Pool Info: Pool Controllers and Time Clocks
From something as simplistic as an outdoor switch to a complex integrated computer control system, every pool owner should have some form of timer or control for the pool pump and other electrical equipment. Pool controls can fully automate every function of your swimming pool as well as some other backyard features. Using pump timers will help you be energy efficient and extend the life of your pool equipment. Innovative applications across the swimming pool industry can allow you to operate pool functions remotely. Over the internet or on your smart phone you can set the spa temperature, turn on a water feature, access the current pool temperature or monitor the chlorine production.
Filter Pump Timers
One of the most common and simplistic controls is a time clock. Pool time clocks can be digital or mechanical, work with 110V or 220V with freeze protection and heater delay options. These timers can relay power to different auxiliary loads like pool heaters, ozonators or ionizers. Often one time clock is used for the main filter pump and an additional will be used for any pool cleaner booster pump.
Running a pool pump more than necessary will increase your energy bill and prematurely wear out the motor. Mechanical timers are set to operate on desired times daily or weekly using pegs or timer dogs to set on and off times, and can be set for multiple run times during the day. Pool timers are easy to install, easy to operate and are not expensive. Above ground pumps with cords can use the plug-in type of outdoor timer.
Mechanical pool timers with a center dial (i.e., Intermatic) typically have a viewing compartment to check and ensure the motor gears are working properly. If a mechanical timer does fail you can swap out the internal motor or the entire mechanism easily while still leaving the weatherproof timer box mounted. A two speed time clock will allow you to take advantage of energy consumption savings of using a two speed pool pump, which requires a fourth wire.
Digital timers are now available that snap into the timer box, in place of a mechanical mechanism. These are programmable for start and stop times, and a 9V battery holds the programming in the event of a power outage. Connected to air temp sensors, digital timers such as the Intermatic PE-153 can provide freeze protection, by turning on the pump when temperatures dip towards freezing.
Computerized Pool System Controllers
The state of the art computer driven controllers like the Aqualink, Aqua Logic and the Polaris SOL provide control of numerous electrical loads, and are a necessity on full-featured pools. Floating remotes, pool and spa side keypads and in home wall mounted control panels allow the pool owner to turn on a waterfall or kick on the spa booster jets with ease.
Color changing LED pool lights can be linked into the controls to create a backyard lightshow at the touch of a finger. Computer operated pool control systems can also optimize pool solar heating when used in conjunction with temperature sensors and actuator valves. Connecting a salt water chlorine generator will give you access to control chlorine levels and monitor salt cell operation. Commercial systems can even monitor and correct pH or ORP for greater control over water balance.
Actuator valves are key in a redirecting the water flow as needed for the requested function. Actuator valves are motorized valve turners, and are preset to change the internal valve diverter back and forth from position 1 and position 2. Internal cams within an actuator valve are set to determine the stopping positions needed. When the motorized valve receives a signal from a timer or a direct command from the controller, valves will slowly turn to operate solar systems or attached spa.
Pool controllers also can operate 2-speed or variable speed pumps to optimize your energy efficiency. Most variable speed pumps have stand-alone controls mounted directly on the pool pump motor, which can be linked into a timer/controller or operate independently.
One complaint from pool owners involves going back to the filter system to turn on the heater, change valve positions, turn on the pool light or activate the pool cleaner. Swimming and spa automation can eliminate all of the trips to the filter area. Just push a button on the remote, or set the timers for complete, hands off operation.
Pool controls and timers will not eliminate every aspect of maintaining your swimming pool but will drastically reduce the time spent standing at your pool equipment which leaves you more time to relax and enjoy your swimming pool. Save time, work and money and stay in control!