It’s no secret that the pool and spa industry is short on stats. No one really knows the number of pools in the ground, how many are constructed in a given year or even the percentage of American households that own a portable spa.

This lack of data is seen in individual products as well. Though there’s plenty of anecdotal information regarding the performance of a given pool filter, where is the objective comparison of many pool filters? If you Google the term “sewing machine product review,” you’ll see multiple pages of responsible, third-party data that contrasts the different units on the market. Google the term “pool filter product review” and what you get is mostly junk.

That’s why I was especially pleased about our cover story in this issue. The National Pool Industry Research Center is partnering with manufacturers of test kits to conduct a study of the differences between the readings for various brands. It’s the second project of its kind. The purpose of the research isn’t to rank one test kit over another. Rather, it will provide important insight into the variances in their readings, and perhaps open discussion about how this issue can be addressed.

I’m not deeply familiar with the study’s protocols, but I think it’s safe to assume that this project requires a high level of cooperation between competitors — something that is often in short supply in our industry. And it makes a difference.

Every month, I receive a number of calls from private equity firms looking for information about the pool and spa market. Often they are trying to determine whether to invest money in a specific firm and want hard data to help them decide. Again and again, I’ve had to explain that the facts they are looking for are unavailable. I can’t say if any potential investors have actually passed up our industry due to this lack of information, but my gut tells me that some have. I certainly wouldn’t buy a house without being able to first research the neighborhood.

This problem has gone on for years, and one or two test kit studies won’t solve it, not by a long shot. But the mind-set of these forward-thinking manufacturers will.