Smart Pool monitoring


Being able to control your pool remotely looks like a good idea. So now there’s an app for your mobile phone that allows you to do all kinds of things from anywhere in the world. Impressive, eh?

With the app, you’re able to turn the pump on and off, and the heater, and you can start and stop the automatic chemical dispensers. You can monitor the water temperature as well as the ambient air temperature. So now you’re even more impressed, what?

Some hardware in the pump room is needed, and I’ll leave it to Bruce , the resident computer genius, to explain how all this is connected to the internet or the mobile phone system or whatever it is. That bit is well above my pay-grade.

The monitoring system has to connect to the internet, and this can be the difficult bit as the pool/pump house is often well away from the house. The best and most reliable way to get the internet into this area is an ethernet cable but this is not always possible as there may not be a usable conduit back to the house. Wifi is an option, and it can go up to 150m line of sight, it would require a wifi router in the main house and one in the pump room (greater distance can be reached but special wifi mini dishes need to be installed to beam the signal up to 1km). If the distance it still to far or there is no line of sight then Powerlan (CPL) plugs can be used, these are always the last option while good they are not always the most reliable and sometimes need rebooting.  

So let’s take a look at what it does and what the benefits may be…

With regards to switching on/off the salt system, for example, that is completely unnecessary because it, and the pH dispenser, should be wired so that they start automatically when the pump bursts into life. They only do something when something needs to be done - for example, if the chlorine level is OK, the chlorine generator won't run. Similarly with a heater, it will only do something if and when the pump is running, and once it reaches the target temperature it stops working.

Relying on this device to control the pH is particularly difficult. Most pools with an automated system only have a pH- dispenser. This means that if the pH is too low, the system will do nothing to correct it because pH+ is needed. So unless you have both dispensers, or you have a system that tells you what the pH reading is, your pH could be wrong for some time. It really needs to be physically checked.

The biggest failing of this system is that there's no facility that I can see to backwash and rinse the filter. Unless this is done, the water quality will suffer, regardless of anything else that you do. Several years ago I read about a remote controlled system for backwashing and rinsing, but it's hideously expensive because a mechanical device is needed to turn the multi-valve. And without a manual safety valve on the waste pipe, there is a risk of pumping water to waste when it shouldn't be doing that. The consequences could, in a small number of cases, be an empty pool. More likely, and with nearly all pools, the pump would eventually run dry, overheat and die given enough time. Even without any problems, the water that is dumped in the backwash/rinse cycle needs to be replaced. If you have an automatic top-up system, that’s OK. If not, the water level will end up too low.

Then there’s the issue of cleaning out the skimmer baskets, not to mention keeping the floor and sides clean. For the latter, robots are available, but you still need to be there to clean the robot’s filter.

One possible way to keep a visual eye on things may be to install a wireless security camera. The quality and definition of picture is good enough to make out a great deal of details. Most cameras are battery powered and last for around 12 months on the replaceable lithium batteries, so no need to run any cables out to the camera. If you have wifi in the pump house then its no problem to add a security camera and be able to monitor and view the camera remotely via an app. For those worried about security the camera can easily be deactivated when you are in residence so that it’s not recording the family in the pool.

Having a security camera with motion detection can also be a good security option when you are not in residence. You can receive notifications of someone moving around or even using your pool when you are not there. Many people are installing security cameras in the house too so they can keep and eye on things remotely. Prices start around 115 euros for a single camera but a 3 camera kit is a better option at 299 euros. (note: an extra base unit may be required if the cameras in the house and the pool area are too far apart).   

Conclusion? If you like high-tech toys, buy one. But the manual work still needs to be done, probably every week.

Article co-written by Bruce Taylor and Geoff Botley