March 15, 2017
Pool ownership can be a lot of fun—but that fun doesn’t come without a little hard work. Whether you’re opening your pool in the spring, maintaining it through a busy summer or shutting it down in the fall, paying attention to detail will save you valuable time and money.
While the following guidelines will help you keep your pool up and running, remember to consult with a pool professional if you encounter more complex, time-consuming or labour-intensive problems. These same professionals can also offer opening, maintenance and closing services, if you’d prefer to spend less time working and more time playing.
After a long, difficult winter, you are probably quite eager start enjoying your pool right away. However, you need to follow proper opening procedures before you dive in, or else you’ll be setting yourself for headaches down the road.
Remove standing water from your pool cover using a submersible pump and clean up any debris, grime or algae from the cover. After removing the cover, clean, rinse and dry it before packing it away for the summer. While the pool water level is still low, brush the floor and water lines to remove any winter buildup.
Remove all drain plugs from the outlets and skimmer and reconnect all fittings and accessories (e.g. baskets, jets, rings, skimmer plates, etc.). Inspect all accessories to ensure they are still in good working order.
It is now time to check and reassemble your pool equipment (e.g. pump, filter, heater) Before you begin, close the pool heater drains; if the heater pressure switch has been disconnected, reconnect it on the inside of the unit. Next, install the gauges and plugs on your pump and filter and connect the necessary plugs and hoses to the chemical feeder. Replace your filter pressure gauge, tightening it carefully to avoid cracking, and replace the drain cap on the bottom of the unit. Lastly, inspect the rubber ‘O-ring’ on the pump head and determine if it needs to be replaced. If not, treat it with a non oil-based lubricant.
Return the water to operating levels and prime the pump—fill the strainer basket with water, turn the dial valve to ‘drain’ or ‘waste’ and start it up. (This may take a few minutes.) Once the pump is functioning, backwash the filter, turn the pump off and switch the dial to the filter position—never do this while the pump is running. Check the entire system (e.g. the pump, chemical feeder, filter, heater and main drain) to make sure it is running properly and leak-free.
If the water appears particularly dirty, raise the water level higher than normal and vacuum the pool with the filter dial set to the ‘waste’ position. This will remove filter-clogging dirt, as well as fine sediment, which the filter might not catch at all. If the water is relatively clean, let it recirculate for 24 hours, to allow the new water to mix with the old.
Water should be tested for chlorine, pH, total alkalinity (TA), calcium hardness and stabilizer levels. If you are using a salt-chlorine generator, also test for salt. If using a home test kit, use only fresh reagents and a sample taken 0.5 m (1.5 ft) from the surface of the water and away from return jets while the circulation system is operating. You can also have a full water analysis performed at a local pool store; the sample will have to be at least 1 L (35 oz).
Unfortunately, the work doesn’t stop once your pool is up and running. Proper maintenance is a must to keep your pool is tip-top shape.
While automatic surface skimmers and overflow gutters can go a long way to keeping your pool clean, they don’t catch everything. Use a leaf net or handheld skimmer to gather up any leftovers. Some leaf nets even come equipped with a magnet, to help collect metal objects. To keep debris to a minimum, make sure any nearby plants are pruned regularly and remove grass cuttings immediately.
No matter how diligent you are with your leaf net, material can still pile up in the pool skimmer basket. Check it once a week to avoid operational issues. Also inspect the strainer basket on your pool pump and remove any lint or hair that may have accumulated.
Deck and patio surfaces should be washed regularly. Use a garden hose (pointed away from the pool) to get rid of larger debris and brush pool surfaces regularly to remove dirt and algae. Use a non-abrasive pool cleanser to remove grease, stains and scale deposits. Avoid household cleansers, which may contain foam-causing additives and alter the pool’s water chemistry. There are also specially formulated filter cleansers that can help prevent clogging caused by oils, algae and other organic waste.
If pool water appears cloudy, shock it with three to five times the amount of your normal chlorine or bromine dosage. This process will also attack algae and built-up non-filterable waste (e.g. ammonia). Under normal operating conditions, pool water should be shocked every seven to 10 days. More frequent treatment is required if you experience heavy bather loads, use the pool during rainy or humid conditions or keep water temperature at 26 C (80 F) or higher.
If water turns green or greenish-blue, use special sequestering agents designed to clear up dissolved metals such as ion, copper and manganese. Grey, white or brown scaly patches can be corrected using sequestering agents that target calcium.
Algae growth appears as yellow-green blotches, black spots and green patches and can be removed by brushing and scrubbing affected areas and applying algaecide directly to the water or near the algae growth. You can prevent algae growth with proper water balance, regular shocking and the addition of algae preventatives.
Properly balanced water keeps your pool safe, improves water appearance, prevents surface damage, keeps plumbing clear and extends the life of pool equipment. To keep your pool running optimally, test for the following:
Chlorine- and bromine-based products are effective sanitizers that reduce harmful micro-organisms, bacteria and organic matter. Sanitizer levels should be maintained at 1-3 parts per million (ppm).
Ideally, pool water should have a pH of 7.4 to 7.6. If pH is too low (below 7.2), sanitizer dissipates more rapidly, leaving surfaces and metal components unprotected. If pH is too high (above 7.8), sanitizer is less efficient, leading to scale and cloudy water.
Total alkalinity (TA)
This measures the amount of alkaline salts in the water, which has an affect on pH. Ideally, TA levels should range from 80 to 120 ppm. If the TA is under 80 ppm, pH can swing rapidly back and forth from high to low levels, damaging pool surfaces and corroding metal fittings. TA levels above 120 ppm make it difficult to adjust pH , leading to cloudy water.
The ideal calcium hardness level is 200 to 240 ppm. Low calcium hardness levels can lead to damage of concrete surfaces, while high levels can lead to scale formation.
Improper closing can lead to many problems the following year. By winterizing your pool correctly, you can protect all mechanical and chemical components and make next spring’s opening easier and less expensive.
Remove and disconnect (or cover with builder’s plastic) any slides, ladders, diving boards and maintenance equipment and clean off any debris that could stain pool surfaces. Scrub tile along the waterline and vacuum the pool walls and floor. Then, lower the water level to approximately 457 mm (18 in.) below the top edge of the pool (51 to 76 mm [2 to 3 in.] below the return fittings). Do not drain all of the water as this can cause pool walls to heave and crack over the winter. Blow and cap all lines in sequence and ensure caps are tight enough to prevent accumulated water from leaking back into the lines. If there is enough cord to let them settle on the bottom of the pool, you can also remove lights from their niches. Do not attempt to remove floating underwater lights; instead, hire a certified electrician.
All equipment needs to be completely drained to prevent freezing damage.
Set the dial to the ‘winterize’ position, if applicable. If this option doesn’t exist, set the dial between any two positions. Remove and store the filter drain cap, pressure gauge and sight glass and remove the drain plugs from the pump.
Carefully follow the manufacturer’s directions to shut down the unit and remove the drain plugs. Before reinstalling the plugs, grease the threads and disconnect the pressure switch from the siphon loop tubing. Also remove any remaining water from the heat exchanger using compressed air or a wet/dry vacuum.
Remove the skimmer basket and clear water from the skimmer and main drain lines. If the skimmer has two holes, plug it into the main drain hole (usually the one closest to pool). You can also add a specially designed pool-safe anti-freeze to the skimmer and pump to prevent collected water from freezing and causing damage. Remove the pool jet from the returns and remove water from the lines; then, plug the returns. Also clear and plug any side suction or automatic cleaner lines.
Drain any water from the unit and disconnect the tubing in off-line models. Remove the cell from the generator and clean it.
Before closing, take a water sample for analysis at your local pool store, where you can get advice on how to balance your water for winter (these parameters will be far different than summer settings). Prepackaged winterizing chemical kits are also available and include sequestering agents that address mineral issues (e.g. copper, manganese and iron), algaecide to prevent algae growth and a chlorine shock for oxidizing contaminants.
Covers don’t just keep unwanted debris out of your pool. They also serve as a safety barrier during the off-season. Look for a cover made of mesh material or equipped with a pump that automatically drains any collected water. The three basic cover options are:
With the cover installed, take a quick survey of the pool area and make sure all unnecessary equipment is turned off has been, including the electrical breaker and gas. All that’s left is to bundle up, sit back and wait for the next swimming season to arrive.
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