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What NOT To Do To Your Pool

Try to take care of a swimming pool
Swimming pools are a luxury and most are a serious investment to own. They are expensive to have installed and they require maintenance just like a car in order to operate smoothly. Failure to maintain your pool or attend to regular service items will, unsurprisingly, lead towards failures in the system.

Despite the risk involved, many swimming pool owners get in over their heads with their pool and never really take the time to learn how to properly care for or maintain one. As it turns out, swimming pools are complicated (and expensive), and doing the wrong thing with yours could end up costing you big time!

If you can't be bothered to learn how to take care of your pool you should at least take a few minutes and review these things that you should absolutely NOT do to your pool - it might save you from a costly mistake!





Never Drain Your Pool

Draining a swimming pool is expensive Most swimming pools are not meant to be drained. Depending on the type of swimming pool you have there is significant risk for problems to develop as a result of you pumping out the water. Vinyl liner swimming pools require water to hold the liner in place where it was positioned by the installation crew. Vinyl liner installers use vacuums to hold the liner in place until the water level in the pool fills up. If you drain the pool without vacuuming the liner in place then the liner will shift, stretch and potentially even rip. A vinyl liner pool should have at minimum 6" to 12" of water in the shallow end at all times. Less than this amount will most likely end up costing you a new liner. Concrete pools, much like fiberglass pools, require the weight of water in the pool to hydrostatically balance them inside the ground. Much like at the beach, when you dig down deep enough in many areas you will find water. When the water table in the ground is high the pool can potentially lift right out of the ground without the weight of water inside it. Draining a concrete pool should only ever be done while the water surrounding the pool is being actively controlled and the hydrostatic relief valve has been removed from the main drain in the deep end. Fiberglass pools should never be drained by the pool owner unless you are willing to accept the liability if the pool shifts, lifts, cracks, bows or sinks on one end. Much like a concrete pool in order to drain a fiberglass pool the ground water in the surrounding area needs to be controlled with a sump pit and the hydrostatic relief valve in the main drain is removed. If the pool construction is not strong enough to withstand the pressure on the walls from the surrounding area then you will need to excavate the backfill as you drain the pool or build a series of braces inside of the pool to prevent the walls from shifting.

In the event you need to drain the pool for water quality issues such as stabilizer levels too high then you should only partially drain and refill. You can sometimes get away with draining a concrete pool to replace the water, and even sometimes with a fiberglass pool, but draining a vinyl liner pool completely is going to be a problem. Above ground vinyl liner pools can sometimes be drained however the liner will need to be reset and the older the liner is the more likely that you will have a problem getting it back in place wrinkle free.


Never Add Random Chemicals To Your Pool

Never mix pool chemicals One of the biggest mistakes that novice pool owners will make is to get confused with the chemical maintenance of the water and just start dumping things in while hoping for the best. This is a terrible idea! The chances of you causing a big problem with your water chemistry is very high. Even worse than this is that poor water chemistry is directly related to early failure of expensive pool components such as gas heaters. It is one thing to have a tenuous understanding of water chemistry in swimming pools - it is another thing altogether to just take liberty and start dumping things in. This is also a problem for people who receive second hand pool chemicals from someone. If you do not know how old the chemicals are, or you don't recognize the names or what is in the bottles, definitely do not put them in your pool.

Adding more chlorine to your water when you don't know the current values of your water chemistry is the least of your worries. A much greater concern would be adjusting the total alkalinity or pH of the water without understanding the relationship between acids and bases. When the chlorine level in the water is too low the pool will turn green as a symptom. When the chlorine level is too high this is also easy to tell because of the smell, the feel of the water, and with simple chlorine test strips or DPD test kits. If you make a mistake with the pH of your water then the water could appear to be normal but may actually be corrosive and damaging to your pool equipment. Do yourself a huge favor and learn about how to balance the chemicals in your pool using this pool chemistry crash course. Even worse than adding pool chemicals improperly would be to add products that are not intended for use in swimming pools to the water. While there are many products that you might have around your home that could at least theoretically go in your pool, you should use only pool specific products just to be safe. Many home products not intended for use in pools will also have additional chemicals that can pose a problem for your pool such as with phosphates. The exception to this rule would be for those who are following the BBB method of pool chemistry. Bleach, baking soda and borax not specifically intended for use in pools can be used in this cost saving approach to pool care.


Never Ignore A Pool Leak

Do not ignore swimming pool leaks Ignoring a leak in your swimming pool is just about the worst thing that you can do if you are worried about the potential for long term damage. A leak is an indication that the pool is broken somewhere and needs to be fixed. Just because the water leaks into the ground and you can not see the problem does not mean that there is not a major problem currently developing. Leaking water erodes soil and concrete, washes away sand, undermines pool decks and can travel underground to adjacent structures such as the foundation of your home...or your neighbors. While the temptation is there to simply add more water to the pool every now and again the reality is that the pool is not supposed to be leaking and this means something has failed.

If you have a leak you are well advised to deal with it right away. You can try to diagnose and repair the leak yourself with this tutorial on pool leak detection or you can hire a professional leak detection company to come resolve the problem for you. When fixed quickly there will usually be minimal or no peripheral damage to your pool. Major problems come from pools that are left to leak for long periods of time, and also pools that are left leaking over the winter season in an area that gets freezing winter temperatures. Not only can the water damage your pool, but the additional water that has leaked out of your pool can freeze and be extremely damaging to the surrounding deck and structures. Be sure to have your leak fixed well before the winter season if you close your pool every year.


Do Not Turn Your Pump Off For More Than 24 Hours

Do not turn off your pool pump There are many reasons that pool owners will elect to turn off their pump and filtration system and walk away for an extended period of time. Most commonly this would be while the family is away from home on vacation and the pool owner is worried about having a problem with the equipment. If a pool pump runs dry then this could cause the pump to get too hot and end up costing you a new pump. While it seems like just turning the equipment off is a quick and easy solution the reality is that you will most likely be coming home to a green swimming pool.

While some pool owners choose to turn off their pump between 8-16 hours per day they are able to do this as the remainder of the time the pump is running and the system is filtering the pool. Many pool systems can meet their minimum turnover requirements in as little as eight hours so in theory this works. In practice this means that the pool has extended periods every day where the water is not being filtered. When this period of down time extends past 24 hours the water will take a very fast turn for the worse. Filtering is at minimum 50% responsible for pool water clarity. Even though you might have enough chlorine in the water, in the beginning, the chances are high that all of this chlorine will be gone by the time you come back to check on the pool. Without the pump and filter running there will be much more organic debris in the water which will work to deplete the chlorine reserve quickly. Once the chlorine reserve is gone the bacteria will grow very quickly. If you need to go away for more than one or two days consider hiring a pool sitter or a pool service company to drop in and check on your pool while you are away.


Do Not Forget To Winterize Your Pool

Don't let your pool freeze All too often pool owners will forget to take the time to close and winterize their pool for the year. Perhaps not so much a case of forgetting to winterize, as simply neglecting to do so, it is actually fairly common to see this - especially with new pool owners. When you are new to owning a pool, or sometimes when pool owners suspect that the pool needs repair work, winter will come and the pool will still be full of water and not covered. Regardless of the reason, if you are in charge of a swimming pool and you live in an area where you get freezing winter conditions, you must winterize the pool to protect it from damage.

Even if you have a pool that will require extensive repairs in the spring you should still properly close it for the winter. Left uncovered and unwinterized there is a distinct possibility that further repairs will be required come spring time that you could have avoided. If you want to learn how to winterize your own swimming pool then you can read this article about how to properly winterize each part of your pool step by step. While leaving your pool sit unwinterized is not a guaranteed death sentence it certainly increases the chances of a big problem and guarantees you will need to do extra work when you are ready to try and clean it up and use it next. If you plan to drain the pool in the spring for a renovation many pool owners believe that it does not make a difference whether the pool is covered or not. Do not make this mistake and be sure that you cover the pool as per normal. Cleaning out a pool that was left uncovered for even a single winter will be a big, dirty, disgusting job that nobody wants to do.


Do Not Run Your Pump Dry

Don't run your pump dry A pool pump needs water running through it to help it cool moving parts. Without water passing through the pump the internal components will begin to heat up from friction and can eventually fail from overheating if not actually catch on fire. Some people who are new to owning a swimming pool may not understand that a pool pump needs to be primed every time that you open the system for any reason. When you open the plumbing system, like for example when you open the pump lid to clean out the leaf strainer, you are supposed to refill the pump with water manually before you put the lid back on and start it. Some plumbing configurations might be more forgiving than others and you may have gotten away without needing to prime your pump however this would be the exception and not the rule.

Another common cause for this problem is a failure to monitor the water level in the pool. Depending on the configuration of your pool plumbing system you may accidentally let the pump run dry if the water level in the pool drops below the mouth of the skimmer. Some pools have equalizer lines from the main drain that helps to prevent the pump from running dry if the water level is below the mouth of the skimmer. Pools with this equalizer line permanently plugged, as well as pools with no main drain equalizer line are becoming more and more common. Be sure to keep your water level topped up at all times to prevent from needing to buy a new pump to replace the one that you cooked!


Do Not Crank Up Your Pool Heater

Heating a swimming pool is expensive A mistake that every new pool owner makes at some point is to underestimate the cost of gas heating. Everybody prefers to swim in warm water but the cost of doing so can be extremely high. When you have a pool heater, most commonly 250,000 BTU or 400,000 BTU this would be equivalent to 10 large family BBQ's running on full blast all at the same time. This helps to put in perspective just how much fuel a pool heater needs to run. Billing cycles for natural gas are usually not every month so it is not uncommon for a new pool owner to run the heater for a month or two before getting the first bill. In extreme cases where it is cooler outside and the heater has been set too high you could experience a gas bill as high as $5000 in as little as a few months. That is enough to make most pool owners go outside and disconnect their heater with a sledge hammer.

Heat over 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.5 degreed Celsius) is very much a luxury in a swimming pool. If you intend to keep you pool at or above this temperature with your gas heater you had better be sure to use a solar blanket every night on the pool. A solar blanket will dramatically increase the thermal efficiency of your pool overnight when the vast majority of your heat is lost. If you lose less heat then your heater needs to burn that much less fuel to make more. Heating a swimming pool is at least as much about heat conservation as it is heat generation.


Do Not Buy A Pump With More Horsepower

pool pump horsepower is a lie If you need to replace your pool pump try not to fall for the horsepower rating for the pump. If you shop according to horsepower you will have no ability to fairly compare one pump to the next. Manufacturers of pumps know that uninformed pool and spa owners tend to buy pumps based on which has the most horsepower - which is ridiculous since horsepower is only an indication of how much energy the pump uses to run. What would be a much better idea would be to compare pumps based on actual flow rates and then choose the pump with the lowest horsepower but the greatest flow. If you would like to see every pool pump made by Jandy, Hayward and Pentair compared side by side based on flow rates and not horsepower then you can read these pool pump reviews.

The way that a manufacturer plays with the horsepower rating for a pump without outright lying about it is due to something called service factor. Service factor is a multiplier used to calculate the maximum energy that an electric motor can safely handle for short periods of time. This is similar to how a 1000 Watt stereo speaker may actually only be 1000 Watts peak value but is actually a continuous draw of almost half that amount. Pool pumps work the same way. A five horsepower pump as used on a hot tub is small enough for one person to tuck it under your arm and carry it. A true five horsepower pool pump on a large commercial swim jet system would be large enough that you almost need a forklift to move it. The difference between these two pumps is night and day even though both are called a five horsepower pump. If you need a new pool pump then you should learn how to calculate the volume of water turnover that you will need, and then use this to calculate how much water you need to filter per hour to meet this turnover rate. When doing this calculation you will see that even a modest 1 horsepower pump will exceed the minimum filtration requirements for your pool many times over every day if you run it 24/7. To learn more about how to calculate your flow requirements for your pool you can read this article on how to calculate flow rate for a pool.

Once you start learning how to calculate your required turnover rates and flow rates it will become clear to you why variable speed pool pumps are becoming so popular (and even mandatory by law in some places). Variable speed pumps are vastly superior to single speed pumps in terms of cost savings on electricity. A single speed pump is the same as a car with only one speed - full throttle. You can burn less gas by turning it off every day for a few hours but it is simply not as good as having the ability to control the speed of the motor. If you are interested in learning more about variable speed pumps, how much money they can save you, and a review of every model of variable speed pump from Hayward, Pentair and Jandy then read these variable speed pump reviews.





Swimming Pool Steve

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