Percentage of inaccuracy vs. ideal conditions
Maintaining a safe water balance can be a daunting task. And with the possibility of improper chemical levels causing extensive and costly damage to pool walls and equipment, water management is not a job to take lightly.
The basic principles behind water balance are not overly complex. However, there are nuances to water balance that do take time to understand and are only mastered after years of experience and lessons learned from making mistakes.
One way successful water balance can be achieved is through accurate and thorough testing of the water. But even the most experienced and knowledgeable person with water chemistry is only as good as the accuracy of the test instrument being used. In recent years, a host of manufacturers have introduced testing equipment with claims of improved speed, reduced cost and pinpoint accuracy. Types of tests range from visual test strips and drop kits to recent introductions of digital strip readers and photometers that offer the most advanced and accurate data.
Each type of testing platform carries a different level of accuracy:
When deciding on a testing platform, initial cost undoubtedly enters into the decision making process. Each testing method has its place. However, understanding the accuracy of each test and how accuracy can affect a facility’s operating cost is important. When testing for free chlorine, for example, a photometer can be 10 percent off the correct reading, while a liquid test can be 25 percent off and a test strip can be up to 50 percent off. Not all inaccuracies are the result of instrument error, but encompass typical operator error as well. These variances can cause facility operators and pool owners to use the wrong amount of chemicals, which affects water quality and the bottom line in the form of unnecessary chemical purchases.
Based on average chemical costs, an operator of a 150,000-gallon pool could pay over $1,600 more per year in unnecessary costs trying to bring the water back to ideal conditions. Further, the pool tech may continue to make additional adjustments to water balance utilizing an inaccurate test platform, pulling the balance further from ideal conditions and starting an endless cycle of adjustments.
Not included in the calculations of additional cost are those that result from improperly maintained water, such as corrosion, scaling and swimmer discomfort. When it comes to testing methods, many decisions are made based on one aspect of the testing method, such as time or cost, when in fact the bigger picture should be considered. Saving a few dollars up front could result in a higher cost of operation down the road.
There is a place for all test methods, each serves a purpose and each has a place it will work best. Testing methods should be researched and many factors should be considered when making a decision on which method to utilize. Frequency of use, durability, portability and of course cost should be factored in. Don’t buy on cost-per-test alone, buy on knowledge of the complete system and how that system can affect the entire facility.