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TECHNICAL M ATTERS

Pool Hydraulics 101


by Randy Mendioroz
Randy Mendioroz is a Principal with Aquatic Design Group, a Carlsbad, California consulting firm which specializes in the programming, planning, design and engineering of competitive, recreation and leisure-based aquatic facilities. Mendioroz is a 25 year veteran of the swimming pool industry, who launched Aquatic Design Group (ADG) in 1984 following five years as an operations manager, estimator and project manager within two subsidiary organizations of California Pools, Inc., at the time the largest swimming pool contractor in the country. As principal for ADG, Mendioroz is responsible for programming, technical specifications, estimating and project management. He brings a unique combination of field and technical knowledge which enable him to present progressive and innovative approaches to each project assignment. For more information on the Aquatic Design Group, call 760-438-8400, fax 760-4385251, email: info@aquaticdesigngroup.com or visit the Web site at www.aquaticdesigngroup.com.

ave you ever asked yourself why you do things in a certain way, over and over, without ever questioning why? For many of us who grew up in the pool industry, sizing pumps and piping systems for residential or commercial swimming pools fits into the category of because thats the way I was taught to do it. What if your teachers methods were flawed? In my experience over the past 29 years in the pool industry, I have noticed that only a small percentage of pool contractors have had any formal educational training in hydraulic design and engineering. This is not a critique of swimming pool contractors, since the last time I checked, I did not see a course offering Pool Hydraulics 101 at the local university. So how do you know that you are sizing pumps and piping properly, other than by trial and error, the most demanding teacher of all? It is difficult to publish a complete Idiots Guide to Pool Hydraulics in a single magazine article. But just to get your feet wet, I have assembled a couple of important basics that might be helpful in understanding the general concepts of pool hydraulics whether it is for a residential or commercial pool.

To insure proper distribution of water throughout the swimming pool, velocities for both suction and discharge piping should be checked. Photo: Mechanical room at the Lompoc Aquatic Center, Lompoc, California.

Total Dynamic Head


When sizing pool circulation pumps, you must first calculate pool volume, and then determine what the desired turnover rate should be. For most residential pools with light user loads, a six to eight hour turnover should be sufficient. Commercial pools with heavy user loads may be sized at a four hour turnover, wading pools at a one hour turnover, and hydrotherapy spas at a 30 minute turnover. The formula for required turnover is expressed as follows: pool volume (in gallons) divided by turnover rate in hours, divided by 60 (minutes in an hour), equal gallons per minute. Pumps are accurately sized utilizing a combination of the required turnover rate in gallons per minute and total dynamic head (TDH) in feet or meters. TDH is a combination of suction lift, or how high in feet you are lifting the water out of the pool, and friction loss. Calculating exact friction loss is a very demanding and detailed engineering exercise. Many moons ago, two very smart guys named Williams and Hazen came up with a formula to calculate head loss in pipes due to friction. However, in most cases, using the Williams-Hazen equation, which requires the measuring of each length of pipe and adding up every pipe fitting from the pump to the farthest point of

Pump curve courtesy of Paco Pumps.

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Left: TDH is a combination of suction lift, or how high in feet you are lifting the water out of the pool, and friction loss. Photo: Knotts Soak City San Diego, California (formerly Whitewater Canyon).

the suction or discharge piping, then adding the friction loss from the filtration system and pool heater, is an exercise for only the most serious pool pros. For those of us who are wet behind the ears, the use of a rule of thumb can be useful. For commercial swimming pools, most state and provincial health departments require a minimum of 60 feet of TDH, which is a very conservative figure. This assumes that the pump strainer is full of band aids and bikini tops, that the filter needs to be backwashed, and everything within the recirculation system is maxed out as far as friction loss is concerned. If you utilize this standard in sizing TDH, you should be guaranteed of providing the proper flow rate within the system. For example, lets assume our required turnover rate is 80 gallons per minute (GPM), and we want to utilize 60 feet of TDH for our combination of suction lift and friction loss. The pump curve would look something like the graph on page 73, with the head in feet on the left side of the graph, and the capacity in gallons per minute on the bottom side of the graph. For this particular pump curve, the pump manufacturer recommends a two horsepower pump to achieve the desired turnover rate of 80 GPM.

It Pays To Look At Different Pump Manufacturers


Once you learn how to read pump curves, it pays to look at different pump manufacturers to determine which particular pump is the most energy efficient. In the example above, the published motor efficiency is 68.7 per cent, which is not bad for a self-priming pump. To increase efficiency, you may want to consider utilizing a flooded

To increase efficiency, you may want to consider using a flooded suction pump, which means that the pump volute is physically located below the static water level of the swimming pool.

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suction pump, which means that the pump volute is physically located below the static water level of the swimming pool. If the pump does not have to prime itself (which typically requires a 3,500 RPM motor), a 1,750 or 1,150 RPM motor can be used, which can increase motor efficiency to more than 80 per cent. The higher the motor efficiency, the less it costs to run the pump. Given the current price of energy, this is an important factor to keep in mind when choosing the best equipment.

Velocity Through Piping


Anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time within the pool business has probably heard the term cavitation or cavitating. What this means is that the piping system is sucking air into the pump because the velocity (in terms of gallons per minute) is too high for the pipe size installed. Cavitation is a bad thing it means that you will burn up that expensive circulation pump very quickly. To avoid that, its helpful to know how to size pool piping. It should be noted that the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (formerly the National Spa and Pool Institute) recommends that the water velocity in PVC pool piping not exceed 6 feet per second for suction piping and 10 feet per second for pressure (discharge) piping. Requirements for commercial pools vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but our firm generally utilizes water velocity criteria of 6 feet per second for suction and 8 feet per second for discharge piping. As long as we are using the rule of thumb, a quick method for estimating the velocity (in feet per second) is as follows: Gallons per minute (GPM) times .32 (constant) divided by the area of the pipe (in square inches). To apply the formula to a sample problem, lets say that we want to know what the velocity is for 60 GPM traveling through a 1-1/2" pipe, if the pipes inside diameter is 1.59", and area = (3.14/4) 1.59 = 1.98 square inches, then the formula works this way: 60 GPM x .32 / 1.98 = 9.7 feet per second. To insure proper distribution of water throughout the swimming pool, velocities for both suction and discharge piping should be checked. Each branch line should be sized for optimum velocities, including skimmer, main drain and return inlet piping. It should be noted that sizing charts are available from manufacturers of PVC pipe, which illustrate flow rates in feet per second. In essence, the calculations are already done for you, which can streamline the process of checking your piping systems. Albert Einstein once said that The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. With this primer on pool hydraulics, youll be swimming in the fast lane (within the pool business, anyway). PSM

Above: Commercial pools with heavy user loads may be sized at a four hour turnover, wading pools at a one hour turnover, and hydrotherapy spas at a 30 minute turnover. Photo: Palace of the Lost City, Sun City, South Africa.

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