Swimming pools have long been rapped for being an operating hassle, a maintenance pain, and a safty hazard. There is some truth to all of that, but newer controls and water-treatment systems, plus other upgrades that have been around for a while, are deep-sixing some of the chores and expenses of ownership.

Salt System
Keeping chlorine at the proper level used to be tricky. Failure results in noxious odor and, worse, orange hair. But the newest technology uses benign sodium chloride — table salt — in a process that keeps the water properly chlorinated without chemical bother. Salt-based systems cost about $1,500, compared with $300 for a common chlorine machine, but with less maintenance and salt's lower cost, it'll eventually pay for itself.

Remote Control
Gone is the need to venture out to turn on the heater or the lights or run pump or cleaning systems. Now you can do it all, wired or wirelessly, from wall-mounted controls inside the house. If you want even more automation, these systems can be phone-linked, allowing you to turn on the spa heater when you're stuck in traffic, longing for a hot soak.

Automatic Cover
The law requires an encircling fence, but for added safety plus heat conservation and less cleaning, a pool cover is worth considering. There are surface-mount hand-crank systems that cost a few hundred dollars; for a big jump in cost ($5,000 to $7,000), you can enjoy total automation from a cover that glides along unobtrusive side-mounted tracks and rolls up underneath the pool deck.
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