I’ve always been drawn to both the art and the science of our profession. Nothing is more rewarding than the first moments of pencil sketching the initial concepts that have been floating around in your head, but I also love to switch gears and breakdown the functional side of building and operating our projects as safe and efficient as possible. This is the ultimate “left brain / right brain” combination, and throw in the people skills required to communicate all this to a client, and it’s not hard to see what makes those at the top unique.

Starting out in the bottom rungs of this industry, plumbing was something I never gave a second thought to. Crews in the field did whatever they felt was needed, not based on any facts, but simply because that’s the way they’ve always done it. No thought was given to actual flow rates, or pump efficiency. If a pump was rated at 100gpm, then it was assumed that’s what you got, regardless. Line sizes seemed to be based on the simple theory that if 1.5” PVC pipe had to be used on the pump inlet, then it might as well be used for the entire run.

The introduction of the Virginia Graeme Baker Act and Variable Speed Pumps, along with a desire to offer commercial pools, awakened me to the critical influence and importance of watershape hydraulics. While picking the brains of a

few engineer friends helped me understand some basic concepts, I don’t think anything has been as important to the progression of my career as attending the Genesis Basic & Advanced Hydraulics courses. This should be a prerequisite for anyone having input on your projects are plumbed, and if you’ve not yet taken I urge you to sign up today.

Having the right knowledge and tools is empowering. I love having the confidence in knowing that what I plan on paper will work just as intended in the real world. The same science applies to a 10’ negative edge as a 100’, a 1HP pump as a 5HP pump. I’ve been able to work in many of the supplied calculations to our own budgeting templates, allowing me to have instant validation or catch any errors. Not all clients will share my same passion of water flowing through plastic, but it’s a topic whose importance I stress to each. Written on a proposal I don’t think the true size of a pipe is obvious, with many only thinking a 4” pipe is twice as big as a 2”. In reality the 4” pipe holds almost 4 times to volume, with 4 times less resistance, something I find easier to demonstrate with a few small samples.

Typically, the largest gains can be had in the sizing of the long plumbing runs between pool and equipment, but I’d urge you not to overlook the routing at the pad itself. I was recently asked to look at a commercial pool project for another (unqualified) builder. He was having troubled meeting the required turnover, coming up 20GPM short, and was about to tear out a new concrete deck to install larger diameter pipe, along with a bigger pump. Looking over the original specifications, the math made sense and should have easily met the requirements. Only upon seeing the equipment layout in person was the real problem obvious. We were able to re-plumb only at the pad site, changing out valves and eliminating elbows, giving us more than enough of the missing GPM. The shame of it is that if this was a residential pool without all the checks required for commercial work, no one would have known any wiser, and the homeowner would be the one paying the higher long term operation costs.

I love looking over endless pictures of the amazing pools we’ve all built, but to me a perfectly plumbed equipment set
can be just as sexy.

Yeah science, bitches.

Dale Sprigg
Pool Environments