Pool Vacuums

Pool owners know how difficult it can be to keep the water clean. A pile of leaves, branches, and wood chips seems to appear on the surface of the water just as you’ve fished out another pile of debris. While skimming flotsam and jetsam off the water can be annoying, there are other pool cleaning issues that are a greater concern. Algae and different types of bacteria can collect in the water and on pool surfaces. These invaders can cause damage to the structure of the pool, and they can irritate a swimmer’s eyes and skin.

Pool vacuums can be used to pick up leaves, but they also can keep harmful substances from getting hold of a pool. At Expert Pools, we carry vacuums that are operated by hand, but we also have automatic cleaners in stock. An automatic cleaner ensures that pool water is never stagnant; it also relieves owners of much of the maintenance work they have to do to keep their pools in good shape.

Vacuums for Fiberglass Pools

Fiberglass pools are not nearly as susceptible to algae penetration as concrete pools. However, this does not mean that fiberglass pools do not need to be cleaned on a regular basis. At Expert Pools, we are proud to offer the strongest fiberglass pools on the market, and we have vacuums and other cleaning accessories that are designed to keep those pools as clean as possible.

There are almost as many different vacuum styles as there are pool styles. There are fully functional robots that make their way across the bottom of the pool, and there are snake-like cleaners that swim along the top of the water. Paying large sums of money for the latest vacuum is not always necessary because there are a number of affordable products that are as effective as most of the overly expensive ones.

Pool Heater Comparisons

Discussing the ins and outs of heating options can help clarify which one — or combination — is right for each customer.

Whether it’s new construction or an equipment replacement, today’s pool heating technologies offer a solution to every consumer’s needs.

Here, builders, servicepeople and manufacturers share insights on discussing heating options with customers. As these industry veterans explain, selecting a system is a straightforward process, but a strong knowledge base will keep the dialogue on track.

Assess expectations
The conversation about heating is likely to begin in one of two ways.

For new construction, the heating system will probably come up in the overall design discussion. If the project involves an existing pool, on the other hand, the customers’ interest will typically stem from dissatisfaction with their current heating situation, which will lead them to initiate the dialogue.

In either case, it’s a good idea to first assess the customer’s pool usage needs.

“Start by asking them how often they plan to use their pool,” says Terry Doyle, marketing manager at Raypak in Oxnard, Calif. “Are they looking for a system that allows them to turn the heater on Friday night and be swimming in warm water by Saturday? Or are they looking to maintain a constant temperature year-round?”

If quick heating is a priority for the customer, it makes sense to recommend a gas heater — although these entail a higher energy bill, they’re reliable and rapid. But if the homeowner is willing to wait a week or so to get the pool up to the desired temperature — or if the pool is going to be kept at a certain temperature for extended periods — a heat pump or solar heating system is likely to make more sense. Despite the slower speed of these options, they’re more energy-efficient than gas heaters, so they’ll involve much lower monthly bills.

It’s also important to ask how long of a swim season the customer expects to enjoy. Though every region’s climate is different, it’s beneficial to keep some general rules in mind. “If they say they’d like to extend the swim season beyond the summer months, then we look at how long they want to stretch it,” says Brian Evers, store sales manager at Dolphin Pool and Spa in Burnsville, Minn.

For those customers who want to keep swimming well into autumn, a gas heater may be the best recommendation — though again, it’s important to make the customer aware of the monthly gas costs involved. If the customer only wants to extend the season a few weeks on either end of summer, however, the combination of a heat pump or solar system with a heat-retaining pool cover may be sufficient to maintain a warm temperature.

In fact, builders, service technicians and manufacturers all recommend complementing any heating system with a cover, at least during the cooler months on the margins of the swim season. “We always recommend some type of cover — whether it be a liquid solar cover or a traditional cover — because most of the pool’s heat is lost from the surface of the water,” says Brian Diglio, president of Blue Wave Pool Service & Supplies in Hamden, Conn.

Weigh the options
The next step is to compare, side by side, the costs and benefits of each heating method — or group of methods — in which the customer has expressed interest. Telling a client that a certain type of equipment brings higher monthly costs, or that it can bring significant energy savings, isn’t always enough to fully convey the differences between options. Thus, an explanation of the exact numbers involved will ensure that customers are clear on what the system’s upkeep will entail, and will be satisfied with the purchase they make.

If the customer is interested in a gas heater, explaining the costs now can prevent surprises down the road.
“A gas heater will cost around $4,000 to install, and bring a gas bill that can range from $75 to $350 a month, depending on the time of year,” says Roy Heine, founder of Suntrek Industries in Irvine, Calif.

For some customers, these costs aren’t particularly significant. But others, Heine says, end up shutting down their gas heaters and seeking out other heating options when these monthly bills begin to pile up. Even if a full explanation of gas heating costs prevents an immediate sale, an open and honest discussion now may create an appreciative and loyal client for the future.

A heat pump installation typically comes with similar equipment costs to those entailed by a gas heater, though some heating experts say those costs may run up to $1,000 higher. Still, the monthly price tag of operating a heat pump will average somewhat lower. “You’ll typically end up with an electric bill from $75 to $500 a month, depending on the climate and the season,” Heine says.

Another aspect of heat pump usage that’s important to note is the rate at which it can raise water temperature — whereas a gas heater can often raise a pool’s temperature by as much as 10 degrees in a single day, a heat pump’s maximum is closer to two to four degrees per day, depending on the air temperature and the ratio of the heat pump’s capacity to the size of the pool.

Environmentally conscious consumers are likely to bring up solar heating, but they may need some explanation to grasp what’s involved in setting up and running one of these systems. “The average cost of a solar pool heating system is approximately $4,000 — about the same price as the other heating methods,” Heine says.

The main advantage of solar heating is that utility bills for these systems will run much lower than those associated with other heating technologies, because the only power necessary for heating water with solar panels is the electricity that runs the pool’s circulation pump. The main downside is the pace of heating — most solar systems will heat water at the same rate as a comparable heat pump: Approximately two to four degrees per day.

A possible compromise between these options is to combine a gas heater with a heat pump or solar heating system, forming a hybrid heating solution that combines low-cost efficiency with boosts of speed when needed. “If cost isn’t a factor in the project, we’d definitely introduce the option to combine multiple heating elements,” Evers says. For instance, a gas heater might be helpful to kick the pool up to a certain temperature during the first or last few weeks of the swim season, but a heat pump might be enough to maintain the desired temperature for the rest of the summer.

For a system involving solar heating, “We can plumb the solar cells in as a pre-heater, but they can function as the primary heating system,” says Dave Sizelove, president of Aquatherm Industries Inc. in Lakewood, N.J. In other words, water flows through the solar system first, then through the gas heater, which can be turned on to warm the water a bit more.

Once the water is brought up to the desired temperature, Sizelove adds, the solar system is often sufficient to maintain it there for at least several months — unless an additional boost is needed, in which case the gas heater would kick in again.

Consider mechanics
Once the customer has settled on one or more heating methods, it’s time to analyze some physical properties of the pool system as a whole. If the system involves multiple heaters or solar panels, it may be helpful to calculate the system’s total dynamic head (TDH) to ensure the pump is powerful enough to keep up the necessary flow rate.

“You always have to watch your flow, especially if you have multiple heaters,” Sizelove says. Although most modern heaters include built-in bypasses, and thus aren’t very restrictive to flow, it’s still worthwhile to double-check that these additions won’t place undue stress on the pump.

On the solar side of things, the surface area of the house’s roof or attic must be roomy enough to accommodate all the necessary panels. “A good rule of thumb,” Heine says, “is that the surface area of all the collectors combined should be roughly equivalent to the pool’s surface area in order for the system to keep the water heated effectively.”

On a broader scale, it’s also important to take a look around the area where the heater or heat pump is going to be installed, and check it for adequate venting. “We see plenty of heaters out there that are placed too close to windows, or where the installers don’t leave sufficient room for ventilation around them,” Diglio says.

Taking issues like these into account will help keep installation trouble-free. If the heating design is backed up by careful calculation, and the customer has a solid understanding of why the chosen heating options are appropriate for the project, the entire process should move along smoothly.


Source: Ben Thomas- Pool and Spa News | 9.16.2011

Pool Enclosures

For most people, the swimming season never lasts long enough. Even before the weather gets too cold, pool temperatures start to drop and even a few minutes in the water can become unbearable. A pool enclosure can keep water and air temperatures warm and comfortable throughout the year.

In addition to keeping the effects of winter at bay, an enclosure adds a level of safety to a pool. Children and pets can be kept out when they are unsupervised, and alarm systems can be put in place to ward off unwanted visitors. An enclosure also keeps debris out of the pool, reduces evaporation, and increases property value.

Pool Enclosure Options

At Expert Pools, we can supply our customers with enclosures that fit almost any size of pool. If none of the standard enclosures fits a particular pool, a custom size can be created. There are several different options when it comes to an enclosure’s appearance, as well. White- or green-tinted sides are available, and there are a variety of other plexiglass color options. Shade screens and drapes can be used in an enclosure, and an extra room or pool party space can be added.

There are a number of different styles of doors that can be put into place for convenience or safety. There are handicap doors, child protection doors, disappearing screen doors, and sliding doors. Before an enclosure is installed, you’ll have the opportunity to look at all of the options closely and settle on a finished product that suits your financial, safety, and aesthetic needs.

Pool Covers

There is nothing worse than putting on the old swimsuit and heading out to the pool, only to find that it is covered with a surface layer of algae, leaves, sticks, and other green things that do not belong there. Oftentimes, taking care of this problem will require far more than a simple cleaning. Chlorine levels might have to be adjusted, and in some cases, portions of the pool might have even been compromised.

A lot of these problems can be avoided by the use of a simple pool cover. A cover will not keep everything out of the water, but it will prevent massive buildups. It will also make the regular cleaning of the pool’s surface much easier and safer.

Solar Pool Covers

There are several specialty pool covers on the market. Some are designed to be aesthetically pleasing, while others serve a more practical purpose. Solar pool covers can be used to speed up the heating process of the pool. Even on warm days, it often takes several hours for a pool to reach a comfortable temperature. A solar cover will use the sun’s rays to their fullest and make things much nicer for a morning dip.

At Expert Pools, we carry a variety of accessories including an array of covers that can be used for small or large pool designs. We have covers that can be used at night, and others that can help protect the pool during the winter months. We also carry solar blankets and other covers that can affect a pool’s temperature.

Liquid chemical feeders

Liquid chemical feeders can simplify pool maintenance — but an awareness of their workings is crucial for effective use.

For much of the pool industry’s history, chemicals have been added to the water in two basic ways: By pouring solutions into the pool, or by placing tablets in a feeder of some sort. These techniques are both simple and time-tested, but they’re not always ideal — especially for pools with high bather loads, or those that require rapid chemical adjustments.

This has led some manufacturers to develop new types of mechanical feeders which add precise doses of liquid chemicals to the water as needed. Though many of these feeders work in conjunction with automation systems on large commercial sites, they’re also growing in popularity for residential applications.

Here, we talk with experts on liquid chemical feeders to get a sense of how the main types work, where they’re most useful and how they should be maintained. A working knowledge of these devices will enable more effective service practices and promote clearer dialogue with those clients who use chemical automation.


An understanding of liquid feeder applications begins with a grasp of their workings.

Many of today’s liquid solution feeders fall into the category of positive displacement pumps, which means they rely on mechanically applied pressure, rather than suction, to push liquid chemicals — such as solutions containing chlorine, muriatic acid or soda ash — through their lines. The category of positive displacement liquid solution feeders includes peristaltic pumps, diaphragm pumps and piston pumps.

Peristaltic pumps move chemicals through a flexible feed tube, squeezing the tube with a rotating set of rollers and producing an output-side pressure that usually falls between 25 and 100 psi.

The mechanical simplicity of these pumps offers several advantages. “A peristaltic pump is completely self-priming,” says Kevin Boyer, COO of Aquasol Controllers Inc. in Houston. Boyer adds that a peristaltic pump also works quite well with gassing liquids like bleach, because its design simply pumps any gas, along with the liquid, right through the tube and into the line.

Diaphragm pumps move chemicals by rotating a cam or solenoid against a flexible membrane, displacing liquid while its egg-like shape applies varying pressure. As the diaphragm expands and creates a vacuum, a spring-loaded check valve at the pressure side of the membrane’s chamber opens, allowing fluid to flow in. As the solenoid compresses the diaphragm, the pressure forces a check valve at the chamber’s pressure-side out-port to open, allowing the chemical to flow into the feed line.


Piston pumps work in essentially the same way, except that the cam or solenoid pumps a piston, which compresses a similar flexible membrane.

Some diaphragm and piston pumps used to develop issues with gas buildup, which would cause the pumps to lose prime. However, many of today’s have designed their products to be self-venting. “Some of them are now built with a mechanism in the head that vents the gas back into the bleach tank,” Boyer says.

As designs of liquid feeders have improved over the years, their reliability and consistency have risen, and the amount of repair they require has decreased. Even so, a chemical feed system must be sized correctly, and matched with the right application, if they’re to be most effective.

Throughout the past several years, automation systems have become more advanced, and chemical feeders have grown less expensive — allowing a much wider variety of customers to incorporate chemical feeders into their projects. Today, some builders urge all their residential customers to incorporate automation.

“I myself will always recommend automation for residential pools,” says Troy McGinty, product manager at Hayward Commercial Pool Products in Rockville, Md. “And I’d say that every commercial body of water should absolutely have a chemical automation system on it.”

It’s also worth noting that many commercial clients will have already done some research into chemical feeders, and may have detailed questions about how these technologies can meet their needs. In short, it’s more critical than ever for pool professionals to understand which devices are most appropriate for each project.

As with electrolytic chlorine generators (ECGs), the ideal way to assess a pool’s chemical feeder needs is not by gallonage, but by the system’s demand for adjustments to chlorine, pH and so on. Environmental conditions, peak bather loads, and water loss or leakage issues are all major contributors to chemical demand. So it’s important to investigate these factors with the customer before making a feeder recommendation.

After establishing the pool’s chemical demands, the next step is to assess which type of feeder will most efficiently meet them. For many residential and small commercial applications, peristaltic pumps are sufficient. They tend to be less expensive than diaphragm and piston pumps, and a variety of size options are available — many manufacturers offer several tiers of motor size, and several feed tube diameters as well.


Diaphragm pumps are often better suited to large commercial applications because they’re typically designed to deal with more sizable chemical flow. Thus, they tend to be somewhat larger and more expensive than peristaltic pumps.

Also, instead of size variations, they typically deal with varied chemical needs by electronically limiting their output — a limit that may be imposed via an automation controller, or within the pump’s own circuitry, depending on the design.

In fact, automation controllers form a crucial component of many systems that involve liquid chemical feeders. Though some lower-end systems may simply use feeders to add scheduled doses of chemicals to the water, the preferred technique is to use sensors — such as ORP and pH meters — to communicate to a feeder array what chemical adjustments are needed. This sort of setup requires some automation components.

There’s also another impact of these automated adjustments — one that may be closer to home for many customers. “The biggest advantage of a chemical controller is that it’ll save you money on chemicals, because it’s not feeding you chlorine all night long,” says Gus Dabney, owner of Florida Chemical Laboratories in Largo, Fla.

Automated chemical feeders are particularly useful for customers who have electrolytic chlorine generators. Effective real-time monitoring control of the water’s pH and the chlorine levels will ease the burden on the salt cells, increasing their effectiveness and longevity.

Though liquid chemical feeders can do their work without daily input from the user, they’re still subject to their share of potential issues. Frequent system checkups and adjustments — and part replacements when necessary — will go a long way toward keeping these devices efficient and trouble-free.

For a peristaltic pump, the most common issue is wear and tear on the feed tubes. This isn’t caused by any specific flaw in design; it’s simply due to the fact that the pump works by squeezing plastic tubes.

Another potential problem — especially with older peristaltic pumps — is clogging in the lines. Clogs can create back pressure that may damage the pump, so it’s also important to investigate this possibility on a regular basis. Thus, most experts recommend thoroughly checking the tubes of peristaltic pumps for leaks and clogs at least once per week.

In addition, it’s critical to test water chemistry regularly with a manual test kit, instead of trusting a readout on the feeder or controller. Over time, a film can build up over metal chemical probes, and this often skews their readings. Though a soak in muriatic acid or a scrub with a toothbrush will usually remove this film, the easiest way to know it’s become a problem is to “test the tests,” by comparing the system’s electronic readout with other test kit results.

Although some customers might hope that an automated liquid chemical feeder will bring an end to the days of constant maintenance, the fact is that any pool is a constantly changing system, and requires regular checkups and adjustments if it’s to stay safe and efficient. With that in mind, an understanding of chemical feeder mechanics will make it easier to anticipate issues, fix them before they become real problems, and keep the whole system running smoothly.

Source: Ben Thomas- Pool and Spa News | 10.28.2011

L.E.D. Pool Lighting

L.E.D. lighting can completely alter the appearance of a pool or spa and of an entire backyard. A splash of color such as blue, green, or purple can cause the shapes in the water to change in appearance, and they can affect the mood of all of those around the pool. That is why L.E.D. pool lighting is often the perfect addition to any backyard party, even one that doesn’t involve swimming.

On a very practical level, L.E.D. lighting makes it much safer for people to swim at night. Even the best swimmers can run into problems when it is dark. If one’s depth perception is affected in the least, he can end up hurting himself. L.E.D. stands for light emitting diodes. There are 9 colors standard and there is no risk of electrocution because the light works on a 12 volt current. The electrical cost of this lighting is much cheaper than conventional halogen-(old fashioned) lighting. You will save hundreds of dollars in the lifetime of ownership.

Fiber Optic  Lighting

At Expert Pools, we offer standard L.E.D. lighting options. However, we can also outfit our pools with Fiber Optic lighting. This style can give a very natural look to the pool, reducing the neon-like glow that so many lights produce. Also, Fiber Optic lighting can be used to highlight water features and steps.

Whenever a customer visits our showroom, he will have the opportunity to discuss all of the lighting options with one of our staff. You can even see a demonstration of what effect the lighting will actually have on a pool. Even if you decide to forgo Fiber Optic lighting options at first, accessories can always be added at a later date.

Installing Brick Pavers around a Pool

The benefits of using pavers are both practical and aesthetic, especially if they’re chosen and installed correctly.

Looking for a deck option that can ride out ground movement while offering stylistic flair?

Pavers may be just the answer. They come in all variations — from the basic model you might find at Home Depot to more deluxe versions that include weathered-looking tumbled pavers, concrete varieties with pebble and sea shells mixed in, or those cut from stone.

These pieces fit together into puzzles that vary in complexity from a grid pattern to intricate mosaics established by the designer. In between lay interlocking pavers, with a built-in decorative line.

Practically speaking, this material offers several benefits. Paver decks are less subject to cracking than monolithic slabs, says Irv Chazen, president of Miami-based Custom Pools. He uses them on about 75 percent of his projects. “Problems seem to have diminished when the pavers were used in place of concrete,” he says.

A paver deck has built-in joints throughout, so installers don’t have to try to predict where cracking will occur, says Dan Essig, president of Artistic Paver Manufacturing Inc., in North Miami, Fla. Essig, who also builds pools, adds that a heavy rain or ground movement can cause a piece or two to pop out, though they’re easily replaced. They also make for speedier installation, because the decks can be placed piecemeal. So you can interrupt the job during rain.

But like any product, pavers have their drawbacks. Some are very porous, making them rough on the skin and prone to staining, mildew, algae and even freeze/thaw problems when water gets trapped in the nooks and crannies. Pavers also may experience color variations from batch to batch.

A little forethought
If your client wants to use pavers, keep a few design considerations in mind.

First, make sure their choice is comfortable against the skin. After his clients select their favorite paver, Chazen has them walk barefooted on samples to make sure the surface isn’t too rough. “I tell them, ‘If you think it’s too coarse, then don’t pick it,’” he says.

Also in the interest of comfort, look for pavers with beveled edges, Essig advises. Individual pieces will lift slightly out of the ground from time to time. When this happens, beveled varieties are less likely to ruin the look or cause stubbed toes, because they lack a hard corner.

When choosing a product, keep the pieces to scale. Small to medium sizes work best for most homes. Reserve the largest pavers — say, 24-by-24-inches — for unusually large areas.

Smaller varieties also work best with smaller pools, because you can pitch them away from the vessel without having to cut around corners and contours. “When you come to a corner, one side might pitch to the right and the other to the left,” Essig says. “Paver doesn’t bend, so you can’t get it to pitch in two different directions. If you have a 24-inch paver, it could be difficult.”

Some manufacturers offer matching coping. If you choose this option, use shorter, narrower pieces when working with freeform shapes. They are easier to manipulate around the curves and require less cutting. When placed around a radius, thicker copings can spread too far apart at the edges, leaving large, pie-shaped joints.

Also consider the direction of the grid. If the pool will run parallel to the house, Essig recommends pointing the lines diagonally toward the vessel rather than perpendicular. “Either the house or the pool isn’t going to be perfectly straight,” he says. “If you run the [grid] straight to the pool, the paver cuts will show any imperfections in the house, the pool or both. But if you use a diamond pattern, or offset, you don’t see imperfections as easily.”

This is especially important with rectangular pools. Freeform decks allow a little more flexibility, because there’s no straight line to give you away.

You can also use the grid pattern to highlight architectural elements of the home, such as a living-room window.

If the brand your client prefers varies in color from batch to batch, try to order everything you’ll need at once, Chazen advises.

On the ground
Installing pavers isn’t just a matter of sticking them in the ground.

For one thing, the right preparation is crucial. “If the job is graded, prepared correctly and compacted adequately, you won’t have a problem,” Chazen says. Without it, the product can pop out, settle or move in the ground.

Stabilize the ground the way you would for a concrete deck. While grading the area — to slope slightly away from the pool, of course — make sure it is sufficiently compacted. South Florida, for instance, has a lot of organic material in the soil, which must be removed. Or, you may have to contend with an erratic clay. If that’s the case, dig out 4 to 6 inches of the problem dirt and replace it with an immediately self-compacting, well-draining substance such as crushed stone. Chazen uses a gravel that’s approved by the state of Florida for roadwork called SRD screenings. Different areas have their own stabilization soils, Essig adds.

Next, place a 1- to 2-inch-thick layer of sand over the gravel. This leaves a soft yet self-compacting bed on which to tamp the paver stones.

Finally, dig and pour a perimeter footing. This 4-by-4- to 6-by-6-inch footer outlines the deck and keeps it from separating from the pool. “It’s not what you’d call a structural footing,” Chazen says. “It’s just a little trench with poured concrete that prevents the outermost pavers from moving outward and developing spaces between the deck and the pool.”

Place the pieces over the sand bed, spacing them uniformly for even joints, Chazen advises. Next, pour a fine sand over them. Use a power tamper to secure the stones in place. The vibration will cause the fine sand to settle and compact between the pavers.

If you and your client have chosen a particularly porous type of decking paver, coat it with a sealer to protect it.

Source: Rebecca Robledo- Pool and Spa News | 5.28.2010

Fire & Ice

Nothing can substitute the drama of fire and water together. Here are some tips on using them in the backyard.

If you need an attention-getter in the backyard, you can’t do any better than a feature boasting fire and water.

With these elements, you can think big or small. If the family would like something intimate, a cozy fire and water bowl next to the spa will be a perfect fit. For those with a grander vision, you can create a miniature volcano with flames billowing at the top and water spilling down the sides, or a long fire trough in front of a sleek water wall.

Whichever direction you and your client choose to go, you need to set up the system correctly. Consider the following construction guidelines.

Separate the fire and water

Some designers and homeowners want to emulate resort-type features that shoot fire directly out of the water. This is done by bubbling gas up through the water, and introducing a spark of some sort to its surface. Installations of this type may be fine when designed for a resort by a specialty fire consultant. But experts caution against trying to do this in a backyard — particularly when working with remote-controlled systems.

“It goes against code, typically, with the electrical and the water,” says Kevin Doud, CEO of manufacturer Grand Effects in Irvine, Calif. “And we feel it’s very prone to maintenance issues, with having the electronics in the water.”

Some have tried using manually lit systems to create the effect. However, it becomes challenging to find submersible fire rings, and you have to consider how to manage the combustion byproducts and unburned gas residue that get trapped in the water. “We try to steer [designers] toward having the burner dry. In addition, we encourage housing all the electronics in a container to keep them dry, and hiding the mechanisms so it looks like you’re having fire come out of the water,” Doud says.

Most fire and water designs follow a relatively simple template. “[Many people] want an outer decorative bowl, which is filled with water and then overflows,” Doud says. “Then they want fire to be in the middle of the water.”

Some companies offer pre-manufactured fire bowls and custom-made fire troughs that do exactly that. In some cases, the water doesn’t even well up in the bowl, but is fed directly via pipe to a sheet fall manifold that spills out of the bowl.

When builder Joe Vassallo developed his trademarked WetFlame fire bowl, his first concern was separating the two elements, especially since his containers well up with water before spilling over. The president of Las Vegas-based Paragon Pools creates a spout in the rim of the container which allows the water to pour out long before it reaches the top. Then he places the fire ring at the rim, so it sits above the water exiting at the spout.

For larger features, the same principle of separation applies. For instance, if you want to install a fire trough in front of a water wall, you should create different receptacles for the fire bars and the spillover from the wall, says Bob Roman, president of Fire by Design, a Henderson, Nev.-based manufacturer of fire and water features.

It’s also a good idea to drill drainage holes in the container that holds the fire hardware. This way, rainwater won’t submerge the remote modules or pilots inside. Roman recommends that troughs be built above deck level — as part of a raised bond beam for example. Building these containers on-ground doesn’t provide a place for proper drainage.

Use the right hardware
When working outdoors, always use stainless steel fire rings and bars. Black steel will rust fairly quickly, causing the outlet holes to clog. Roman estimates that, if you choose the less-expensive black steel, you’ll need to replace it every year or two.

Install the ring or bar with the small holes pointed downward. These openings release gas to create the flame, and if water gets into them, it will impede the ring’s ability to light. Placing it upside down helps keep the area dry.

Choose a container that can withstand heat. Vassallo works mostly with concrete bowls, although he’s also had them custom-made using stainless steel with a copper coating. To keep the container relatively cool during use, Roman recommends leaving 6 inches between the fire ring or bar and the edge of the pot or trough.

Also keep in mind that the red and yellow flames that are common in backyard applications tend to leave soot behind, which can stain other materials. For this reason, consider darker colors and surfaces around the fire that will be easier to clean.

You’ll need a filler of some type to help conceal the fire ring and other hardware that you place in the container. This way, the installation looks great both day and night. The ideal material is something large enough to leave voids for air to get through. Leave the material clear of the pilot, Doud says. Roman advises against using sand in remote-controlled systems because it will smother the flame sensor.

The only type of rock known to be completely safe is lava. Other kinds of stone can explode or pop out of the receptacle when it gets hot. Crushed glass can be effective, as long as it’s tempered. To keep it away from the pilot, Doud suggests placing stainless steel mesh over the burner assembly before laying down the glass. The openings should measure about 1/4 inch to prevent the glass from falling through. Be warned that if used in a fire pot, smaller pieces of glass can spill over the spout into the pool water, Vassallo says.

Run the lines for efficiency
When it comes to running the gas lines, think like a plumber. Minimize the run lengths and number of elbows as much as possible, Doud says. Avoid flex gas lines.

You may also need to use manifolds. If you’re creating an especially long trough of fire, you may need to have two bars laid end to end. “The challenge with burner bars over 8 feet long is maintaining a constant flame height from one end to the other,” Roman says. When his clients need their flame to be longer than that, he advises that they use two fire bars of equal length, and connect them with a manifold. Like a plumbing manifold, this will ensure equal flow to each bar.

The low-voltage electric lines on remote-controlled systems deserve the same kind of attention when you repeat the fire throughout the yard. If, for instance, you have two or more fire bowls in a line — say, along the top of a wall — you’ll probably want to operate them all at the same time.

You can hook them up to the same control button. Run the low-voltage line from one bowl to the other and connect them to the same control, Roman says. If, on the other hand, you have a few fire and water features scattered throughout the yard, the homeowner will probably want to light them at different times. In that case, hook each unit up to its own button on the control pad.

Follow the rules for remote-controlled fire
Check local electrical codes to see if low-voltage power can be installed adjacent to the pool. Some municipalities won’t permit it within 10 feet.

Be sure to allow enough space in the container for the fire unit, Roman says. For instance, if you’re placing remote-controlled fire among artificial rocks, you will need a space measuring at least 10 inches in diameter and 10 inches deep for the fire and remote module.

Even though it will be powered by the push of a button, many codes require that you install a manual shutoff valve if the remote uses electronic ignition. Electronic controlled gas valves can stick open, while the manual shutoff provides a backup. Additionally, this allows the homeowner to adjust the flame to the desired size.

Source: Rebecca Robledo– Pool and Spa News | 10.30.2009

L.E.D. Pool Lighting

L.E.D. lighting can completely alter the appearance of a pool or spa and of an entire backyard. A splash of color such as blue, green, or purple can cause the shapes in the water to change in appearance, and they can affect the mood of all of those around the pool. That is why L.E.D. pool lighting is often the perfect addition to any backyard party, even one that doesn’t involve swimming.

On a very practical level, L.E.D. lighting makes it much safer for people to swim at night. Even the best swimmers can run into problems when it is dark. If one’s depth perception is affected in the least, he can end up hurting himself. L.E.D. stands for light emitting diodes. There are 9 colors standard and there is no risk of electrocution because the light works on a 12 volt current. The electrical cost of this lighting is much cheaper than conventional halogen-(old fashioned) lighting. You will save hundreds of dollars in the lifetime of ownership.

Fiber Optic  Lighting

At Expert Pools, we offer standard L.E.D. lighting options. However, we can also outfit our pools with Fiber Optic lighting. This style can give a very natural look to the pool, reducing the neon-like glow that so many lights produce. Also, Fiber Optic lighting can be used to highlight water features and steps.

Whenever a customer visits our showroom, he will have the opportunity to discuss all of the lighting options with one of our staff. You can even see a demonstration of what effect the lighting will actually have on a pool. Even if you decide to forgo Fiber Optic lighting options at first, accessories can always be added at a later date.


Art and Architecture How to expertly combine specialty decking materials to complement the home and landscaping.


In   a push to come up with evermore creative backyard designs, many builders are   mixing and matching multiple surfacing products to great effect.

Vic   Lehmann, for one, uses a variety of materials on his projects. “There’s no   excuse for creating a cookie-cutter pool in a day and age when there are so   many incredible surfacing options available,” says the president of Lehmann Pools & Spas in Mahwah,   N.J.

While   it takes skill and an artistic eye to blend layers of materials and textures   in a way that creates a cohesive design — and not a jumbled mess — pool   builders should not feel intimidated.

Here,   we’ll examine the multiple-surface trend and showcase tricks of the trade   from those who do it well.

Spotlight   on surfaces
With decking materials reaching new levels of sophistication, it’s no   surprise that designers are becoming more ambitious. Many use multiple types   of surfaces to enhance otherwise plain patios, improve safety, and even make   their projects more cost-effective (To see real-life examples, go to Making an Impact).

“When   mulling over new materials, not only should visual elements be considered,   but also strength, safety, ease of maintenance, weather resistance and   drainage capability,” says Mark Ragel, president of Patio Pools & Spas, a Pool & Spa News Top   Builder in Tucson, Ariz.

If   price is an issue, these materials can be a great way to keep costs low, says   Joe Vassallo, president of Las Vegas-based Paragon Pools.   “When the materials themselves are breathtaking, you don’t need as many   bells, whistles and tricks [such as a fountain].”

To   discover creative combinations, designers suggest experimenting while on the   job. In addition, Lehmann spends time reading trade magazines to learn what   other builders are doing, traveling to see what’s hot in other regions,   visiting quarries to look at stones firsthand, and crafting small-scale   mock-ups to show to his clients.

“Creating   something new and exciting takes a lot of experimentation, preparation and   hard work,” he says, “but the payoff is worth the extra time and effort that   goes into designing something truly original.”

Putting   it into practice
To achieve design excellence with multiple materials, it’s important to   remember a few basic principles.

•   Experiment with color.
Creative decking designs often use complementary or contrasting shades.

Some   prefer working with a narrow color palette — for instance, a variety of   blues, grays and black — which allows them to visually unite the disparate   materials. Others choose to boost the “wow” factor by incorporating dramatic   elements against a more neutral backdrop, such as setting metallic tiles into   a concrete path.

Another   option is to vary the look of a single type of material. “For greater   sophistication in our designs, we often use one material cut or finished in a   variety of ways,” Lehmann notes. Using the material in different ways enables   designers to highlight focal areas and capture viewers’ attention in a manner   that’s less “look at me” and more subtle elegance.

Whether   colors harmonize with one another or provide stark juxtapositions of contrast   is a matter of preference. Be warned, however, that with so many beautiful   and boldly hued materials available in today’s market, it’s easy for builders   to overdo it.

“You   have to use your most eye-catching materials wisely, and sometimes sparingly,   to avoid a final product that looks like the work of an amateur,” Vassallo   says. Even with more adventurous clients, he still prefers to work with fewer   than six materials to avoid what he calls “a Picasso” — a look that many will   see as a disjointed mess.

•   Keep things in proportion.
When blending a variety of materials, size, scale and proportion should be   considered in great detail.

“With   a rectangular pool, you want to use materials that are geometric. To throw in   the use of boulders and curvy materials simply doesn’t work,” Ragel says.   “The same thing goes for a free-form pool, where bold square and geometric   patterns disturb the overall appeal of the design.”

For   large lots, he recommends multiple materials as a rule. “Even if a particular   material is incredibly beautiful, it will lose its effect if it paves an area   as expansive as a football field,” Ragel says.

To   avoid a mismatched look, he recommends setting off the different materials with   design elements such as waterfeatures, planters, bridges or walkways. Doing   so creates intimate spaces that function almost like outdoor rooms.

Conversely,   to maintain proportion in a small lot, Ragel often limits the variation in   materials used to keep things uncluttered.

•   Consider balance and symmetry.
To provide a cohesive, finished look, designers should focus on where the   hardscape is placed as well as the materials. “Balance outside the pool goes   a long way toward making a setting visually pleasing,” says Bill Renter,   president of The Deck & Patio Co. in Huntington   Station, N.Y.

Materials   should not only be in balance with each other, but also harmonize with the   property and home. “Use of rhythmic patterns and well-known, simple shapes   can provide a sense of order as well as pleasing variation,” he adds.

That’s   not to say the decking must always be evenly distributed. While most builders   strive toward symmetry, Renter believes asymmetry can achieve a more natural   look. “Nothing is more classic than nature, and since most things in nature   are grouped in odd numbers, I like to see design groupings in threes and   fives to mirror nature,” he says.

•   Strive for unity.
Unique materials can draw the eye, but nothing in the hardscape should stand   out too much because, ultimately, each element needs to fit together like   pieces of a puzzle.

By   carefully editing the number of materials used and drawing on them repeatedly   throughout the design, aesthetic unity can be achieved. Also, using a variety   of differing but complementary textures, colors and shapes can break up what   could become monotonous.

Harmony is crucial to creating a picture-perfect   project. “One key element should tie the entire yard together,” Ragel says.   “With consistency in patterns, colors and textures, builders can make almost   anything work. They’ll be able to successfully unite many different materials   while maintaining a sense of seamless ease.”

Source: Leslie Licano – Pool and Spa News | 8.14.2009