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When it comes to maintaining water quality, the options continue to increase.

With the crossover of Advanced Oxidation Process to the residential sphere, for instance, homeowners have more to learn. The internet certainly makes it easier for consumers to keep up; however, grasping the benefits and limitations of these technologies and distinguishing fact from exaggeration can pose a challenge.

This places a sizable responsibility on the professionals helping them to make their choice.

Here, we offer tips for educating and selling these products to homeowners.

1. Establish realistic expectations.

When offering sanitizing equipment of all stripes, pool/spa professionals must consistently counter the unrealistic expectations that can circulate.

“It’s about really trying to manage expectations, striving not to over-promise and then be perceived as under-delivering,” says Dennis Marunde, president of Arvidson Pools & Spas, a building, service and retail firm in Crystal Lake, Ill.

This historically has been an issue with salt chlorine generators. They nearly sell themselves — professionals report that homeowners frequently ask for them by name. However, salespeople sometimes need to make certain clarifications. For example, some consumers believe these systems remove chlorine from the equation. Additionally, they often think the equipment takes care of itself, with little to no maintenance or water testing required.

While makers of these devices have made strides toward easing maintenance, the cells do need to be cleaned occasionally. Additionally, the pH and alkalinity must be monitored, just as surely as a pool using any other sanitization method.

Ozone poses the same challenge. Here, too, they believe that an ozonated pool is free of chlorine. For Marunde, one of the first orders of business is to explain upfront that an ozonated pool will still need a slight chlorine residual, whether in liquid or tablet form, or as generated from salt.

“If it is sold with the idea that it is a terrific sanitizer that helps maintain a swimming pool, that it is not the complete answer to pool care but is a terrific supplement that can reduce the number of problems you’re going to have, then it meets with a reasonable acceptance with the consumer, and it’s not oversold,” he says.

One technology is just starting to gain some traction in the residential market: Advanced Oxidation Process, which integrates two established non-chlorine sanitizing technologies — ozone and ultraviolet light. As attractive as it is to professionals, not even this technology provides an option that is plug-and-play and eliminates the need for chlorine.

AOP systems come in varying levels of complexity and sophistication. Jerry Parker, owner of Parker’s Pool & Spa in Redwood City, Calif., has found that the lower-end models generally require a chlorine residual of 1 part per million, while the upper-tier versions need about 0.5 ppm.

Additionally, varying levels of sophistication bring different types of maintenance of AOP equipment. At the very least, the UV bulb will need occasional replacement. You might want to find out the life of the bulb and then ballpark the replacement frequency based on how many hours per day the system will operate.

“On our higher-level systems, you have tubing and check valves that you may have to replace, and you may have to rebuild the lightning chambers,” Parker says.

2. Have a conversation about water balance.

While this applies to any sanitizer, it’s worth noting here. Sometimes before even discussing the sanitizing method, Parker will explain the importance of employing a pH/ORP system or other technology to help manage the pH, alkalinity and other parameters impacting a sanitizer’s efficacy.

“A lot of people talk about sanitizers, but if you don’t have balanced water, it’s not going to look good or smell good, and it’s going to be caustic on the skin,” he says. “... So it does make a difference, the balance of water before you even introduce sanitizers.

“The most effective sanitation happens when water is balanced.”

3. Explain the benefits of the equipment’s consistency.

Many of these systems work whenever the pool’s circulation system is running. This means that a pool will undergo sanitization for at least a few hours a day.

This serves as a nice alternative to dosing chlorine weekly. “You’re sanitizing the water better than just the once-a-week chlorine routine, because it is coming on six to eight hours per day throughout the week,” Parker says.

4. Outline the long-term cost savings.

Technologies such as ozone, UV, AOP and salt require a higher upfront cost compared with manually dosing chlorine. But they often save on monthly operation costs, since they don’t require the same amount of chemicals. Explain this to the customer, and provide an honest estimate of how long it should take for a system to pay for itself in savings.

5. Emphasize ozone’s power as a sanitizer.

People seem to easily understand that, if oxygen is an effective sanitizer, then ozone, whose molecule contains one more oxygen atom than air, makes for a fast and efficient method of killing microorganisms.

“Once [ozone is] pulled into the water, it’s a very effective sanitizer — it attacks the cells and breaks down the cell membrane,” Parker says.

6. Explain the benefits of removing byproducts and TDS with UV and ozone systems.

Clients should be able to appreciate the fact that ozone leaves no byproducts after it does its job. That means no chloramines, with their smell. “All it does is come back to oxygen,” Parker says. “There’s nothing left in the water.”

That includes total dissolved solids (TDS). “If you take a tall, clear glass, fill it with chlorine from the jug, set it in the sun and let it evaporate, you’re going to see all the solids that are left over, all the byproducts that are in water,” Parker says. “So every time you pour a gallon in, there are dissolved solids. When you’re using ozone, it’s just O₃ — there are no solids involved with it.”

This is especially appealing to customers in drought-prone areas, since maintaining low TDS levels will prevent the need to drain and refill any portion of the pool.

7. Emphasize the commercial and municipal connections of UV.

While UV systems seem on their way to becoming more commonly known among homeowners, they first truly gained their foothold in the commercial world. UV plays an increasingly important role in the water-quality management of commercial pools, with their higher bather loads and more stringent codes to comply with. Designers of interactive spray features especially appreciate UV’s ability to eradicate certain pathogens that chlorine can’t.

When talking to his residential clients, builder Josh Buzzell explains this fact to help bolster UV’s credibility and emphasize its value.

“If you look at the specifications on any commercial pool, they’re always going to have a UV system, because it works,” says the CEO of Regal Pools in Tomball, Texas. “It kills all the things that are connected to your body, like parasites. So if you have a pool party with 50 children in the pool, it’s going to kill all that stuff.”

Even more impressive, some districts use this technology to help treat their drinking water — a fact that homeowners will learn if they work with Parker.

8. Advocate UV as a less-expensive alternative to AOP.

Some homeowners are becoming more concerned about removing as many pathogens as possible, whether because they entertain frequently or they just like to be as clean as possible. Available for hundreds of dollars, rather than thousands, UV may serve as a viable alternative for customers who have these concerns but are not able or willing to invest in a more expensive option such as AOP.

“We sell it to both [high-end and mid-range clients] because it’s not that much to put a UV system on your pool,” Buzzell says.

9. Properly time the pitch for AOP — but don’t rule anybody out.

Unless you’re dealing with a super high-end customer or somebody who clearly responds to the latest technologies, you may not want to lead with it. AOP systems rank among the more expensive sanitization methods, so you don’t want to create sticker shock.

As an AOP advocate, Parker first sells them on an ORP system to maintain the water’s balance and stabilize, regardless of the chosen sanitization. He may wait further down the discussion before raising the subject of AOP.

However, that doesn’t mean he makes assumptions. Though most purchasers of AOP systems earn a certain level of income, some of his more middle-class customers end up buying into the technology.

“Maybe they have a child who has allergies, and chlorine affects them more,” he says. “They understand the value of these systems.”

Parker also finds that younger clients are more receptive. “The newer generation of pool owners — 40 and under — are a lot more educated about pools and the water itself,” he says.

10. Know when to get technical about AOP and when not.

A fair portion of Parker’s clients either know and ask about AOP, or they show an interest in the technical. So he feels free to get into detail about how these systems work.

But others don’t have that interest or tolerance. “They kind of glaze over and say, ‘I just want the water to be clear when I want to use it, and I don’t want it to go green,’” Marunde says about most of his clients.

So his team focuses on trust-building. “We want them to get a sense that we’ve got the answers, that they don’t need to know everything that we know,” Marunde says. “We don’t try to sell them on the technology — we try to sell them on the idea that we’re working hard to make it a simple, reliable and easy-to-own enhancement to their home.”

To spur confidence, Parker likes to point out other industries that have long relied on similar sanitation methods.

“They use it in the food industry, where it has to be FDA-approved, and there’s ozone in every bottle of water that you drink,” he says. “It’s in laundry systems for large hotels — their sanitation levels have to be high because of the amount of the population that touches it."