Setting up an automated pool chemical system is a great way to minimize the amount of time you spend maintaining your pool and maximize the time you spend enjoying it.
Why Automate Your Pool? Are There Any Problems?
With the right configuration, an automated chemical system can reduce the amount of chemicals you waste and simplify the process of getting your swimming pool ready each season. You can also expect a lot of savings on your energy bill.
When configured improperly, an automated pool system could prevent you from noticing some problems until they do damage to the pool. Sensors are useful, but don’t rely entirely on them.
Before We Start
This is a general guide, and you can use it for most systems. However, specific components or tool setups may have setup requirements that differ from the instructions below. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for any parts you acquire, and contact the manufacturer if necessary for additional guidance.
If you’re not familiar with pool chemicals or why they matter, ready my swimming pool chemicals guide first.
Step 0: Make Sure You Buy Components That Work With Automated Systems
It’s far too easy to buy the best components for your pool and then realize that half of them don’t work with automated control systems. That’s defeating the purpose, so make sure all of the components you buy for a computerized pool system work well together.
If you’re hiring a professional installer for the system, they can help with this. Try to pick out all of your parts ahead of time; if you have everything ready when your installer starts, that will minimize costs and delays.
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Step 1: Set Up Your Power Center
The power center is the hub of your automated pool chemical system. Depending on the setup, it may either provide power to each component or control all of the features. Power centers rarely have large displays built-in, but you can connect them to touch-screen control panels.
The best place to install a power center is close to your pool and where you want to put the other components, but not somewhere that’s too exposed to the weather. Some people build small sheds or storage cabinets for power centers.
Most power centers have a main control panel, several circuit breakers, and control options to help manage different components. A typical power center can handle eight features (or connected components).
Step 1b: Set Up A Wireless Internet Relay (Optional)
Power centers and automated pool systems work best through remote control systems, which have better user interfaces and allow you to control your pool systems from anywhere that has internet access. However, some pools are outside the range of home Wi-Fi systems.
The easy solution to this is setting up a wireless internet repeater. These devices connect to an existing Wi-Fi network and expand its range, transmitting data to and from the original network. Alternatively, you can run an ethernet cable from your home to your pool area and set a wireless router somewhere around there.
If possible, keep your internet access point in a well-protected area. Somewhere inside your house is best, but if that won’t work, put it in a compartment that stays room-temperature throughout the year.
Step 2: Set Up Your Heating System
Heating systems keep pools at safe, comfortable temperatures throughout the year. As experienced owners know, a well-insulated pool with a proper cover on top is easy to maintain at the right temperature. Automating this is one of the best ways to save money because it costs less to maintain a pool’s temperature than it does to heat it up every time you want to use it.
Make sure to connect the heating system sensors to the power center. This makes it easier to monitor and manage your pool’s temperature. You can also schedule things to turn on the heater at particular times, ensuring the pool will be the right temperature when you’re ready to start using it.
Step 3: Set Up Your Purification Systems
Purification systems vary but typically include pool sanitizer and pH adjustment systems. Higher-quality components can provide precision doses of your pool chemicals, ultimately saving money by wasting fewer chemicals.
Sanitizers help kill bacteria, algae, and other things that will grow in unattended pools. Some purification systems have separate monitoring components, while others integrate the monitors into the primary purification system.
Many pool owners use chlorine generators for purification systems rather than dispensing other types of chemicals. Chlorine cleaners are cheap, effective, and popular, so they’re also more likely to integrate with an automated chemical system.
Step 4: Set Up Pumps And Tanks
Pumps and tanks frequently integrate with purification systems but may be separate from them. The critical thing to keep in mind here is that tanks eventually run out of chemicals. The size of your tanks affects how long your pool can run independently.
The other consideration here is the ease of access. If your tanks are buried underground, you can’t refill them. This means that tanks and pumps need to be somewhere accessible and preferably somewhere that won’t obstruct your view or ruin the scenery.
Above ground pools can usually place these somewhere along the sides of the pool, preferably with a bit of shelter from rain and sunlight. Below-ground pools usually need these systems in a separate access area, either through panels or in a connected shed.
If you want to go all-out on automating things, you can even run lines from the pool into your house or garage, giving you the ability to adjust your pool chemicals without even going outside. That’s more expensive and more complicated than putting all the components closer to the pool, but it is an option.
We’re bringing this up because it’s important to remember that pools can have many different configurations. A little creativity goes a long way when you’re creating an automated system, and thinking outside the box can offer significant advantages.
Step 5: Set Up Your Accessories
Pumps, tanks, purifiers, and heating systems are the essential components of fully-automated pool chemical systems. Once you have all of those in place, everything else is for fun. However, accessories can make things even better, and integrating them into your chemical control system can save a lot of time.
Here are some of the most popular accessories.
Management screens are essentially tablets or smartphones that you only use for controlling pool systems. You can either buy a device and install a management application or purchase a dedicated control screen. Either of these is a viable option.
The vital thing to keep in mind is that your management system needs to work with your power center and other components. If your controller can’t integrate with components, you can’t control the pool.
Pool Shock Systems
Automated chemical control systems address many of the reasons for shocking pools, but you may find that you need to do this once every week or two despite the pumps, filters, and chemicals we discussed above.
This isn’t as important as other components because you can use the sensors in the other systems to figure out when you need to shock your pool, but automating the entire process makes things even easier.
Consider using non-chlorine shocks like potassium peroxymonosulfate. This is a fast-acting pool shock that can clear up in as little as 15 minutes, which makes it much better as part of a scheduled shocking system.
If you automate a retractable pool cover (see below), you can get even more advanced with this. Most people shock their pools at night because the sun gets rid of unstabilized chlorine.
However, if you have a cover over your pool, that blocks the sunlight, and you can shock your pool anytime. Just make sure you let it air out before you use it, so your pool doesn’t build up too many chemicals. This process’s viability depends on your setup; what you need to know now is that you have options.
Retractable Pool Covers
Motorized, retractable pool covers are one of the most useful additions to an automated pool chemical control system. While they don’t directly add or remove pool chemicals on their own, having a cover on top of your pool can help reduce chemical loss and maximize efficiency.
Pool covers also help prevent debris from landing in your pool. This isn’t as important if you have an indoor pool where the regulated environment keeps out leaves, insects, and the like, but it’s extremely helpful if you’re automating an outdoor pool.
Step 6: Advanced Considerations
You can connect many non-chemical accessories to an automated pool control system, but those are outside the focus of this guide. That said, if you want to maximize the performance of your control systems, there are a few more things to keep in mind.
No pool chemical system is fully automated, and there’s a reason for that: chemicals are consumed. Maintaining proper pool chemistry can minimize chemical loss, but sooner or later, you’ll need to refill things. The question here is how often you want to do that. If you need to refill things every week, automating your pool chemistry isn’t doing much.
The sweet spot for replacement times is setting things up in a way that lets you replace everything at once, on a predictable schedule. We suggest aiming for monthly if possible, but some people use systems that allow yearly chemical replenishment instead.
If you’re not trying to match replacement times, try to get a system that monitors your remaining chemical levels and can give you a heads-up when it’s time to start refilling tanks. The easier you can make this, the better.
Some internet-ready pool systems have sensors that you can place around the pool to monitor things. These can vary from chemical detectors to temperature gauges or even dispenser units that help create an even distribution of pool chemicals. You can build some impressively complicated setups if you want to invest that much in automating your pool.
The important thing to keep in mind here is that sensor locations matter. If your pool chemical sensor is located in the wrong place, an automated system could end up dumping out far more chemicals into the water than necessary.
Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placing sensors throughout your pool. If you’re unsure at any point in this process, talk to an expert who can guide you through the process. Installing sensors wrong could wind up damaging your pool, so it’s always better to be cautious here.
How Much Does It Cost To Set Up A Fully Automated Pool Chemical System?
Prices vary based on factors like how many systems you’re automating, whether you can keep using any current components, and how much digging the installers need to do. In most cases, pool automation costs anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000, with most systems being less than $2,500 in total.
The best way to figure out the costs for automating your pool chemical system is to call your local installer companies and ask for some estimates. They can give you an accurate price for your setup.
Finally, while automating pool chemical systems has a considerable upfront cost, these systems usually increase efficiency so much that they end up saving you money over time. Realistically, you might save 50%-70% on energy costs alone, especially if you add a pool cover (automated or not) at the same time.
Questions about automating your chemical systems? Feel free to drop me a line.