10 Ways to Make Your Pool More Eco-Friendly

Eco friendly home concept

When you think of green swimming pools, you probably think of algae problems and poor sanitation. But there’s at least one case where having a green pool is actually a good thing, and that’s when we’re talking about the environment.

Whether a conventional swimming pool can be truly eco-friendly is a matter of debate. The inconvenient truth about pools is that it takes a lot of materials and fuel to build them. Then, of course, there’s the additional water and electricity needed to maintain them.

All of which is to say, if you’re really passionate about environmental issues and sustainability, you might want to forgo a backyard pool altogether.

That said, there’s no doubt that you can make a pool dramatically more eco-friendly based on how you build and use it. It’s all about minimizing your use of water and energy (and, to a lesser extent, chemicals).

Whether you’re planning a new pool or renovating an old one, these ten ideas are guaranteed to make your pool greener (in a good way). As a bonus, they could also save you a lot of money on pool maintenance.

1. Install a solar pool heater

An article on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website describes solar pool heating as “the most cost-effective use of solar energy in many climates.” Solar pool heaters tend to be pricey, but if you do even a small amount of heating, they will pay for themselves over time in reduced energy costs.

If you need more heating than a solar heater can provide on its own, consider combining one with a conventional pool heater to keep your energy use at a minimum.

2. Use a variable speed pool pump

By some estimates, pool pumps are even bigger energy hogs than heaters (largely because many people don’t heat their pools at all). It’s no wonder variable speed pool pumps have become the norm for new pool constructions, and a popular choice for renovations. They’re more efficient than single-speed pool pumps because they only use as much energy as needed for a particular task.

3. Select equipment with good energy ratings

The easiest way to find energy efficient equipment is to look for ENERGY STAR certification. That goes for pool pumps, as well as lighting and other equipment that may be part of your wider pool environment.

Don’t forget that many utility companies offer incentives for choosing ENERGY STAR-certified products.

4. Cut back on the chlorine

These days, there’s a lot of buzz about natural pools, which use plants rather than chemicals to sanitize the water. There are also alternative sanitation methods like salt water and ozone systems that reduce or eliminate the need for standard chlorine.

But the most basic step is to simply be diligent about keeping your pool clean, reducing the need for extra chemical applications.

5. Use a pool cover

Keeping your pool covered puts a lid on water evaporation. That means using less water to top off your pool, but perhaps more importantly, it also reduces the amount of heating you have to do.

Finally, keeping the sun off your pool water as much as possible could even reduce the amount of chemicals you have to use, making pool covers an eco-friendly trifecta.

Closeup of an inground pool cover with manual reel
Keeping your pool covered can save energy, water, and even chemical applications.

6. Make sure there are no leaks

A small leak in a swimming pool can, over time, lead to thousands of gallons of wasted water. If that’s not enough to convince you to fix that leak, there’s also the fact that it can undermine your pool’s structure and force major repairs down the road.

7. Choose eco-friendly landscaping

It’s no surprise that what you choose to do with the area around your pool can also have an impact on the environment. Consider plants that are low-maintenance, drought-resistant, and native to your area. Use trees and shrubs as windbreaks, reducing water evaporation and heating needs.

8. Use energy efficient lighting

There are more pool lighting options than ever before, and many of them use far less energy than traditional incandescent lighting. LED lighting is one popular choice, both for its stylish looks and its efficiency. Solar lights are great for illuminating pathways or even floating on the water.

9. Put your pool on a schedule

Like programmable thermostats, automated pool systems save energy and money by only running equipment when necessary. After all, why run the heater or water features when no one is around to enjoy them? Besides being more energy efficient, automation is also more convenient for you, the pool owner.

10. Scale back

Many of the above ideas allow you to have your proverbial cake and eat it too. But to be honest, the best way to make a pool more eco-friendly is to keep it simple.

Waterfalls and other water features use extra electricity and increase evaporation. Hot tubs have to be heated. And large pools, well, they use more of everything. A smaller pool without any unnecessary features is better for the planet – and your finances, too.