These days, many companies seem to be facing an unusual choice: “Go green” or go away. More and more consumers expect the products and processes they use to have minimal impact on the environment.
But which products actually deliver on that promise? Pool
professionals throughout the country consistently named products
within three broad categories: Variable-speed pumps, robotic
cleaners and solar heating systems. Though these products often
come with higher price tags, those who sell them explain that this
cost is soon offset by the savings they bring.
Here, industry insiders share their top techniques for closing
sales of energy-efficient products, and keeping conscientious
customers coming back for more.
I’ve been selling energy-efficient pumps since they were
introduced, but for the first few years, I had no personal
experience with them. Then in May of ’08, I had a problem
with the pump on my own pool, so I decided to go ahead and upgrade
to the energy-efficient model.
Prior to putting in that pump, I was running my 2-hp pump for six
hours a day. When I put in the new variable-speed pump, I doubled
my run time from six hours to 12, and my first electric bill was
down $100 from the month before.
I let three months go by, because I wanted to make sure the first
month wasn’t just a fluke. But as time passed, I found that I
was saving about $75 a month on electricity consumption
So I said to myself, “I owe it to my customers to at least
let them know about this.” And I sent a mailer out that said,
“Look, we’re not just trying to sell you a new pump.
This is what I personally experienced, and this is what I perceive
my payback to be. And I think you owe it to yourself to at least
look at it.”
I really don’t know of any other product that you can just
replace, and see it not only pay itself off, but continue to pay
dividends down the road.
In our showroom, I keep a variable-speed pump mounted right next to
a standard two-speed one, so I can bring a customer over and say,
“Let me turn off this noisy one,” and let them hear for
themselves how much quieter the energy-efficient pump sounds.
I also keep laminated printouts of power bills from customers who
have purchased an energy-efficient pump and filter. That way, I can
show new customers that people who have purchased these products
are seeing real savings every month.
I tell customers that I’ve bought many items for my own home
that I was told would decrease my power bill — such as an
energy-efficient air conditioning filter — but I never really
saw a change. But when I installed the energy-efficient pool pump
and filter, my power bill dropped by about $70 per month. I was
really impressed by that.
Here in Palm Desert, we have a law that says that you have to have
a two-speed or variable-speed pump with a digital interface that
makes the best use of both the available speeds and times.
When I talk to potential customers, I aim to offer them a full
return on their investment within 12 months. I do it with a
thorough scientific evaluation and analysis of their needs, and a
deliberative written response. I show them mathematically that the
pump I install will pay off its own cost, through reduced energy
consumption, in the course of a single year. If I can’t do
that in 12 months, I don’t even attempt the job.
I have a 100 percent close ratio on my sales leads. When I show
customers my scientific analysis of their system, and I say,
“Allow me to reduce your energy bill by this much,” the
pump gets sold every time.
Electricity is a lot cheaper in Oklahoma than on the coasts, so
most of our customers run their pumps 24 hours a day. One big
selling point for robotic cleaners is that when you’re
running one, you can turn off your main pool pump. A lot of new
customers don’t realize that.
Robotic cleaners have a bag inside that collects all the debris, so
none of that goes to the customer’s filter. That means they
don’t have to backwash, which saves them even more on their
water bill. They’re also saving money on chemicals, because
as a robotic cleaner runs, it circulates the pool’s water
— and the chemicals in it — more than a pump alone
does. So you see fewer problems related to poor circulation, like
algae and scaling.
So we pitch robotic cleaners mainly in terms of the chemical
savings, and the amount of wear and tear they’ll save on the
system. Most people don’t like running their pool pumps all
the time anyway, because it’s so loud. So if they can turn
the pump off at night and run a robotic cleaner instead, and
they’re saving money on water and chemicals on top of that,
it makes the pool much more enjoyable to own.
The thing about solar is, it’s the best application in the
world for a low temperature gain at high efficiency. You can only
heat a pool so much anyway — about 15 degrees above the
outside air temperature — even if you put a heat-retaining
cover on it, so there’s a limit to how much you can raise the
temperature. I explain to customers that that limit is the same for
solar systems, heat pumps or gas heaters.
I also explain that our state energy center says the minimum water
temperature for recreation is 80 degrees. A lot of people who swim
in the evening, with the sun going down, want a temperature closer
to 85 degrees. Now, most of the swimming pools in Florida are
inside a cage with a light screen around it, to keep the dust and
bugs out. Without a heater of any kind, a screened pool will
probably never have any days where the water temperature rises
above 85 degrees. An unscreened pool might have about 30 days over
85. I explain to the customer that if that’s the temperature
they’re shooting for, a solar system will add up to 200 days
a year to their swimming season. That’s a dramatic increase,
to say the least.
I normally start by showing customers a sample of the [solar]
collector. And people say, “Is that all it is — just
some plastic?” And I say, “Yes, but we put five of
these collectors on a roof, which is over a mile of
We’re sucking out all the heat that could be accumulating on
that customer’s roof tiles, and putting it into their pool.
And as soon as you put it in that perspective, they think of how
hot their attics are, and they understand. In Virginia, I can go
out in the middle of a 45-degree day, and the roof’s still
120 degrees. You can literally see the heat waves rising off the
roof. So apart from the initial cost, solar energy is free
The biggest hurdle for some customers is the thought of having all
those black panels up on the roof. When that comes up, I say,
“Well, let’s look at your roof — what do you see
up there?” They say “Nothing.” And I say,
“Are you sure? What about those three big galvanized metal
vents sticking up? And the white plumbing vents?”
They’ll answer, “Oh, I never noticed all that.”
And I tell them, “After a few days, you won’t notice
the solar panels either.”
The bottom line is, green technology makes people feel good, but
what it really comes down to is helping them get more out of their
investment. If I can show them a solar heating system will enable
them to use their $30,000 pool for two more months out of every
year, that’s a significant increase in return on
As one of my customers put it, “If you don’t heat it,
it’s just expensive landscaping.”