Advanced Oxidation Process systems are gaining traction, and getting better.
This relatively new process integrates two established non-chlorine sanitizing technologies -- ozone and ultraviolet light. The two combine to create hydroxyl radicals, which are said to contain the highest known oxidation reduction potential and combat both organic and inorganic contaminants. And it does so with little to no byproducts, proponents say.
These systems have their strong advocates. Dennis Marunde was sold on the technology after finding out that a new pool his company built had gone months with no maintenance. "We had shocked the pool, cleared the water and balanced it prior to turning it over," says the president of Arvidson Pools & Spas, a building, service and retail firm in Crystal Lake, Ill. "This was in May."
They came back to the pool in August. "They had gone almost the entire summer with no water problems," he says. Granted, it wasn't the AOP system alone. Borates and an automatic cover helped, too. But he was impressed.
Advocates such as Marunde sell the technology whenever they can. But in the sales discussion, they take care to address certain unique aspects of these systems.
Properly time the pitch -- 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. These systems rank among the more expensive sanitization methods, so you don't want to create sticker shock.
Another AOP enthusiast, builder and service professional Jerry Parker, first sells them on an ORP system to maintain the water's balance and stabilize whichever sanitization method is chosen. He may wait further down the discussion before he brings up 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," says the owner of Parker’s Pool & Spa in Redwood City, Calif. "They understand the value of these systems."
He 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.
Know when to get technical 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 just 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.
"Our approach to brand building with our customers is 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 adds. "We don’t try to sell them on the technology that's in our pool -- 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."
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."
Paint a realistic picture.
As with many new or alternative sanitizing technologies, consumers and even pool professionals can expect AOP systems to provide an option that is plug-and-play and eliminates the need for chlorine.
Pool professionals should make clear that neither of these things is true. AOP systems come in varying levels of complexity and sophistication. Parker 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. 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.