San Juan Pools will no longer include main drains with its shells. The fiberglass-pool manufacturer is taking a firm stance against suction outlets because it does not want to assume liability for drains with limited life spans.
Kirk Sullivan, president of the Lakeland, Fla.-based company, said that because his product is under warranty for 25 years, it doesn’t make good business sense to include drains that only last up to seven.
Sullivan resents that dealers are expected to shoulder all the responsibility for notifying homeowners when their drains are about to expire. That means keeping meticulous records and setting up some sort of system to alert homeowners that they’re due for a replacement every three to seven years to comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. That’s a burden drain-cover manufacturers do not have to share, and thus they are shielded from any risk, Sullivan said.
To avoid jeopardizing himself or his dealers, Sullivan is encouraging San Juan Pools dealers to install pools without dual main drains, at least in Florida. State building code prohibits the use of a single-suction outlet. A pool can either have two main drains or none. Sullivan is opting for the latter.
His pools come off the factory floor in one monolithic piece. There are no pre-drilled holes for drains. He’s encouraging dealers not to install them unless requested by the customer.
A pool without main drains does not compromise water quality, he said. Skimmers and the returns are enough to adequately circulate and disperse chemicals, and the pool is all the safer for it, he said.
“We don’t use drains,” he said. “We do everything from the surface, where everything is safe.”
Besides, he noted, suction outlets are not entirely necessary. That’s something even some drain cover manufacturers acknowledge. “They’re not needed, technically,” said Steve Barnes, director of science and compliance at AquaStar Pool Products. He said it’s not uncommon for fiberglass installers to go this route. Recognizing this, the Ventura, Calif. manufacturer developed a skimmer with a deeper throat that can be used on pools without drains.
But main drains are still the most efficient way to circulate water, Barnes said.
To ensure that water will be fed to the pump if the water level drops below the skimmer, San Juan Pools are equipped with an equalizer line on the wall. Rather than use suction-entrapment prevention covers on the equalizer, Sullivan’s dealers are installing wall fittings like you’d use on the returns. These allow water to pass through the line to the skimmer. No suction is required.
“Inlets don’t have 7-year life spans and they’re made out of the same plastic,” Sullivan said.
He insists that none of his Florida dealers have run into compliance issues.
Florida marks only the starting place for what Sullivan hopes will become a nationwide movement to eradicate main drains entirely. He’s encouraging builders to check their local codes to see if going drainless is an option, and he hopes it sparks a grass-roots effort to challenge building ordinances that do not.
“As an industry, let’s kill the drain,” he said.
Sullivan also believes there is a financial gain to avoiding drains. Not only will dealers save money on the covers themselves, he said, but they’ll benefit from easier installations without the unnecessary plumbing.