Eglin Air Force Base Saves $24,000 with Solar Pool Heater

Operation:  Swim Warm

At Eglin Air Force Base in Valparaiso, FL, the nearly 14,000 square foot pool is used for recruit training and exercise, as well as recreation and leisure for those stationed at the base and their families. But for facility operators, the cost of keeping the pool warm enough to use was costing the base upwards of several thousand dollars each month. Solar thermal was proposed as the most cost-effective alternative to the existing gas-powered boiler, and an invitation to bid went out.

Sean Gardner, owner of Compass Solar in Pensacola, FL, has been selling and installing the Ecosun Solar Pool Heating System in the Florida panhandle for over 10 years, with a number of large commercial projects under his belt. Sean’s experience and dedication to quality has helped him achieve the elite distinction of becoming an Ecosun Master Dealer. Though the Eglin installation would be his largest to date, Sean eagerly threw his hat in the ring for the project.

Sean explained to facility operators how his proposed design – an array of 164 black polypropylene collectors (often referred to as panels) – could dramatically reduce their operating costs by harnessing the sun’s free energy. Each collector is divided into just over 100 small tubes that water runs directly through.  As the pool water circulates through the collectors, over 1,000 BTUs of thermal energy per square foot are absorbed by the water before returning to the pool.

Based on Sean’s comprehensive payback analysis and experience, Compass Solar was awarded the bid.  The collectors were mounted on eight custom all-aluminum ground racks adjacent to the pool, ranging in size from 52’ long to as long as 104’ long.  The racks were then anchored by 160 2’ x 4’ concrete footers poured using round forms. Thanks to Ecosun’s highest-rated vented solar pool heating collector design, the system can withstand 140 mile-per-hour winds of three second gusts.

With the housing market stagnant and new pool construction still down, there has been a natural shift in most Dealers’ markets toward larger commercial pools and aquatic facilities.  “This was definitely the largest solar pool heating project we had ever taken on,” says Sean, “but thanks to my crew and everyone involved, it was also one of the most fun.”

When operational, the solar array is capable of heating over 650 gallons of pool water, per minute.  The system is expected to generate 5.9 million BTUs daily, offsetting approximately 1.7 Megawatts daily. Capable of consistently providing temperatures of 85 to 95 degrees from March to December, the system can be adjusted by raising or lowering a thermostat-style knob.  The collectors will be drained during the colder months to prevent freezing, and the existing gas-powered boiler will handle the heating load.

“The goal of the $177,175 project is to reduce gas consumption and up-keep on the existing boiler,” according to Pablo Cruz, of the 96th Civil Engineer Group. “The solar pool heater is expected to save the base $24,000 per year and should pay for itself in approximately seven years.”

Eglin Air Force Base joins a growing number of military bases going solar in an attempt to reduce operating costs and go green.  With an ongoing push by the United States government to go green, most military installations start with their biggest energy hogs – in many cases a swimming pool or aquatic training facility. Heating a pool with natural gas, propane, or electric by means of a conventional fossil-fuel heater consumes a massive amount of energy and can cost thousands of dollars a month to maintain a comfortable temperature.

NSF Takes Further Regulatory Action Against UMA Solar For False NSF Claim

NSF Regulatory has released the following statement regarding false claims made by UMA Solar regarding their Heliociol and Sunstar solar pool heaters.  UMA has falsely represented its Heliocol and Sunstar brands of solar pool heating systems by claiming they are NSF-61 certified.  They are, in fact, not certified to any NSF standard.

“UMA Solar has distributed statements claiming that their Heliocol and SunStar solar collectors were certified by NSF to NSF/ANSI Standard 61. These products are not currently certified by NSF to NSF/ANSI Standard 61.

On April 27, 2011 UMA Solar issued a press release concerning NSF-61 Certification for their Heliocol and SunStar solar collectors. Subsequently they issued a retraction. The retraction did state that the Heliocol and SunStar solar collectors are not, in and of themselves, certified by NSF.” – NSF

Aquatherm is still the only solar manufacturer to have passed the strict safety, durability & toxicity standards set forth by NSF.  NSF’s Standard 50 is particularly important in commercial swimming pools and other public aquatic facilities.

The screenshot below was taken directly from NSF’s regulatory page:

Additional Aquatherm Solar Pool Heaters Receive NSF-50

Lakewood, NJ – June 20, 2011 – Aquatherm Industries, manufacturer of solar thermal heating systems for swimming pools, has announced its Sunlite and Ecolite products have passed the strict testing criteria set forth by the National Sanitation Foundation and are now NSF-50 listed.

The standard, which is required by most U.S. states, concerns the safety, durability and toxicity of products that are used in public or commercial swimming pools, spas and other recreational water facilities like water parks.

“The certification of Aquatherm helps assure homeowners and operators at recreational water facilities that their passive solar radiant heaters are free from unacceptable levels of contaminants and perform and continue to perform effectively under the intended use conditions,” said Dave Purkiss, General Manager for NSF International’s Water Treatment and Distribution program.

Certification testing includes: material safety, corrosion resistance, design and construction, product marking, dimensional testing, hydrostatic pressure testing at 1.5x the working pressure, design burst pressure testing at 2.0x the working pressure, head loss or pressure loss testing, 20,000 cycle high/low pressure testing, high temperature burst pressure safety testing, marking, and labeling requirements.

“Now, more than ever, pool owners need to be assured that the only byproduct of their solar pool heater is warmer water and a longer swimming season,” said Dave Sizelove, Aquatherm’s President & CEO. “With the addition of Sunlite and Ecolite, all Aquatherm products are now listed NSF-50, which means we can provide that piece of mind.”

At the time of this release, Aquatherm is still the first and only manufacturer to receive NSF-50 certification for solar pool heating systems.

Aquatherm Industries is the largest manufacturer of solar pool heating systems in the United States, with a management team consisting of over 100-years combined experience. Aquatherm manufactures several of the industry’s leading brands of solar pool heating collectors, including the Solar Industries and Ecosun collectors. For more information on Aquatherm Industries, its products or its dealer network, contact Molly Friar, Aquatherm’s Sales & Marketing Manager at 1-800-535-6307, extension 226 or by email at


Gold Medal Installation: Fort Sill Army Base

With an ongoing push by the United States government to go green, most military installations start with their biggest energy hogs – in many cases an indoor swimming pool or aquatic training facility.  Heating an indoor pool consumes a massive amount of energy (since it receives no direct light from the sun) and can cost thousands of dollars a month to maintain a comfortable temperature.

The 2,400 square foot (270,000 gallons) Rinehart Indoor Pool at the Fort Sill Army post near Lawton, OK is utilized year-round by both military and civilian swimmers for general recreation, fitness, and training. The pool even plays host to regular “Learn to Swim” classes held for the families of the soldiers stationed there.  Keeping the pool at a comfortable temperature for all those swimmers cost upwards of several thousand dollars a month with the existing 630,000 BTU natural gas heater.  Facility management knew there had to be a more cost-effective way to keep the pool water warm.

SEI Group, the energy-efficiency consultant hired to research alternative means of heating the pool, didn’t take long to provide a recommendation to Rinehart.  The Group had heard good things about the 84-collector solar pool heating installation at the Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, GA – installed by Aquatherm Master Dealer & Distribution Center Suncatcher of Atlanta – and was certain the indoor pool at Fort Sill could benefit from the warmth of the sun, as well.  After Gerry Kilgore, President of Suncatcher, made the 2-hour drive to provide a bid, SEI and Fort Sill were convinced they had the right man for the job.

Suncatcher of Atlanta designed a custom rack to hold 135 Solar Industries Collectors, with a 41-degree tilt to maximize solar absorption in the winter months when the sun is highest in the sky.  With over 4,200 feet of 3” plumbing to move water to and from the collectors, the Rinehart Indoor Pool Solar Heating System will generate over 2.6 million BTUs every day – the equivalent of 278 MW every year – cutting annual heating costs by 47%.

Swimmers at the Rinehart Pool living green and swimming warm!

Profit from pool heating with Aquatherm's Partner's Program

Partners Program Logo

The Aquatherm Partner’s Program is designed for pool professionals with customers asking about solar, but no one to refer them to. The Partner’s Program connects the pool industry (builders, service & retail) to reputable local solar installers in the Aquatherm Network, who can assist in providing system components all the way to turnkey installations.  We make it easy to integrate solar into your existing plan.

Though, your local Aquatherm Regional Distribution Center or local Dealer can tailor a program that’s just right for you, here are the three traditional ways of adding solar to your services offered:

1. Referral Program
The local Aquatherm solar partner provides a display or literature for his pool partner’s retail store. The pool partner refers his customers to his solar partner, who designs, sells, installs and services the solar pool heating system. The pool partner may also provide a list of his customers whom the solar partner can solicit. The pool partner receives a referral fee on all sales. Read more…

A Solar Point of View

Fantastic AQUA Magazine article following one pool owner’s purchasing decision as he makes the move to install a solar pool heater.  The article features long time Solar Industries Dealer & Aquatherm Regional Distribution Center Gerry Kilgore of Suncatcher of Atlanta.

Solar View

By Scott Webb
September 2010

The cold was bothering him. The water was cold, and it was keeping his kids out of the pool, which defeated its purpose. “If I’m going to have a pool,” he said to himself, “I want to get the most out of it, for myself and my kids. Maybe I need a heater.”

What was his first move? He didn’t stop in at a pool store or dig up an old copy of the Yellow Pages. He fired up his computer.

He didn’t know what type of heater he wanted; he just knew he wanted a warm pool. He read some things about solar and gas heaters and thought about it for a while. Read more…

Commercial pool market positioned for huge solar boom


A proposed 30% federal tax credit for commercial solar pool heating has been introduced by Senators’ Feinstein of California and Merkley of Oregon. Once approved, Senate Bill S.2899 will extend the existing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to add commercial solar pool heating to the existing 30% Investment Tax Credit for solar.

Commercial swimming pools – such as those at hotels, motels, health clubs, and schools – are perfect candidates for solar heating, since owners and operators have no choice but to keep their pools at a comfortable temperature year-round.

Said Senator Merkley, “This bill makes sure incentives for renewable energy keep functioning during this recession and keep acting as job-creation engines. Les Nelson, Chairman of the Solar Energy Industries Association Thermal Division says that “even with only a 35% market penetration of 65,000 pools, it would require an estimated 3.25 million solar collectors be installed.”

With the pending legislation fully backed by SEIA, it is only a matter of time before the flood-gates open on this market. The question is, what will you do now to prepare for this opportunity? With over 20-years of experience in the commercial solar pool heating market, Aquatherm is ready to be your partner and help you get your share of this potential $6 billion dollar market. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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