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2014 Chemical & testing results ready

By Marcelle Dibrell

Our final survey edition of Service Industry News reviews the general trends across the nation with respect to chemicals and maintenance equipment. 

Here, we examine the forms of chlorine used to sanitize water including salt water chlorine generated pools, as well as any specialty chemicals that might be employed. We also assess popular usage of various automatic pool cleaners, such as pressure side, suction side, or robotic pool cleaners. 

After tabulating the numbers a few interesting trends have emerged, many of which demonstrate regional preferences that are consistent with prior years.

For example, as was the case last year, trichlor tabs are the most common chlorination method, but liquid chlorine is a close second. 

While this has not always been the case, trichlor is slightly cheaper than liquid chlorine nationwide. On average, survey respondents reported that they pay approximately $88.50 for 50 pounds of trichlor tabs. That works out to $1.77 per pound. However, since trichlor tabs contain 90 percent available chlorine, respondents are actually paying $1.97 per pound of available chlorine. By comparison, the average cost of liquid chlorine was reported to be roughly $2.34 per gallon. Since a gallon of chlorine is also a pound of chlorine, and that also contains a pound of available chlorine, liquid chlorine costs $2.34 per pound of available chlorine. Thus, not counting additional chemicals, trichlor is on average, 37 cents cheaper per pound. 

Nonetheless, liquid chlorine has an important advantage over trichlor tabs that discerning service technicians are well aware:  it contains no cyanuric acid. Since it is known that the presence of cyanuric acid slows bacterial kill rates in proportion to its concentration, and can potentially lead to other mysterious problems, many professionals prefer to limit its concentrations in the pools that they service. Thus, when the recommended cyanuric acid levels have been attained, 30-50 ppm, service professionals will then switch to liquid chlorine.

The use of gas chlorine is almost non-existent with only a handful of service technicians reporting its use nationwide. 

Lithium hypochlorite is also not widely used. In a trend similar to the results found in last year’s survey it seems to be most popular in the Northeast and Midwest, where 13 and 25 percent of respondents reported using it. Because it is fast dissolving, lithium hypochlorite tends to be a popular choice for vinyl lined pools, which are much more popular in these regions. By comparison, none of the survey respondents from California or Florida use it. 

This year, service technicians were asked to report on the general popularity of saltwater chlorine-generated pools. 

We learned that they are more popular than ever. Nationwide, survey respondents reported that roughly 25 percent of pools serviced are chlorine-generated, up 5 percentage points from last year. 

In the state of California, where robust survey response lends more confidence to the data, chlorine generated pools are more popular in the southern portion of the state. In fact, 23 percent of the pools serviced in Southern California are chlorine generated. They are less common in Northern California as well as the Northeast region of the country, where 11 percent are chlorine-generated. 

Concerning specialty chemicals, the most commonly used include algicides, clarifiers, and sequestering agents, which is no real surprise, as those chemicals have longest been on the market, and treat ubiquitous problems. 

We have long noted that the use of automatic pool cleaners is on the rise, and have spoken to many service professionals who flat out refuse to service pools that don’t incorporate them. This year, 62 percent of respondents reported use of automatic cleaners such as pressure-side, suction-side or robotic cleaners. 

As in the past, the decision to employ a suction-side cleaner or pressure-side cleaner depends largely on the location of the pool in question, and nationwide is roughly split, with 57 percent choosing pressure-side and 35 percent opting for suction-side. Nationwide, the use of robotic cleaners has increased from last year: Almost 8 percent of professionals reported use of robotic cleaners. This increase was most prominent in the Northeast, where respondents indicated a nationwide high of 30 percent of their pools are serviced by robotic cleaners.

In this final installment of our 2014 survey, we will provide a complete region-by-region breakdown on the statistics obtained and analyzed for data relevant to chemicals and cleaning equipment. 

Participants in this year’s survey came from firms representing more than 600 service and repair technicians who regularly care for more than 20,000 pools and who make over 17,000 additional repairs for customers who are not on regular route service.

Paid subscribers have full access to the complete coverage on the 2014 Industry Survey. Contact our circulation department at 949-916-0292 or email for details.

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