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April 20, 2016
Chemical Controllers: What's the Big Deal?

Today, technology is all around us. It makes our lives easier and allows us to connect to anything from anywhere at anytime. Having a smart phone, access to the internet, and heck - even a personal computer, is a staple in this day and age. The internet is about to become classified as a utility because we are so dependent on it for our everyday life. When I was growing up, technology was nowhere near where it is today. There was no such thing as an iPhone, an Android phone, or a Blackberry. I remember the days when a telephone was attached to the wall, it had a rotary dial and a cord, and it meant running half way across the house to answer it when someone called! The extent of modern technology in my house as a kid was a microwave, a television, a VCR and an Atari game system. If I wanted to communicate with friends I had to either call them on the old rotary phone or walk down the street to their house.
Fast forward to 2016 and just imagine your life without technology. With app’s like Twitter, all of the day’s news is waiting for us in the palm of our hand each morning. With Facebook and Instagram, we don’t even need to call our friends to know what’s happening in their lives. Technology has so much to offer and it has reached out into most areas of our everyday lives making completing daunting tasks more efficient and less time consuming. If you look around, how many people do you see without a form of technology, whether it be a mobile phone, a tablet or a personal computer?
 
Well the modern day swimming pool is no different. Technology, automation, and computer controls play a very important role in today’s pools. Gone are the days of having to manually adjust the chemistry in a swimming pool by hand on a regular basis. Swings and spikes in pool chemistry were difficult to control when adjusting manually, but with the help of technology, computer controls keep the chemistry in check and allow your pool to virtually run on auto pilot.
These improved chemical controllers also add an additional level of safety to the modern pool. Given that the chemical controller controls the feed of chemicals into the system, it also has the ability to lock out the feed if chemical levels get to high or too low. For example, if the PH level in a pool drops too low, the water will become very acidic and can cause damage to the pool/spa, and can also cause irritation to a swimmers body. If the body of water is very small, such as in a spa, and PH levels are drastically low, it can even cause acid burns. When the controller sees a low PH condition it will put the controller into alarm and prevent additional feeding of muriatic acid, keeping bathers safe and alerting the operator through on screen displays, texts or email notifications. The controller can also do the same thing when it comes to chlorine levels. If the chlorine levels in a pool or spa become too high, it can lock out the chlorine feed until the levels come within an acceptable range. The controllers can be set to a proportional feed, pumping in smaller amounts of chemicals to prevent “over shooting” or “spiking” chemical feed.
 
Behind the scenes of every swimming pool is a mechanical room; the mission control of a pool. The mechanical room is full of pumps, filters, piping, heaters, controls, UV’s, and a small computer control center called the chemical controller. The chemical controller is the brain of the entire operation, but what does it do and what are the differences between the different manufacturers?

The chemical controller constantly monitors the water through a sample line and sample cell which is fed water via the filter pump. The basic controller is checking the chlorine or bromine levels and PH with ORP and PH probes. Higher end controllers also have the ability to check free chlorine, total chlorine and stabilizer levels. What’s more, they can also connect to and control UV units, start and stop filtration systems, automatically control backwashing of the filters and they can even communicate with variable frequency drives (VFD’s) and building automation systems. 
 
The days of worrying about your pool while you’re off duty or away from your facility are long gone. With new technology, most chemical controllers now have the ability to send a text or email notification directly to your smart phone if the controller senses a problem! You can even connect to them over the internet through HTML or smart phone apps to monitor and control the complete system from anywhere in the world. Talk about a technological advancement for a swimming pool!
Imagine being a pool operator of a commercial facility and having an issue with the pool in the middle of the night, or worse, while you are away on vacation. You could come back to a real mess, and the pool chemistry could be completely out of balance. Depending on the size of the pool, this mess could take a couple of days to get back inline. A pool with a modern chemical controller will notify you of the problem and then automatically start to chemically treat the water to keep it in balance, before you come back to a big mess. 

But what are the big differences between different manufacturers? Is one better than the other? In my opinion, there really aren’t any “big” differences; they all come down to budget, options, and operator preference. All name brand controllers come with the basic ORP and PH monitors and controls, and just like a new car you can get them with options. For example; if monitoring the chlorine levels and bromine levels by ORP is not your thing, add on a PPM probe. Some operators are not familiar with ORP levels, but they are very familiar with PPM levels because this is what they commonly record in their books. Is the ability to log in and control your pool using your smart phone from anywhere in the world important to you? No problem! Just add an HTML interface. Today, most chemical controller manufacturers are seeing the importance of being connected all the time and this option is now becoming a standard hardware option and just requires setup at the time of commissioning. Are you looking to monitor the cyanuric acid level of your outdoor pool? No problem! Simply add on the probe. Free chlorine and total chlorine are an easy add-on to any system with the simple addition of monitor probes. All of these options can be added to any chemical controller.
 
No matter what brand you choose, at the end of the day all will ultimately do the same thing. How much it will do depends on how much you want to invest and what options you want to include.  

So next time you are staying up to date with your friends on Twitter and Facebook, or checking the news on your CNN app, take a few minutes to click the pool app on your phone and see how things are operating on your swimming pool.
 

Mark Elliott
Vice President, Construction
As the Vice President of Construction of Acapulco Pools, Mark oversees all aspects of the construction process including, but not limited to purchasing, construction services and project management. Beginning at Acapulco as a Project Manager, and now as VP of Construction, Mark has had the opportunity to manage several prominent aquatic facilities across North America.
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