The Real Cost of Owning A Swimming Pool

Swimming Pool maintenance is expensive

Now that you are working 65 hours a week in the hospital and making big bucks, you can now afford that giant in-ground swimming pool you’ve always wanted as a kid.  Can you really afford that pool? How much does it really cost to own a pool?

It’s not cheap.

Yes, it’s expensive even if you make $150,000 a year. Or $250,000.  The costs of owning a pool come from maintenance. Assuming your home already comes with a swimming pool, you still have to maintain it year round. On average, it costs approximately $3,000-$5,000 to maintain a swimming pool per year. Consider that cost, compare it to the cost of membership at a local pool, the number of times you go swimming per year, and the intrinsic happiness you gain from the convenience of having a pool in your back yard.

Why does it cost so much to maintain a pool of water? Let’s briefly go over the costs:

Heating

Heating a pool will likely cost you around $100 a month with traditional heating methods, likely more if you are keeping it heated during the cooler months. If you live in a sunny area, you can install a solar system where your water is pumped to your roof and heated passively through sunlight. These systems will cost you around $7-9k to install, and maybe an extra $50-$100 a year to run the pump.

Maintenance

You have to maintain your pool weekly during use. This includes adjusting chemical levels, cleaning it, maintaining the filters and pumps, and repairing anything that breaks. The pool guy might charge you $50 a week (or $100 if you’re in southern California) for a 12,500-18,000 tank. It takes about a 45-60 minutes of your time to thoroughly go through the motions.

DIY Tips on Pool Maintenance

Okay, you’re only worth $100/hr pretax as a doctor. Your fancy house came with a standard chlorine pool. The local pool maintenance company charges a monthly fee of $300 a month for maintenance on an annual contract. That is too fancy for your blood. What do you have a to do to maintain it?

Cleaning the pool requires multiple steps

Skimmers

You want your pool water to be clear and free of debris, bugs, and plant matter. Most pools have skimmers on the side walls that trap surface debris. You want to empty out the skimmer baskets weekly. If you have a dog that also gets into your pool, then you should consider installing a Scumsock, which traps animal fur. This reduces the likelihood that your pump filter doesn’t get clogged with animal fur.

Leaf Net and pool brushes

A net on a pole is used to remove larger leaves and debris in the pool. Walls of your pool need to be brushed weekly to remove mineral debris and bugs.

Automatic Pool Robot 

Sand and heavier debris on the bottom of the pool should be removed using a cleaning device that runs on the bottom. This isn’t the only solution. There are plenty of companies that make automated pool cleaning devices, and each on requires different maintenance.

Circulation Pump

All pools require a circulation pump with filter. You will need to run this pump 8-10 hours a day to remove waste from the pool, more if the pool undergoes heavy use. The pump helps remove organic waste (like sunblock, sweat, and human waste…yuck) from the water. These substances  competitively bind to the chlorine in the pool and prevents the chlorine from doing its job. The end result? Algae bloom. Keep your pump running and filter clean. These filters may have to be replaced every 3 months with heavy use.

Balance the chemical levels of the pool

Alkalinity (800-100ppm), pH (7.4-7.8), and chlorine levels (1-3ppm) need to be adjusted at least weekly. If you have too much chlorine (>10ppm), then you have to add a chlorine reducer. If you have a moderately high level of chlorine, add pool shock to oxidize the compounds in the water.

Salt Water Pools Still Require Maintenance

On average, it will take you about an hour a week to maintain a standard chlorine pool. At $100/hour pretax on your regular job, it is a sound financial decision to clean your pool yourself unless you are able to pick up extra shifts at work or more patients to operate on. If you want to save even more time with maintenance, you can consider a salt water pool.

To clarify, salt water in the pool does not equate to having a tub of sea water to swim in. The water in a salt water pool should not even taste salty if it is maintained properly. A salt water pool uses salt in a generator to produce chlorine. Remember, in high school Chemistry? NaCl is salt. The advantage of salt water pools is that you may not have to monitor the chemical balance as closely, but you still have to clean the debris, skimmer, and dead bugs. Instead of one hour a week, it will probably take you 15 minutes a week to clean a salt water pool.

You Will Need More Umbrella Insurance if You Own A Pool

We don’t like to talk about it, but you can get sued for owning a pool. If a neighborhood kid jumps the fence in your back yard, uses your pool, and drowns, you may be liable for his stupidity. Welcome to America. You probably should have umbrella insurance anyway, but you will pay more for having a pool. This will set you back a few extra hundred bucks a year.

Conclusion

Overall, having a pool is still a luxury, even for a high income family. It adds complexity to your life, but can be rewarding if you live in an area that allows you to swim year-round.  There are some regions in the country where it’s difficult not to find a house with a pool (read: Florida, southern California, and some parts of Texas), and perhaps those are the only places to seek one out.  Be aware that it is not cheap (time and money) to own a pool, whether you have pool help or decide to do it yourself.

Do you own a swimming pool? Has it been worth your investment? How often do you use it?

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8 thoughts on “The Real Cost of Owning A Swimming Pool

  1. Great article! well written and very informative. Pools can really be costly. I would like to know what other chemical alternatives can be used aside from Chlorine and salt water ?

    1. I’m only aware of just a handful, such as chlorine, bromine, ozone, ionization, and the salt chlorine. Interestingly, salt-water pools actually use an electrolysis method to break down salt into its ions. So it’s not classically the sense of salt water like in the ocean.

      1. We have had an in ground fiberglass pool since 2012. We have a saltwater pool system which WILL taste salty even when you are doing it correctly. We live in the Midwest, do not heat our pool ( we use a solar cover) and clean and check the chemicals ourselves. While the initial cost of having an in ground pool installed was high, and we installed a 5 foot magnet locked gate as well, the cost of maintenance is far less than 3-5 K a year. The most expensive item we have bought to date was a large winter pool cover, the kind you can stand on. This made opening the pool in the spring so much easier it was well worth it. Otherwise the only consistent expense is the component that actually separates the salt into chlorine. They only last 2-3 years at best. However, if you are willing to invest some “ sweat equity “ into it, and you have always wanted one, go ahead. Our (grown) kids still come over to use it, and hopefully we will have grandkids to use it as well!

        1. Thanks for the details! How many months of the year do you get to use the pool?

          Sounds like an overall great investment.

          1. Typically late May through September depending on the weather. We have had years where it is in use from early May on, and some September’s to chilly to use it much. But 4 full months is the average. Last summer because of travel restrictions, etc, our family really got a lot of use out of it. I would definitely do it again, we really enjoy it!

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