On a hot summer day, there is nothing quite as nice as jumping in a refreshing swimming pool. How can we make them more eco-friendly, though — especially in the face of climate change? While it might be nice to have a natural pool, most people use traditional cleaning methods, such as chlorine, to keep bacteria from growing.

Luckily, it’s possible to maintain your pool more sustainably. From reducing water consumption to harnessing the power of renewable energy, there are plenty of ways we can make this task more eco-friendly.

Cover Up

The average backyard swimming pool loses a significant amount of water to evaporation, especially on hot days. Keep your pool cleaner and reduce the need to pump by covering it when not in use. Make sure to invest in a high-quality cover that completely seals the pool, as this will be most effective in reducing moisture loss.

Moss Filters

It might sound crazy, but moss is actually a great way to clean your pool and reduce the need for chemicals. While you may still want to use chlorine and algaecide on occasion, sphagnum moss is an excellent filter that inhibits the growth of microorganisms. In addition, since it improves water quality without added chemicals, you don’t need to backwash the pool as often, saving water.

Algal growth is caused by aerobic bacteria and is a serious threat to your pool’s water quality. Using a natural aeration system, like a moss filter,  stabilizes oxygen levels keeping your water fresh and clean. According to the University of Maryland, utilizing moss filters in campus pools reduced water consumption by 75% and chemical use by 40%.

Saltwater Systems

If you haven’t heard of saltwater systems, you may want to check them out. When it comes to eco-friendly pool maintenance, one option is to use different chemicals that are less harmful to the environment and human health. Saltwater systems use chlorine and salt that is split from molecules by electrolysis. It is milder than traditional disinfectants and can be less irritating to the skin and the local ecosystem.

However, it is still debated whether saltwater systems are more sustainable since they require additional processing. Unfortunately, in addition to chlorine’s impact as a greenhouse gas, it’s manufacturing also leads to mercury emissions, making saltwater systems more carbon-intensive, despite the more natural outcome.

Solar Heaters

If you like to use your pool year-round and need extra heating during the colder months, solar water heating systems are an energy-efficient solution. While they are certainly more of an investment upfront, they can save you significant money over the years, especially if you use your pool regularly.

Additionally, there are many benefits to running your pool all year. Not only does it keep it in use, but it also reduces the need to dump water at the end of summer. Installing a solar heater ensures you can filter the same water while accounting for cooler temperatures.

Variable Speed Pump

Pool pumps use a ton of energy and rank just behind air conditioners and heaters in terms of residential power use. Traditionally, pools used single speed pumps that were made to run nonstop. However, most people today opt for variable speed pumps.

These pumps can also be programmed to run at certain speeds at set times, customized to work for your location. Some are ENERGY STAR certified, making them even more environmentally friendly.

LED Lighting

If you like to use your pool at night, chances are you have lights installed. While these make swimming in the dark even more enjoyable, most pool lighting is the opposite of energy-efficient. LED lights are not much more of an investment than regular incandescent bulbs, but the energy savings are significant. On average, LED lights use 75% less energy than traditional bulbs.

Automatic Pool Cleaner

While doing all the cleaning work by hand might seem more eco-friendly, there’s an easier option. Most of the carbon footprint for swimming pools comes from using chemicals and backwashing water to keep them clean. If you can stop algae and other pathogen sources from forming in the first place, you can create a much more sustainable pool system.

By using a robotic or automatic pool cleaner, you can make sure you only sanitize as much as you need to and set equipment to turn off when not in use.

Green Pool Maintenance

There are so many environmentally friendly pool cleaning options out there. While you may not be ready to use moss as a filter, it’s easy to switch to a variable speed pump or robotic cleaner. So whatever you’re comfortable with to make pool maintenance eco-friendly.


Emily is a sustainability writer who is the creator of Conservation Folks.