ATLANTIC CITY — In the world of pools and spas, the sun is hot.
That explains all the solar-powered stuff on the floor of the 36th annual Pool & Spa Show on Tuesday at the Atlantic City Convention Center, from solar heaters to solar lights to the solar-powered, robot-operated pool cleaners that Paul Sim, of Solar Pool Technologies, came to sell.
Sim, president of a company based in Tempe, Arizona, was at his first Atlantic City show but said he has made a version of his solar skimmer since 2010. The latest model, the Solar-Breeze NX, retails for $569.
“We’ve sold a lot in the Northeast and almost never had a customer say, ‘I don’t get enough sun to charge it,’” Sim told one pool-shop owner at the show, which is open only to the industry.
“And this is a replaceable part?” asked the customer, Andrea Zonneville, from Northern Pool and Spa in Rochester, New York, reaching for the cleaner’s filter. “They can get another one if the dog eats it or they lose it or it gets abducted by aliens?”
Sim said yes, but before she bought a supply, Zonneville said she had to check with her pool partner.
Kelly McKelvey is a spokeswoman for the Northeast Spa & Pool Association, the show’s organizer. She said solar power isn’t new to the business.
“It’s been part of the industry for a good amount of time, but you’re seeing it expanding,” she said Tuesday, after walking around a show floor where more than 410 exhibitors have sales booths. “We’re kind of following where the consumer is taking us with energy-efficiency and cost-savings.”
But fun is always hot in the pool business, and Jet Creations, another first-time company in Atlantic City, deals almost strictly in fun. Take the inflatable raft with holes for beer-pong cups — on a $100 bill background.
“And it’s glow in the dark” — or sort of the opposite of solar — “so it’s even more special,” said Jason Tseng, a manager at a company founded by his father, Frank Tseng.
Jet Creations was selling a bunch more inflatable stuff, from waterproof teddy bears to less-innocent looking “Hot Body Pool Rafts,” with something for almost any taste. One side has a picture of a bikini-bearing woman, the other side shows a guy wearing a Speedo-style suit.
But it was a very serious side of the pool business that brought James Keever, the technical director for Shock Alert, to Atlantic City.
“Protect your family from electricity in the water,” is the Missouri-based company’s pitch for a product that floats around, spotting excessive electricity. Keever said Shock Alert was designed to prevent a series of highly publicized incidents from recent years, such as the near-drowning of a guest at a Wildwood Crest hotel pool last summer.
The man sank to the bottom of the pool after suffering an electric shock, and a rescuer reported getting a severe shock when his leg touched a pool drain. Both men survived, but needed to be hospitalized.
The $149 item “will direct you to high voltage,” Keever told a customer.
Alex Stonkus is CEO of Pool & Spa Enclosures, a company based in Middlesex County’s Monroe Township that sells retractable pool covers from New Jersey to California and beyond. He’s a regular at the Atlantic City trade show, and said he saw a new atmosphere in the air Tuesday.
“This year is busier than any other year,” he said. “The president is picked, and people are making decisions. My pre-sales for spring delivery are higher than I’ve ever had.”
The clear, retractable enclosures run from $15,000 to $100,000 or so depending on size, and extend the useful season for pools, he said. And when swimming time is over, Stonkus added, they make a fine greenhouse — thanks to the sun, naturally.