Category Archives: Love Pool Industry

Ken McKenna
FSPA President

The countdown is on: it’s 100 days until the 2018 Everything Under the Sunsm Expo! My first thought was to give you 100 reasons to attend, but that might be a little excessive. So here are a few top reasons which come to mind.

As a member of FSPA, admission to the expo and continuing education is FREE for you and your employees. Choose from more than 60 classes on topics ranging from marketing to construction and there are Super Tracks for service techs and repair techs.

Regardless of how many years you have been in the industry or level of expertise, there is something for everyone. There are even classes to prep for the LP Gas exam, prep for and take the EPA Section 608 exam, and for those in need of a Florida Department of Health approved 16 hour course, the Florida Public Pool Specialist certification. Grandy & Associates will provide an exciting three-day lineup of classes on business strategies to run a profitable company.

One new addition to the expo will be Hayward University. Hayward will present eight hours of all things Hayward. From sales to technology and troubleshooting, you don’t want to miss this opportunity.

The annual show is when I have the opportunity to catch up with some old friends and get some great education. I always join fellow members at the Welcome and Awards reception on Thursday night to recognize those in our industry who stand out. The Friday night industry party at Cuba Libre is going to be a fun night with great food. Everyone is sure to have a great time enjoying our Hot Florida Nights. And last, the expo is produced by Florida, in Florida, and all proceeds support advancing Florida’s swimming pool industry.

Not quite 100 reasons; I could continue but you get the point. Register now and I’ll meet you in Orlando!

www.underthesunexpo.com 

Ray Pearen
Fresh Finish Pools

Who of us out there hasn’t seen a bad equipment installation?  Pump motors right up against the wall, 90° PVC in front of and straight out of the pump, heaters before filters and salt cells before heaters, the list could go on and on. As installers, sometimes we are forced into less than ideal circumstances due to the budget limitations of our customers or spacing constraints. Sometimes, however, it is just plain ridiculous and totally avoidable.

I went on a warranty call for a major OEM only to find a dangerously installed salt system which exploded on the house of a single mom with two children. It had been installed by her pool guy, who was not licensed to perform this type of work, but “thought it would be pretty straightforward” and “had electrical experience.” He installed it for just over cost to make a few bucks and do his customer “a favor” to stay within her budget. The panel had melted from improper wiring and could have easily started a house fire. Her pool guy certainly wasn’t helping her out when he put her home, and most importantly, her family’s life at risk.

On occasion, I have had the opportunity to ask “bad” installers why they performed work a certain way. The typical response is either a shrug because they hadn’t thought about it, a “that’s how I was shown”, or worse yet “no one ever showed me.” When I have come to jobs that I bid and lost only because of price, and then see terrible work that was clearly performed to get “in and out,” I’m ashamed of my trade. I might get irritated, but the truth is, it is the customer who loses. Our industry can do better.

License holders and their staff are far more likely to do better quality installations at relatively competitive prices. They are the ones in the continuing education courses and product labs. They are the ones with logos on their vehicles and professional appearances to the public. We must care about what we do and we must care about doing it right. Over the past year or two it has been welcome to see equipment manufacturers placing stickers on their products warning of potential warranty limitations if installed by anyone unlicensed.

The FSPA has information and education to facilitate the transition into becoming a licensed pool contractor.  We should encourage those who don’t have the appropriate license to reach out and take that step. The FSPA offers the Swimming Pool & Spa Certification Course which is a 60 hour course that substitutes for three years of experience. You can also invite them to the Everything Under the Sunsm Expo where there are a multitude of education courses on many topics. Encourage education to the industry and explain its importance to homeowners.

Ray Kurilavicius
DART Pool Solutions

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the FSPA. Please confirm the work permissible under your license.*

 

That time of year is fast approaching; heating season will be here in no time. This long hot summer will fade away as the first cold front comes down and the snowbirds will start flocking south again wanting their pools and spas heated when they arrive. If your company works on heaters, it is time to get your service department in order and your technicians trained.

First things first, your company must have a Florida CPC or county RP license to install or reinstall any heater or any other pool equipment. Second, if you work on LP gas heaters you must have a state license to work on LP equipment, and if you work on natural gas equipment, several counties require licensing. Last but not least, if your company works on heat pumps your technician must have the proper EPA certification to hook up to or work on the refrigeration system. If you are not licensed and do not have the proper certifications, do not work on the equipment. If that piece of equipment fails, your insurer will not cover you for any damages and you and your company, along with the technician who did the work, can and will be held personally liable for any damages. So the bottom line is to get the proper licensing and training and life will be good.

The manufacturers have their training classes starting in September. Check with your local factory representative or go to their website and get your technicians signed up as class space is usually limited and fills up fast. If you work on LP gas heaters, the Florida Department of Agriculture will be able to let you know if a gas safety class will be held near you. The FSPA will have the EPA certification exam prep and exam at the Everything Under the Sunsm Expo in February along with the LP gas exam prep. I thank Mary Anderson at the FSPA state office for all her hard work in putting this together.

As you know, the pool industry and the air conditioning industry have been in a battle over heat pumps regarding who can work on them and install them. Under a pool contractor’s scope of work, we are allowed to do both. Many pool company owners are unaware that they can work on the refrigeration portion of the heater as long as the technician doing the work has the proper EPA certification. The company does not need to be licensed in air conditioning for the work to be done. An air conditioning contractor is only allowed to work on the refrigeration portion and cannot work on any portion of the pool plumbing, this incudes disconnecting the heater even at the unions or replacing the heater even if it is the same model. This being said, several of the heat pump manufacturers do not let pool companies work on their heat pumps even if the techs have the proper certification. They only allow air conditioning contractors to do this work which gives the AC industry a leg to stand on in their quest to sell and install pool heat pumps. I strongly urge all companies to get their technicians EPA certified and trained by the manufacturers or local VO-TEC or technical school so our industry can gain their trust and let us do the work instead of our competition.

The EPA Section 608 Prep and exam will take place at the 2018 Expo on Thursday, February 8, 2018. The exam prep will take place from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Attendees will return for the exam at 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Attendees will register for the course on the 2018 Everything Under the Sunsm Expo website, www.UnderTheSunExpo.com. The cost of the exam prep will be $99 and registration will open in October. There is a study book that each student needs to order prior to the exam, so they have time to study. Attendees will need to purchase the book at least three weeks prior to the class date to give themselves enough time to study and then bring it to the exam prep. The cost of the EPA Preparation book is $14.58+shipping and it can be ordered online or by calling the supplier. The size is limited to 35 students and the cutoff for registration will be January 18, 2018.

So to sum it all up, get your guys trained and certified, knowledge is power and with the proper training your customers will have confidence in your company and your technicians and our industry will look more professional.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the FSPA. Please confirm the work permissible under your license.

Brett D. Holland
Treasure Pools

Due to the constant advancement in technology, pool contractors now have design tools made available to them that they did not once have in the past.  Although there are a few designers who still design on graph paper, there are a few in the industry who are taking full advantage of the 3D software tools available.  With 3D replicated products from pool industry vendors, landscape options, and the ability to fully customize the pool/spa, deck, and house stages, designers now can give a presentation to the client like never before.  According to one source, 65% of all people are visual learners, which makes the approach of 3D design very powerful!  We can now give the client a visual of their outdoor living environment from a click of a button.

Over the years I have found that designing in 3D “with” the customer has given myself and others an edge over the competition.  It has provided the customer with an opportunity to feel a part of the design process, which they take ownership in.  It is not uncommon that out of three or five companies a customer meets with, that I am the only one that designed in front of them.  It is important that your customer’s input is heard during the design process.  It is also imperative that you ask the right questions during your meeting.  Tell me about your family? How do you plan on utilizing the pool (leisure, health, sports)?  This way the design meets their needs and possibly gives a few other perspectives they may have not thought about.

There are a few different software programs available on the market today.  I currently use Pool Studio from Structure Studios (www.structurestudios.com) which has a great tutorial library to assist with the learning transition.  The way the workflow works is in stages.  There are house, pool, spa, wall/fence, terrain, steps/benches, planter, and custom shape stages. Each stage has their own parameter where you can fully customize your project.  This gives the designer endless options, where the only limitation is their imagination.  It takes dedication and many countless hours to become fluent in the program.  However, once you become comfortable designing in front of the customer, you will separate yourself from the rest instantly.

Besides the sales benefits, another benefit of having your project digitized is the ability to seamlessly convert it into a detailed construction plan.  If the municipality you work in requires “site specific” engineering .ilo of a master file, you are able to export the project into a .dxf file.  The engineer can take that file and import it into AutoCad and seamlessly create the site specific engineering plans for you.

So whether you are already using 3D software or if you just haven’t had the courage to make the plunge yet, have faith in yourself, continue to invest time and expand your knowledge.  As “knowledge is power.”  Take full advantage of 3D design and leave the rest up to your imagination!  Feel free to email me if you have any questions on 3D design or how this tool can be beneficial to you and your company.

Todd Koontz
Spies Pool LLC

In Florida, it is a criminal offense to engage in contracting work or to act in the capacity of a contractor without a valid contractor’s license. It can be tempting for individuals or businesses to hire unlicensed contractors or subcontractors. As licensed pool contractors, the following points can help us educate our customers to help them avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of hiring unlicensed contractors.

Unlicensed contractors often lack general liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Some unlicensed contractors may try to fool a customer by providing a certified pool operator certificate instead of a contractor’s license. They may only provide an occupational license which is not a regulatory license or certificate of competency but a local tax paid for the privilege of engaging in or managing a business.

Unlicensed contractors are often poorly trained, the work they do can be shoddy, and they may use inferior materials and violate federal/state/local building codes. This can result in your customer having to hire a licensed contractor to complete the repairs correctly and pay more money for the job than if they hired a licensed contractor in the first place. If the unlicensed contractor fails to pay his or her subcontractors or suppliers, the customer may be legally forced to pay them, even though they have already paid the contractor.

According to Florida Statute 455.228, if your customer knowingly hires an unlicensed contractor they become the general contractor and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) may issue a cease and desist order which could result in your customer being taken to circuit court and being fined up to $5,000 for aiding and abetting an unlicensed contractor.

If your customer hires an unlicensed contractor, any damages during a repair are the customer’s responsibility. Also, if a worker gets injured on the job and can’t work there is no workers’ compensation so the customer may be responsible for any medical bills or lost wages. Most insurance policies won’t cover damages when a customer knowingly uses an illegal or unlicensed contractor, so the customer could face unlimited liability.

Licensed contractors need to educate their customers on what a licensed contractor looks like and how to look up a contractor’s license to confirm it is legitimate. Often unlicensed contractors will advertise themselves as licensed and insured without either being true. A customer should verify a contractor’s license at www.myfloridalicense.com. They should also ask for a copy of their insurance and contact that insurance company to verify the policy is current and legitimate.

Licensed contractors must have passed examinations showing they have knowledge about their craft, carry licensure from the state and county where the work will be performed, carry workers’ compensation to pay for medical expenses due to injuries, carry liability insurance to protect your property in case of accidental damage, file building permits if needed, at which time their license is verified to be in good standing, and get inspections to ensure project complies with standards for materials and building codes for construction. All licensed contractors can be sanctioned by the local License Review Board of Florida’s Construction Industry Licensing Board when their actions don’t comply with building codes or accepted business practices.

As you can see, there can be many destructive consequences for your customers in hiring unlicensed contractors. Keep a portfolio of your credentials and qualifications as a licensed pool contractor ready to share with all potential customers. It is your job as a licensed contractor to remind your customers why using an unlicensed contractor to save a few dollars may be tempting in the short run, but the potential risks of entering into an illegal contract far outweigh the perceived benefits.

Eva Adcock
Best Pools of Brevard

The other day a potential customer called me and asked if I have constructed a natural pool. When I told her that I had never heard of it, she asked me to research it and if we were interested, we could “practice” on her. So onto the internet I went.

So what is a natural pool? A natural pool is a system consisted of a constructed body of water that has a separate zone which utilizes biological features for water purification. Although a natural pool does have a filtration system, to be “true” in nature, there would be no chemicals. Instead, the regeneration (separate) zone would have ecological plants which would provide the biological process for water clarification.

Typically, the swimming zone is separated from the regeneration zone. This actually serves two purposes. As mentioned earlier, the plants are taking the place of traditional chemicals we use in the pool industry. Secondly, the plants also provide aesthetically pleasing results as well. The natural pools I saw were spectacular!

I have never constructed a natural swimming pool but it would seem that the cost would be increased due to the regeneration zone that is required. Typically, the square footage of the regeneration zones can be an amount equal (or close) to the swimming zone. This may double the cost of construction. Additionally, a specialist may need to be contacted to procure and maintain the proper plants in the regeneration zone. Frogs, snakes, and other creatures have always been interested in our swimming pools. I wonder if this takes on an extra level of “interesting” with a natural pool?

In an era where we are concerned about environmental issues, it is exciting to explore the opportunity of providing an alternative pool to my customers. Not only can they be safe for swimming without harsh chemicals but they are scenic and beautiful works of art.

Al Mendoza
CES

Chemistry control systems have been in daily use on thousands of Florida pools since the late 1970’s. They have been installed on pools of all sizes from the largest 9 million gallon water park to the smallest 500-gallon condo spa.

While control of pH was pretty straightforward, easy to explain, and quite reliable, the control of the oxidant (normally chlorine) was quite the opposite. Over the years there have been many thousands of very successful installations that performed reliably for years, but there have also been a significant number that failed miserably.

What went wrong?
While there is such a thing as a bad controller, a major part of the problem has been a lack of understanding of Oxidation-Reduction Potential (ORP).

Some operators could just not understand that as pH went up, the ORP would drop. Even if the pH rise was from the addition of bleach. Add bleach to a spa and the ORP drops.

Others couldn’t understand that at stabilizer levels above 70 PPM any increase in the chlorine would not result in an incremental increase in ORP. So adding more chlorine to an over-stabilized pool did not increase ORP or improve water quality.

Why not PPM sensing?
While PPM sensing, or reading the actual amount of chlorine PPM in the pool instead of the “kill power” of that chlorine, was developed years ago, it never gained traction. Why? Quite frankly, the technology was relatively expensive and required annual changes of membranes and gels. Also the readings were very flow and pressure sensitive, and sometimes not very accurate.

Why is PPM better now?
Direct reading PPM sensing deserves another look. Why? The sensors have totally changed in design. They cost much less, don’t require annual changes of tips or gel, and they provide more accurate readings at a wider range of flows and pressures. Why, you can even take the sample water back to the suction side of a pump to simplify controller installation. Finally, the actual controllers that work with PPM sensors have come way down in price and complexity from the models available 10 years ago.

Why PPM sensing works better for some applications:
First, controlling by actual PPM can sometimes beach much easier for owners, operators, and support pool companies to understand and operate. Next, knowing both the ORP and the PPM at the same time can give you an instant indication of the “health” of the pool water (low ORP with high PPM is indicative of sick water; high ORP with low PPM is indicative of healthy water.)

Finally, some pool applications have mechanical issues that don’t allow ORP to work very well. While these are actually very few in number, they do include some salt systems (many ORP probes struggle with saline processes), pool systems with terrible earth grounds (older pools or those that don’t have proper equipotential bonding circuits), or those systems with operators who can’t grasp the ORP concept and are too stubborn to learn something new.

In any event, PPM sensing done right works great and can provide years of accurate PPM readings. Check into it and you might be pleasantly surprised. But then again, you could also learn a lot more about ORP and make 95% of all treatment applications work great.

Either way, affordable and accurate PPM sensing and control is here to stay.

Entry forms and information for the 2018 Design Awards competition are now posted at FloridaPoolPro.com/programs-design.

The annual Florida Swimming Pool Association Design Awards program gives members an opportunity to enter their pools, spas and water features for judging on workmanship, soundness of design, beauty, practicality and safety. Categories customized for Florida pool construction divide the entries by size, type of construction and features.

Pools are awarded a Gold, Silver, Bronze or Award of Merit based on a panel of industry judges’ review. Each award winner receives a plaque with a mounted photo of the pool or spa so they may display their accomplishment to prospective customers.

Award winning pools are submitted to national industry magazines for publication and also distributed to the winners’ local media.

A special logo is available for the winners to use in ads, business cards and on company letterhead.

You can view a full gallery of the 2017 FSPA Design Award Winners on FSPA’s Pinterest profile.

All entrants must be current members of the Florida Swimming Pool Association. Entries must arrive at the FSPA Sarasota office by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 31, 2017.

*FSPA membership must be paid in full to participate in Design Awards.

Ken McKenna
FSPA President

Summer is here and what has been a busy year now gets much busier. Rain is wreaking havoc on your schedule. There aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week it seems. Our thoughts seem to always be on business. However, we need to remember that life is just not our business. We need to enjoy our personal lives too. You need to find a balance between work and play.

Work provides the style of living we enjoy but what’s the point if we don’t take time to enjoy it? Take a Friday afternoon off and go golfing or fishing. Take a 3-4 day weekend and do something with the family. I’ve been thinking about this because recently several known pool builders in the Florida area passed away. It makes you reflect on how short life is and what the priorities should be. We may not be around long enough to put things off. The phrase Carpe Diem should be your mantra, meaning, “Seize the day!”

Years ago, prior to getting into the pool business, I made a decision to change my job to be around my kids more. It was the best decision I ever made. Then upon getting into the pool business I was consumed by the job. I brought my frustrations home with me too. It took a while for me to realize that this wasn’t good for me and my family. I still check emails and messages at night or on the weekend, but what I consider an emergency versus “can it wait until tomorrow or Monday” is much different.

We work in a very stressful and demanding industry. I’m not saying this to minimize the importance your business plays in your life, just balance it with a personal life. Don’t miss your kid’s ball game, recital or school event because you are too busy. Don’t put off that vacation you have always wanted to take. It is easy to say there will be time later for things, but we don’t always know that.

You should apply having balance to your staff as well. Plan an activity for a Friday afternoon and take them out to do something fun. Give them an afternoon off maybe to just go home. We decided to close on July 3 and 4 this year to give them a four day weekend. I’m sure July 5 will be very busy but the staff is excited to have that time to do things with their family and friends. There are other things you can do that really cost you nothing.

Strengthen and leverage your collective voice with the Pool Industry PAC (PIPAC)

The Pool Industry PAC

  • Assists the legislative and political efforts of the Florida Swimming Pool Association.
  • Strives for the improvement of government by taking a more active and effective role in government affairs.
  • Encourages pool professionals to understand the nature and actions of their government.
  • Supports candidates for election at the local and state levels who share the views on issues important to the pool industry.

Why give?

The pool industry has been dealing with monumental issues including the scope of work within a pool license, potentially impacting daily operations of your businesses. FSPA has been in reactive mode because of decisions being made by bureaucrats, individuals and boards who may not have the expertise of pool industry professionals.

PIPAC funds will allow FSPA to strengthen and leverage the collective voice in support of sound public policy regarding the safety of the products produced and installed by the pool industry, and create and sustain an environment in which their businesses can grow.

PIPAC funding will help FSPA to

  • Mobilize pool professionals, vendors and customers on key local and state issues.
  • Contribute to candidates who support the views of FSPA.
  • Implement PIPAC fundraising initiatives.
  • Tap into advocacy campaign support services and tools, such as state voter database to help target messages, and consulting services to help FSPA maximize their political impact.
  • Make independent expenditures on behalf of candidates who support the FSPA agenda. PIPAC members will decide how funds are spent

What you get: 

PIPAc and FSPA will protect the profitability and future of your business. Every day this organization is advocating for you on issues that impact your business, such as scope of licensure, water quality and safety of your customers. We are also fighting for policies which benefit both your vendors and customers. You need to be able to run your business without excessive government intervention.

Visit www.poolpac.com to make your pledge today!