expert to automate your pool also guarantees you a backup to call for technical advice or assistance if anything goes wrong. Doing the installation yourself means you’re on your own regarding technical issues.
  4. Professional pool technicians have a wide range of products at their disposal and can recommend the best choice for your particular needs based on their knowledge and experience. They’re unlikely to share that with you unless they’re given the installation to do.

Can a Pool Automation System Handle Multiple Features?

Think of all the items on your maintenance schedule, add a few more, and you’ll discover that your automation system can handle them all, as long as you’ve installed the right one. As I mentioned earlier, there are different levels of automation, and budget may be a deciding factor in selecting which functions to include.

The pool pump: The system can monitor the pump’s performance, both in the pool and the spa, if you have one. Variable speed pumps are now required for almost all pools and will run for as short a time and as slowly as necessary to maintain water quality.

Pool cleaners: Robotic cleaners can be programmed to sweep the floor and walls of the pool whenever necessary, and when convenient so that the pool is always free of dirt and debris.

Chemical balance: Sensors can relay the levels of chemicals, pH, alkalinity, free chlorine, stabilizer, and various other readings to the control hub, and in the more sophisticated systems will have the capacity to feed the necessary chemicals into the water to maintain the correct balance.

Heating the pool: Using temperature sensors and activators, the heater can be instructed to maintain the water at a specific temperature or even told to warm the pool at a particular time to have it ready when getting back home from the office.

Lighting: Your automation system can light the pool in the evening, turn it off at bedtime, or set up the area for a party, using colored LED lights in the water features to give a spectacular display.

Water features: Aerators, sprays, and bubblers, which help to cool the water in summer, work best at night but can be programmed to run whenever you want to create a visual impact.

Pool Covers: At the end of the day, the pool cover can be automatically closed over the pool area, which protects the pool from pool bugs, termites, and debris and minimizes water and chemical loss.

How Can Pool Automation Systems Monitoring And Adjusting pH, Chlorine, And Salt Levels

Manual testing of pool water is a haphazard process, done weekly at best and often less than that. The chemical control side of pool automation uses digital microprocessors to test and adjust the water chemistry every minute on a continuous basis. The system also includes digital controllers for pH and chlorine, storage tanks for liquid chlorine, and injectors that add the precise amount needed.

In saltwater pools, once the correct amount has been added, no further salt is required unless there has been so much inflow of water from rainfall that the pool had to be partially emptied and the salt content diluted. For this reason, and because it’s a practical impossibility, as far as I know, an automatic pool system doesn’t include a salt dispenser. Salt would be added only when needed — about once a year.

Potential Issues And Maintenance Of Pool Automation Systems

As with any new technology, bugs in the system do appear, and pool automation is no exception. Not all of it has to do with the hardware, as connectivity issues are a problem with the internet worldwide. A few of the problem areas include:

  • Sensors used to measure water quality and chemical levels are reported to fail and need to be replaced on a regular basis. They also need to be calibrated often to ensure they are giving accurate readings.
  • Control panels, depending on where they are located, accumulate dust and dirt, contacts get compromised, and screens fail.
  • Hard-wired systems must be regularly checked to ensure that connections and wiring are kept clean.
  • Users must keep up to date on software upgrades designed to improve performance.
  • Because pool owners aren’t physically at their pools as often to maintain them, they might not see the deterioration of equipment like pool cleaners, skimmer baskets, and other equipment. It’s still necessary to clear debris, check for blockages, and generally keep an eye on the pool.

How Can AI Or Machine Learning Improve Pool Automation?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), as integral parts of advanced technology, offer significant improvements to pool automation. Here’s an expanded look at their potential applications:

Advanced Water Quality Management

AI systems use sensor data to precisely control pH levels and chlorine content, ensuring optimal water conditions. They can also predict and prevent algae growth and other water quality issues before they occur.

Efficient Energy and Operation Management

AI algorithms optimize the use of pool heating, lighting, and filtration systems, significantly reducing energy consumption and costs by adapting to usage patterns and external environmental factors.

Predictive Maintenance and Fault Detection

Machine Learning techniques analyze historical equipment performance to predict potential failures, scheduling maintenance proactively to avoid downtime.

AI Voice Assistant Integration

Integrate AI voice assistants for hands-free operation, allowing users to control various pool functions and receive maintenance reminders or suggestions through voice commands.

Safety and Surveillance

AI-powered cameras and sensors enhance pool safety by monitoring for unusual activities or potential hazards, providing real-time alerts to prevent accidents.

Personalized User Experiences

Machine learning algorithms learn individual preferences for pool temperature, jet settings, and lighting, automatically adjusting the environment for a personalized experience.

Smart Cleaning and Scheduling

AI systems analyze pool usage and weather data to schedule cleaning and filtration processes efficiently, ensuring the pool is clean and ready when needed without unnecessary energy expenditure.

Enhanced User Interaction Analytics

Analyze user interaction data to continuously improve the system’s efficiency and user experience, adapting to changing usage patterns and preferences.

What Are The Prospects For The Future Of Pool Automation?

The future of pool automation is poised at an exciting crossroads, integrating cutting-edge technology to enhance user experience, efficiency, and environmental sustainability. Here’s an in-depth look at the aspects that are currently underserved and have significant potential for advancement:

AI-Driven Maintenance and Monitoring

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could revolutionize pool maintenance by predicting and preempting maintenance needs. Imagine a system that not only alerts the homeowner to potential issues but also suggests solutions, schedules maintenance, and even orders necessary supplies.

Eco-Friendly Innovations

As environmental concerns become increasingly paramount, future pool automation could focus on sustainability. This includes solar-powered systems, advanced water conservation techniques, and eco-friendly filtration systems that significantly reduce chemical usage and energy consumption.

Personalized User Experience

Future systems might offer highly personalized settings based on user preferences and patterns. For example, automatic adjustment of water temperature, lighting, and jet pressure based on who is using the pool, at what time, and for what purpose.

Advanced Safety Features

Enhancing pool safety, future automation could include AI-powered monitoring to detect unusual activity or distress. Along with real-time water quality analysis, these systems could automatically adjust pool conditions to ensure optimal safety at all times. This aspect of pool automation will focus on providing a secure swimming environment, leveraging technology to prevent accidents and maintain consistently safe conditions.

Health and Fitness Enhancement

Future pool automation could be geared towards health and fitness, integrating with systems that monitor health metrics like heart rate and stress levels. By adjusting water properties such as temperature and jet pressure, these systems could provide therapeutic benefits tailored to individual needs. This advancement would transform pools into wellness hubs, offering not just recreation but also personalized health and fitness support.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Integration

In the long term, integrating VR and AR could offer unique experiences, such as swimming with virtual marine life or transforming the pool environment for entertainment and educational purposes.

Advanced Integration with Smart Home Systems

While current systems allow basic integration with home automation, future pool automation could be deeply integrated with smart home ecosystems. This would enable seamless control and monitoring of not just the pool’s parameters but also its interaction with other home systems, such as energy management, security, and even outdoor entertainment systems.

Use of IoT and Advanced Connectivity

With the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and improvements in connectivity like 5G and beyond, pool systems will become more responsive and capable of real-time adjustments based on external data, such as weather changes.

Advances in Material Science

Innovative materials that are more durable, self-cleaning, or capable of energy generation (like photovoltaic tiles) will revolutionize pool construction and maintenance.

The future of pool automation is not just about refining current technologies but about innovatively expanding the scope of what a pool can offer in terms of convenience, sustainability, safety, and entertainment. This evolution will undoubtedly make pool ownership a more enjoyable, eco-friendly, and hassle-free experience.

Conclusion

It’s nearly half a century since pool automation was introduced; only in the last decade has it become a reality for the less-than-super-wealthy homeowner. Today, there’s more reason than ever to reduce the pressure on our time by automating our homes and pools. The internet has been the key to efficient pool automation systems that give homeowners total control of their pool from anywhere in the world.