Friday, April 30, 2010

The Right Swimming Pool Temperature

May is opening time for many outdoors backyard swimming pools across the country, and the benefits of water-based physical activity are many, as listed by the Center for Disease Control. We are opening our this week-end:-) What is the right temperature for your outdoor swimming pool?

In the same way as an office temperature never pleases everybody, neither does a pool temperature... But there are reasonable ranges that are generally accepted. In general, most people agree that 86F and above is too high for lap swimming. The American Red Cross recommend 78F for competitive swimming, and most public pools are maintained at temperatures between 78F and 82F, as recommended by many energy companies. The reference "Pool and Spa Water Chemistry" by Taylor Technologies posits 78F-82F as standard swimming pool temperatures. Below 75F is generally recognized as too cold, although a few recommend as low as 72F for competitive lap swimming, where strenuous exercise with benefit for the cooling action of cold water. Yet the International Swimming federation requires a range of 77F-82F for competitive swimming. In multi-use pools, often around 42" deep and where swimming is not as common, an accepted range is generally 83F-86F.

Based on this data, it is fair to consider 78F-82F as an acceptable range to start with, although most people will find 78F somewhat on the cool side. Young children and older adults need slightly higher temperature. Although the Department of Energy recommends 80F and higher for young children and older adults, the Arthritis Foundation as well as the Mayo Clinic recommend 83F-88F as a range for older adult exercise, which is typically lower intensity and requires less cooling. As we saw earlier, the upper limits of that range (86F and above) will be too warm for regular adult lap swimming, and, in fact, could generate hyperthermia (dangerous elevated core temperatures) during strenuous lap swimming. So, if multiple generations use your outdoor swimming pool, 82F-84F might be a better all purpose range to start with. Since indoor pool temperatures are higher than outdoor pool temperatures, this seems to match the recommendations of the US Water Fitness Association, which recommends, for indoor multi-use pools, a range of 84F-86F,.

At the same time, it should be clear to all that each degree rise in temperature represents significant additional expense. The department of Energy considers that each degree costs 10-30% more in energy costs. Simultaneously, higher temperatures increases the risk of water-borne diseases and the consumption of pool chemicals: above 80F, chlorine demands approximately doubles for each 10-degree increase.Economics, conservation and safety all point towards the lower numbers of these ranges as a better place to be.

Initial pool settings: putting it all together

Taking into account health recommendations, conservation and safety, and assuming use by healthy adults only with no medical pre-conditions, we can arrive at compromise initial temperatures that may be reasonable to start your pool with. You will need to adjust these temperatures to your own family's needs and preferences.

  • Competitive lap swimming: 78F
  • Comfortable adult swimming: 80-82F
  • Combined swimming and multi-use pool: 82F-83F
  • Multi-use pool: 83F-84F
  • Primary or significant use by children and older adults: 83F-84F

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