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 optimized.
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 alike.
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 The Pool 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, Calif.
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 option.
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 feasible option.
“If you get the account and establish a trust with them [first], it goes a long way when something needs to be replaced.”
Even if the circulation does check out, some techs are finicky about sanitation.
“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.
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