By Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Managing Editor
After a brutal winter, many of us gladly welcome the mere mention of inviting, water-related activities such as swimming pools, hot tubs and spas. Yes, it’s that time of year—spring is in full swing and summer is just around the corner. For a lot of water treatment dealers, though, it’s business as usual as very few offer products for customers interested in keeping tabs on the water quality of such equipment.
Are water treatment professionals missing a great opportunity? We review three websites here that are essentially two online magazines and a general information site, paying special attention not only to content but what coverage, if any, they give water quality and health effects of these potentially bacteria-laden personal reservoirs.
Anything but short on content, Pool & Spa Living’s home page covers the publication’s mission statement, plenty of main buttons, and an overview of topics covered in the most recent print issue.
In its mission statement, the publication states: “Pool & Spa Living…feature(s) award-winning pool designs, what’s new in hot tubs, portable spas, swim spas and saunas as well as pool and spa care, water conditioning and safety.” Of course, the part that jumps out at me is “water conditioning,” so I begin sifting through the numerous buttons in search of something relevant to water treatment dealers.
Granted, finding any water treatment information regarding a pool, hot tub or spa can be daunting at this site, but with a little patience it can be done, as I discovered. Not only do the main buttons across the home page’s top run seven deep but each one has several sub-categories. I don’t hit paydirt until I come across Top Pool & Spa Websites. Under the button, dealers can find valuable information at “Care & Chemicals.” Keep in mind you can get to the same destination by clicking on (at least) “Hot Tubs & Spas” and “Pool Products.” This redundancy may assist visitors in finding sought-after facts faster.
From “Care & Chemicals,” I click on “Chemicals” and it provides me with six companies of note—Advantis Technologies, Avecia Products, BioGuard, Earth Science Labs, InSPAration (gotta love the play on words) and Zodiac Pool Care. Each company has a link to its own website. Without going into too much detail, the two sites that stood out immediately were Advantis for its search function and Earth Science’s online analysis feature.
It might be my imagination, but the rise in popularity of spas in recent years is rather astounding. Could be it’s the amount of disposable cash floating around or people may have taken to curing their mind and body ills through this homedic approach. Whatever the case, spa treatments seem to be here to stay.
If you want to know more about spa treatments and what they claim to do for you, want to add a spa to your or a customer’s home, etc., this site is bound to have an answer for offsite or onsite spa treatments. Yes, a review would take up this whole column space since it’s”the world’s most visited online resource for pool and hot tub spa owners with over 3,000 pages of information and products”. No, we won’t put you through that. Instead, we’ll select one main button of the home page and key in on its details.
We take you to the main button called Info/Tips that, by itself, is a handful to digest. Here, you find 15 categories concerning spas and swimming pools ranging from “pool maintenance” to “ask the spa guy.” A quick check finds many of these would be valuable to any dealer looking to grab a hold of this market. Easy-to-follow water chemistry tips are given for spas and a toll-free number is even supplied for more complex problems. Those of you with a microbiological bent will enjoy one link entitled, “What is hot tub pseudonomas?”
Meanwhile, “Pool maintenance” poses the question: Are you ready to give up chlorine and bromine? Another section, “Pumps and filters,” discusses how to backwash filters and sand filters as well as the basics of pool filters, pumps and motors. For those wanting more reading material, a large category entitled “Hot Tub Life Articles” lists plenty of articles for visitors. One that sticks out is “O.J.’s Jacuzzi” that, yes, surmises what role the infamous former football running back’s jacuzzi played in his criminal trial. I guess the other 40 articles did not suffice for the webmaster.
Since our publishing house is a longtime subscriber to AQUA, I am very familiar with it while scanning for interesting tidbits from month to month. Taking the high road, this site relegates itself to a simple layout. On this particular day, the site informs visitors of its Emblem of Excellence awards presented to spa and pool dealers. In addition, also included is an article on high-tech hot tubs from the most recent issue, a Buyers’ Guide plug, and half of the text on the page is devoted to this year’s AQUA trade show (see Upcoming Events).
On another note, the main buttons are clearly visible to the left and include, among others: Buyers’ Guide, Design Awards, AQUA 100, Advertising Opportunities (this seems to be a little high on the list), Article Archive, Industry News (and this seems too low on the list), Industry Links and Events Calendar. Buyers’ Guide allows you to search by key word or product. I typed in “test strips” and came up with 57 results. Each company’s street address, contact name, email address and website link (for some companies) is given in the listing.
Surprisingly, at least to me, Article Archive is potentially the most helpful button as far as directing dealers to water treatment questions related to pools and spas. AQUA articles can be researched using three different methods—key word, category and date. Of the three, only category names are supplied and the last one (alphabetically) is called, bingo, “water treatment.” Twenty-two results pop up and the first seven have .pdf versions of the original article. A must-read for all dealers is “Dealers Make the Call,” which ran in the September 2003 issue.
Everything after Article Archive seems to be anti-climatic as Industry News manages only nine news items in almost two years. Surely, the pool and spa industry is a little busier than that. This seems altogether odd since AQUA is a monthly publication and often runs timely news pieces in its print edition. Industry Links, on the other hand, almost makes up for the lack of news with a healthy list of other pool and spa companies and organizations and their website links. Last, Events Calendar runs at five listings at its widest search, which may not be a negative when considering the narrow scope.
Oftentimes, the general public views water softeners and other high-end water treatment equipment as “luxury items” when, in essence, spas, swimming pools and hot tubs really are more expensive additions to customers’ homes. Knowing this, it’s not surprising to see that water treatment and conditioning—at least in these three sites—took a back seat to the aesthetic and visual images of tubs and pools. Still, dealers would be remiss if they didn’t pay heed to the popularity of these luxuries and bone up on the maintenance and service possibilities for their own businesses.
Even with some of the main button links overlapping one anther, this site provides the basics you’re looking for, and then some. Articles from the most recent issue as well as others from past issues are supplied in their entirety. One noteworthy omission: no search box, which reduces viability and accessibility of the amount of information located here.
Reminder: Don’t spend more than 15 minutes banging your head while seeking the answer to your water-related question. After all, the search button is quite visible at the top left of the home page. Yes, 3,000 pages of information are available at your fingertips but you may need only about 1 percent of that. The Info/Tips button will ultimately be a godsend.
Expectations, sometimes, skew sites like this one for me. Being familiar with the print version of AQUA, I anticipated a better online representation. Instead, much of the site is directed at large pool and spa companies while the news content nowhere matches what’s found in the hard copy of the magazine. Dealers may find few answers to treatment questions.
EXTRA: Going in the Deep End
Here are some additional sites within the pool and spa industry that may be of assistance in your search for water treatment information and helpful tips.
- http://www.ppoa.org—Professional Pool Operators of America
- http://www.nspf.com—National Swimming Pool Foundation
- http://www.nspi.org—National Spa & Pool Institute—Independent Pool & Spa Service Association Inc.
- http://www.homefront.com—Touted at another site as the “number one location for Do It Yourself information on the web!”
- http://www.poolandspa.com—Visitors can find all things for hot tubs and pools including parts, chemicals, covers, supplies and accessories.
- http://www.spasearch.org—An online spa and hot tub resource center.