My first experience with swimming pool chemical controllers started with an couple of analog Strantrol systems in 1989 that were on public pools using chlorine and one of the original ionization systems made by Tarn Pure.
In 1990, I became familiar with some Chemtrol 210 and 320 systems and was fascinated with the ability to automatically control water chemistry with this relatively simple technology. Although the technology was simple, it did require one to understand how pool chemistry worked and how swimming pools “behaved” especially in the circulation department.
It was relatively easy to get pool managers to see the value in chemical automation but the price was somewhat prohibitive as the cost of a basic system for 1 pool started at about $1,500.00 just for the controller, not accounting for the feed pumps or installation. To get a system that offered more advanced features such as data logging would cost several thousand dollars.
Then in 1994, I saw an ad in Service Industry News for a computerized system capable of handling 2 pools with a modem for about $1,500.00. This was incredible because most of my customers had a pool and a spa and with a customer base in Southern California, the modem feature allowing me to monitor accounts from a computer was very attractive. This unit was the original AK1000 invented by Scott Lenney, the founder of Acu-Trol.
My partner Matt Van Gorden and I quickly saw the value in this system as we could program this system to do all sorts of functions and when hooked up to a phone line would page us when there was a problem with the water chemistry, the temperature wasn’t right or when a spa’s emergency shut off was activated. This allowed us to be much more proactive with our clients and allowed us to address problems before they became evident to our customers. This started a long relationship between us as we became the field developers for this young company.
The one drawback to this system was it’s complexity. Although we could easily operate the system, the average customer couldn’t understand it. As it happened, people began asking for more advanced features such as true PPM control instead of ORP, automatic backwash and other complex operations. These complexities added to the cost and decreased reliability. Even though ORP is a proven and highly effective means to monitor and control water sanitizing, most people don’t understand it and when the free chlorine residual would fluctuate to satisfy the ORP demand, many people thought the system didn’t work.
Even though there are companies that have had varying degrees of success with PPM control, PPM control is expensive and ORP is still the best way to achieve optimal water quality. ORP control is the most cost effective way to automatically monitor and control water chemistry. Once it is understood, it is the method of choice as it is economical and very reliable.
Over the years I have personally serviced controllers made by Acu-Trol, Aquasol, CAT, Chemtrol, Link Automation, Pulse, Roll-A-Chem, Strantrol and Watermatic, both analog and digital. All of these systems will control water chemistry and some are easier to use than others plus there is a wide range of prices. It is noted that even though there has been a sharp decline in the price of electronics over the last decade, swimming pool controllers continue to be priced high due costs associated with product promotion such as trade shows, literature and sales reps spread across a low volume of sales compared to computers.
Now that has changed. Control-O-Matic was started by Scott Lenney to once again add value to the pool industry by offering the PoolWarden, a high quality, easy to use system with optional WIFI communications, keeping prices low by utilizing the power of the internet to promote the system instead of expensive trade shows and mailers. Once again, it is possible to get a system capable of controlling 1 or 2 pools with the ability to communicate via the web at a very attractive price.
ControlOMatic is a manufacturer of Salt Water Chlorine Generators for Spas, hot tubs and above ground pools and high quality chemical automation systems. We are currently building our dealer network. If you would like more information on how you can become a dealer, call us at 530-205-4520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on chlorine generators or lance@controlomatic for information on chemical automation systems.
Contol-O-Matic does not sell the PoolWarden through distribution.
By Lance Fitzsimmons