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Closing Time: Preparing your pool for the winter season

Set up your pool vacuum and turn the pump’s dial vlave to ‘drain’ to lower the water level approximately 45 cm (18 in.) below the top edge of the pool.

For the pool skimmer and returns, remove and store the skimmer basket and use a wet/dry vac to clear the water from the skimmer and main drain lines. For skimmers with two holes, plug the skimmer into the main drain hole (usually the one closest to pool).

You should also add a special anti-freeze to the skimmer and pump—but make sure you only use anti-freeze that is specially formulated for pools as other types can be toxic.

If the skimmer is allowed to collect water and freeze, you will probably have a broken skimmer in the spring.

You should also remove the pool jet from the pool returns and use a compressor or a wet/dry vac to remove water from these lines as well. Once water is forced out of the returns, plug them. If your pool is equipped with side suction or automatic cleaner lines, they should also be cleared and plugged.

For chlorine generating equipment, drain the water from the unit, and if your system is an off-line model, disconnect the tubing. The cell from your generator should also be removed and cleaned (if necessary) and stored indoors.

3. Water chemistry
The chemistry of the water that will sit in your pool for the next five months plays a huge factor in what you will face in the spring. Before winterizing, take a water sample to your local pool store for a professional analysis. Based on the results, they will advise you on how to balance your water for the winter. If done properly, this will prevent stains, scaling, and algae growth. Keep in mind, water balance parameters are different for the winter than the summer.

Special winterizing chemicals, which are available in a prepackaged kit, should also be added. These kits include sequestering agents that prevent copper, manganese, and iron deposits from collecting and staining pool surfaces. An algaecide is also included to protect the pool from algae growth when the filtration system is not working, as algae can take over a pool very quickly—even in the dead of winter.

Another important element of the kit is a chlorine shock for oxidizing contaminants in pool water. By superchlorinating (adding about five times as much chlorine to the water as you normally would), any dissolved organic matter remaining in the pool will be oxidized.

4. Cover it up
The final step is to install a winter cover over the pool to prevent unauthorized access during the winter, which will also keep out debris. There are three options when it comes to covers. The water bag cover, which consists of a tarp held in place by vinyl bags filled with water; the lock-in fabric cover, which is held in place by beading on the cover and locked into a track in the coping; and the safety cover, a porous woven cover that is stretched over the pool with straps and springs or operated automatically.

The cover design should use either a mesh material or a special cover pump to automatically drain water that collects from rain and melted snow. If you are unsure which cover best suits your needs, consult your pool dealer.

After a visual check around the pool to make sure everything has been turned off, including the electrical breaker and gas, you can lock the gate on your pool fence and walk away with confidence knowing your pool will be in tiptop shape come spring.

 WINTERIZING CHECKLIST
Turn off all power to pumps, filters, boilers, underwater lights and disinfection systems;
Remove plugs from circulation pump(s);
Remove and clean pump strainer basket;
Remove the pressure gauge from the filter and drain, regardless of filter type (sand, diatomaceous earth or cartridge);
Degrease the sand in the filter;
Remove, clean and degrease the cartridge filter elements;
Remove drain plugs from pool boiler;
Disconnect the pressure switch on the pool boiler;
Turn gas off to boiler and set gas valve in off position.
(If allowed by the gas authority having jurisdiction);
Remove and store salt cells; and
Put all removed parts in pump strainer basket and place
in storage.

With files and photos from Robin Reed, operator of Reed Pool,
a swimming pool maintenance firm in Newmarket, Ont.

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