The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals is writing an energy-efficiency rating system that in the future may be used by pool owners to apply for federal tax breaks.

Called the Residential Energy Efficient Swimming Pool Rating System, it will be included in the next version of the ANSI/APSP-15 American National Standard for Residential Swimming Pool and Spa Energy Efficiency. It is included as an optional program and not meant to be mandated by the states and municipalities that adopt the code.

“At the highest level, it’s like knowing the fuel economy of a car,” said Steve Barnes, chairman of APSP’s Technical Committee.

The ratings would be used to measure the energy efficiency of individual pools, either new or existing.

Upon passage of the system, builders will see the most immediate benefit in marketing opportunities. “Contractors can promote their products as being less expensive to own and better for the environment,” Barnes said.

But over the long term, APSP officials hope the designations also can be used to garner tax credits.

While there exists federal legislation allowing tax relief for the use of energy-saving technologies, it specifically excludes pools. Multiple bills to update the law currently are stalled, but at least one version has removed the pool exclusion. Because of this, industry officials hope that pool owners will be rewarded for choosing energy efficiency sometime soon.

APSP also is preparing a vehicle to provide the certification necessary to receive the credits. It is in talks with two organizations that currently certify such ratings on buildings, RESNET and BPI, to incorporate the pool rating system into their own. If the federal government includes pools in its tax credit initiatives, the rating certification could be quickly implemented.

To receive a rating, completed pools would be evaluated based on certain criteria to arrive at a score between 0 and 215. That figure would determine if the pool achieves Gold, Silver or Bronze status.

To arrive at the score, builders or third-party testers would enter factors such as the type of pump, plumbing size, use of elbow fittings, and type and size of filters. The information would be entered into a spreadsheet or software programmed to automatically calculate the score.

Hydraulic efficiency, energy efficiency and water quality each would account for roughly one-third of the score.

Though water-quality measures such as the use of automation do not increase energy efficiency, Barnes said the drafters wanted to ensure that it was not being sacrificed to facilitate the savings.

“It’s intended to build in some accountability on water quality before we start looking at energy efficiency,” he said. “If we’re saving a lot of energy but the pool turns green, that’s not going to help us.”

Pools would have to be in operation at least 30 days before an audit is performed, to ensure the system is working correctly.

Compliance with ANSI/APSP-15 is required for pools to qualify for a rating, Barnes said, adding that installations also may have to meet local codes should they exceed APSP-15.

The next version of ANSI/APSP-15 is expected to be released later this year.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that pools would have to exceed local codes to qualify for a rating, setting the bar higher for some areas than others. Instead, installations may be required to meet those local codes that exceed APSP/ANSI-15 in order to receiving a rating.