Four simple investments can greatly reduce energy consumption and other costs associated with pool operations.

Looking to transform your pool into a lean, green, energy-saving machine? These four steps will help make your pool easier on the environment and your operations budget:

Warm up to thermal blankets. Cover your pool with thermal blankets every day - a simple task that can yield major savings. Studies on outdoor pools have shown natural-gas cost savings of up to 40 percent for operators who dutifully cover their pools with blankets every evening. At an average capital cost of $2.50 per square foot of water surface area, thermal blankets can pay for themselves in six to 12 months.

Harness the power of the sun. Install a passive solar system (assuming suitable mounting space with proper solar orientation is available) at a cost of $18 to $22 per square foot of solar panel. The amount of solar paneling required to adequately heat a pool varies, but an average of 80 percent of the water surface area is common. With a potential annual operating cost savings of $65,000 to $75,000 for a typical 50-meter pool, a full return on investment can be realized within four to six years.

Lighten up with LEDs. Replace energy-consuming incandescent underwater lights with high-efficiency LED fixtures to dramatically reduce electricity expenses. A 70-watt LED fixture produces approximately the same amount of light as a 450-watt incandescent fixture and consumes nearly 85 percent less energy. LED lights will also provide 55,000 hours of light compared to the 3,800-hour lifespan of an incandescent light. LEDs may cost more initially, but the changeover is well worth the investment.

Install a saltwater chlorine-generation system. These systems represent a healthy, virtually chemical-free alternative to traditional chlorine sanitization. Non-iodized table salt (sodium chloride) is added directly into the pool at dosing levels ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 parts per million - a relatively low concentration that produces no salty smell, taste or feel. As saline water passes through a chlorine-generating cell, low electrical currents transform salt into chlorine. Once the chlorine has killed bacteria and other organic compounds, it reverts back to salt, and the process begins again. Saltwater chlorine generation eliminates the storage/handling of chlorine and other chemicals, as well as the cost of purchasing liquid chlorine.