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Sunny Days!

Originally Posted: June 05, 2010

Greg Darvin

Infinity Edge pool in North Haven. (Elizabeth Glasgow)

East Hampton - Historically, swimming pools have been an extravagant amenity reserved for the wealthy and powerful sectors of society, from the Roman baths where senators debated the policies and future of an empire to opulent Hearst Castle in San Simeon where celebrities and socialites indulged in all the pleasures while escaping from everyday stresses and pressures as well as the prying eyes of the public. Las Vegas hotels have paid homage to excess by building elaborate water worlds that broke the mold of "the swimming pool" while resorts in Indonesia and parts of the Pacific created Zen retreats with plunge pools and water gardens that seem to disappear into the horizon.

Pristine Pools Owner Greg Darvin stands upon a solar project executed by Pristine Eco Systems.

A photo of a swimming pool in Travel + Leisure or Architectural Digest could completely change the future and fortune of the resort where it resided. I remember that Robin Leache's "champagne wishes and caviar dreams" were more often than not made poolside. Money was no object and those who heated these pools to sub-boiling temperatures fought Mother Nature without any regard for the environmental or economic impact.

Times have changed. Now due to increasing energy costs and social awareness, even the most seemingly stubborn capitalist is forced to question their consumption. The question of solar pool heat arises in almost every new project consultation. As the owner of Pristine Pools and sister company Pristine Eco Systems that specializes in renewable energy, I have a great deal of insight into this subject.

Unfortunately, passive swimming pool heating is not a very good option for our environment. A passive solar array must consist of 80 percent of the gross surface area of the swimming pool to offer a viable heating option for a swimming pool. So a standard 20 x 40 foot pool needs to have 640 square feet of south-southwest roof exposure with little to no shade to even consider a passive solar pool heating system. Also an installation of this system would not qualify for any local, state and federal rebates or tax credits.

House residence in Sagaponack. (Gordon M. Grant)

On the other hand, the same homeowner who installs a Photovoltaic solar electric array rather than a passive system can produce approximately 11,000 kilowatt hours of electricity which is available for electricity. This is not just limited to swimming pool heat, a seasonal demand, but is available for additional electricity. A Photovoltaic system also qualifies for the sizeable LIPA rebate, a state income tax credit and a 30 percent federal income tax credit on the gross cost of the system. Under the right circumstances, a solar array of this size can produce all of the electrical needs for a 2,000 square foot home in the Hamptons.

For those who still want to address their swimming pool heating needs with solar energy, I recommend piggy backing your Photovoltaic electric system with an energy efficient electric heat pump. This will provide a healthy heating alternative for the environment as well as for your balance sheet. Heating your swimming pool to a comfortable bathing temperature is a luxury that most pool owners would rather not give up but it is important to find the most economic and socially responsible method available.

Pool feature waterfall on Soundview Drive, Montauk.

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