Do pools have an image problem?
At our most recent Industry Roundtable, we asked three industry experts whether they think pools have an image problem with regards to energy efficiency. Here’s what they had to say.
Question: Do pools have an image problem with regards to energy efficiency? With rising energy costs, will this deter people from putting in a pool, or is the typical pool owner unconcerned with running costs and environmental impact?
Tony Sharpe, Hayward Australia:
I think there’s always been an issue with regard to perception of costs of running a pool in the consumers’ minds. However, historically, it probably costs less than they thought. I think the last few years there has been more concern with the increasing cost of electricity and additional features being added to pools that maybe do need more power to drive extra pumps and other components.
So efficiency’s become a bigger issue, but also, education’s become more readily available, through government sources, companies and others who are trying to reduce peak loads, so they’re driving the need for consumers to look for more efficient products.
I know parents in the schoolyard would complain about the cost of running their pool, but it’s done with no real knowledge of what the true cost is. It’s a perception, not a reality. The reality may be the same as the perception, but they may not really be in a position to make that judgement.
I think that part of the challenge is the journey that we have been on from an energy efficiency point of view in the last five years... There’s no deadset path about what’s the best way to achieve the ultimate outcome. So you’ve got marketing pressures driving perception about products without any true standards, whether it be plumbing, design, etc, to say what’s most efficient.
I think people who buy swimming pools aren’t ultimately concerned. It’s not their first consideration. If they’re going to spend 50, 60, 100 grand on a pool, worrying about a $500 electricity bill is probably not their first concern. I think that pools have definitely become more efficient in the last five years because we have driven the push for more efficient equipment, particularly pumps, which is probably the most power-consuming component of the pool.
Cliff Cooke, Cooke Industries:
Consumers are definitely concerned about their ongoing energy use and the added effect of rising electricity costs. We’re seeing more and more consumers prepared to invest in technologies that will reduce their ongoing costs of pool ownership and they’re very passionate about hearing how new technologies can facilitate that. Of course, you can’t put everybody in one basket. We still hear some people who are very affluent say, “I want everything and I don’t care how much it’s going to cost me to run.”
When we tell potential clients we can reduce their running costs and maintain healthy, well-circulated water with a small additional investment, the buy-in is remarkable. The long-term savings truly resonate with consumers and we’ve been able to use energy efficiency as a market separator for the pool construction side of our business.
Variable speed pumps are obviously becoming more popular with consumers for a reason. If you add our Enviraflo circulation system to the pool you can run a pool pump for just $120–$150 a year. Enviraflo is the way all standard pools should be plumbed because the annual power savings provide a remarkable return on the pool owner’s investment. When we explain this to potential clients they see the separation straight away and realise, “The other builders are selling me a 1960s pool; I want this technology.” And they’re prepared to pay for it, because their payback is less than four years and they can save tens of thousands of dollars over the life of their pool.
Likewise, there’s a similar opportunity with QuikClean Xtreme for those clients interested in an in-floor cleaning system. Once you make consumers aware of the efficiency opportunities, I think they listen because there’s a lot of talk in the media about energy costs. Hence the high penetration of PV solar panels on Australian houses.
So, I don’t believe we’ve got an image problem, but if we don’t embrace energy efficiency as an industry, there will be a point where our market will turn away. We’ll be left behind building old-style pools that don’t appeal to our market.
The reality is pool builders need to embrace this opportunity and educate themselves about how to best sell, install and utilise the wonderful technology that companies like Hayward are supplying. I’m passionate about this because I love what’s happening in our industry, but we really need to use technology wisely to make the most of the opportunity.
Pools are becoming more efficient and increasingly automated. This is improving the pool ownership experience and our customers are becoming advocates for us. We’ve had examples where customers have walked into our showroom and told us they want an energy-efficient pool the same as their friend or neighbour. This wonderful equipment is actually helping us sell more pools because owners now enjoy their pools.
Scott Carson, Platinum Swimming Pools:
In my experience, I find that nobody’s talking about it [energy efficiency]. So is there an image problem? Not at this stage. It’s an extra conversation we bring to the table. Customers actually enjoy understanding energy efficiency because nobody talks about (a) the cost of running swimming pools and (b) the impact it has on the environment.
As an industry, we have to realise that swimming pools are generally the second-largest user of household energy. Power bills can double after installing a pool, especially with in-floor cleaning systems, water features and all the added extras. Swimming pools can be quite expensive to run, so it’s definitely a conversation we bring up very early in the piece with our customers and we find it really hits the mark.
Like everything, education’s the key. We’re trying to do things differently to the way pools have been sold for decades. We’re positioning ourselves to offer what we think the consumer of the future will want. I questioned myself some time ago and asked, “Why are we doing this and how can we make these pools better for our customers?” Since then I’ve been using alternatives like Enviraflo to build pools that are more enjoyable for the pool owner.
My customers are mid- to high-end, but it shouldn’t just be that market which can afford the extras. We’re trying to change our approach because I think even mum-and-dad pools should feature good design aspects and be energy efficient. I think energy efficiency is something that’s not talked about enough. As an industry we need to talk about it more.
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