Planet-Friendly Pools and Ponds

From on June 06, 2007 in Landscaping

solar poolWe all know that swimming pools, ponds, and fountains can add a lot to the quality of your life at home, from healthful exercise and summer entertaining to restful contemplation. Perhaps for that reason, they’ve often been portrayed as classic examples of conspicuous consumption, wasting vast amounts of resources—water, energy, and money.

So it may come as a surprise that, when they’re properly installed, designed and maintained, pools and water features don’t have to be money pits, and they can be downright earth-friendly.

Swimming pools

Do you love your pool, but feel a little guilty about it in these drought-conscious times?

While an outdoor swimming pool may not be the first thing you think about when listing your yard’s planet-friendly features, it turns out that there’s quite a bit you can do to reduce its environmental footprint.

For example, keeping the pool covered when you’re not using it. It’s not just a good idea from a safety standpoint (for example, keeping kids and pets from unexpected and potentially dangerous plunges) - it also reduces the load on your pool’s filter by keeping leaves, dirt and other ambient crud out. Not only that, it saves water by reducing evaporation, and helps keep heat in as well.

The other big win comes from installing a solar-powered water heater for the pool. No less a source than the U.S. Department of Energy says that a solar pool heater is the most cost-effective use of solar energy in many climates and pays for itself within 1.5 to seven years. Not only that, it usually outlasts gas and heat-pump systems. An added bonus: rebates may be available in your area - in unincorporated areas of Marin County, for example, homeowners who install a solar pool heating system qualify for a $200 rebate.

Fountains and Ponds

fish pondSurprising as it may seem, “water features” such as fountains or fish ponds can be important components of earth-friendly gardens, not to mention aesthetic delights. In contrast to plants and lawns, which need at least some regular watering throughout their lives, well-designed fountains and pools recirculate the same water for extended periods with just occasional replenishment. And fish in the pond help keep mosquitoes down by eating their larvae.

Some tips for keeping your water feature water-wise:

  • Minimize leakage by using waterproof pond liners and/or maintaining good, watertight seals on all seams.
  • Locate fountains that spray water in the air out of windy areas; consider running them for limited hours during the day. Especially on hot, windy days, it’s preferable not to run them at all, as they may dry out very quickly, wasting water and shortening the life of your pump.
  • Use plants in and around the pond, particularly in areas with the greatest exposure to the sun, to cool the water and slow evaporation.

When you’re choosing the water-circulation system, pay particular attention to its energy consumption, as some are more efficient than others. If you’re considering a solar-powered system, spend some time visiting installations in your area to get an idea of whether this approach will work for you; some homeowners, particularly in very sunny areas, are pleased with their systems, while others find the performance a bit anemic. Since pond pumps do not need to run 24/7 - a few hours a day is plenty in most situations to keep the water aerated, prevent algae and discourage mosquitoes - you may actually find an electric system your most energy-efficient option.

A properly designed and installed pond or fountain is not only a beautiful addition to your home, it can be part of your strategy for conserving water and energy. Our experts are ready to help you plan your water feature and ensure that everything works as it should.