What Is a Pool Alarm and How Does It Increase Pool Safety?

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated May 4, 2022
Mom and toddler daughters playing in the swimming pool
Photo: Pollyana Ventura / E+ / Getty Images


  • Pool alarms keep your family, friends, and pets safe during swim season.

  • Pool alarms cost between $60 to $400 or $180 on average. 

  • There are four types of pool alarms: surface, subsurface, threshold, and wearable.

  • Most pool alarms can be installed DIY with relative ease.

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As spring gives way to summer swimming weather, the first thing on your mind may be to hop into your sparkling pool. But before you do, you might want to consider adding a safety feature to your pool to keep swimmers of all ages safe. Here’s how pool alarms can help provide safety to your pool this summer.

What Are Pool Alarms?

Pool alarms are safety features that notify you when someone (or something) has entered the pool, which helps prevent pool-related accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the second-highestcause of death in children under five and the second-highest cause of accidental death in children under 14. 

Pool alarms are essential for ensuring that no pets, children, or anyone susceptible to drowning have entered the pool or pool area unintentionally. 

Benefits of a Pool Alarm

  • Helps protect people—particularly kids—and pets from drowning

  • Simple to install

  • Easy to adjust

  • Offers peace of mind

  • Budget-friendly

  • Some are easy to take on-the-go

How Do Pool Alarms Work?

Pool alarms work by using sensors, which alert you if certain motions are detected in or around your pool area. The kind of alert you’ll receive and the mechanisms that activate the alarm depend on the type of pool alarm you choose. There are four common types of pool alarms.

The 4 Most Common Types of Pool Alarms

There are four main types of pool alarm systems: surface wave detection alarms, sub-surface detection alarms, wearable water detectors, and threshold alarms. Here’s how each works so that you can choose the one that best fits your needs.

1. Surface Wave Detection Alarms

Surface wave alarms float on the surface of pools to detect disturbances in the water. These could be waves, splashes, ripples, or surges of water levels. You can use these alarms in below-ground pools, above-ground pools, and inflatable pools, making them a flexible option for pool safety. They’re also easy to install and remove, as they simply float on the water.

The main downside to surface wave alarms is that they’re not as sensitive as sub-surface alarms. You might need to add multiple alarms in a larger pool to help detect an unsupervised pool entry. 

2. Sub-Surface Detection Alarms

Immersion alarm attached to the edge of the swimming pool
Photo: rocklights / Adobe Stock

Sub-surface or pool immersion alarms detect disturbances in the pool’s water. Just so much as dipping your legs into the shallow end of the pool can set this alarm off, making it one of the most reliable options on the market. Subsurface alarms attach to the edge of the pool or railing where they monitor the water for disturbances that would indicate someone has entered the pool. 

The disadvantages of choosing a sub-surface alarm are that they are more permanent, need a strong edge, deck, or railing to attach to, and have a higher price point than other pool alarms, coming in around $280. But in this case, you get what you pay for, as this option is the most reliable.

3. Threshold Alarms

Door and gate alarms are threshold alarms that alert you if someone has entered the enclosure around your pool. They work via a two-part proximity sensor: one part attaches to the frame of the enclosure and the other part connects to the door or gate. 

If the two parts separate, the alarm activates and emits a sound. There’s usually a bypass system for adults to disable the alarm. This may be a button, code, or even a wireless alarm that can be disabled via a smartphone. 

The downside to these alarms is that they only work for pools that have a gate or door surrounding the perimeters. 

4. Wearable Water Detectors

Wearable water detectors, or immersion wristband alarms, work by alerting you if your child or loved one enters a pool. They can be worn on the wrist or the ankle as a bracelet, and you can easily take one of these to a public pool or the beach for extra security while near a water source. 

The downside of this option is that it has to be worn for you to receive an alert, making it a temporary or event-specific option rather than a long-term investment in pool safety. 

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Pool Alarm?

How much you spend on a pool alarm depends on what type you choose, but on average, expect to pay about $180, though it can range from as low as $60 to as high as $400.

Pool Alarm Cost Factors

A few cost factors for pool alarms include:

  • Type of alarm: Alarms connected to pool fences are the most budget-friendly, costing as little as $60, while sub-surface alarms cost up to $400

  • Number of alarms: Though some options are more cost-friendly, like floating motion sensors, you may need two of these sensors to thoroughly monitor your pool. This can add up to around $400

  • Upgrades: Some alarms come with a remote-control system, Wi-Fi connection, child-proof pool sensors, and more, which can increase the cost.

How to Install a Pool Alarm

Each pool alarm type has its own installation method, so you’ll want to check the manual to install it properly. Wearable water detectors don’t need to be installed, as they’re placed on the wrist or ankle, but all of the other options will need some level of installation. 

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

Installing a pool alarm generally doesn’t require a professional. Most homeowners can install a pool alarm themselves by following the instructions. However, it’s a good idea to contact a pool service company near you to conduct a pool inspection while you’re upgrading your pool’s safety.

Tips for Using a Pool Alarm

Once you’ve installed your pool alarm, you’ll want to make sure you use it correctly so that it works if there’s ever an emergency. Follow these best practices for using a pool alarm:

  • Make sure the alarm you choose is compatible with your pool. Above-ground pools might not work with a sub-surface alarm if there’s not a secure place to attach one, whereas large, in-ground pools might require a larger alarm sensor. 

  • Test the sensitivity levels. A sensor that is too sensitive will send out false alarms from small triggers like branches or rain, while a sensor that isn’t sensitive enough won’t alert you in times of an actual emergency.

  • Choose a pool alarm that is user-friendly to avoid fiddling with confusing buttons while your alarm blares at you (and your neighbors).

  • Speaking of alarms, check the volume! If your alarm is too quiet, you might not hear it.

  • Make sure the battery is charged. Some alarms have a battery alert to remind you it’s time to replace the battery. 

  • Factor in the complexity of your pool alarm before you buy it if you don’t want to spend all day figuring out how to install one.

  • Contact an alarm company near you to help if you’re not sure if the alarm will go off during an emergency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pool alarms work well as an effective way to increase your pool’s safety. However, pool alarms shouldn’t replace other safety measures, such as gate alarms and the supervision of children in the pool. An adult should always be present when young kids are swimming or playing around a pool.

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