The National Pool Industry Research Center is set to release the results of a new study on pool and spa test kits.

After its 2005 findings revealed test kit readings that varied by up to 300 percent, NPIRC completed a second study that will be published by this month.

“When you’re dealing with basic water testing [for chlorine], most of the kits do a really good job,” said Mitch Brooks, executive director of the National Plasterers Council, which established NPIRC at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. “But when it comes to things like cyanuric acid and calcium hardness, that’s where the test kit results get skewed.”

Five major test kit manufacturers volunteered to participate and provide kits for the study, and the brand names of four of the companies will be published in the final report. They also helped develop the study’s protocol, which involved a three-person team traveling to five different universities across the nation to conduct the tests.

Working with professors and chemistry departments from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, University of Washington, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, University of Texas at Austin, and New York’s Alfred University, the team set up tests at pools in each school’s recreation center. Local professors and students were recruited to measure the water so that differences between the test kit’s users could be introduced.

“We tried to examine as many variables as possible,” said Dr. Damian Kachlakev, NPIRC’s director. “Basically, the report is a variety of comparisons.”

Along with the testers, the variables included several brands of reagents and strips, as well as materials from kits that were purchased at different locations. Comparison data will be plotted for all available parameters and measurements.

All of the tests were finished in March, and at press time, the study was undergoing editorial review at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The final report will be presented in a reader-friendly form, but will make no recommendations for a particular brand of test kit.

“The point of the study wasn’t to make any conclusions or even any suggestions on how to improve the test kits,” Kachlakev said. “The point was to [identify] that there is a problem.”

NPIRC currently is poised to launch two more studies this winter. One will address energy efficiencies in spa units; the other explores the durability of locally created plaster mixes under aggressive water conditions.

For a more in-depth look at recent and forthcoming studies from NPIRC, watch for the Feb. 15, 2008, issue of Pool & Spa News.