8 Money Saving Swimming Pool Tips
Swimming pools and their required maintenance and upkeep are expensive...there is simply no other way to say it. Having a pool or spa is a huge luxury and one that often comes with luxuriously expensive price tags as well. So what can you do if you are the type of person that wants to own a pool but you simply do not have the budget for it? Or more so that you want to take every opportunity possible to minimize the amount you spend keeping your pool or spa running. Some pool owners will simply take all aspects of the pool and spa maintenance and repairs on themselves in attempts to save money. While this might sound like a keen idea the reality is that this will only save you money if you are the right kind of person for the job. For example, would you "save money" by no longer having a mechanic perform work on your car?
Well, if you have a garage, and a bunch of hand tools, and you don't mind working on cars...then sure you might be able to save some money performing maintenance yourself. However if you own a semi-new BMW with a blown motor and you have never worked on a car in your life...well it would be a fool's errand to try to take this work on yourself. A swimming pool is not all that different from this example. In order to be efficient with the money you spend on your pool you need to learn where it is acceptable to do something yourself, and when it is a better idea to pay to bring in an expert.
Do It Yourself Leak Detection
Right at the top of the list for ways that you can save money with your pool is to take ownership of your (potentially) leaking pool. Finding a leak in a pool always starts with the same question - is this pool actually leaking? The reason why this question always comes first when you start the leak detection process on a swimming pool is simply because of how common it is for pool owners to believe they have a leak, when in fact they do not. This is why if you call a local pool company and tell them that you think you have a leak the first thing they are going to do is start asking you questions about your current pool water temperature and whether you use a pool cover every night or not.
Despite how confident that you are that your pool is losing more water than you remember it losing before, this is a surprisingly poor measuring stick for determining the rate of water loss in a pool. This, specifically, is how you are going to save a few dollars with your pool maintenance. Instead of wondering whether your pool is leaking or not you actually can take (simple) steps to answer this question for yourself. The pool leak detection tutorial that I wrote is designed to allow pool owners such as yourself to start the leak detection process with a process of elimination style of testing. Pools can be elusive when it comes to unexplained water loss and if you need to pay an expert for every minute of testing then you are going to be out of pocket an appreciable amount of money...and you have not even started fixing leaks yet! You have only paid for information that was available to you in the first place.
If you want to spend the least on your pool then you need to be proactive and take responsibility for your pool and any problems that it might have. If you automatically pay an expert to come in any time you think there is a problem then you are almost certainly paying more than you could be. I do not expect every pool owner to get out a jackhammer and start taking out sections of your pool deck...but there is no reason why you can't at least do your own bucket test as well as marking your water level on the skimmer with a pencil and monitoring your actual rate of water loss under different conditions like with the pump on versus with the pump off.
Expansion Joint & Sealant Maintenance
Sometimes you can do work to your own pool like with the above example but sometimes the best way to save money is to avoid needing to spend it in the first place. Easily the best example of this is with expansion joints in concrete decks, as well as the place where your pool wall meets the underside of the pool coping lip. If pool owners understood how important these seemingly insignificant joints are, and how important preventing water ingress is for a swimming pool system, they would probably be outside every year replacing these whether they needed to be done or not.
This is a double-savings tip since you are saving money twice. You are saving money because your pool will not experience an early failure or delamination of your deck and coping, but you are also going to save money because you can replace these joint sealants yourself with very little overall technical skill. Yes a professional will be faster than you, and almost certainly make the expansion joints look nicer than you will be able to accomplish, but this is not a race, and the only person you need to please with the looks of the job is yourself.
Even if you don't care to pick up a tube of polyurethane sealant for replacing the expansion joints in your deck and coping yourself, you can be sure to inspect yours closely to see if there is any sign of aging or failure. Being proactive and having these joints replaced before they cause damage to the pool is where the real savings are with this tip. While concrete pools have the most expansion joints that require maintenance, typically, vinyl liner and fiberglass pools can also benefit from using a urethane, or silicone, to seam any place that might allow water to escape the intended pool system.
Opening Your Own Pool
When it comes to ways that you can reduce on your pool maintenance and service costs, the spring opening of your pool is a great way to accomplish this. Closing a pool requires technical knowledge that is important to the success of the winterization. Opening a pool is largely a laborious process. If you have the ability to do some physical work then opening your own pool in the spring is a great way to save a few hundred dollars as well as becoming more familiar and self sufficient with your pool at the same time.
Opening your pool largely boils down to two components which are the cover, and the equipment. With the right tools two skilled people can open a complete pool in about an hour or two. For the average pool owner a day or two is a much more reasonable timeframe to work with. Make one of your weekends in spring a pool opening weekend. If you are unsure whether you can do this yourself or not, you almost certainly can, and you just need a few tools and tips to get the job done. For more information you can read this article about tips for opening your own pool.
Even if you find the prospect of putting together your pool equipment too daunting, which it really shouldn't be, you at least can pump water off of the cover and work at scooping out the leaves. Getting all of the leaves and water off of the old cover is the majority of the work involved with opening your pool. Just get a large garbage bin or pail, with holes in the bottom, and scoop leaves into the bin. Once the water drains out simply pack up the leaves into yard waste bags. Once the cover is off the pool you can also bring the water level up to operating range in the pool so that the system can be started up as soon as it is put together - just be sure that your pool equipment is higher than your pool or you might end up flooding the pump room location by filling your pool before the equipment has been reassembled. For flooded filtrations systems such as this you need to have all of teh equipment assembled before you raise the water level above any open ports like the returns or skimmer.
DIY Pool Maintenance
I am always amazed by how many people pay for someone to clean and maintain their pool. I certainly understand if you are a busy doctor with money to spend and very little extra time on your hands...but the average person with a backyard pool really should think about taking care of it themselves versus hiring a maintenance technician. Yes there is value in having a professional perform these services for you, however if you are trying to find ways for your pool experience to cost you less then this should be something you should look at.
When you hire a maintenance technician to take care of your pool from day to day what you really are paying for is scooping, vacuuming, and chemical maintenance...for the most part. Scooping leaves, vacuuming debris from the floor, and then cleaning out the strainer baskets for the pump and the skimmer are all things that you could do yourself with very little effort or training. Again, if you don't do the best job in the world with scooping, or you miss a few spots vacuuming, the only person you need to worry about making happy is yourself.
If you do want to take on the chemical maintenance in addition to the scooping and vacuuming maintenance then you will need to invest some time into learning about pool and spa water chemistry. Improper water chemistry is obviously a problem if your water turns green and you can't go swimming...but it is also potentially much worse than this. Poorly maintained water can absolutely cause damage to pool surfaces and pool equipment so you definitely do not want to drop the ball being the person responsible for maintaining your water. If that sounds scary to you, and sounds like too much responsibility, just know that many "service companies" actually do very little to protect your pool from chemical damage. Certainly there are many good, and totally legitimate service and maintenance companies...but so you can also say that there are many bad ones. When you learn about water chemistry you will have control over the chemical levels in your water. I can assure you that nobody, not even good service companies, will care about your pool and your pool water as much as you will care about your own.
Don't Let Your Water Turn Green
Staying with the above example of taking on your own chemical maintenance you need to be aware that many of the chemicals available for sale in a pool and spa store you actually do not need. Many of the chemicals for sale in pool and spa stores are something that you would add to your pool once a problem has developed. If you are proactive with caring for your pool then you can probably avoid using the vast majority of these chemicals completely.
One of the most important things that pool owners can do to reduce the water chemistry and maintenance costs is to plan ahead to avoid letting the chlorine in the pool drop to zero. If you have a pool party be sure to add extra chlorine at the end of the night. If it is going to rain, or has rained a lot recently, be sure to add some extra chlorine. If it is extra hot and sunny for extended periods...you guessed it - check on those chlorine levels and top them up to the 3 to 5 ppm range. If you run at 1 ppm of free chlorine regularly this leaves you essentially no room to have the chlorine levels fluctuate before you are at zero...which you need to never do. Minimal chlorine exposure is good but not if it means that your water is constantly a problem for you to maintain.
Test strips are cheap and work reasonably well for testing sanitizer levels (although every pool owner should have the Taylor K-2006 test kit). This means that you can easily afford to test your chlorine levels every day. This will enable you to understand the range at which your pool tends to operate, as well as how much of a difference heavy bather loads or rain makes to your chlorine consumption rate. Knowledge is power when it comes to your pool water chemistry and the more you endeavor to learn and know about it, the more you will be able to effectively control your day to day chemical maintenance costs. Keep your chlorine levels a little higher than the minimum safe level of 1 ppm, closer to the 3 to 5 ppm range, and this will reduce on the amount of green water situations you encounter throughout the year.
Cover Your Pool
In the world of things you can do to be proactive and reduce the costs associated with owning and maintaining your pool, the clear and definitive winner to me is to use a solar blanket cover on your pool every night. A solar blanket, or any pool cover (like an automatic pool safety cover), will reduce all of your system inefficiencies across the board for your pool. There is no other component that you can add to your pool that will impact as many different inefficiencies as a cover will. It will make your pool more efficient at holding heat by over 90%. If you heat your pool water it is inconceivable that you would let all of that heat escape into the atmosphere every night. Heating pool water is incredibly expensive.
In addition to limiting heat loss, you will also experience much less evaporation when you cover your pool at night. This is especially important for water restricted areas of the world, but also is applicable everywhere since the water evaporating from your pool has been chemically treated. This means that every iota of water that escapes your pool will need to be replaced with fresh water, and then will need to be chemically corrected to be in line with the ideal pool chemistry values you are running.
The crazy part to me is just how little a solar blanket costs, especially when compared against the profound cost saving and efficiency improving benefits that a cover provides. For most pool owners it is simply the monotony of putting the cover on at night and taking it off during the day that dissuades them from experiencing the benefits of using a pool cover nightly. While some people might be inclined to just leave the cover on the pool all day as well, this has a detrimental effect on the chemical efficiency and filtration system of the pool, and often will result in increased chlorine consumption and sudden onset of green water. If you want your pool to operate more efficiently, and you don't mind doing a little work, the best thing you can do is cover your pool every night and remove the cover again every morning.
Robotic Pool Vacuums
The more you learn about your pool the more you will be able to confidently take on yourself when it comes to day to day maintenance tasks. If you are going to save money paying a professional to care for your pool then you probably can more easily justify a purchase like an ultra energy efficient robotic pool vacuum. Pool robots operate independently from the filtration system which is a big advantage for energy efficiency. While the units do cost an appreciable amount, it can drastically reduce the amount of time that you need to spend vacuuming your pool manually every week. A robotic vacuum can do much of the heavy lifting with your pool debris, leaving you to spot vacuum and areas that were missed, as well as brushing down the floors and walls. If you start taking care of your own pool then a robotic pool vacuum is a wise investment.
The problem that many pool owners have with robotic vacuums is that they do not use them properly. If you are opening your pool for the spring season and it is filled with leaves and debris, then you should be manually vacuuming this to waste - NOT using a robotic vacuum. A robotic vacuum is a maintenance cleaner and not intended for heavy debris loads. For the ultimate in easy pool vacuuming you could use a robotic vacuum for the day to day maintenance, and use a battery operated pool vacuum for the spot cleaning. With a cordless and hoseless battery operated pool vacuum you can be set up and spot vacuuming literally in seconds. Again, these are not intended for heavy debris loads, but the majority of the time you spend maintaining your pool will be with maintenance vacuuming and not spring cleaning.
Take Care Of Your Pool Equipment
If you have ever worked in the swimming pool industry you would see a stark contrast between how different people care for their pools and associated pool equipment, chemicals, and maintenance items. One pool owner leaves every last pool toy, pool chemical and pool maintenance item laying on the ground in the last place it was used, while other pool owners have a neatly organized pool shed with each component for the pool labeled and stored away in a specific home. Year after year it is interesting to see how the pool and pool equipment ages in these different environments. Unsurprisingly the people who care for their equipment experience much greater longevity from each component.
Pool owners do not get the benefit of seeing this progress happen first hand. It stands to reason, logically, that the better you care for your things the longer they will last you, but it is less apparent when you only ever see your own pool. If you stand back and look at the long term equation of pool ownership objectively, getting the longest service life out if every last thing you buy is critically important to the bottom line numbers. If you need to buy a new leaf rake or telescoping pole every year because you keep stepping on yours and breaking it...your pool will end up costing you more than it should. Worst of all this is something that is completely within your control.
The solution here is to develop a plan for success. You need to have a place to store your pool chemicals that is NOT next to your pump and filter. You need hooks to hang up your telescopic poles, as well as storage bins for your inflatables and pool toys. If you have a pool shed that is half filled with garbage then you should clean it out. Pool equipment needs a lot of room, and air, to breathe in order to remain cool when it runs. Also messy pump sheds will attract rodents and other pests that can move in and cause damage to your pool equipment, pool cover, or any other items left in storage for any period of time. Treat every component of your pool as though it is a small pile of money. Would you just take a pile of money and throw it blindly into the shed and close the door? Probably not...you would probably place it, with great care, in a safe place until you needed it again.
The bottom line on spending less with your pool - There is no magic with taking care of a pool. You pay a professional because they have access to knowledge and experience that you do not have access to...not to mention the specialty tools that pool workers use that you might not have. If you want to spend less, then you must do more yourself. In addition to learning, and doing more work, you also take on the onus of responsibility. If something goes wrong then it is your problem, and you will be stuck paying the repair bills. It is not always prudent to do work yourself that is better left to the professionals...but with some guidance you can point your efforts down a long term path towards success. If you follow the tips on this page then you can very realistically reduce your total annual care costs for your pool without compromising the quality of the care or maintenance it receives. Oh yeah...also you should get a variable speed pump if you don't have one already.
How much can you save with a variable speed pump?
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