Innovation has come to the industry in the form of a new type of pool cover that eschews the traditional grid of straps across the width of the cover in favor of a welded single-piece design. This makes the cover more aesthetically pleasing to customers, says Bob Hotaling, inventor of the cover and president of Pen-Fabricators, Emigsville, Pa., and also lighter in weight and easier to maintain.
Most new products result from an inventor's dissatisfaction with the conventional version. Hotaling says he noticed that standing water on traditional covers had a tendency to leach through the sewn webbing and into the pool. "In addition, that wet webbing is heavy, and over time it can develop rotted threads — these are the threads that hold the webbing to the cover itself. If they rot they have to be repaired."
So Hotaling came up with the idea of welding the entire product — webbing and cover — together using the same radio frequency welding technology that fuses pool liners. In this case, it vulcanizes the strap material to the cover, fusing it into one piece.
"The cover does have straps," he adds, "just not the grid all over the cover above and below. In that traditional cover, they need the straps to go all the way across the pool to keep the overall integrity of the cover. In this case, by welding everything together, including the straps, it becomes all one piece. And it's much lighter in weight because the cover doesn't have all this criss-crossed webbing, which, once it gets wet, doubles or triples in weight. These new covers are impervious to water, and there's no webbing to hold water."
It's the first cover of its kind in the industry, Hotaling says, and the company has applied for a patent. It was introduced into a test market in late 2009, then expanded in 2010.
Jim Titus, an installer at Arnold Pools in Maryland, has tried the new cover and says his customers have been satisfied so far; they like the way it looks and Titus appreciates that "it's a little easier to put on and easier to line up. On the regular covers, sometimes the woven material comes apart on the cover over time. But the way they've made this, it's all made right into the cover."
Scott Webb has been with AQUA magazine in one capacity or another since April 2001; he now serves as executive editor. Scott has a degree from University of Cincinnati in Aerospace Engineering and lives in Madison, Wisc.