How much continuing education did you receive in 2010? If the answer isn’t what you’d like, you’ll soon have the chance to improve it.

This spring, three industry organizations are debuting a new virtual education opportunity. Hanley Wood (publisher of Pool & Spa News), the Foundation for Pool & Spa Industry Education and the National Swimming Pool Foundation have formed a partnership to produce a series of online seminars.

Their current plans include three in-depth programs to enhance technical knowledge and introduce new skill-sets to the pool and spa industry. The first, which focuses on energy auditing, will launch late this spring. Additional courses on basic electricity and hydraulics and circulation will roll out later this year.

The courses are designed to be interactive, featuring images, narration, exercises and quizzes designed to make the material more engaging for participants.

The timing is right for the Aquatic Energy Auditor class — a course aimed at improving energy efficiency in and around aquascapes — according to Michael Orr, executive director of Sacramento, Calif.-based FPSIE, which developed the seminar materials.

Many states, such as California, Florida, Texas and Arizona, have current or pending legislation regarding increased energy efficiency in pools. And, power companies, which do conduct energy audits, generally don’t have enough auditors in-house to reach all the pools in their areas, leaving a opening for others to enter the market.

In this economy, many pool and spa firms are looking for new sidelines to enhance revenue and keep their crews busy, and providing this service can be a natural fit. Consumer demand also is high: Homeowners want ways to save money — and the environment.

With those factors in mind, energy audits become a “win-win” proposition for all involved.

Become an energy auditor

In the Aquatic Energy Auditor class, attendees will learn how to inspect a pool or spa, and then suggest improvements to ensure that the vessels are running at peak efficiency. After completing the course, graduates are eligible for certification as Certified Aquatic Energy Auditors (CAEAs).

Those who take the course will learn about specific system recommendations — not all of which are expensive for customers. Even a few small changes to pool equipment can make a large difference in energy cost savings, notes Thomas Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based NSPF.

“For example, one of the most significant changes to a pool system that attendees will learn about would be when to suggest a new variable-speed pump,” he says. “This change alone could save a homeowner more than $1,000 a year.”

Topics covered in the Aquatic Energy Auditor class include how to:

  •  Collect information from the backyard pool systems already in place.
  •  Identify errors made in the design and configuration of older pool systems and remedy them.
  •  Evaluate the various components within a pool’s circulation system — including pumps, motors and filters — and recognize those that need more careful examination for energy use.
  •  Assess heater components and their efficiency.
  •  Upgrade lighting in and around the poolscape.
  •  Perform the calculations needed to determine energy efficiency.

Demand for efficiency

With the economy in recovery mode and the popularity of environmentally sound technology growing, interest in energy audits is bound to be high.

“Understanding and reducing energy consumption is valuable,” Lachocki explains. “Energy and chemicals are two of the major costs for a pool once it’s operating.

“If a pool professional can show a consumer how something like a variable-speed pump can save hundreds of dollars in a year and also earn them a rebate from a power company, that’s valuable,” he adds. “Creating value isn’t a ‘branch’ of a business, but the ‘trunk’ of any sustainable business.”

Pool and spa professionals who offer energy audits also can profit from helping their customers implement changes.

“On the builder’s side, the swimming pool business has really shrunk,” Orr says. “However, the retrofit marketplace has picked up, and people are having their equipment retrofitted [to be energy efficient] at the same time.”

Plus, these firms might earn rebate money themselves. “Some power companies have offered or are considering a $200 rebate [to pool and spa firms] to replace a pump,” Lachocki says. “When a professional takes and passes the Certified Aquatic Energy Auditor course they can almost pay for the course with one rebate check.”