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Cinde W. Ingram

Innovations surface at 2008 International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo 

Technology, 'green,' diverse product mixes highlighted

With energy-efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly pool/spa maintenance, equipment and construction growing in demand, the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo presented the latest product innovations Nov. 18-20 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

In addition to eco-friendly products, some of the nearly 650 manufacturers added diversity and customization to their product ranges. Fitness and safety repeated as themes while more musical features appeared to accompany outdoor activities during the combined exhibition, formerly known as the International Pool & Spa Expo, Backyard Living Expo and AQUA Show.

Music from a built-in CD/stereo system attracted attention as Blue Ember expanded its iQue grill offerings. Adding to the grill’s digital temperature controls, pre-programmed food setting icons and built-in meat probe, the 700 grill island brings more indoor convenience outside with options including a refrigerator, sink and sound.

“This has been a wow factor,” said Peter Perley, chief operating officer. “The reason we went with iQue technology was to improve the cooking experience, and the idea for adding music was because everything gravitates around the kitchen.”

Underwater speakers also were drawing second looks as Clark Synthesis brought its Tactile Sound products to the show for the first time. Bill Phillips, president, said the technology makes swimming for fitness more enjoyable for many people while it’s needed for synchronized swimming.

L.A. Spas has focused the past few years on repositioning its brand, now using the phrase “Adventures in Hydrotherapy” to mark itself as a wellness-focused spa company. 

Its new In-Fit swim spa at the show garnered attention from buyers. “It’s a very cool category,” said Kent Brawner, vice president of sales and marketing. “It’s not going away.”

Jacuzzi debuted the J-1000 Hot Tub Control System, a command center that allows the user to operate hot tub features such as the stereo, lighting, pumps, temperature and more, from one system. “The hot tub industry has not seen anything quite like this,” said Erica Moir, with the company.

Although Enersol Solar Products have been in the pool heating market for 30 years, its booth stayed busy. Sales Manager Dean Kalbfleisch said recent packaging changes have made customers more aware of its environmentally friendly solutions.   

Delta-UV presented its ultraviolet sanitation products for pools and spas. Jon Laliberte, director of North American sales and marketing, explained how the product line drastically reduces chemical use and minimizes exposure to harmful bacteria. “Now more than ever customers are looking for green, eco-friendly products,” he said. “Our challenge is not only introducing a new product, but a new technology.”

Cal Spas’ debuts included an 8x8-foot walking fitness spa, described as ideal for aging baby boomers who want to stay fit. Another spa incorporated a sun deck for cool tanning in shallow water. The company has turned its focus to the “home resort concept,” incorporating all the elements desired for an outdoor living space, including spas, grills, fire pits and fireplaces, kitchens, water features and more. “Spa dealers need to broaden their product categories,” said President Casey Loyd. “Hopefully we can spark some excitement here.”

Napoleon launched not only a charcoal grill and series of Oasis Modular Islands during the show, but also added to its line of outdoor accessories. Its waterfall collection was expanded and an outdoor torch was introduced.

Clearwater Spas drew attention with its decorative and functional spa surround – a wrap-around table and bench system that fits around its circular spas. The company’s digital lights and “e-smart” technologies were highlighted as well.

Bob Hicks, product specialist for DreamMaker Spas, said its line of “plug and play” hot tubs, crafted from rotational molds as opposed to acrylic, were a draw on the retail floor this year. “Business has been good for us, not necessarily good for the economy,” Hicks said.

In the outdoor lighting realm, several companies noted the continued interest of solar powered deck and landscape lighting, but LED and low voltage lighting proved to be a hit as well. “It’s more popular for us because it covers more area,” said Michael Hale with Home Tops, manufacturer of post caps. 

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