Taking on a new pool is almost always an opportunity to improve the backyard.
“When we get a new client, we review the entire pool
mechanicals — what things it has and what things it
doesn’t,” says Mark Pifer, owner of Royal Pool
Management in Venice, Fla. “Most people want to spend the
different [upgrades] that will bring the pool up to function, which
also then makes it easier for us to care for.”
Of course, upselling is just a happy byproduct of a thorough
pool audit. The primary focus of every tech should be improving the
overall environment of the pool.
First and foremost, techs should be keenly aware of any safety
hazards around the pool. Second, techs should strive to make their
job easier. And finally, energy efficiency should always be
Here are some tips to providing a thorough audit.
Safety should be foremost in assessing a new customer’s pool.
Some dangers are obvious — a dilapidated diving board,
missing fence posts — but others may be less familiar. A
thorough check should include hazards for the homeowner and tech
One of the first warning signs of trouble for any aquascape is
the rusting hinges of a worn-out diving board, circa 1972. Most
industry professionals just take it out.
But some families are intent on keeping the board, and you may
have to try an alternative strategy.
“When I go in, I’m not too concerned about the
diving board — if it breaks, I’m not going to replace
it, I’ll just take it out,” says Don Pollard, owner of
Pro in Glendora, Calif. “If they have an existing diving
board, I’m just going to assume their homeowner’s
insurance already knows they have it.”
If the diving board stays on the pool, don’t attempt to
make adjustments or repairs. In fact, it’s best to waive any
potential liability in a service agreement, recommends Ray
Arouesty, owner of Arrow Insurance Service in Simi Valley,
Of course, suction entrapment has rocked the commercial pool
sector with legislation and media coverage. And regardless of its
relatively overblown exposure, checking for a potential entrapment
hazard should be part of your audit.
Drain covers must be securely fastened, as most entrapments are
a result of missing or broken covers. Check for older cover models
or fissures in the plastic.
For single-drain pools, consider offering a safety vacuum
release valve, which is often the most affordable anti-entrapment
Entrapment isn’t an issue for most well-designed pools,
but you may want to remove any skimmer disablement devices to avoid
sending all the water through the main drain or drains.
“A lot of times, if people are nervous, I’ll take
the float diverter out of the skimmer so there is really no way for
it to suck [all] from the bottom,” Pollard says.
As with any gas-powered appliance, leaks in the heater can also
be a problem. These seem to occur around the unions, and they
should be checked and replaced regularly.
Finally, ensure the gate latches properly to protect the
liability of both the homeowner and yourself. Likewise, fences
should be in good condition and meet all local codes.
Too often, techs settle on poorly run pools and end up spending too
much time on-site making adjustments and repairs.
Two key areas to investigate with regard to water quality are
the pump and the filter.
“In my service agreement I say you have to maintain
adequate circulation,” Pollard notes. “There have been
a couple situations where I wouldn’t take on their pool
unless they upgraded their equipment.”
One recently acquired account was outfitted with a
100-square-foot filter and a 3/4hp pump that was approaching 25
years old, he recalls.
Fortunately, Pollard convinced the customer to upgrade the
equipment before he took the account. However, he warns that
upselling from the start is only ideal in exceptionally bad pools,
and waiting for the equipment to wear itself out may be the more
“If you get the account and establish a trust with them
[first], it goes a long way when something needs to be
Even if the circulation does check out, some techs are finicky
“Some guys have strong opinions and want all their pools
to be salt, or none of them to be salt,” Pifer says.
Some techs even remove alternative sanitization systems such as
copper and silver ionization cartridges. More often that not,
however, it’s best to adjust to the pool and do whatever it
takes to maintain a sanitized pool at an affordable rate.
Valves can be another area to investigate for repair before
taking a new account.
“Guys will leave leaking valves because they don’t
want to [be bothered], and then move onto the next [pool],”
Pifer says. “So what happens is they lose the efficiency of
the equipment by allowing leaks to stay.”
The end result is also a lot of wasted water. Check for leaks
around valves and the pump, and show the customer if possible.
Retrofitting valves may also be part of the job. Pollard uses a
two-way valve for low-level equipment pads.
“Typically you only use that if the equipment is below water
level and you need to clean the pump basket,” he says.
Installing the valve ensures he doesn’t flood the deck
whenever he checks the pump basket for maintenance.
An inefficient pool doesn’t always get in the way of general
maintenance, but it still can have a significant effect on the
equipment. And unhappy customers may not know what’s wrong,
but they are eating the problem in their monthly electric bill.
Although more of an energy waste than anything else, oversized
pumps are a fairly common discovery for service techs. Customers
can be stubborn, however, since they paid their builder for a
higher-end piece of equipment.
“I run into quite a few oversized pumps, and it’s
hard to convince the customer that by downsizing the pump,
they’ll actually get better circulation,” says Clint
Combs, owner of Technical Pool Repair in Ontario, Calif.
“They paid for a bigger one, but all the [extra] energy is
being used up on friction, and the pump is cavitating.”
The energy cost can be a burden, but the unnecessary wear on the
motor is sure to grab your customer’s attention when
it’s time to be replaced. It’s also an irritant in
terms of noise.
Booster pumps for waterfeatures can also be a source for
unnecessary motor wear, says Nelson Silveria, owner of Blue Island
Pool Service in Gilbert, Ariz.
“They put a throttle valve on a [booster] pump
so…it’s causing [it] to deadhead,” he explains.
“It’s really loud and hard on the pump.”
The solution is to either have a separate return line to move the
rest of the water that’s being restricted by the throttle
valve, or more simply, just use the main filter pump with a
throttle valve on the line to the waterfeature, Silveria says. This
saves money for homeowners on the booster pump and provides a
quieter backyard experience.
- Selling to the Homeowner
When dealing with new customers, techs must put them at ease and
establish a relationship.
- Pool Pump Cost Savings Calculator
(Courtesy of Pentair Water Pool and Spa)
- Energy Solutions Calculator
(Courtesy of Hayward Pool Products)
- Two-Speed and Variable-Speed Energy Cost Calculator
(Courtesy of Jandy)