Pools Take a Dip Into Your Wallet and the Climate

It’s summertime and many of us, especially those suffering through the intense heat of 2012, are trying to stay cool and comfortable by any means possible.  Air conditioning, ice packs, fans and staying indoors when it’s dangerously hot all play a role in helping to keep cool during hot weather, but what about pools?

Although we all enjoy a refreshing dip, especially on a sweltering day, pools, and air conditioning units for that matter, both require a lot of energy to operate and therefore require a higher paycheck to maintain. They also significantly contribute to climate change: the more energy needed to run a device, the greater the demand for source power.  So, unless your pool and AC unit run entirely off of wind and/or solar power, you’re adding unwanted CO2 into the global atmosphere.

Pools are particularly notorious for guzzling up massive amounts of energy — and water.  An average pool contains a whopping 20,000 gallons of water and collectively pools consume between 9 and 14 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.  That’s the equivalent of annually powering 11 states plus Washington, DC.

Currently, 5.4 million in-ground residential swimming pools exist in the Unites States and, according to Opower, these homes use on average 49% more electricity per year than homes that don’t have pools. This figure equates to approximately $500 more spent on power per home per year, with the pool pump alone adding roughly $300 to the annual utility bill.

Why is it that homes with pools show an average increase in energy usage throughout the year when compared to similarly sized homes without pools?  The main reason appears to go beyond the pool itself and into lifestyle. In fact, it’s been shown that homes with pools consume more energy across all seasons, not just summer months.

That said, is the life of luxury and subsequent waste mentality to blame?  Does having more disposal income correlate with being less concerned about saving money and therefore less apt to care about the monthly electric bill?  After all, occupants of homes with pools have generally been shown to have an income that’s twice the national average.  And, of course, there’s the larger issue of carbon emissions: do those who can afford pools care less about climate change and their personal impact on the planet?

Behavior extrapolations aside, obviously not everyone who has a pool cares less about the environment, just as not everyone who doesn’t own a pool is eco-minded.  While there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to indulge in a refreshing swim on a hot day, it might be wise to think about visiting a community pool instead, or swimming in a local lake or the ocean if you live on the coast.  While we all can appreciate the relaxing pool-side atmosphere, the negative financial and environmental side effects seem to outweigh the positive.

Related Stories:

It’s Only Going To Get Hotter

6 Ways to Combat Climate Change and Extreme Weather

Climate Change Denier’s Own Study Changes His Mind

Photo Credit: Rob


Betty Schueler
Betty Schueler6 years ago

Darn, I was going to put up a kiddie pool to lay in to cool off. I guess I'll just have to keep wrapping ice packs around my neck when I over heat.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G6 years ago

...and your health! Convert them into natural pools!

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch6 years ago

Interesting and thought provoking article, and the comments have made quite a few good points, too.

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

Amanda, When did the counter ever work correctly. Ok, I remember, a few times, but they were teasing us.

Erica B.
Erica B6 years ago

I live in Central Florida, 40 miles from the ocean, so gas prices (as well as the consumption issue) prohibit me from driving there. Plus, I have an issue with swimming in shark water...and New Smyrna Beach, which is the closest to me, is "the shark capital of the United States! Also, Central Florida lakes are out of the question because, if you have read the news for this area, there is an amoeba problem, which has caused severe illness and even death. I would say those are sound reasons for NOT taking Tara Holmes suggestions too seriously...at least not in this area of the country. Sure, a LOT of people in Florida say "The hell with it, I'll swim in the lakes and ocean, the risk is small," but I've never been very lucky, and I catch every germ, mosquito bite, and fish nibble that comes my way!

Kudos to everyone that doesn't have the issues we have in Central Florida, and can do without a pool. I battle global warming in other ways, so should I be respected any less?

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

Continued from below:

The reason that mention Diogenes is, since 911, since the Bush regime raped this land and stole and wasted the National Treasury, so many people feel as though they must follow the party line.

Honesty is now considered a vice in America, following party line is now considered a virtue, at least by some.

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

The other day, I mentioned swimming pools in israel, someone could not believe that they swim, that sounded racist at the time. To better satisfy the nay sayers, I checked what the average jew in israel thinks. Here is what I found.

"Private swimming pools are no longer a pleasure reserved for the very wealthy: Technological progress and the entry of new products into the market have enabled those who are not millionaires, but who have managed to save some money, to build backyard pools and enjoy a refreshing swim on hot summer days. Tens of thousands of private homes in Israel now sport private pools. Most of them are in luxury neighborhoods such as Kfar Shmaryahu, Savyon and Herzliya Pituah, but there are also quite a few in moshavim (semi-cooperative communities) and in new neighborhoods of single family homes in Yehud, Rishon Letzion and Ashdod."

I ask the same question to another jew, with a slight modification, here is how I asked it.

How many swimming pools are there in the Gaza Strip?

"The question is "How many of them are full of water?" Since Israel has stolen all the water resources around Gaza to supply its illegal settlements around the besieged strip, there would be no water left even for drinking!"

It seems that we are in need of Diogenes, the one every one knows was a barefooted and mystical figure scurrying around Athens, carrying a lamp and looking for an honest man.

The reason that mention Diogenes is, since 911, since the Bush regime ra

Amanda M.
Amanda M6 years ago


4. The YMCA is in the county seat, but the distance factor again makes it prohibitive due to gas costs even if they do have a sliding fee scale based on income.

I did spend last month taking the kids to the only truly family-friendly public pool (another town in the southern part of the county 12 miles away) for swimming lessons, and that was an economic strain unto itself. Two two-week sessions at $55 a head times two kids plus gas costs for the 24-mile round trip runs four days a week-ugh. However, we feel that it's semi-mandatory, as swimming is not only great exercise but also an important life skill. However, if it weren't for our little backyard pool, I'd never get to swim at all because of the lack of pool access in our town. And as a former competitive swimmer who SUCKS at all other sports as well as someone who simply enjoys being in the pool, that would REALLY ruin my summers!

Amanda M.
Amanda M6 years ago

We live in a house with central air conditioning, but baseboard electric heaters (you figure it out, I can't). Even with our small above-ground backyard pool (one of those metal-frame 12' x 30" jobs from K-Mart), we actually use LESS electricity in the summer than in the winter because those damned baseboard heaters use more electricity!

We got that pool for several reasons:

1. First, our town doesn't even HAVE a public pool, and the plans for one have been shelved INDEFINITELY due to lack of funding. It's actually a running joke that the reason so many people here have backyard pools is because we're sick of waiting for the town council to get off its collective butt and build one already.

2. The nearest public pools are all a minimum of TWELVE MILES away. That's a long and expensive drive away when you're a blue-collar, single-income family. Forget the cost of admission for us-the round trip gas costs as much as ONE FEE. That would add up over the course of a summer to a walloping bite in the budget we simply can't afford.

3. Two of the public pools in the county seat are...well, let's just say they're not exactly family-friendly due to the clientele. And by "clientele," I mean kids from the nearby housing projects whose parents didn't even bother to raise them at all! Ever been to a pool where the teenagers were mooning the traffic on the street nearby? Waterslide be damned, I never went back!

4. The YMCA is also in the county seat, and even with

Christine VanderWal
Christine V6 years ago

mostly no