Another bright new year has arrived and everywhere there is possibility and promise … and new products! Yes, it’s that time when manufacturers proudly unveil their latest and greatest creations at trade shows, and the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in Orlando, Fla., certainly had its share of that new-product excitement. As the PSN staff traversed the exhibit hall, they spied a number of pool- and spa-related innovations. Here are some standouts.

Aquatic friends: AquaStar
A whimsical octopus … a playful seal … a laid-back turtle … all these and many more designs are available in the Fillable Friends stencil line. “It’s a new twist on mosaic designs” for pools, spas and walkways, says Steve Barnes, director of science and compliance at AquaStar Pool Products.

Launched in October 2014, the Fillable Friends line has 29 designs, from sea creatures to foot- and paw prints. The plastic stencils come in six standard colors: white, black, light gray, blue, dark gray or tan.

How it works: Rather than using a tile-filled mosaic design, installers can simply fill the patented, pre-fabricated stencil with media such as plaster, pebble, glass beads, concrete and more. “It’s significantly less expensive, the equivalent of doing mosaic tile in a low-cost way,” Barnes says.

Also, it’s quick and easy to install the designs, and the same pool-building crew can handle the work. “The last pool I was at to watch installation, they used six different stencils in the pool — and the crew left at the same time as if they weren’t doing stenciling,” Barnes notes.

AquaStar has been introducing Fillable Friends at trade shows and, he says, “This is what everyone’s talking about. It’s adding beauty back into the pool at a fraction of the cost.”

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Light and airy: Cover Valet
The AirO2 Spa Cover caused some buzz at the Expo, and small wonder. This cover uses air chambers rather than foam for heat retention.

“There was a lot of interest at the Expo,” says Matt McMillan, director of sales and marketing at Cover Valet. He goes on to talk about the cover’s features: The air bladder is enclosed by PVC-coated vinyl on top, and underneath is mylar on the water side. There’s an elastic skirt overhang and Velcro on the side and center seams, which is important, he says, because that’s where heat typically escapes.

McMillan adds that you can inflate or deflate the cover ever so slightly to fit the different sizes of aboveground hot tubs, then wrap the cover around from the top. “It’s like a fitted bed sheet, with elastic at the bottom of the sheet,” he explains.

The cover comes in two colors and two sizes, fitting square spas from 78- to 94 inches, and is strong enough to support more than 250 pounds of weight. The solid double-stitched handles make for easy lifting.

Speaking of lifting, the AirO2 is very lightweight and compact, making it easy to transport. Regular ground shipping is de rigueur. For brick-and-mortar retailers, it also means it’s not necessary to schedule delivery appointments. The cover fits into most car trunks, so customers can pick it up at the store and, when they get home, just remove from the box, inflate and place on the spa. McMillan says an air mattress pump can be used to inflate the cover.

The cover has been tested to exceed ASTM standards and is backed by a limited three-year warranty.

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Interactive sales tool: Hayward
“Seeing is believing” and with the new Omni Interactive App, that may be exactly how homeowners feel when builders use it to sell Hayward’s new OmniLogic Backyard Automation System.

This new app for iPads and iPhones is simple to set up, says Erin Dooley, marketing manager, automation, at Hayward Pool Products. Once the app has been downloaded, your iPad can communicate with the real OmniLogic controller app to simulate using OmniLogic automation to control a backyard. The iPad shows a virtual pool and immediately the homeowner can see how easy it is to control the pool, and how different features and upgrades such as bubblers, laminars and lights will look.

Pool builder Whit York can attest to its effectiveness. “It’s a key selling tool, extremely easy to use,” says the owner of St. Croix Custom Pools in Tomball, Texas. “All you need is the Hayward app on an iPad and  iPhone to let the homeowner test-drive it.”

York’s been using the free Hayward Interactive App for a month, and already he can report success. “I used it on three customers and their faces lit up because it allows the homeowner to see how to control their pool — they can see a sheer descent waterfall [rather than having to imagine it],” he adds.

All three prospects bought controllers, by the way. York plans to purchase two or three more iPads for his sales staff.

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Inspired by nature: Lucite Intl.
Color trends are big business, affecting everything from clothes and cars to spas.

Every year, Lucite International Inc., a designer and manufacturer of acrylic-based products, devotes much thought, time and effort into coming up with fresh new colors — and that includes its acrylic cast sheets, which are used for spas and hot tubs.

For 2015, Lucite rolled out three new spa shell colors: Winter Solstice, Glacier Mountain and Yosemite Forest. The company’s color team worked in conjunction with color consultant Beth Almond, ASID. Every Lucite SPA color has a strong story behind it, as Almond explains.

For Glacier Mountain, she says to think of yourself at a ski lodge, gazing up at the mountain. It’s “glistening with silver ice and the whitest snow — the spa color reflects this sense of purity and calm.“ Yosemite Forest was “inspired by nature — lush, leafy green foliage, mountain vistas, flowing water.” Winter Solstice was inspired by a different force of nature — “the miracle and splendor of our universe; think of the moon, mystifying, silver, reflecting light, captivating to stand and watch.”

The colors Glacier Mountain and Winter Solstice comprise the brand-new Metallix series, says Lenore Torres, marketing coordinator at Lucite. Meanwhile, Yosemite Forest was added to the Serenity Series. Torres says the first two were “particularly well received by spa dealers who visited the Expo booth, and the order books are already looking promising for those color options.”

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Think green: Pentair
The SuperMax VS Pump was named “Best Green Product” in the Product Showcase at the Expo.

Ryan Weaver, product manager at Pentair Aquatic Systems, ticks off the “green” aspects of this new variable-speed pump. For starters, there’s the digital keypad, which displays time of day, duration in its current program, and the speed in rpm and watt usage, allowing pool owners to monitor and maximize energy savings. Also, the pump is certified by Energy Star, so it meets energy efficiency criteria set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA.

The pump saves money, reduces energy use and protects the environment, Weaver points out. For these reasons, it’s part of Pentair’s Eco Select brand. The SuperMax pump also has an ultra-quiet, totally enclosed fan-cooled motor, so it doesn’t create noise pollution.

“Customers have been very excited and the feedback very positive,” Weaver reports. “They really like that these pumps can operate on 115V, are easy to program and operate, and are very simple to install.”

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Dramatic lighting: Savi Pool and Spa
For vivid pool lighting, check out the Savi LED Bubbler, winner of “Best New Product” in the Product Showcase.

All-new for 2015, it provides lighted bubbling for water spouts in beach entries, steps, sun shelves and fountains. The bubbler boasts a flush finish and is available in the P-Series, H-Series and the new J-Series product programs, so it can work with various automated control systems. It can function as a stand-alone feature or be used in combination with other Savi pool and spa systems, such as color and dimmable white light waterfeatures, or with the Savi LED underwater lights.

The Bubbler LED cartridges are field serviceable and interchangeable with other white or color Savi LED light cartridges. That ability to change a pool’s lighting with ease and speed is appreciated by customers. “Say you have a white light. You can change the color by just dropping a new cartridge in,” says Mark Masterman, director/general manager at Savi Pool and Spa, a division of Zodiac Pool Systems Inc. “You also can synchronize colors; you can have the pool [set up] so that all the color features work together.”

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