Natural Pool-Owners Are Kissing Chlorine And Chemicals Goodbye
Kanebridge News
Share Button

Natural Pool-Owners Are Kissing Chlorine And Chemicals Goodbye

Homeowners are hopping from chemical-treated pools to greener alternatives.

By Karen Bruno
Thu, Jun 24, 2021 11:28amGrey Clock 4 min

This coming summer, some homeowners will be swimming in their backyard pools au naturel. The iconic, aqua-blue vessels of chlorine-treated water are starting to see competition from the leafy, greenish waters of natural pools.

Waiting lists for in-ground pools and a chlorine shortage are sparking interest in these so-called bio pools, which are chemical-free. Swimmers are invited to lounge, naiad-like, close to water mint and water lilies as dragonflies hover.

“Prices are going through the roof on chlorine tabs—if you can even find them,” says Christopher Paquette of Robin’s Nest, a natural-pool company in Buxton, Maine.

Natural pools are a tiny fraction of the U.S. residential pool market, which is dominated by pools that use chlorine and other chemicals to keep bacteria and microbes at bay. They are a sustainable choice, requiring less energy to operate.

The result is green water—somewhere between a mossy hue to a jade colour. The roots of aquatic plants, such as water lilies, and materials like gravel create a naturally occurring ecosystem with biofilms called a regeneration zone. Water is kept clean and algae-free as it recirculates over the film of micro-organisms. Newer technology replaces this regeneration zone with a smaller, self-contained, plantless biofilter, which uses material such as lava rock and gravel to build up a biofilm.

The appeal to homeowners is water free of chlorine and other chemicals that keep pool water bacteria-free. Natural pools cost about $125 a square foot, excluding decks, electrical and landscaping. That is about 10% more than installation costs for a chlorine pool. But they are slightly less expensive to maintain. A traditional 500-square-foot pool costs about $1,800 to $3,200 a year during a season, according to Home Advisor.

The energy costs for a natural pool are one-half to one-third of a traditional pool, from $35-$50 a month, and there are no chemical costs. Natural pools can be made of a rubber membrane or gunite, and pool sides may be lined with river rock or special sand bags. Ladders, heaters, and diving boards can be added, but pool covers aren’t needed and water doesn’t need to be drained annually.

Liz and Steve Magoun, tech entrepreneurs in Rye, N.H., installed a natural pool at their home, where the couple like to cool off after long bike rides.

It wasn’t their first choice. Chlorine pools are prohibited in their development, where they recently built a 5,000-square-foot, shingle-style house. The development also prohibits saltwater pools, which turn salt into chlorine.

“It’s like swimming in a crystal-clear pond with a wonderful greenish hue,” says Mrs. Magoun. She says she finds the pool water more sublime than the chlorinated water the couple had in the two previous pools they owned. She did, however, insist that the aesthetic be “neat and manicured,” hence the biofilter, which does the work of plants grown in regeneration zones.

“Like many in the outdoor home-improvement business, we’ve been slammed with demand because of the pandemic,” says Allen Schnaak, vice president of business development at BioNova Natural Pools in Chester, N.J., which supplied the biofilter for the Magouns’ pool.

Mick Hilleary, owner of Total Habitat, based in Kansas City, Kan., says he saw demand shoot up nearly 30% over the past year. He says he installed a natural pool in Tennessee for environmentalist and former Vice President Al Gore four years ago.

Most natural pools in the U.S. are based on the European style. In Europe, 16% of residential pools are natural, compared with less than 1% in the U.S. Europeans use regeneration zones—water gardens filled with aquatic plants and other natural materials—to purify the water. That zone is equal in size to the swimming zone and often separated by a submerged stone wall or a waterfall feature.

In the U.K., architects Emma and Spencer Guy recently installed a 38-by-18-foot natural pool in Buckinghamshire, about an hour from London.

“There is nothing better than a swallow dipping next to you to drink as you swim in clean, odorless, warm water,” says Ms. Guy, 46. The pool complements the 3,000-square-foot, net-zero-energy house they designed and built.

“We sited the pond to bounce light back into the house,” says Mr. Guy, 47. “We enjoy seeing dragonflies, newts, pond skaters and kingfishers. The increased wildlife is the main reason we installed a natural pool.”

Their 34,000-gallon, black, vinyl-lined pool cost $56,000—about half the price of a typical natural pool—because they supervised much of the work themselves. A natural-pool company supplied the water-circulation kit and the planting medium for the two plant-filled regeneration zones. The plants are embedded in soil imported from Italy overlaid with a membrane and gravel.

Another way to cut costs is to convert an existing pool to a natural one, which runs about $60,000,” says Michael George, head of the U.K.-based Gartenart’s U.S. division in Jaffrey, N.H.

Mike and Heather Dooley, both 60, of Napa, Calif., installed a 30-by-60-foot natural pool in 2019, with decking and a beachlike area, for about $160,000. It is integrated into the landscape, Mrs. Dooley says. “It mimics swimming in a creek; we didn’t want a sterile environment.”

Blue heron, mosquito-eating dragonflies and frogs frequent the poolscape.

Natural pools require about as much work as a traditional pool to maintain. “We have to cut back the plants in the regeneration zone for the winter, treat water with beneficial bacteria a few times a season, drain pipes, and vacuum the bottom and sides of our natural pool,” says Avery Pierce, 70, of Buxton, Maine, whose natural pool was installed in 2006, for $50,000, including a complicated excavation.

“It looks good four seasons out of the year,” her husband, Tom Lanucha, 63, adds, saying he believes it won’t detract from the value of their home, as chlorine pools can in the Northeast. “You can skate on it in the winter.”

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 23, 2021.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
Australian home values bounce back for third consecutive month
Heat is on Australian rental markets as would-be buyers opt out
Australian home values bounce back for third consecutive month

Capital cities lead the way as median home values see clear upswing

Thu, Jun 1, 2023 2 min

Home values continue their upwards trajectory, recording the strongest monthly growth in 18 months, CoreLogic data shows.

The property data provider reports that their Home Value Index has noted a third consecutive rise in values  in May, accelerating 1.2 percent over the past month. This is on the back of a 0.6 percent increase in March and 0.5 percent rise in April.

Sydney recorded the strongest results, up 1.8 percent, the highest recorded in the city since September 2021. The fall in Sydney’s home values bottomed in January but have since accelerated sharply by 4.8 percent, adding $48,390 to the median dwelling value.

Melbourne recorded more modest gains, with home values increasing by 0.9 percent, bringing the total rise this quarter to 1.6 percent. It was the smaller capitals of Brisbane (up 1.4 percent) and Perth (up 1.3 percent) that reported stronger gains.

CoreLogic research director Tim Lawless said the lack of housing stock was an obvious influence on the growing values.

 “Advertised listings trended lower through May with roughly 1,800 fewer capital city homes advertised for sale relative to the end of April. Inventory levels are -15.3 percent lower than they were at the same time last year and -24.4 percent below the previous five-year average for this time of year,” he said.

“With such a short supply of available housing stock, buyers are becoming more competitive and there’s an element of FOMO creeping into the market. 

“Amid increased competition, auction clearance rates have trended higher, holding at 70 percent or above over the past three weeks. For private treaty sales, homes are selling faster and with less vendor discounting.” 

Vendor discounting has been a feature in some parts of the country, particularly prestige regional areas that saw rapid price rises during the pandemic – and subsequent falls as people returned to the workplace in major centres.

The CoreLogic Home Value Index reports while prices appear to have found the floor in regional areas, the pace of recovery has been slower.

“Although regional home values are trending higher, the rate of gain hasn’t kept pace with the capitals. Over the past three months, growth in the combined capitals index was more than triple the pace of growth seen across the combined regionals at 2.8% and 0.8% respectively,” Mr Lawless said.

“Although advertised housing supply remains tight across regional Australia, demand from net overseas migration is less substantial. ABS data points to around 15% of Australia’s net overseas migration being centred in the regions each year. Additionally, a slowdown in internal migration rates across the regions has helped to ease the demand side pressures on housing.”



Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop