Picture this: you’ve been at work in a hot office or out in the sun all day. You can’t wait to get home and take a nice pre-dinner swim in your pool. You arrive at your house, and while you change into your suit, your pool’s filter starts running, your pool cover retracts, the water temperature is settling in at a refreshing, but not-too-cold spot, and it all happens automatically.
It might seem like a far off fantasy to have your pool entirely ready for you, from lighting to temperature to cleanliness, when you want to get in, but it’s a reality that can be yours with just a couple of hours of work. Pool automation is a natural extension of a smart home, but it’s also a great way to dabble in technology for individuals who don’t typically like a lot of devices.
Throughout this article, we’ll look at some of the best automations you can buy for your pool and how to get started with each one. We’ll also provide information on where to buy pool automation products and what the installation process looks like for those products and features.
A La Carte Automation
If you’re wary of setting up a fully automated pool, but some automatic features sound like an excellent investment, then a la carte automation is the way to go. You can control several critical aspects of your pool without investing in a full smart pool automation system. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective and exciting a la carte options in pool automation.
Pool Heating and Water Temperature Control
You have to have a system to control the water temperature of your pool, right? So why not utilize some automation to ensure you have control, whether you’re at home, at work, or on vacation? You can use solar heating technology or traditional technology automatically without adding additional automated pool features.
I like having my pool heating automated because it allows me to change temperatures when I need to even when I’m away. If the kids decide they want to open up the pool while I’m at work, but they need to change the temperature, they don’t have to touch the dials. They just have to shoot me a text, and I can take care of the changes from my phone.
It’s vital to note that the installation process for any heating system should involve a professional to ensure your safety and the proper installation of the system. Make sure that you can automate your system before you buy it, and ask for a rundown of how the system works, especially if you’re new to automation, before your installer leaves.
There are also incredible tutorials on YouTube if you’re interested in getting the most out of your product. You’ll want to buy your heating system from your local pool supplier, but make sure to do your research, read reviews, and ask friends with pools before choosing a provider. Temperature control is an essential part of pool ownership, so it’s vital to get it right.
Powering Your Pump and Filter System
Both above-ground and inground pools require filters and pump to keep the water clean. These pumps won’t necessarily run all of the time, and you wouldn’t want them to because that’s a considerable expense. You will need your pump to run every day and have your filter on when you plan to swim, though.
There are several options for pumps that you’ll want to keep in mind. Pumps come in single speed, two speed, and variable speed styles. Variable speed gives you the most control and the most energy-saving potential. It also allows you to pump water through more quickly if you want to change temperatures quickly or pump slower if you’d like to swim without all the added noise.
The amount of time you run your pump depends on your pool size, the number of swimmers you have each day, and your climate. Since the second factor in this scenario can change daily, your pump run time can also change. That’s where automation really comes in handy. You can set your pump for your typical needs, but if you’re having a party, you can change it with ease. Check out my guide on the best pool timers for some recommendations.
Similarly, your filtration system will need to run anytime the pool cover is off to ensure the pool stays clean and tidy. You can automate that system by setting up a regular filter time each day or just turn in on from your smartphone while you change into your suit after your cover comes off, which you can also set up to happen automatically.
Once again, these features are much easier to have a professional install while installing the whole system. Still, if you’ve got an existing pool, there are devices you can add to your system fairly easy to add in automation. You will need at least an underlying pool and electrical knowledge to accomplish that, though.
Adjusting Pool Chemical Levels
Proper pool chemical levels are vital. Without automation, it’s easy to add too much of one chemical and throw off your pool’s pH. Luckily, pool chemical automation systems are simple to find and install on your own. These systems aren’t too expensive, which is great for your budget but saves you lots of time and money.
If you’re going to opt for automating any piece of your pool, then my vote is for your pool chemicals. It takes away a big chunk of work from you, helps ensure there are no mixups with chemicals or pH levels, and it’s easy to do. All you need to do is research your preferred chemical automation product. You can also add remote monitors and controls.
Installing your pool chemical system yourself is a breeze. It’ll probably only take you an hour or so if you follow the directions carefully and have a basic understanding of electrical systems. Self-installing will also help you understand more about the system, which is imperative when working with chemicals.
Automated pool lighting is also relatively simple to add by yourself. You will need to follow the directions that the manufacturer includes with their product very thoroughly to ensure your safety. Still, it should only take an hour or two to install the lights and automation system. You could also add the automation system to an existing light setup with a few tweaks.
You can opt for a system that allows you to turn on exciting light shows or a more simplistic system and focuses mostly on color changes. It’s up to you how much pazazz you want your pool to have, and how much money you want to spend. You can get lighting automation products from major brands like PENTAIR and Hayward online or through licensed dealers.
Retractable Pool Covers
Let’s be honest for a second; it’s a huge bummer having to crank your pool cover off. It’s an even bigger bummer if you don’t own a crank at all, and you need to take it off and fold it up by hand. A retractable pool cover is what you need to make your pool ownership a little less exhausting.
There are plenty of reasons that you wouldn’t want to go the traditional crankable pool cover route. One of those reasons is that it’s a pain because of the time it consumes and muscle it requires. You might want to consider a retractable pool cover if you’re older and can’t physically handle a traditional cover or if you have kids or grandkids, and you’re concerned about safety.
Adding the retractable automation technology to your pool is incredibly simple. If you’re starting from scratch with an all-new cover, you may want to leave it to the professionals. They can handle the whole thing in an hour or two and save you time in the process. The only downside to a retractable cover is the expense.
Automatic Pool Cleaners
Automatic pool cleaners are fun to watch, super effective, and relatively inexpensive to own. You can purchase cleaners that you can turn on remotely, or that you can schedule to work at a specific time each day, or both! These cleaners are basically robot vacuums for your pool, and they’ve been around for decades, while their technology has gotten better and better.
I remember seeing a pool cleaner do its thing for the first time. It looked like a giant, aquatic vacuum, and its name, lovingly given by the owner of the pool, was Goober. The thing was huge, but could easily run without stopping us from swimming and diving as it worked. Today, most cleaners are much smaller and more effective, which is great for consumers.
These days you’ll have a lot of options regarding your needs with an automatic pool cleaner. Cleaners are probably the quickest and easiest pool automations to install regardless of what type or size you choose, and they pay off big time in the long run. I recommend talking to your local pool experts to make sure you get the best cleaner for your needs before you buy.
If you have an Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or other voice assistant device in your home, you’re probably already aware that you can set them up to do menial tasks. With an easy-to-find smart switch, you can connect your voice assistant to any light switch in the house. With an additional outlet, you can turn on any plugged-in device through your assistant.
This technology isn’t exclusive to things inside your home, though. You can easily add your pool automations to your voice assistant, whether your whole pool is automated or just the lights or cover. You can ask Alexa to turn on your pool cleaner, ask Siri to remove the pool cover or ask Google to change your lighting to date night mode. Do all of this with your voice, not your hands.
Products that help you connect your pool automations to your voice assistant are simple to install on your own and require little upkeep. These products integrate seamlessly with your current systems, and you can add more automations over time just as easily. Plus, if you’re automating your whole pool at once, you usually won’t even need additional products.
Using IFTTT (If This Then That)
IFTTT refers to software integrations that you can utilize with your pool automations to automatically make things happen based on other occurrences. For instance, you can create a “recipe” for when the temperature drops below a certain point according to your favorite weather app.
You can create recipes that alert you if your pool door is left open when you’re not home. You can also create a recipe to have the heat and jets turn on in your spa when your GPS shows that your home. This technology is incredibly basic, but it does require knowledge of electronics and programming, so you may want to leave these commands to the professionals.
If you’d like to create IFTTT recipes yourself, you can easily do so using a voice assistant. You can also use an app on your Apple or Android device. Either way, IFTTT makes your pool automations even easier and more exciting to use.
Full Smart Pool Automation Systems
If you’d rather not piece together your pool’s automated features, you can opt for a full smart pool automation system. If you already have a few automated features or have put your automation system together slowly over time, then you’ll only need a smart hub control system to control your pool and spa remotely. These systems cost anywhere from $900-$2500.
If you need all of the automation products still and want the whole thing installed, which we highly recommend, you’re looking at a much higher price tag. Sometimes upwards of $20,000 for all the products and accessories. If you’re on a budget, I recommend upgrading features one at a time and pulling the trigger on the full panel later on.
Full systems will save you a lot of money in the long run, but they do have a higher cost upfront, so it’s up to you and your pool professional to decide when the right time is to install one. Just a reminder, any full automation panel or system is going to be very complicated to install. I highly recommend hiring a trained professional so that you can ensure that they set up your system properly right away.
A full smart pool automation system will do everything, or nearly everything, we talked about in the a la carte section, which means it’s really setting you up for ease and success right away. Although it’ll be a bigger investment all at once, it might be nice to have everything handled for you so that you can start to enjoy the pool or spa right away with ease.
Another note is that you will need good internet speeds in your pool and spa area to run your smart pool system properly. It’s easy to check on your speed by bringing a laptop or smart device out to the pool deck and utilizing an online speed testing tool. You may need a WiFi booster outside or on the inside wall nearest your pool area to increase your speeds.
As with everything, there are pros and cons to choosing a full smart pool automation system. Here are a couple for your consideration:
- Easy to upgrade on an older pool
- Low-cost upgrade with significant results
- Improves efficiency
- Saves money on electrical and plumbing costs
- Can connect with voice assistants or through an app
- Complicated and technically challenging to install alone
- Adds to upfront costs of pool installation
- Individual products associated with full automation are pricey
Pool automation is an uncomplicated way to master energy efficiency and enjoy your pool without all of the hard work. You can automate cleaning processes, pool cover retraction, pool chemical levels, lights, sound, and more. Automation takes the pressure off of you as a pool owner and puts the fun back in your backyard.
You can purchase automation products for both inground and above-ground pools. Most automation products are simple enough to install on your own if you have some basic electrical knowledge and follow directions well. A full system and panel will likely be more complicated than individual products, though, and will require professional installation.
Safety is a priority with a pool, and automation can help you achieve that. Pool covers that keep little ones out, systems that stop the pool from overheating or freezing, systems that turn lights on, or call you when the pool door opens without your knowledge; all of these are available with pool automation.
You can even use your voice assistant to give commands so you can do it all without even moving your feet or turning on your smartphone. Automation is an excellent addition to any pool or spa.
Questions about swimming pool automation? Let me know, I’m always happy to help where I can.