By Colin Coates
The heat is on. Those predictions about a boiling summer seem to be accurate – which is why the thought of diving into your own swimming pool after a sticky day at the office is increasingly appealing.
Perhaps it’s time for those thoughts to turn to action, not least because pools are no longer merely the preserve of the well-heeled.
‘You can now install a pool for as little as the cost of a family holiday,’ says Christina Connor, editor of Pool And Spa Industry magazine.
Pools can come ready-plumbed to ‘dig a hole and drop in’. Eco-friendly equipment has dramatically cut running costs.
There’s an estimated 210,000 private swimming pools in the UK, with 2,500 installed annually (although that figure may have taken a knock last year).
While a few hundred pounds will get you a superior paddling pool, the Society of Pool and Allied Trades Association (SPATA) quotes £12,000 for an upmarket above-ground pool, £10,000- £15,000 for a pre-plumbed one-piece fibreglass pool (if you DIY), an average £25,000 for a liner pool (rendered concrete block or panel system, vinyl liner) and £40,000 for a concrete, reinforced fully-tiled affair.
Running costs are around £5 a day in summer. Connor maintains this is good value: ‘With the predictions of warmer summers, and the fashion for “staycations”, putting a pool in, if you have the space, makes a lot of of sense.’
The Potter family wholeheartedly agree. While renovating their Sixties family home north of Cambridge two years ago, Lester and Penny Potter decided they’d use the money put aside for the drive to install a pool instead – mainly for their six children, now aged between eight and 26.
‘The drive was a muddy track for two years, but it was the best money we ever spent,’ says Mrs Potter. ‘We do without summer holidays, it’s just as good here, lounging round the pool in the sun, and a lot less hassle. And someone swims in it every single day.’
It cost £16,000 for a conventional liner pool – including gas heating and filtering in a garden shed. But she also paid £6,000 for a flat hard solar cover, which both maintains the water heat, minimises the evaporation of chemicals and can be locked for safety.
John Kime, a businessman from Lincolnshire, replaced the oil-fired heating on his indoor pool with a ground source heat pump which draws heat from the ground.
You need a lot of space – the pipes for the system are laid in a series of 50m trenches – and the installation, at around £23,000, was not cheap.
‘But I estimate that I’m making 13 per cent of that back on heating costs a year,’ says Kime. ‘The swimming pool industry has been at the cutting edge of energy saving and heat conservation for years,’ says Connor.
For indoor pools, dehumidifiers, which also put heat back into the water, are a must.
While solar panels remain an expensive choice, solar pool covers are very effective.
The Potters also fitted a 1,000-litre tank and a pump which harvests rainwater caught on top of their cover, which they use to water the garden.
One of the most popular innovations is the use of salt to treat the water rather than chlorine, which is cheaper, less of an irritant, and more environmentally friendly.
Does a pool add value to a house? Philip Blanchard, of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Winchester – who’s just put in his own pool – says it depends.
‘Some parents won’t buy a house with a pool because they are worried about safety. But for substantial country houses, it is one of the toys people expect.’
- More information from Spata: 01264 356210, spata.org.uk