If you listen to pool equipment and pool supply stores, you will soon go broke.
They tout every conceivable chemical and system they think you might possibly be gullible enough to buy. Some of these systems are astronomically priced – mainly they are absolutely not needed.
Neither are many of the chemicals that are pushed by these pool supply shops. I will attempt to give you some advice on cheapass pool care and what to look out for.
Let’s start, in this article, with pool heating.
There are four main types of pool heaters – gas, heat pump, and electric and solar. Guess which kind is the favorite of the cheapass? That’s right, solar.
A Solar Pool Heating System
A solar system is, or should be, a simple, low pressure, slow moving system. It can be, like my system, just a garden hose coming from just after the filter and running through the solar heater and straight back to the pool.
You can look up solar arrays and the best way to position these heater units. (Unit is a big boy word, but actually a solar heater can be just a coiled black rubber hose.) This can be connected in conjunction with another standard type heater, gas or other.
There are several types of solar heaters, but the best and cheapest (we like cheap) is this style. [link] They can be linked together and the longer they are, the better, assuming it isn’t too long (where the water only trickles out of the end).
In some areas of the country, where the sunshine is plentiful, a solar heater is all you need. In fact, there may be times it will be too much and you will need to shut it down for awhile. Installing an automatic thermostatic valve for a solar heater is not the cheapass way!
Gas Pool Heater
Now, if you live (like I do) in the northern US, then a solar heater just isn’t enough. Especially if your prima donna wife likes the pool temp at 90 degrees.
You will have to supplement it with another heat source. My favorite is a gas heater. Gas heaters are resilient, and efficient (cheapasses like efficient!) enough to pass the cheapass standards.
Older style gas heaters, where the design has not changed since pools were invented, use cast iron heat exchangers and are crap. Don’t buy those.
Variations in pool chemistry, which happens with cheapass pool care, can rot away these exchangers very quickly. Plus, they are not as efficient.
Here is a model that has an exchanger that is more protected from pool chemistry. [link] Gas pool heaters are also fairly inexpensive – and therefore have a cheapass ranking of 2, just below solar heaters.
Electric Pool Heaters
Electric heaters… why? They use too much energy, cost too much, are not resilient against pool chemistry and generally unpopular. Avoid electric pool heaters.
Electric Heat Pump Pool Heaters
Heat pumps should only be used in warmer climates, much warmer climates, because they are only efficient in warmer temperatures. They are mostly worthless when the air temperature is cooler.
You see, they are pulling heat from the air to heat your pool. No heat in the air – then no heat in your pool, even though the unit is ‘pumping’ like crazy.
A heat pump can be used, in my humble cheapass opinion, in warmer climates instead of a gas heater, if needed at all – remember, solar rules, it is cheap!
Heat pumps are also expensive, and so should be carefully considered before all other, cheaper, types of heaters.
Connecting up Any Type of Pool Heater
Yes! You can connect up your pool heater yourself. It is not that complicated. There are many pool plumbing diagrams, some that come with a new heater, but many can also be found online.
All the pipe is common pvc pipe, either 1.5 inch or 2 inch that can be found at your local major hardware store. Just glue it together (you will need pvc glue) and try and think ahead, remembering you might have to replace something one day in the future.
The only part of a pool heater install you may not want to do yourself is hooking up the electric. Please find somebody qualified to do that. And note: cheapass does not mean un-safe!
Always do things safely and properly, according to installation instructions. Unless, of course, the instructions call for completely unwarranted work and cost, then re-design it with safety in mind, the cheapass way.
Used Pool Heaters
Now let’s get really cheap. Used pool heaters can be found on Craigslist.com – at a fraction of the cost of new.
Look for equipment that appears barely used. If it looks old and worn out, then it could break down as soon as you get it, or may be already broken. That will cost you money and time and is not very cheapass.
Buying used is always a risk. Cheapass does not mean throwing good money after bad. So be smart and think things through. Sometimes, a gamble with used equipment pays off. We cheapasses really like that!