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Survey shows pool chem prices doubled

By Marcelle Dibrell

Every year, Service Industry News does a three-part survey of pool and spa service professionals across the country with the intention to get a sense of the state of the industry.

The results of the first survey, published June 1, 2021, focuses on billing practices: how do you bill and what do you charge, and it additionally provides information concerning employee wages.

The results of the second survey, published June 15, 2021, concentrates on specific labor and repair charges: what is your hourly repair charge, and what do you command for large specialized jobs such as acid washing, vinyl liner replacement, as well as pump and heater installation and more. This, our final 2021 Service Industry News survey edition focuses on chemicals, testing, and specialty equipment that may be employed at the pools you service.

Specifically, what chemicals do you use, how much do you pay for them, what is your preferred testing method, and what types of supplementary disinfection systems (salt water chlorine generators, SWCG’s, ozone, UV, and advanced oxidation processes, AOP) assist in the work you do every day. We also include data about the types of automatic cleaners (suctionside, pressure-side, and robots) that are at the pools you service.

As in years past, we have found it instructional to break the data down on a regional basis, not only because certain areas of the country exhibit regional trends, but also to allow service professionals to compare their practices with their immediate peers.

For example, amidst the 2020-2021 trichlor shortage that has impacted the entire country, prices have gone up, but by how much?

That varies from region to region, with service techs from the Southeastern portion reporting some of the highest prices – many over $200 for a 50-pound bucket of trichlor; while for service techs from Southern California, for the same quantity of chemical, the price has approximately doubled from pre-trichlor-shortage days of about $75 to the current price of $145.

And with the shortage, many service professionals have been forced to turn to alternate chlorination methods than might have been their preference, such as liquid, calcium hypochlorite, or dichlor. In prior years, for most regions of the country, the price of using liquid chlorine was almost twice as high compared to using trichlor when comparing the cost per pound of available chlorine. But now, the story is quite different. Prices have gone up across the board, and for most regions, using trichlor to chlorinate is now more expensive than using liquid chlorine.

That disparity is very apparent in Florida, where they pay the nationwide low price of $1.00 a gallon for liquid chlorine, and an average of $3.16 per pound of available chlorine from trichlor (if they can even get it). In Florida, where once it might have made sense to go with either form of chlorine, the choice is now patently clear.

Because of these price increases, many industry professionals have predicted a spike in sales of secondary disinfection systems, so this year, we also surveyed service professionals about whether their pools also employ SWCG’s UV, ozone, andAOPsystems. Similarly, we also asked questions about their use of specialty chemicals (such as algicides, enzymes, etc.) they may be using to help offset some of the challenges they are currently facing.

This survey issue also examines the popular use of automatic cleaners, employed on most of the pools serviced by maintenance firms. As has been noted in years prior, preferences for the type of cleaner - be it pressure side, suction side, or robotic, is regional.

Chlorination types and pricing, cleaner types and prevalence, specialty chemicals and usage, and preferred testing methods are all the topics of this special issue of Service Industry News.

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