UTSA professor’s new study shows the hidden energy costs of swimming pools

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(Nov. 30, 2015) -- A new study by Afamia Elnakat, associate professor of research in the UTSA College of Engineering and a member of the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute, has found that residents who have swimming pools see a massive difference on their energy bill compared to those who own homes without pools.

“The culprit here is the pool pump,” Elnakat said. “They’re electric, they’re on for multiple hours a day, sometimes continuously, all seasons.”

Most people are reluctant to change the pump settings or even touch them because they’re concerned about compromising their pool’s water quality. As a result homes with pools see an additional 30-50 percent more energy use because the pump is constantly running when it could be switched off for part of the day.

“Even in San Antonio, where electricity is pretty cheap,” Elnakat said, “that amounts to a $700 to $1000 difference in energy costs per year.”

Her study, published in the International Journal of Big Data Intelligence, is unique among energy studies because it utilizes big data. Elnakat and her co-authors, including fellow Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute professor Juan D. Gomez, made use of large amounts of unstructured data from San Antonio residential energy bills. The research is part of the institute’s ongoing mission of partnering with the San Antonio community and the CPS Energy Research Alliance to contribute to a new energy future.

“It’s so hot in San Antonio and we use swimming pools much more than most other areas,” she said. “The energy use, as it turns out, is making a big impact on our budget.”

Elnakat was surprised to find a hidden energy cost due to the pools since they’re generally known as water hogs. She expected that pools would cause increases on the water bill than the electric bill.

In the study, Elnakat noted that existing research has shown that people can easily adjust their pool pump so that it only runs for part of the day. Doing so could save hundreds on energy costs and still render a clean, safe swimming pool.

“If I’m house-hunting and see a pool, I automatically think about water usage and safety implications in addition to an asset to the home,” she said. “No one tells you to expect to pay more for energy. The pool pump is hidden, you’re not thinking about it.”

Elnakat hopes the study will contribute toward making people more aware of where their energy costs come from in their homes, and to interact more with their appliances.

“We have newer technologies. We even have solar pool pumps,” she said. “It would be good to know what kind you have and how it works. It’s all about the decision-making power this information gives you.”


Learn more about the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute.

Read Afamia Elnakat’s study, “Big data analysis of swimming pools’ impact on household electric intensity in San Antonio, Texas.”

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