Pool Season 2021 – Supply Shortages, Price Increases, and You

At the time of this writing, it is February and snowing AGAIN in Massachusetts.  It is an interesting time to be talking about summer and pool season. However, 2020 rocked the pool and hot tub industry, like many recreational and home products, the demand skyrocketed and took everyone by surprise.

This demand has not subsided, and the supply chain has been greatly affected by COVID.  We could not prepare for the chaos that COVID-19 brought right at the start of pool season 2020, but we have time to prepare for the 2021 season. All signs point to it being another historic year for demand, but that demand is coming with a hefty price tag in 2021 and we want you to know as early as possible what to expect.

2020 COVID-19 Factory Shutdown and the Pool and Spa Supply Chain

When COVID hit and states shutdown, this meant factories did too.  Then, when our industry was deemed essential and could go back to work, social distancing measures coupled with COVID outbreaks slowed sometimes completely halted production.

All the while homeowners that were stuck at home staring at the start of summer, bought swimming pools and hot tubs at historic levels.  The industry was not prepared for this.  This led to HUGE supply shortages in chemicals, equipment, and parts.

THIS IS A LONG ARTICLE- SO HERE ARE THE CLIFF NOTES:

  • Due to covid factory slowdowns and unprecedented demand for pool and spa products, there are large shortages in chemicals, parts, and equipment
  • Hurricane Laura caused a fire at one of the main chlorine production plants taking out over 40% of the United States chlorine tablet production
  • Major price increases have been given to us on chemicals, specifically chlorine upwards of 50% in some cases
  • Incredible demand and now the Texas freeze disaster will lead to major shortages of pool equipment
  • Prepare now for your pool season, look into alternative sanitizers to reduce your reliance on chlorine
  • If you suspect there is anything wrong with your pump or filter or it is “on its way out” get on the board to have it replaced ASAP, so you can be sure to get your hands on the equipment you need to keep your pool running this summer.

Then Mother Nature Adds Another Blow

As if COVID wasn’t enough to stress the supply chain, in August 2020 Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana hard. A fire from Hurricane Laura at the Biolab Chlorine plant knocked out 40% of the Tri-chlor and Dichlor chlorine production in the United States. Learn more about the fire here.

While this hit at the tail end of the 2020 pool season, its effects will be felt for years to come, starting this year. Distributors have capped our buying of certain products like chlorine tabs and Sodium dichlor chlorine. We will only be allowed to purchase the amount we purchased last season.

These compounding supply and demand issues have caused prices of all pool and spa products to rise significantly.  The biggest and most impactful price increase is on 3” chlorine tablets.  Prices on tablets were increased to us by over 50%!  Same for granular sodium dichlor commonly used in hot tubs. Needless to say, there is no way pool and spa companies can absorb those increases.

It’s Not Just Chemical Shortages

Equipment like pumps, filters, salt generators as well as parts for those components is all in shortages. The demand spike was so huge that even adding more shifts at factories cannot meet the demand being thrown at them. We have seen this severely impact hot tub parts this winter, common items like control panels, circuit boards, and pumps have been hard to come by.  This has forced us to buy components in bulk when we can find them, at significantly increased prices.  Without these components, hot tubs would be left not running in the freezing New England winter.

We are being told the same thing will happen with pool equipment. We have pre-ordered pumps and filters based on last year’s sales. Even with the pre-orders, we will most likely run out of supply by mid-season. Now with the unbelievable freeze damage in Texas, almost every swimming pool in that hard-hit region needs new equipment, and service companies down there are buying up everything they can find.  This is on top of the shortages and backlogs we were already told about a few weeks before the Texas disaster. 

What does this mean to you as a pool owner in 2021?

Start preparing now so you and your family can enjoy summer 2021 without interruption.  We don’t want your pool to go down in the middle of a hot July weekend and not have the part to get you back up and running.  We don’t want you to run out of chlorine tabs midway through the season and there are no more buckets of tabs to buy.

Here are some things to think about:

1. Do you know how much chlorine you used last season?

Was it 1 25# bucket, a 50# bucket?  If you know what you used last season, buy it all upfront.

AT ST. CYR POOL AND SPA IN MIDDLETON WE HAVE OUR ANNUAL SPRING SALE MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND, SO STOCK UP!

2. What was the condition of your pool equipment last season?

Was your pump running loud?  Was your filter building up the pressure too quickly?  Was your backwash valve hard to turn, leaking?

If you had a loud pump last year that means your bearings are close to failing and seizing the pump motor.  Get ahead of it and replace it before it fails, if you wait you might not be able to find a pump to replace it.

If you have a cartridge filter or a DE grid filter and your elements are more than 5 years old, it’s time to replace them.  Old elements build up oils and debris over time that cannot be cleaned off which causes filter pressure to rise to make your pump run harder.  This also leads to less circulation in the pool, which leads to cloudy pools and algae growth.

Starting the season with new filter cartridges or DE grids is one of the best things you can do to make your system run better.

3. Find ways to reduce your reliance on chlorine tabs and shock.

Yes, we are a pool company that makes money selling chlorine, and we are telling you to find ways to use less this year! The price surge is significant and the shortages are real.

If you run the same chemical system this year as you have in the past it might cost you double and who knows if or when prices will come down.  Therefore, why not look into solutions that lower your chlorine demand or eliminate the need to buy chlorine altogether!

Install a Salt Chlorine generator and make your own chlorine!

There are many benefits to a salt-water pool.  The best benefit is that these systems create chlorine for you, so you don’t have to buy expensive tablets and shock.

Use Borates – Add it Once and it Lasts All Season

Borates have been around a long time and due to more testing and research, they are making a comeback in the pool and spa industry. Borates buffer PH levels (chlorine works more efficiently at the right PH levels) and are an algae inhibitor! Algae has a hard time developing when borate levels are present. Borates also give the water a beautiful sparkle!

Look into Alternative Sanitizers

There are many products on the market that help lower the amount of chlorine needed to sanitize your water. In the last 5 years, these products have really come a long way and are now priced within reach of residential pool owners.

UV sanitizers help deactivate living organisms so they can’t reproduce.
https://www.pentair.com/en-us/products/residential/pool-spa-equipment/pool-water-treatment/bioshield.html

Ozone systems oxidize and break down organic material, even more efficiently than chlorine. https://www.c-m-p.com/pool-products/pool-sanitizers/del-ozone/

AOP – Combines Ozone and UV to create Hydroxyls which are the strongest oxidizers out of all options listed above.
https://clearcomfort.com/hydroxyl-advanced-oxidation-aop-technology/

You can also install a chemical monitoring system that constantly checks your PH and ORP levels (ORP is a measure of Chlorine or oxidation efficiency), this way you can keep PH stable which helps chlorine work most effectively. It also tells you if you are using too much or too little sanitizer (chlorine) in your water.

We have options that float in your pool as well as more advanced options that plumb into your equipment and report to an app on your phone and can also be monitored by your service company (hopefully St. Cyr Pool and Spa in Middleton, MA 01949!).

Monitoring Systems

Sutro – https://mysutro.com/
Pentair ChemCheck – https://www.pentair.com/en-us/products/residential/pool-spa-equipment/pool-automation/chemcheck-water-quality-monitoring-system.html

But . . . there is a way to run your pump and NOT spend crazy money on your electric bill. 

Variable Speed Pumps

Variable speed pumps use magnetic drive motors vs. induction style motors (think Toyota Prius vs. Dodge Ram).  Even running at the same RPM’s the variable speed motor will run about 40% more efficiently.

The real savings comes from the ability to throttle back the speed of the pump.  The truth is, most pool pumps that are 1 HP or 1.5 HP are too big.  When running 24 hours we can throttle the speed WAY down and get your energy savings to 75 – 90% of your induction single speed motor.  And . . . the pump is almost silent when run at those speeds.

OUR CHOICE FOR BEST VARIABLE SPEED PUMP:

PENTAIR INTELLIFLO – https://www.pentair.com/en-us/products/residential/pool-spa-equipment/pool-pumps/intelliflo_vsf.html

The savings are so big and efficiency so good, the Department of Energy passed a bill that makes manufacturing of single speed swimming pool pumps 1 HP or larger illegal starting July 2021!

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