Category Archives: Love Pool Industry

Scott Amundsen, Aqua-Brite of Florida, Inc.

Welcome to a new year – 2018! We are inching closer to a new decade.  The world we live in today, as pool repair and cleaning specialists, is a much different world than it was 20+ years ago.  I remember, the year is 1995, a customer calls the office to schedule a service call.  The process usually took about 5-7 business days to get the customer on the schedule.  The tech would call in to “base” (the office) on the Motorola two-way radios to see if they could reschedule a customer because they were running behind that day.  Or the office would check in with the tech to see if he was still picking up parts and was going make it to Mr. Smith’s house before Friday to fix his pump.  The best part, the homeowner was happy to see the tech and have them complete the repair two weeks after their initial call.

Three days ago, I ordered a pizza from Uber Eats and watched on my smart phone as the order was processed, the driver picked up my order and then watched her little car on my app map.  In real time, it showed the ETA, in minutes and seconds, as to when she would arrive at my home with my food.  What does this mean to us?  Times are changing, and so are customers’ expectations.  Unfortunately, most small pool professional companies do not have the resources to use a sophisticated, web-enhanced software products to track all of the projects’ progress, check on the techs every move via GPS tracking, and use expensive dispatch software, or some other elaborate product, to artificially enhance our customer service abilities.

All we must do, as an industry, is go back to our grassroots.  Customer service was not lost, instead, customer demands have changed.  Expectations have increased in today’s society.  We all need to step up our game.  Almost every one of us has a smart phone these days.  If you search calendar programs and use the free apps, you can find many ways to keep in touch with your customer throughout the whole sale/repair/cleaning process for very little cost.

We all lose customers, for varying reasons.  However, the times are changing and the demand for communication is even greater.  If you communicate and “touch” your customer every day/week, throughout the process, they feel more involved and more connected to you through their experience with your company.  They feel like they are part of the process of getting their problems resolved.  They feel you care about the end results, you care about their pool problems and like they are your only customer.  Most customers who get angry with you (yell, cuss, get downright belligerent) are not mad at YOU.  Most of the time, it is based on their fear.  They fear that they wrongly hired you and you are not coming back.  They fear they are going to have to try to find someone else to fix their problem. They fear the quality of the new maintenance tech that will be cleaning their pool and caring for their equipment will not be the great communicator the last one had been.

Change is hard for some people.  When you coddle the customer with every move, even if there is no movement today to get their problem fixed, they do not feel like a number and they do not feel like they have been forgotten.  Example: June 2017 we had a customer call us to repair their portable hot tub. The spa was apparently one of the last to come off the assembly line before the manufacturer went out of business. Most of the parts, jets and pumps were scraped together from several different manufacturers to make a 45 jet tub. To date, we have NOT completed the job.  We continue to reach out and reassure the customer that we are working on finding suppliers for their tub’s parts.  Occasionally we will go out to the home to install some new parts we found.  As bankrupt companies liquidate parts and new companies buy pieces of the old, we find the jet insert or circulation pump we need and inform the customer.  We have received seven referrals from this project!

You may not be able to go out and finish each job in 30 minutes or less.  But spending 30 minutes every day, to update ALL of your customers, will win you more projects and make you a five-star company on a beer budget.

Mike Kopke
Pebble Technology

The intent of this article is to shed light on fun facts and procedures of swimming pools in northern climates. When the snowbirds come down to Florida and miss experiencing the joys of winter, which include ice, snow and subzero freezing, they leave their northern pools behind. Here are some interesting facts about what is done to them.

The commercial swimming pool season opens on Memorial Day Weekend and ends on Labor Day Weekend. That equates to a three month swimming season. For the more fortunate homeowners who have pool heaters, the season may be expanded to opening in the early part of May, depending on the cooperation of the thawing ice and snow, and enjoy swimming until a later date in October. If this is the case they will see a substantial increase in their gas bill unless they belong to the Polar Bear Club.

Before snowbirds take flight on their migration south to escape the frozen tundra, they must winterize their swimming pools. This is usually done no later than the end of November. Once water starts freezing the damage could be done.

The average cost for a service company to winterize a swimming pool is more than a few regular service visits combined! The average swimming pool takes two hours to winterize. That sounds like some good money but if you are in the service industry you better find a good job for the winter unless you can convince the homeowner that you need to monitor their ice pond.

The first procedure is to drain the swimming pool below the returns and the skimmer. The next step is to insert rubber plugs that can be tightened into each return and skimmer line. Then by using the exhaust port on a shop vac each line is opened one at a time and is blown under pressure until the absence of any water. This is done by the pump equipment to insure that there is no trapped water. Once all the returns and skimmer are free of water the process is repeated with the addition of approximately one half gallon of RV antifreeze added to each line. The lines are blown under pressure until the antifreeze is visible coming out of the return and skimmer. Once completed all rubber plugs are checked and tightened. An empty bottle of antifreeze will be left inside the skimmer along with some antifreeze to absorb the expansion of any ice accumulation. The main drain will be blown out under pressure and once the presence of large air bubbles is present the valve will be put in the closed position to prevent back flow. The pump, filter, heater and any water features will all be disconnected and drained of any water. At this point the main breaker that feeds power to the equipment pad must be flipped to the off position.

Once completed, the pool will be covered and left unattended until spring. Although the pool has been drained it will be full of water come spring from all the rain, sleet, snow and ice. Elements that we miss out here in Florida.

When the migration begins to head back north, the snowbirds will contact their service companies and schedule their pools to be reopened for a new season. It is amazing that even though these pools have been covered for the winter they will be full of water and debris, i.e.: dirt, leaves, twigs, frogs, worms.

Oh by the way, another service invoice paid please! In some cases the pool will need to be drained and acid washed.

One last interesting fact when it comes to plastering swimming pools. Compared to Florida, whose busy season is in fall due to home builders trying to close on their properties, it is just the opposite for the north. Builders in the north are scrambling in the springtime fighting the weather to complete their projects by Memorial Day. The plastering season comes to an end once the pool shell temperature drops below forty degrees. Depending on your location this could be as early as November.

Stay warm.

By Robert Sicignano, FLA Pools, Inc.

Swimming pools have been around for a long time. Roman emperors had private swimming pools in which fish were also kept, hence one of the Latin words for a pool was piscina. The first heated swimming pool was built by Gaius Maecenas of Rome in the first century BC.

1800’s: Before swimming pools were readily available, the local pond, lake or nearest waterway served as the community swimming pool.

1900’s: The simple, no frills concrete pools were introduced.

1940’s: Then came paint, a durable product that lasted long and was easy to apply with a two-man crew.

1980’s: Government regulations removed the copper and lead from the paint, which decreased its strength and durability.  This created an industry-wide swing to plaster, a calcareous material that is highly susceptible to damages caused by improper water chemistry.

1990’s: The EPA removed all asbestos from marcite, leaving the plaster with no strength. New aggregate finishes were becoming popular, which made plaster finishes more durable and architecturally pleasing. This finish comes with a price and a complicated and costly installation process.

1991:  A scientific research report by the School of Building Construction at the University of Florida stated, “The deterioration of marcite (plaster) has been found to be chemically related and due primarily to leaching of calcium hydroxide (portlandite) from localized areas of pool plaster. Acidic pool water (pH less than 7.0) can wreak havoc on marcite and pool plumbing, resulting in etching and staining. Proposed solutions to control the damage aggressive water can produce include (1) paying careful attention to water chemistry to avoid unbalanced water conditions and (2) providing a chemically inert barrier between the pool water and the marcite finish surface.”

Today: The future of pool interiors is here. Thermo-polymer coating, pneumatically-applied, high performance pool finishes that capture the strength, durability and maintenance ease of traditional finishes, while maintaining beauty and architectural color range.  Ph neutral surfaces eliminate virtually all the problems caused by the other pool finishes on the market. They are crack resistant, UV fade-resistant and eco-friendly polyethylene interiors.

Look to the future!

Brian Kelly
FSPA President

As the calendar flips and the new year begins, we are reminded that with a new year, new challenges present themselves to our businesses and our industry. We certainly have our ongoing, daily routines, and our focus on keeping our businesses operational and profitable take precedence over most other issues that may arise. But circumstances and events that have a tremendous effect on our bottom lines often seem out of our control.

Or are they?

Workers’ compensation, insurance requirements, licensing guidelines, scope of work, and other outside variables all have a tremendous impact on how we run our businesses and how profitable they are for the year. Often times we, the “little guys,” feel that we are helpless in dealing with these issues. But as a member of the Florida Swimming Pool Association, we have a voice. The strength of our membership numbers and organizational structure allow us to deal directly with many of the agencies that dictate and formulate these standards and requirements. More importantly, we are able to deal with the very politicians who reside on committees which have a direct impact on these very important issues.

Beginning January 16, the FSPA will again assemble on Capitol Hill in Tallahassee to meet with our legislators and discuss these very important issues. Our members will sit down with approximately 75 different government representatives, from your local senators and congressman to the heads of the DBPR.  Furthermore, the FSPA will host a luncheon on the 22nd floor of the capitol building open to all legislators to expose our industry to even more policy and decision makers.

These face-to-face meetings, and subsequent follow-up political contributions, have an invaluable effect on the issues which directly affect our bottom lines. When we are physically in front of our legislators we, in layman terms, can explain the true effects these decisions have on our businesses. We can offer detailed scenarios and actual experiences that can enlighten them on the reality of these decisions.

The newly formed PIPAC and PIC initiatives are designed to help support these meetings. By supporting the legislators who agree with our objectives and understand our challenges, we can speak with a louder voice, a unified front, and an industry that is both sound of leadership and clear of direction.

Currently, the FSPA membership has contributed almost $100,000 to PIPAC for this new initiative. In addition, the support of the national manufacturers and distributors has been extremely promising.

Please help the FSPA express the concerns and issues which affect all of our businesses. Whether it is attending Legislative Days, volunteering with a local political representative, or committing to one of the PIPAC initiatives, we need our members to help. Together we are no longer the little guys, but an organization which, together, can face these new challenges head on.

Wishing you and your families a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.

Ken McKenna
FSPA President
Tampa Bay Pools

As we near the end of 2017, I can’t help but reflect back on a very busy and productive year for our Association. This year saw us expand our office space into the building next door. Right now we will be collecting rent but our future plans will be to turn the space into a training center for manufacturers to utilize in addition to offering our 16 hour course, 60 hour course and any training really. This is exciting as it will give us a true training center instead of needing to find and rent space. Manufacturers will be able to set up equipment for hands on training and leave it there for future training as well. This is an exciting venture for us and I know I am looking forward to seeing this come to fruition in the next few years.

We took a real big step forward with our PIPAC program this year.  Never before have we seen such a commitment from our members to raise money and not only commit money this year but for up to three years. Now we have distributors and manufacturers stepping up to the plate. Having raised funds in the six figures so far, and that number is still climbing, is exciting to say the least. We hired an individual to head up the campaign to raise funds and spread our message among the chapters on why it is so important to raise money and give to PIPAC. Legislative Days are coming in January and I encourage people to get involved and see the political process and see why we need to raise funds to make our voice get heard in Tallahassee. Jennifer does a great job as our lobbyist but a strong PIPAC makes her job easier and gives her the tools to be even more successful.

We started a task force to look at 489 to examine what we may need to look at within the scope of the pool license and see what may need to be changed legislatively. This task force is a collection of builders, service, electricians, distributors, and manufacturers. They have met on several occasions and are working hard with the hopes of putting something together for the 2019 legislative cycle. It is great to see the pool industry come together to work toward one common goal.

We were able to clarify through a rule with the CILB what a pool builder and service person can do electrically on a pool. Jennifer Hatfield worked tirelessly on this and through her efforts this rule was adopted and helped protect what many of us were doing every day to earn money and feed our families. This is the power of the FSPA coming together and working to protect its members.

I want to thank Wendy and her staff who work tirelessly every day to make this Association run smoothly. My year as president was made so much easier by Wendy’s efforts that I couldn’t have done it without her. Thank you, Wendy.  It was my honor to serve as your president this year. Finally, I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday for 2017 and a very happy and prosperous 2018.

By Tony Caruso
TC Water Features

During Hurricane Irma I was disappointed that local officials gave misleading information when it came to preparing local swimming pools. Central Florida had a high ranking local official telling pool owners to drain large portions of water from their pool.

When draining a pool, water table is key. The water table cannot be determined until a perk hole is dug next to the pool deck.

Two days after the storm I received several calls about pools that came out of the ground, and I instantly knew people listened to this misinformation.

When I visited two of these pools, they confirmed my suspicion telling me they heard the news and followed their instructions. To correct one of the locations will cost the homeowner more than $85K to remove the pool and start over. The other location will be more than $55K to repair.

This is a big financial blow to the owners since the replacement of the swimming pools are going to have to be paid out of pocket. Unfortunately, homeowner’s insurance will not pay for these mistakes.

Another statement from officials involved placing outdoor furniture in the swimming pool without explaining it should only be PVC type furniture. Placing metal furniture in your pool may create stains on the pool finish. In addition, solar panels or the importance of them being turned off wasn’t mentioned in these news conferences.

FSPA did a great job of providing the correct information to members and news outlets just before Hurricane Irma was supposed to hit the state. FSPA sent out an e-newsletter to the membership with information on what to do with pools before and after the storm so they could share it with their customers. FSPA then shared it on their website and social media pages. They also shared their hurricane tips video that received more than 2,000 views. Combining this with additional local support can broaden the impact and prevent these mishaps. Perhaps a committee comprised of experts representing different parts of the state can put together a guide for pool care during severe weather. When weather concerns threaten the state a representative in each area could contact their local City and County officials, as well as news stations, with this complete and correct guide of information.

Ideally, this information should be given before Hurricane season begins so homeowners can prepare before a severe weather event. While FSPA had shared all of their hurricane preparation tips on June 1, the start of Hurricane Season, it made a real impact when shared again when Hurricane Irma was posing a threat to the state.

If our message is consistent throughout the state, consumers will have correct guidelines from reliable sources.

For more information how to prepare your pools for inclement weather, visit the Pools and Weather page on FSPA’s website.

By Rick Howard, Rick’s Pool Service, Inc.

Are you thinking you might want to start doing commercial pool service?

By now anyone with a sliver of interest in our industry knows about the sudden algae bloom at the Summer Olympics in 2016 and it may have piqued your interest in commercial pools. While the cause is being sorted out, I would like to discuss the idea of venturing into the realm of commercial service.

To do commercial cleaning and chemistry requires a certification; one option being the new Florida Public Pool Specialist (FPPS) course and exam offered by the FSPA. These certified specialists are only qualified to clean and add chemicals.  If you want to repair commercial pools you need a license.  Pool Servicing Contractors are allowed to clean, add chemicals and do repairs. The most important thing to learn, know and understand is Chapter 64E-9 of the Florida Administrative Code, especially if your company is licensed to do repairs.

Commercial pools must comply at all times to the code.  Most pools are inspected twice per year to ensure compliance. The health departments are doing their best, but they can miss things on inspections.  Understanding proper operations of filtration systems is key.  Basic hydraulics including pipe flow, allowable velocities, proper chlorine and pH feeder operation are very important.  You need to be able to evaluate the filtration/sanitation systems for code compliance and operation.

You may even be required to make sure the equipment is designed for and meets the original engineering plans. You are not allowed to change filter system types without engineered plans. I have come across systems that were illegally changed and had the wrong type of filters. They can close the pool until the filtration is back to the approved design. The new code is really strict on flow, too little or too much will result in closure. This has to do with turnover and velocity through pipes and drain covers. In Pinellas County they are even mandating the original chlorine feeders be used! So, if you installed a NSF approved tablet feeder, and it wasn’t designed with that, they will make you go back to the chemical feeder that was originally specified for the pool! You must also understand allowable chemical chemistry levels.  Be prepared when an inspector reads a 7.8 pH and closes the pool for being out of compliance; the frustration being that three other people might read that lower.

Some of these new rules must be challenged in Tallahassee!  It is important to be involved in our Pool Industry PAC; attending Legislative Days in a great start!  So before you step into commercial service, learn the codes and be ready to defend your actions to inspectors!

Steve Bludsworth
All Pool Service and Supply

One thing we discuss at almost every meeting we hold with our field techs is performing a free and quick basic inspection of the customer’s pool and or spa equipment. We break these down into three categories.

We train on what we call Gates, Grates and Ground. We want all of our folks to look at these items every time they are in a customer’s backyard, whether it is to clean the pool, repair the pool, remodel, estimate or any other work. We look at the suction grates; this includes the pool, spa and any suction outlets such as a suction vac line or suction pool cleaner line. We look to see if the grates are in good condition, that they meet the current standards and that they are secure. We also look at all the gates, screen doors, baby fences, etc. We look to see if function properly and are in need of any repair or replacement. The last item is ground (actually bonding) but we wanted to use another G word. We look at the bond wire motor and any other metal equipment to make sure that it is attached. We also look at the bond wire on the screen enclosure to make sure it is attached. We find many bond wires that are just dangling in the air but not attached. Many bond wires are beat up from weed whackers and other law equipment.

We consider Gates, Gates and Grounds to be a basic safety inspection that only takes a few minutes and can save a life or prevent serious injury.

Our second inspection is on repair calls. After the tech has looked at the problem which prompted the service call and reassured the customer that this is something we can take care of, we offer to do an inspection of their other pool or spa equipment. This isn’t a detailed inspection like for a home sale, it’s just looking at the other items and identifying any current issues or anything that looks like it might turn into a problem. This does two things: it can generate additional revenue and helps head off the “ever since you were here” something else isn’t working phone call.

The last inspection is performed by our cleaning route techs. We give them a simple check list to use on their route pools that lets them look for problems with the pool and equipment. This works great early in the year because it lets us fix problems in the slow season instead of tying up the repair techs during peak season.  We give the route techs a small SPIF for repairs that are generated from the checklist, so they like it to do it.

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.