Finances & Money

Pools are expensive: Our yearly costs

Our Pool

Thinking of installing your own pool? Want to know what to expect regarding yearly pool maintenance?

We purchased our home in 2004 (that’s our pool in the picture), and the previous owners had already closed the pool when we moved in. The pool is in-ground, about 13,000 gallons (33×15 feet), and is NOT heated. The previous owners generally hired a pool company to open, close and perform any repairs on the pool.

Since I like saving money by doing work myself, I’ve only hired a pool company one time (to open the pool the first year). Since then, I’ve done all the maintenance and repairs myself. I’ve saved quite a bit of money, but pools are still expensive to own!

Before I detail our yearly costs, I don’t have a way to split up our pool usage from our regular home usage, but I will estimate that during each pool season, we use an additional $500 in electricity and $70 in water (to top off the pool). For those of you not familiar with pools, we DO keep the pool filled with water year-round. It would be a major waste of water, and an expense to fill, had we drained the pool every year. Now, without further ado, here’s our detailed 3-year pool cost history:

Year 1 (2005)

As I said, I paid someone to open the pool, but I paid close attention to their process. Stacie, a friend and I did the hard work by removing, cleaning and storing the very heavy pool cover ourselves. The pool guys came in, unplugged a couple pipes, assembled a few things on the pump and poured in the chemicals that I bought. Cost to open the pool: $210.49. The guys were there for less than 30 minutes! And that’s why I learned how to manage our pool myself.

The rest of the year’s cost includes the following:

  • Reel for the thermal cover: $210. A thermal cover is a huge piece of bubble wrap that keeps the heat in the pool. The previous owners had the cover already, but never used it because it was such a pain to fold. The reel made things much easier (just use a crank to roll it up). Honestly, it’s just a long aluminum tube with plastic ends with feet and a crank. Don’t know why it’s so expensive.
  • Chemicals: $305. That’s chlorine tabs, chlorine shock, and Ph, alkalinity and hardness controls. The first year, we had a very hard time keeping the chemicals balanced, especially the chlorine, but I figured out why in year two.
  • Other stuff: $300. This included pool games, goggles, nose plugs, thermometer, strainer net, skimmer net, and a chemical test kit.

Total Year 1 costs: about $1025 (plus electricity, water, and insurance)

Year 2 (2006)

Our pool costs in year two decreased dramatically. The only major expenditures were pool chemicals, but I also had to figure out the fiber optic lighting system that stopped working:

  • Chemicals: $368. Chemical costs went up because I ran out of some chemicals the previous owners left, and I also switched to a more knowledgeable pool company (who had pricier, but more powerful chemicals). We were able to use less chlorine near the middle of the season by placing the chlorine tabs directly in the skimmer, rather than trying to use the “chlorinator” installed on the plumbing.
  • Replacement fiber optic bulbs: $20. In the first year, I didn’t really understand how the lighting system worked. I just knew to turn on a breaker switch and flip a switch on some black box next to the pool and the lights turned on. In year two, I learned more about the system (won’t explain it here), like that bulb was in that black box, and was cooled by a fan. Well, the fan got jammed and the bulb overheated and burned out. I went online and found the bulb through eBay for $10. I ordered 2 just in case I messed up the first one.

Total Year 2 Costs: about $388 (plus electricity, etc.). Overall, year two was pretty calm. However, we didn’t swim much because we were so exhausted from training for our first marathon. Also, it was just too darned hot to go outside!

Year 3 (2007…Now)

This year, we still spent hundreds of dollars, but I’ve gotten wiser. I did some research and found out Sam’s Club sells pool chemicals for MUCH cheaper than the pool stores. Also, I bought in bulk at the beginning of the season, since I knew the most common chemicals I’ve been using. I should actually be fully stocked for the rest of the season, and at the current rate of use, I might actually have leftovers for next year:

  • Chemicals: $172. I bought a 50lb bag of sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) and saved about $30 vs buying in 10lb increments like I did in past years. I also bought 2 gallons of algae inhibitor at Sam’s Club for the same price as the pool shops were charging for a half gallon ($20).
  • Pool Pump: $400. I’ve already written about our new pool pump, but I do want to say that this new pump has already proven at least twice as efficient as the old one. I used to run the old pump 24 hours a day to keep up with the heat, but I’m only running the new pump for 12 hours per day now, and our chlorine is staying in the pool for much longer (I only throw in a couple chlorine tabs every 4-5 days, rather than daily now). That’s a major savings in electricity as well.
  • Replacement PVC plumbing parts: $190. This included PVC pipes, joints, couplings, a cutter, glue, primer and a large wrench. I mentioned the $85 plastic a few days ago, but that was only a portion of the cost to repair and replace the above-ground plumbing connecting the pool to the pool pump and filter. Had I done everything right the first time, it probably would have cost about $100, but I’ve never done plumbing work before. To hire a plumber or the pool company to do the work would have cost more than $190, and I wouldn’t have learned this valuable skill.
  • New thermal cover: $100. I mentioned that in year 1, we bought a thermal cover reel. In year 3, the old thermal cover (probably over 5 years old) finally started to crumble, so it was time to buy a new one.

Year 3 Total Costs: $862, and still counting. We may buy some new pool toys and games since we’re having a pool party later this month, and I may need a few random chemicals to finish the year and to close. I expect to finish the year just under $1000 total.

TOTAL COST OF 3 YEARS OF POOL OWNERSHIP: $4,000! And you can expect to pay about $40,000 or more to install this same pool now (the owners paid $20,000 ten years ago, but costs have shot up in the last few years).


The pool pump and thermal cover should be good for 3-5 more years, but next year, and each additional year, I’ll need to keep buying about $200-400 in chemicals. Also, our automatic pool vacuum (ours is a Jandy RayVac) is wearing down, and replacements are about $500 and up.

So, still thinking about installing your own pool? I can only recommend it for families with a number of kids, and even then, would recommend an above-ground pool. If you live in a community with a pool, I bet you’ll be hard pressed to pay more than $100 a year for family pool passes, and you don’t need to worry about pool maintenance. You won’t have the freedom to swim whenever you like, or the privacy to have a party with just your friends and family, but is it worth $40k plus hundreds or thousands in yearly maintenance? Oh, and don’t forget about extra homeowner’s insurance and probably a privacy fence (required by law in our county).

We’re “lucky” to have inherited the pool for only a marginal cost when we bought the home, but if I had the choice, I would have taken our home without the pool for the same price. What do you think? Do you have a pool or are you thinking of buying one? Have a better or worse experience?

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  • You may want to look at craigslist for some used pool stuff. We were able to find a couple deals for our pool there:

    – Automatic pool cleaner… guy used it for 1/2 a season then the walls of his pool started to cave so he was going to fill it in. Sold it to us for $125, goes brand new in the store for $550.

    – Solar reel / cover.. couple bought a house that had a very old pool and they decided to fill it in. They were giving everything away free including a pretty new solar cover / reel. They also had chemicals but I was too late for those.

    Some good deals to be had if you don’t mind looking around.

  • Keep managing that pool yourself! Don’t beat yourself over a $90 mistake, I’ve made much more expensive mistakes than that! I just have a pond, no chemicals or complex pumps, and it still costs us hundreds a year to maintain. The skills you learn from messing up is going to save you a lot of money long term.

    Btw, nice backyard!

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  • Pools are not only expensive money-wise, but costly in terms of the labor required to keep the water clear and pure. Since inheriting a house with a pool 3 years ago, I’ve bought a new pump, a new heat exchanger and spent a good deal of money in chemicals and pool closing costs. I’ve learned that the less care I put into my pool, the more problems; the more problems, the more expensive it gets.

    Get a good pool testing kit like the K2006 by Taylor and test your water at least 3 times a week. Keeping the water balanced can reduce problems and costs significantly.



  • I agree with the costs and sheer hours of labor involved in maintaining a pool. We have the misfortune of have several large old Naval Live Oaks in our backyard. Leaves drop twice a year, and skimmer needs to be emptied several times a day and scooping them up with the net. I am now looking for some sort of pool cleaner to handle this problem. What do you all suggest for me to look at?
    I have heard of a Polaris (but needs a booster pump & that costs $$) or a robotic pool cleaner. Do any of you own one of these types pool cleaners? Is it worth the money?
    Been searching online, found several websites with info but would like to hear from real pool owners what their experience is. Do you think that this is a good website for researching:

    I have heard the name Polaris much more often, but don’t know what is better cost wise or electricity wise. Any feedback will be appreciated…this is overwhelming with the amount of choice.

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