Pool Care Basics
To keep your pool’s water healthy and sparkling clean, a few basic maintenance steps are required. Find information on the usage of products, care and how to test your water for easy pool maintenance in this section.
The Role of the Pump
The center of the circulation system is the pump. It moves water from the pool and sends it through the filter for removal of any dust, dirt, and debris prior to sending it back to the pool.
How long should you run your pump? Piping size, pool size, swimmer load and the actual pump size all play a role in determining how long you should run your pump. For the proper time consult your pool professional. They can determine, based upon your specific pool, the proper amount of time required to keep your pool clear and clean. A good rule of thumb is to run your pump about 1 hour for every 10º of temperature.
If your pump is not running, the water from your pool is not being properly circulated or filtered. Running the pump and circulating the water is the best way to help prevent problems.
The Filtration System
The job of the filtration system is to remove any undissolved dirt and debris from the pool water. While the skimmer basket and the hair and lint basket in the pump all play a role in the filtering of the pool water, the primary element of the system is the filter itself. If you backwash sand or DE filters too often, the filter cannot reach its cleaning potential and you are wasting water. Most filters require backwashing when the pressure gauge rises 8-10 psi from clean. Consult your pool professional to understand the role that the skimmer and pump basket play in keeping your pool clean. Always consult your owner’s manual for specifics related to the type of filter you have.
There are three types of filters that are used in swimming pools to remove dirt and debris that enter the water through swimmers and the environment.
- Sand Filters - Dirt is removed from a sand filter by “backwashing” or reversing the water flow. The filter should be backwashed when the pressure gauge indicates a 7-10 lbs. increase over normal operating pressure. This is the pressure indicated on the pressure gauge when the filter is completely clean. Sand filters are more efficient when they are slightly dirty; consequently they should only be backwashed when required by the increase in pressure. Sand filters should be cleaned at least every season with a filter cleaner.
- Cartridge Filters - Dirt needs to be removed from a cartridge filter when the pressure gauge indicates an increase of 7-10 lbs. over normal operation pressure. Remove the cartridge(s) from the filter and hose off all loose dirt and debris. Then soak the element(s) in filter cleaner for at least 12 hours. This will remove all oils and greases imbedded in the filter element. After soaking, remove the cartridge(s) and rinse thoroughly with fresh water. Peak filter efficiency is achieved if you allow the filter element(s) to dry prior to reinstalling in the filter. To avoid any “down time” for the circulation or filtration systems, it is advisable to purchase a second set of cartridge elements so they may be interchanged on a regular basis with the first set.
- Diatomaceous Earth Filters - Like sand, the DE filter is cleaned by backwashing the filter when pressure increases 7-10 lbs. However, once the filter has been backwashed, new DE must be added to coat the grids in the filter. This is accomplished by pouring DE through the skimmer. To cut oils and other natural oil build-up, DE filter grids should be cleaned at least once every season using filter cleaner. Also, at least once a year the entire DE filter should be disassembled and cleaned thoroughly as well as being inspected for tears or rips in the grids.
Testing Your Pool
Testing your pool 2-3 times a week during the summer and once a week during the winter is important to maintain adequate water balance and sanitizer levels plus to ensure swimmer comfort. Test strips are a quick way to test the pool for adequate sanitizer levels as well as pH and total alkalinity. Proper testing also ensures that calcium levels are maintained and that there are no metals present in the pool water. These tests can be completed by you or your pool professional. In order to prevent scaling or corrosive action and to achieve maximum swimmer comfort, the pool water should be balanced to the following levels:
pH is the measure of acid and base in the pool water. The pH of the pool should be tested and adjusted, if necessary, on a weekly basis. If the pH of the pool water drifts to the acid side of the scale, corrosion of pool surfaces and equipment can occur. If the pH of the pool water drifts to the base side - scaling, deposits, and cloudy water can occur. Use a pH increaser to increase the pH of the pool. At 8.5, chlorine is only about 10% active. At 7.0, chlorine is about 73% active. If you maintain pH around 7.5, the chlorine will be 50-60% active. Keeping the pH in check will allow you to use the full potential of the chlorine that is already in the pool. To lower the pH of the pool, use a pH decreaser. Follow the label directions for the proper amount of the products to add based on test results and pool size. Take a sample of water to your pool professional dealer every 2-3 weeks for complete test and analysis.
NOTE: Always follow label directions when adding any pool maintenance products to the pool. Never mix products together. If unsure how products are to be used, contact your local pool professional.
Calcium Hardness is the amount of dissolved calcium in the pool water. Low calcium hardness levels can cause plaster finish etching and shorten the life of vinyl liners. High calcium levels can result in calcium deposits on the pool surfaces as well as equipment. The proper range for calcium hardness in pool water is 200- 250 ppm (parts per million) for concrete pools and 175-225 ppm for vinyl pools. Your pool professional can advise you on the best method for treating your pool if you encounter high calcium hardness. If tests indicate that you have extremely high calcium levels in your pool, take a sample of your fill water (water used to fill the pool) to your pool professional for analysis as well.
To prevent the pH varying up and down, the proper amount of acid buffers, or total alkalinity, must be maintained in the pool. The pool should be tested weekly with a total alkalinity of 1 20-150 ppm (parts per million) maintained. Low total alkalinity can not only result in pH bounce and fluctuations but corrosiveness and the possibility of staining increase. High total alkalinity also can cause the pH to fluctuate as well as cause cloudy pools along with possible scaling. To lower total alkalinity, follow the directions from your pool professional. To raise total alkalinity, an alkalinity booster is recommended.
There should not be any metals present in your swimming pool water. Metals can cause staining in the pool and cause the pool to turn colors. The most common types of metals that appear in pool water are copper, iron, and manganese. If metals are present in the pool, a stain and scale remover should be used on a regular basis to prevent staining. You should determine the source of the metals and remove if possible.
Sanitize with Chlorine
Stabilized chlorine products sanitize your pool water and kill bacteria. Stabilized chlorine products are protected from sunlight degradation and are an ideal means to keep your pool clear and clean. Most stabilized chlorine products are available in a variety of forms:
- Chlorinated Tablets 3”
- Chlorinated Tablets 1”
- Skimmer Sticks
- Multi-functional Chlorinating Granules
Your pool professional can determine the best form and type of sanitization program for your particular needs. A free chlorine level of 1-3 ppm should be maintained in the pool at all times.
NOTE: You will get more out of chemicals if you add them after the sun has set.
Sanitize with Bromine
You may want to use bromine instead of chlorine to sanitize your pool. Bromine tablets provide a reliable method for killing bacteria and keeping your pool clear and clean. To utilize bromine effectively, an automatic brominator should be installed in your pool.
Shocking the pool on a regular basis is an important element in keeping the pool clear and clean. Swimmers and the environment add waste to the pool that must be eliminated on a regular basis in order to prevent problems such as algae and cloudy water.
Preventing algae is the key to an enjoyable pool. Algaecides act as a backup to your normal sanitization program and prevent algae from starting and growing in the pool. Algaecide should be added after every shock treatment.