The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Pool Maintenance Company
The PROS of Hiring a Pool Maintenance Company
What is your time worth? Having your pool maintained by a swimming pool service company can be a fairly sizable time saver. Let’s do the math.
Pool Cleaning: 3-4 hrs per month
In Texas most residential swimming pools take a professional 30 minutes to 1 hour each week for a full cleaning that includes vacuuming the floor of the pool. Multiply this weekly time by 4.33 weeks in a month (there are 4 and 1/3 weeks average each month) and this adds up to between 2.12 to 4.3 hours per month for a professional to clean the pool.
A professional has great tools and performs 55-65 pool cleanings per week. Most pool owners don’t have battery powered leaf vacuums or vacuum heads with ball bearings so their actual time is a little more. We’ll estimate a DIY pool owner’s time to be 3-4 hours instead of 2-4 for the pool cleaning aspects of maintenance.
From a cost standpoint chemicals are often a wash or breakeven when using a pool service company for maintenance. Here in TX they start at $39 along with the service portion of the bid. It is pretty common to spend this as a pool owner each month if all chemicals and DE are taken into account. So a TX pool service bid might be $98 labor + $39 chemicals = $137 per month.
Water Balance and Chemicals: 2 hrs per month
DIY (do it yourself) homeowners typically take their water to be tested at a local swimming pool retailer on a regular basis when purchasing pool chemicals or if they have a water balance issue to resolve. Each of these trips to the local swimming pool supply retailer takes time. There also is more time needed to add the additional chemicals and re-check the water, as well as to unload and store chemicals properly in a safe location. There is also time added to backwash the filter and re-charge it. We’ll estimate these at 2hrs per month total time.
Total Time Saved = 5-6 hours per month; Cost for Time Saved = about $100
Note: FL, CA and AZ have pools that take half the time to clean as those in TX. However the labor portion of their pool services also costs about half as much which means the net savings per hour should be relatively similar.
So what is your time worth? Is it worth more than a potential breakeven of $20 per hour?
Save Money on Repairs and Remodeling Costs
Taking the guesswork out of water balance helps make the chemicals work more effectively and efficiently. It also helps prolong the life of the swimming pool equipment and plaster surfaces.
Said another way, improperly balanced pool water contributes to pool problems in future years that could have been avoided. It is easy to become a casualty of these problems simply due to over /under shooting when adding chemicals to your pool as a homeowner.
There are several DIY homeowner chemical test kits available. However the test strips can be highly inaccurate and the drops or turbidity based kits can have reagents that lose their accuracy over time. The Taylor test kit reagent #0002 for testing chlorine will become inaccurate due to exposure to sunlight for less than 24 hours for example.
A professional pool company by comparison will stock and use new reagents on a regular basis since they are performing so many service stops per day. If they have a chemical balance guarantee then it is in their best interest to keep the water as balanced as possible.
Maintenance is cheaper than repairs so there are savings to be had by using a professional pool service company. Equipment and surfaces will last longer with proper water balance. To be fair, it can be hard to quantify the savings here on an hourly basis.
Swimming pool surfaces are in many ways similar to a nice roof or fence. They can get worn out in a few years if they have a hard life or last several times as long if well maintained. Proper maintenance that’s free of guesswork can save thousands of dollars in upkeep. It can also help avoid premature equipment replacement over the years.
Reduce Hassles and Risks in Storing Chemicals
Chemicals must be stored in a safe location where the weather does not cause undue spoilage. Swimming pool chemicals (especially chlorine) tend to rust whatever they are around whether that be pool equipment, yard equipment stored nearby, or a car if stored in a garage.
There are also safety issues with chemicals. Calcium Hypochlorite based shock (the most common form on the market) is a highly flammable oxidizer. If mixed with Tri-Chlor or most other organic compounds it will catch fire. Many homeowners underestimate the risks associated with storing chemicals.
A swimming pool service company will eliminate the need to store anything at your home. If any issues arise they will have the ingredients on their service vehicles to resolve them.
The CONS of Hiring a Pool Maintenance Company
No surprise here. The primary additional cost is the labor for weekly or twice-a-month pool maintenance visits. Per the calculations above weekly service labor costs about $100 in TX and saves a typical pool owner 5-6 hours per month. Other states might cost $60 for the labor portion of the bill and save a pool owner 3-4 hours per month. Bottom line is it is likely going to cost $20 per hour to outsource your pool maintenance in terms of time savings.
There are some pool owners that opt to have their teenager perform the vacuuming and other cleaning items in the pool – or they might want to do those aspects themselves. Many pool service companies offer a “Chemicals Only” or “Partial” maintenance program that costs proportionately less. There are some who might find cleaning a swimming pool therapeutic. However it’s probably not as popular as say… gardening for example.
Risk of working with a less than fully professional company.
Swimming pool service companies generally don’t have much regulation. Texas now requires an appliance installer’s license to perform equipment repairs that involve electricity. Also some cities in Texas have chosen to require a pool maintenance company to have a Certified Pool Operator on staff to be responsible for maintaining commercial swimming pools. There has been more regulation in several other states but in general the level of compliance needed in the industry is less than other home services such as Plumbing or Pest Control.
When hiring a swimming pool maintenance company it is important to choose one that is licensed, insured, and certified if possible. It can be tempting to save $10-20 per month by getting a pool maintenance company that doesn’t carry insurance and may not be licensed – however pool owners often get stuck with the tab if a company like that makes a mistake – especially one like draining a swimming pool or flooding a house. If you are outsourcing this why not be sure to reduce your risk while doing it?
You can also look up to see whether a pool maintenance company you are considering is a member of the local Better Business Bureau. But keep in mind that the BBB really only comes into play if the size of the claim justifies the fees for filing a complaint. If a pool service customer were unhappy with their pool service and wanted a refund on it the claim is small. The claim amount might not justify paying the BBB claim fees (often $50-$75). Most unsatisfied customers just move on. Until recently with the rise of online reviews many prospective new customers didn’t have a way of hearing about customers that might have had a bad experience with a pool maintenance company.
Finally you can learn a lot about a company via looking up their online reviews on Google or Yahoo. Look beyond the number of stars in their ratings. We’ve seen competitors give fake ratings to each other in this business. Take a look at what is said and pay attention to see if and how the company responds. All pool service companies will eventually make some honest mistakes. If a customer complains about mistakes how does the company respond? Do they offer to make things right?
Bottom line is there is a risk in choosing a pool company that is not fully compliant and doesn’t have an online presence where there is transparent customer feedback and resolutions offered for service experience problems.