In Fine Foam
John Barnes knows what plagues his customers.
After more than 30 years in the pool industry, the owner of VIP Pools Inc.
in Four Oaks, N.C. says the biggest problem that people in his area have is
the high price of heating a pool.
“I listened to the concerns that current homeowners had about the cost to
maintain the pool, asking how to keep the ‘season’ going when the weather
got cooler,” Barnes said. I saw an advertisement [for the technology] and
decided that it was worth the investment in time to look into.
Barnes was referring to a new niche in the pool market: In-ground concrete
insulated structures that use foam wall panels to naturally keep water
temperatures 10 to 20 degrees warmer than traditional pools. Imported from
Australia in the late 1990s, the technology has undergone strength and
durability testing and has been available in the United States for eight
“I think it’s going to capture a decent portion of the market, especially
for the people who are willing to spend the money on the quality pool,” said
a builder in Schererville, Ind. He has built two pools with the help of
Barnes and said that he’s received a 20 percent increase in telephone
inquiries since adopting the technology a year ago. “It’s 70- to 80 percent
off the heating costs for an average pool. The reward is that these pools
will be used slightly longer in our neck of the woods than they currently
are,” he said.
Traditionalists won’t be easily converted, but they don’t have to be, this
is more of a consumer-driven product, especially now that people are
catching up to the “green” thinking, said Jeffrie Rowland, who is the
exclusive U.S. manufacturer of the panels. Pool builders don’t like to
change what they’re doing, when something new comes along, they’re
skeptical. But in the future, they’re going to literally have no choice
because of energy prices. Barnes said he waited a year of two before he
started building with the system and wished he’d have started sooner.
Still, the technology is relatively new and not very widespread. That
doesn’t faze Rowland, who sees great potential. “New and innovative
technologies are out there,” she said. “There really have not been any pool
structural changes in terms of how to build the pools for 15 to 20 years.
That’s quite awhile really, so we’re coming along and saying, ‘Look there’s
a better way to do this.’” We were “green” before it was popular and didn’t
want to use that terminology with swimming pools because people would
associate the word green with the water and not energy-efficiency.
|Rather than using
an acrylic- or steel-walled shell, the insulated pool wall system is
structured around 4-inch thick polystyrene foam panels that are
glued together. The pieces can be cut into any shape, radius or
curve. Then two coats of a structural plaster 3/8-inch-thick are applied to
each side of the panel. Once the plaster sets, the pool is ready to build
and finish, like any other pool. Using either our preferred EVM Coating is
recommended for the interior finish, or a vinyl liner or fiberglass gel
coat in place of traditional surface plaster.
“The difference is that you’ve literally installed an R-20 insulated value
wall in the ground,” Rowland said. “That’s the resistance factor to cold
or heat. You would have
to have a 10-foot-thick concrete wall to get that same level of insulation
in the pool.”
“The ground temperature around a pool will average 56 degrees. In the
Northeast, the ground freezes 3 or 4 feet deep,” Rowland said. “You can’t
keep the gunite warm. But with our pools, people are swimming from April
to October without heating their pool.”
Some states even offer governmental rebates for using products that save
energy. That can be a great promotional tool for a builder looking to
appeal to environmentally conscientious consumers. In warmer climates, the
foam works in reverse, keeping pool water cooler for a longer period of
“In my opinion, the [insulated] pool has unlimited potential … and offers
higher profit margins,” said Barnes, who has built several insulated pools
and spas throughout California, North Carolina and Illinois.