A comparison: Indoor vs outdoor in-ground swimming pool

indoor vs outdoor swimming pools
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Should I install an indoor or outdoor swimming pool?

Every time I tell people I work for a swimming pool company I get the same incredulous response:

A swimming pool in Scotland? Surely no one has one of those…

It’s understandable. 

We don’t have the sort of weather you would imagine when you think about swimming pools. 

When most people think pools, they thing legendary college pool parties. Or lounging around all day in the sun (with the occasional dip in the pool to cool down). And well, with one week of Summer and what seems like more rain than a rainforest, a swimming pool in Scotland doesn’t have quite the same appeal.

But, swimming pools in Scotland are a lot more popular than you might think. Most are indoors. But, that doesn’t mean that outdoor pools don’t exist in Scotland. In fact, there are probably more than you think. 

So if you’re thinking of getting a swimming pool should you go for an indoor or outdoor pool?

As always there are a few considerations to help you decide which one is better for you…

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Summary

  • Indoor pool are more expensive than outdoor pools
  • Indoor pools will get more use than outdoor pools
  • Indoor pools are cheaper to run than outdoor pools

Building cost comparison: indoor vs outdoor swimming pool

swimming poolThe main consideration for most people choosing between an indoor and outdoor swimming pool is the cost.

In-ground swimming pools are always expensive to install. But, if you’ve already read our blog on swimming pool costs, you will know that indoor pools are much more expensive to build than outdoor swimming pools. In fact, it is, on average, around 25k more expensive to build an indoor pool than a like for like outdoor pool.

Why?

The main reason is the heating and ventilation. Outdoor pools need to be heated. But you don’t need to (and can’t) control the air temperature or humidity around it. 

However, in an indoor pool. Not only do you need to heat the pool water. But you need to control the air temperature and humidity in the pool hall, to ensure there is no damage to interiors. 

Smaller pools may use a dehumidifier. Which will remove moisture from the air. However, most indoor pools we install use an Air Handling Unit (AHU). These heat the water, as well and control the air temperature and humidity, in a very efficient manner. And air handling units aren’t cheap. The unit plus materials and labour required to install ducting usually adds around 25k onto an indoor pool installation.

This 25k just covers the pool install. The reality is that an indoor pool will require a lot more work to the surroundings. Think building structures, architects, surrounding decor, electrical works and lighting. This could make the overall cost of an indoor swimming pool much higher than that of an outdoor swimming pool.

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Indoor swimming pools are more expensive

Indoor swimming pools are on average 25k more expensive on a like for like outdoor swimming pool

Value comparison: indoor vs outdoor swimming pool

How much you use your pool is going to determine the value of it.

If you spend £125,000 on an indoor swimming pool, that you and your family use daily for the next 10-15 years. That’s going to have a much higher value to you than a pool that costs you £60,000 but only get used a couple of times a year when the sun is out.

And that is what we quite often see.

The price difference between an indoor and outdoor pool can be huge and often sways people towards the outdoor. But you really need to consider how often you will use an outdoor pool. And the weather is going to be a major contributing factor in that. 

If you are set on an outdoor pool and want to increase the usage here are some tips:

1. Have it as close to your house as you physically can/are allowed (you won’t run across the garden to do lengths in the rain).

2. Have a small changing area/shed that you can hang your towel/robe/slippers in so they don’t get wet.

3. Consider an enclosure to keep the elements off the pool (this will also help with running costs).

The other thing to consider is that most people in Scotland and other cooler climates only run their outdoor pools for 6 months of the year. 

It’s normal to have a heat pump that accommodates the pool running from April – October. The pool is usually closed down (or winterised) in October. And will not be opened for use again til April. So, again, while an outdoor pool is less expensive to build. You are usually limited in times you can use it. You can run outdoor pools all year long. But you need to install a bigger heat pump (which is more expensive). And run the heat pump all year round which will invariable raise the running costs. 

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Indoor swimming pools will get more use

Of course, this is personal. But most people close thier outdoortween Oct-April.

Running cost comparison: indoor vs outdoor swimming pool

How much does a swimming pool cost? 

You guessed. It depends. 

There are so many variables that will affect the running costs os a swimming pool. These include (but are not limited to):

1. Size of pool

2. Efficiency of insulation

3. Efficiency of heat pump/AHU

4. Type of cover used

On average an indoor swimming pool will cost approx. £500-600/month to run. 

It is very likely that an outdoor pool will cost more to run, assuming all other things are the same. 

Why?

Outdoor pools gain heat from the sun (although in Scotland this is negligible). But they lose heat through the water surface, from the pool sides and bottom (this will be increased if there is a high water table) and from “make-up” water (ie. backwashing) and rainfall. These losses can be mitigated by using a good cover an ensuring the insulation is up to spec (It will need to comply with Section 6 (energy) 2015 for energy efficiency). But they will still be considerably more than in an indoor pool. 

Most of the heat loss will be through the surface. In outdoor pools, this heat is lost to the world. In indoor pools, the AHU will capture this heat and recirculate it efficiently into heating the pool and controlling the air temperature. Therefore more energy will need to be used to maintain the temperature of an outdoor pool.

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So, outdoor pools will, on average, be more expensive to run. It is likely that the 6 month running period of an outdoor pool, with cost the same as the full year for an indoor pool.

Indoor swimming pools cost less to run

For the months that they are running, it is very likely that indoor pools will cost less. But, overall your outdoor pool will be running for less time, so they will cost around the same to run in a year.

An alternative: indoor vs outdoor swimming pool

pool enclosureIf the cost of an outdoor swimming pool seems appealing. But you want a little more flexibility to use it no matter what the weather. Then an option may be an outdoor pool with a receding enclosure. 

The enclosure will protect you from the elements in bad weather. Allowing you to get full use of the pool for longer. And, on those rare occasions Scotland gets some sunshine, you can roll the roof and sides back to expose the pool and surrounding areas. 

Enclosures will not contain the heat very well, so the running costs will still be higher than an indoor pool. And you might find that you still need to turn the pool off between Oct-April so that your running costs are not too high. But it will allow you to get more use out of the pool in the Summer months whether it’s rain or shine.

In summary

Scotland isn’t exactly where you think of when you think outdoor swimming pool. But they do exist. And you need to decide whether an indoor or outdoor pool is best for you.

Indoor pools are cheaper to run. And you will likely get more use out of them due to the weather.

But the disadvantage to many is that they are substantially more expensive to build. Usually around 25k extra just for the pool construction. Not including the building or any additional decor works that are needed. 

It’s best to weigh up what you are going to use it for. And consider not only the initial installation value. But the lifetime value based on how much you will use it.

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Debbie Ekins
Debbie Ekins
Eagle Leisure - Sales & Marketing Manager Mission = to arm you with the knowledge you need to make the best buying decisions. Fuelled by coffee (and naps). Explorer of Scotland and the world.
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