The heating and cooling needs for large pools and aquatic centres can be a huge cost to councils, schools and other private operators - as well as a major source of emissions. Together with our industry partners, we are working to promote the newer alternatives to traditional boilers that also offer heat recovery and comfort gains for facilities.

Aquatic centres are often the highest energy-consuming assets for local councils. Vast amounts of energy are required to power a number of devices and provide a number of services:

  • Heating water for the pool and for showers

  • Heating and cooling the indoor areas to maintain a comfortable temperature

  • Powering pool filtration pumps

  • Lighting for indoor and outdoor areas

  • Electrical appliances and equipment.

Swimming Pool


Research and energy audits reveal a number of challenges that push up energy use which facility managers would be all too aware of:

  • Enormous amounts of hot humid air leaving the building and being replaced by outdoor air that must be heated or cooled

  • Solar gain through the building fabric in hot weather

  • Heat from the active people using the facility

  • The accumulation of hot humid air and resulting condensation.


Quite simply a heat pump is a device that uses a low amount of energy to move thermal energy, or heat, from one place to another, using compressors, condensers and evaporators. Depending on the direction of the process and set-up, a heat pump can either provide cooling by removing heat, or heat a space or liquid. It can even provide heating and cooling at the same time, at even higher efficiency. Heat pumps are found in almost everyone home and business, in the form of refrigerators and split-system air conditioners. At a commercial or industrial scale, heat pumps can heat large spaces and volumes of water, utilising waste heat in the process.


You can learn more about industrial heat pump technologies at this website or in the presentation slides from Alan Pears, below. 

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As energy audits consistently show, there are a number of things aquatic centre managers can do to make their facilities more efficient, including optimising pool pumps, upgrading lighting and increasing the understanding capacity of the people operating the facility. However, improving the efficiency and productivity of the pool water heating and of heating and cooling the facility will offer the greatest benefits for long term cost savings and also offer a transition path for councils and facilities wishing to move away from gas use as part of emission targets. Heat pumps operate using electricity, so they facilitate a move away from using gas and to fully utilising on-site renewable energy generation and through the purchase of renewable energy, for example through power purchase agreements (PPAs).

While there is a lot of interest and promise for the use of heat pumps in aquatic centres, there are not many operating examples in Australia so the road to implementation remains challenging.

Webinar on heat pumps for aquatic centres

To assist councils and other operators, A2EP together with Local Government Procurement and Regional Development Australia Sydney hosted a webinar on 12 October 2021 to brief council officers on the opportunities and challenges of implementing heat pump technology in aquatic centres. As well as technology outlines, the webinar included presentations from two Australian councils which have and are about to utilise heat pumps in their aquatic facilities, including the all electric, zero emissions Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre in Victoria. You can watch the webinar below and view the slides from our presenters.

Presenters for this event:

Key recommendations from our presenters:

  • An energy audit can often identify options for easy and affordably optimisation to tick off before you tackle the big stuff. They can also identify ways you can teach staff to contribute to energy savings by altering behaviours and procedures. If you are considering using heat pumps, seek out an energy consultant with expertise in heat pumps and ideally aquatic centres.

  • Improving the thermal performance of the building fabric is important for delivery improved energy performance and indoor comfort levels.

  • The payback of heat pumps is improving as the imperative to decarbonise grows - and as the cost of gas increases.

  • Plan ahead - start working on your business case now to prepare for replacing existing technology at its end-of-life, if not sooner.

  • Explore funding opportunities through certificate schemes in your state or territory.


Faced with the technical complexities of moving from traditional boiler systems, the heating-as-a-service model might be an attractive option for councils. The model is expected to grow in popularity as all sectors move to decarbonise. It removes the capital costs of installing technology, instead the customer (councils, in this instance) pays for the service (heating and cooling of water and facilities) provided by a third party which monitors and manages the equipment to deliver the required service for an agreed cost.

There are a number of providers in this space in Australia, including Veolia, Flexigen and Air Change.


Energy upgrade and certificate schemes:

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