Remote Water Quality Monitoring – The Next Generation of Pool Care
It’s a familiar image, a small truck darting around town with a pool pole sticking out the back with a placard on the side that says, “pool service.” The hard–working soul behind the wheel works his or her route every day, taking care of pools with a leaf net, chemicals and a test kit. It is a “sweat equity” business that is all about responding to problems as they arise with grit and elbow grease.
It is not an easy way to earn a living and while onsite service is never going to go away, how we manage the overall pool maintenance challenge is changing – and I believe for the better. Today’s automation and control technology now enables service technicians to constantly monitor critical pool and spa functions at the same time from any location at any time using apps. That capability is changing the way service companies do business as well as what clients can expect in terms of healthy, consistent water quality.
These apps have certainly transformed our business. We currently have more than 30 accounts on “managed services,” including some outside of New York and the number is growing. For forward-thinking clients, we can remote monitor your water temperature, pump speed, oxidation reduction potential (ORP) and pH, as well as output from your ozone and UV systems. If at any time any of your systems are outside of preset functioning parameters, we are the first to know about it and can act on it to ensure perfect water consistently.
The concept of remote pool monitoring is not new, yet it isn’t widely known in the industry. Most of the commercial clients we talk to still don’t know this level of service even exists. Despite the fact that the technology has been around for more than 10 years, most people are still doing things the old-fashioned way, which in the broader sense means they only get a response to a situation after it’s become a problem.
I’ve always found this outdated mode of management problematic because client complaints should never be your red-light indicator that something is wrong. We are in business to prevent these types of complaints before they become a larger issue. The nature of our work is to keep pools and spas up and running with superior water quality. When a customer has an issue with water temperature, a smelly pool, or worse, gets sick from improperly sanitized water, the damage has already been done.
By waiting for things to go wrong before we respond, we are essentially allowing failure into our business models. Back when we had no other choice but to operate that way, it was at least somewhat understandable. Today there’s really no excuse, especially when you’re working with clients who have the means to pay for the service and technology needed to correct malfunctions before they become problems and over time more expensive to repair.
Many of our residential clients employ onsite staff to take care of their properties, including their pools and spas. By constantly monitoring key functions, we can communicate directly with maintenance personnel to inform them of any issues with the system. We can let them know there’s a blockage that is impeding flow, which in turn is causing the filter to short cycle. Perhaps there’s a problem with the heater’s ignition system and the pool is running cold.
The staff can, in a very real sense, use us as an extension of their team. The status of each critical system function is checked daily. If there’s a problem, we let them know immediately. Sometimes the problem is obvious, and we can handle it remotely; other times we dispatch a technician to the site. Either way, it’s quick and quiet. Most of the time, the resident isn’t even aware there was a problem and they get to focus on what’s important: enjoying their pool.
On the residential side, this capability is all about service and creating the best customer experience possible and minimizing problems with the pool. On the commercial side, this kind of consistent water quality management can spell the difference between a minor hiccup in operations or having the pool shut down by the health department. It also means not exposing the public to potentially hazardous conditions.
The beautiful thing about this technology is that it’s available today for any pool service provider. All it takes is a shift in the perspective of service and a willingness to take the time to explain the benefits to clients.
The biggest hurdle is the fact that most people don’t even know this technology exists and that pools can be maintained at a consistent high water quality chemistry keeping people safe and pools healthy. When they do find out, many are willing to make the investment, especially when they consider the downtime that problems create, especially when they want to go swimming, or open their doors to paying customers.
Working this way is not only infinitely more beneficial for the client, but also benefits the service providers. It saves tremendous time and resources by eliminating many site visits, reducing wear and tear on our vehicles, being better for the environment, and allowing us more time to focus on the primary objective of making sure our clients’ pools and spas are ready to go at all times.
I am certain there will come a time when this next level of service will be the norm and not the exception. In the meantime, we’re more than happy to embrace the future today.