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MOST PEOPLE BLINDLY PAY THE “POOL GUY” without knowing or caring what the labor versus the cost of pool chemicals is. When interviewing the prospective pool man, homeowners think they’re being clever by making the pool guy eat the cost of the chemicals every month. Most pool guys will hem and haw, and in the end cave in, and the consumer thinks he’s won a victory.

The truth, however, is that maintaining your swim spa, pool, or hot tub is not very expensive. In fact, broken down annually, the maintenance costs for pool chemicals are a tiny fraction of the $80-100 per month your pool guy charges.


Clearly swim spas and hot tubs will cost more per gallon than your swimming pool since they require more chemicals due to the heat involved. Let’s assume you have both a swim spa, hot tub, and a pool, since both built side by side are quite common. Let’s also assume that your pool is the average 15-20,000 gallon suburban pool with an adjoining hot tub or swim spa, and that these are located in a temperate climate. Your biggest costs will be as follows:

Chlorine: Far and away your biggest expense will be chlorine – it’s what makes the world go round as far as pools or swim spas are concerned. It’s the chemical you’ll use gallons of on a yearly basis. There are a few forms of chlorine, with liquid chlorine usually costing the least. Typically sold in one case with two one gallon jugs within, these can usually be had for under $8, and you’ll typically use about two of these boxes per month, on average. Bear in mind, however, that your climate will affect the amount of chlorine you need. You’ll use more in hotter climates – you’ll also use more with a high number of bathers. Another factor that affects your chlorine use is how often you apply it. Your pool and swim spa needs regular, frequent doses of chlorine. If you get lazy or fail to do this, you’ll find yourself adding gobs of it in a single application and waste more. Chlorine also comes in tablet form, called dichlor, which is longer lasting but more expensive, so it really comes down to your needs and methods.

pH and Alkaline balancers: You won’t use nearly as much of these as you will chlorine, and if you start with a healthy pool pH and alkalinity level on startup, you’ll find you don’t really have to use much of these products at all, unless your city water has some weird properties or you have a high evaporation factor and keep having to add water to keep your swim spa or pool topped off. $35 worth of this product annually is plenty, unless some greater underlying problem is at work.

Algaecide: Many pool or swim spa owners have a tendency to think that if they keep the chlorine and alkalinity levels in check that they won’t need algaecide, and in a cooler climate, that might be the case for the most part. Your swim spas and hot tub, however, will always be a magnet for algae because of the temperature and will burn off chlorine faster, as will a pool in a hot climate. A squirt or two of algaecide applied in the hottest months or once every couple of weeks in your hot tub or swim spa will go a long way to keeping the green out. Algaecide is the most expensive pool chemical but thankfully you don’t need to use much of it in order to be effective – unless you let the pool or swim spa go to the point that it’s a green soup, at which point you’ll need vast quantities of algaecide – and money. Figure on $40 per year.

Test Strips: Often forgotten as part of the consumables in pool or swim spa maintenance are test strips. At first, you’ll find yourself using them more often. After your pool has reached a comfortable baseline, however, you’ll use them less and less, using chemicals more by feel and instinct rather than by test strips. Figure about $20 per year.


Based on the above scenario, your pool costs will weigh in at around $300-$350 per year, which is way, way less than most pool maintenance pros will charge. If you take your time, buy the pool chemicals in bulk, and diligently maintain your pool, swim spa, or hot tub, you’ll find that your costs will stay even and affordable throughout the life of the pool.

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