What Is a Pool Alarm and Can It Help?

Written by Michael Dean
June 22, 2023

swimming pool alarm

Having young children and pets around a pool can pose serious risks and is a major concern for any swimming pool owner. If this worries you, getting a pool alarm can be an excellent investment for your backyard pool. Pool alarms can give you that added peace of mind about the safety of your loved ones. If you’re new to owning a pool or have recently learned about pool alarms, then read on.

In this article, I will cover everything about pool alarms, including what they are, how they work, the advantages of owning one, and how much they cost.

Main Takeaways

  • Pool alarms alert pool owners when an animal or child has entered the pool.
  • There are three main types of pool alarms: surface wave detection, subsurface detection, and threshold alarms.
  • Always check and replace the batteries in a pool alarm.

What is a Pool Alarm?

A pool alarm is a device that lets out an alert when you have unauthorized entry into your pool water. Pool alarms are typically used to alert pool owners if children and pets have entered the pool. It is essential to understand that pool alarms should be used in conjunction with other safety measures and not be relied upon as the sole measure of protection against potential drownings.

How Do Pool Alarms Work?

There are several different pool alarms available, and each works differently. I will cover three different types of pool alarms: surface wave detection alarms, subsurface detection alarms, and threshold alarms. All of these alarm types have tons of models that work for inground and above ground pools.

Surface Wave Detection Alarms

Surface wave detection alarms are the most commonly used because they are very simple to set up, user-friendly, and cheaper than other types of pool alarms.

To set up this alarm, tie the device to your pool ladder and leave it to float on its own. This alarm floats on the pool water surface and notes any water disturbances through waves (as I illustrated above). These are disturbances like waves, ripples, surges, and even changes in the water level.

For larger pools, you may need multiple alarms to ensure the whole pool is being monitored.

Subsurface Detection Alarms

This type of alarm is the most reliable type available right now and is a permanent fixture in your pool (as shown in my diagram above). Unlike surface wave alarms, these poolside alarms sit under the surface of the water at an angle of 90 degrees. The alarm is attached to the pool deck or railings, equipped with a sensor that creates a sonar grid underwater. This sonar grid will notice any water displacement, changes in water pressure, and underwater waves.

Keep in mind that subsurface alarms may not work as well for above ground pools if there isn’t a sturdy place to attach it.

Threshold Alarms

Threshold alarms (also known as gate alarms) do not actually monitor the water at all. Using a two-part proxy sensor, this alarm alerts pool owners when someone has entered the pool enclosure. The alarm works by having one part connected to the frame of the pool enclosure, this could be a fence or frame, and the other part is connected to the gate or door. The sensor will pick up when the gate or door opens, triggering the alarm.

These alarms can be bypassed using a password, and some models can even be connected to a smartphone or come with a remote receiver.

Many threshold alarms are part of a larger home security package and come with motion detectors, security cameras, and other equipment.

Advantages of a Pool Alarm

There are three important advantages of installing a pool alarm: to protect children, protect animals, and provide added pool safety.

Protect Children

One of the main reasons pool owners choose to install pool alarms is the security it provides when you have young children around pools. Having a pool alarm is especially important in the case that a child may fall in the pool. Drowning is the number 1 cause of unintentional death for children under 4 in the USA. If this unfortunate event happens, the alarm will alert the pool owner immediately. Loud pool alarms can also alert neighbors to assist as well.

Protect Animals

It is not only children that are at significant risk for falling in the pool. Many times, pets and even wild animals end up in the pool and may need assistance getting out. A pool alarm that monitors weight over 8 pounds is extremely useful in detecting animals falling in the pool.

Added Layer of Security

Owning a pool alarm in conjunction with pool covers and fencing adds an extra feeling of security, knowing that you have done everything possible to protect your loved ones.

Tips For Using a Pool Alarm

While using a pool alarm is relatively simple, here are my top tips for using your pool alarm. Remember, a pool alarm is not a substitute for adult supervision.

Always Test the Alarm (And Check False Alarm Sensitivity)

When installing the alarm, you must first check that the device is working correctly. This simply involves a quick test by plunging a hand into the water for surface wave detectors and subsurface alarms. You will know your alarm is working properly when you hear the alert. 

With threshold alarms, open the gate or door to your pool and check whether the alarm has been triggered or not.

Make sure to check the alarm’s sensitivity for false alarms, too! You can adjust the sensitivity on several popular pool alarms.

Choose the Right Location

When installing a pool alarm, ensure it is in the best possible spot. Subsurface alarms must generally be placed at a 90-degree angle and attached to the edge of the pool wall. Surface alarms will naturally float on the surface of the water with a string so the device can be tethered to the most convenient location.

Whatever type of pool alarm you have, correctly read the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you are picking the most efficient location for your pool alarm.

Check the Batteries

One of the most common reasons a pool alarm system fails is a poor connection to the base unit and dead batteries. You should regularly replace the batteries in the pool alarm before they die to ensure your pool is always armed. A lot of pool alarms will also come with a battery indicator.

Adjust Your Alarm

If your pool alarm allows adjustments, it is a good idea to change the sensitivity of the alarm. If the alarm is too sensitive, false alarms may be set off by the wind, rain, or leaves falling in the water, which can be not only irritating but also dangerous if there ever is an actual emergency. 

Are Pool Alarms Worth It?

Pool alarms are most definitely worth it. With residential pools that don’t always have a lifeguard present, you want to ensure that you have done everything possible to prevent fatal mistakes. Pool alarms provide great background safety when paired with pool covers and safety fences. Threshold alarms go one step further by acting as a warning system before any contact is even made with the water, giving you extra reaction time, and that is why these alarms are so worth it.

How Much Do Pool Alarms Cost?

The prices differ depending on your type of alarm and the model you choose. Typically, surface wave detection alarms start from $149, with the higher-end models costing around $200. Subsurface alarms cost a little more, about $190 – $250 depending on the brand and size.

If you’d like to learn more about pool alarms or if you have any further questions, feel free to reach out. I’m more than happy to help out!

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