What Temperature is Right for my Pool?


You’ve got your pool built, installed your pump, filter and heater, chosen pool chemicals and now you’re ready to set your temperature and start swimming.

At first glance, this seems like an easy question. Just choose the temperature that is most comfortable for you. There’s a bit more to it than that, though. Temperatures can range from around 78 degrees for highly competitive swimmers up to 104 degrees in hot tubs. The optimum temperature for your pool depends on a few factors, like where it’s located, who will be using it, what activities it will be used for, and your own personal preferences.

Let’s start by looking at the effect of water temperature on the human body.

Cold water stimulates the body’s cold receptors. Your blood vessels widen so warm blood can increase your body’s temperature.

Prolonged and strenuous swimming should be done in cooler waters for several reasons. The body can adjust better to cooler, rather than warmer, water. Cool water also prevents the risk of heat exhaustion, which can happen in warmer waters where the body isn’t able to release the heat that builds up through muscle exertion.

Before long, however, your blood vessels will start constricting to protect your core temperature and prevent vital organs from shutting down in the cold water. When your lips start to turn blue and shivering becomes uncontrollable, it’s time to turn up the heat or get out of the water.

More serious consequences could include difficulty breathing, reduction in blood flow to the extremities, muscle contractions and spasms, disorientation, and cardiac issues. So always pay attention to what your body says about the pool’s temperature.

Warm water can also have an impact on how your body reacts in a pool. A swimmer’s body cannot disperse heat when the temperature of the surrounding water approaches or exceeds that of the swimmer. When the body builds up too much heat, it becomes susceptible to exhaustion, muscle problems, nausea, vomiting, and light-headedness.

Competitive swimming organizations like USA Swimming dictate a temperature between 78 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit for high-intensity swimming. For recreational swimming and moderate exercise, 84 to 88 degree water is usually more appropriate.

So where does that leave you, the recreational pool owner? Ask yourself the following questions and you can discover the right settings for your pool heater.

Who will be using this pool and for what purpose?

If you’re using your pool for family activities, splashing around, floating, and other activities requiring minimal to medium exertion, a warmer temperature is just fine. If you’re swimming for exercise, including multiple laps at higher exertions, keep your temperature closer to 80 degrees to gain the most benefit from your exercise and protect your body from heat exhaustion.

What is the surrounding environment like?

How warm is the air around your pool? If you’re in warmer regions, you’ll want to keep your pool cooler. Not only is this more refreshing to swimmers, it also aids the body in dispersing heat accumulated through exertion.

Are there any medical conditions to be aware of?

For arthritis sufferers or expecting women, water temperature should never be lower than 83 degrees. For young children and the elderly, temperatures shouldn’t be set lower than 86 degrees. Ask your doctor if you have more questions about appropriate temperatures for any potentially at-risk individuals in your household.

How often is the pool going to be used?

A pool heater has a big job. It regulates the temperature for thousands of gallons of water as a host of environmental factors cause an impact. It can sometimes take multiple days for a pool to reach a chosen temperature. If your pool isn’t used daily, it might not be worth the additional utility bills to keep it at a higher temperature. As you use your pool you’ll get a better gauge for where it should be maintained.

After considering these factors, the decision on pool temperature comes down to your own personal preference. You know what your pool will be used for, so start with a temperature that seems most appropriate for those activities and adjust from there. If you’re a strong swimmer and plan to use your pool mostly for exercise, start at a setting closer to 80 degrees. If the pool is for relaxation, start in the mid to high 80’s. After a few adjustments, you’ll find a temperature that’s comfortable and conducive for you and your needs.

In some warm climates, you won’t need to use a heater much but you may need to find ways to cool the water before it can be safely used. There are several ways to do this, ranging from a pool cooler to fountains and landscaping adjustments.

No single temperature will be comfortable to everyone who uses your pool, so it’s always helpful to keep swim shirts on hand for those who find it too cold, and plenty of cool beverages on hand for those who find it too warm.

You can also adjust the timing for when your heater turns on. Swim your laps in the morning, before the heater kicks on for the day. In the evening the water will be perfect for relaxing and unwinding with friends and family.

Owning and operating a swimming pool takes dedication and attention to detail, but the work is all worth it. Proper maintenance and operation means that you’ll have a source of exercise, relaxation, and enjoyment for many years to come.
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