Pool and Spa Remote Control and Automation: The Basic Tools of the Trade

A. Getting Started. So you’ve decided you want to build a pool or spa and be able to monitor and control the pool operations from a computer or a hand-held device, or you are ready to “upgrade” to add these features to your existing pool and surrounding backyard features. No matter whether you are interested in a simple remote control system that operates your filter pump, lights and perhaps one other piece of equipment, or designing an elaborate backyard waterpark of the kind featured in “Ultimate Pools”, there are 3 basic pieces you will need to achieve remote access to your pool equipment: (1) a wireless router; (2) an Internet connection; and (3) the pool equipment receiver. Most people already have the wireless router and Internet connection, so it’s the pool equipment receiver and controller they need.

For those who want the technical explanation of what these gadgets are and what they do, read below. For those who want to skip down to how it all works, go right to section B below.

  1. Wireless Router. In our homes, this device is what generates the local area network (LAN) that allows other electronic equipment, such as computers, printers and cell phones, to “connect” and communicate with each other, either by interconnecting stationary devices to a port in the back of the router with an ethernet cable, or by “signing in” to the wireless network, so long as your device is within the geographic broadcast range of the wireless network. The signal strength of the wireless LAN in relation to your device is most often indicated with a scallop shaped icon on your smart phone or other electronic device. For pool remote control and monitoring, most pool owners and operators utilize the wireless connection to interlink the pool equipment and their handheld/remote monitoring and control devices.
  2. Internet Connection. Many people confuse the router as being the same as the internet connection – they are related, but different. The internet comes into your house through either a coaxial or fiber optic cable, and that signal is filtered and “translated” through a modem to allow your electronic devices to connect to the outside world via the Internet. The router can generate a wireless LAN whether or not you have an internet connection, but without an active internet connection, you cannot gain access to or communicate with any of the electronic equipment connected to the LAN if you are outside the wireless broadcast area of the LAN.
  3. Pool Equipment Receiver. The pool equipment manufacturers that provide automation controllers, and remote access hardware and software, have the controllers installed in panel box that is in close proximity to the pool equipment, and include a receiver/antenna within the controller to access the LAN, either via a wireless signal or a hard-wired connection from the router. Many of these pool controller receivers/antennas are designed for a wireless connection, since it is sometimes difficult or impractical to run a cable from the router to the controller. However, using a wireless signal means there has to be a strong enough wireless signal emitted from the router in the house to reliably transmit out to the equipment controller, and in some cases, the wireless signal has to be augmented through a “repeater” device that extends the wireless LAN coverage area.

We can take a look at your home setup and let you know whether you have the necessary equipment, what, if anything might need to be added or upgraded, and work with you on a budget for getting things set up just the want you want them.

B. Picking the Right Equipment and Controller. So for you, the key questions are not nearly so technical, but all depend on what you need or want to be able to do. For example, if you have a small pool and want to be able to control the circulation/filter pump, a pool cleaner and a pool light from your mobile phone, there are some very economical controllers that can provide you with the basic functions you are looking for. For those folks with a slightly more elaborate swimming arrangement, such as a pool/spa combination with color lighting and perhaps some water features, there are intermediate controllers that can be programmed to integrate several different functions and settings that best suit your style of entertainment. At the higher end, where you are planning something in your back yard that resembles an amusement park setting with waterfalls, grottos, a pool house and outdoor kitchen, there are more sophisticated controllers that can be synchronized to work together seamlessly, all from the palm of your hand.

Most of these systems can also be remotely monitored, by you or a maintenance company you hire to take care of your pool. This can be particularly beneficial for anyone who has a rental property or who is traveling extensively for work, as it allows you to not only keep track of how your system is operating when you are not present and alert you when a piece of equipment is not working properly, but also lets you control/regulate the use of pool equipment, such as the hours of operation for a hot tub at a rental property.

It’s all about what you want and need, and it’s our job to help you make the right choices.