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Pools 101 - Pool Ownership Basics

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Pools 101 - Learn about swimming pools
Swimming pools are more complex and more technical than many people assume. New pool owners are quick to discover that the world of pools is pretty deep, pun intended, and new pool owners quite often become overwhelmed with information. The first step in dealing with this is to understand that there is a lot to know, and prepare yourself for going to "pool school" because that is essentially what needs to happen. Once you know this it will help to make your experience learning about your pool more tolerable.


The page you are reading now deals with some common questions that new pool owners are likely to have. Once you understand the pool care points made on this page you should continue to the new pool owner guide which starts with the absolute basics of explaining the different types of pools as well as each piece of equipment pools have and the progresses to talk about many of the common pool care questions that pool owners will encounter as they care for their pool.


Once you have owned a pool for a while you will develop a system that works for your pool maintenance needs. It is the initial adjustment period that provides the greatest cause for concern with new pool owners as there seems to be so much that could potentially go wrong. Without a doubt the best method to resolve these concerns is to improve your knowledge about your swimming pool which will increase your overall pool confidence. Take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions by new pool owners:


How To Calculate Pool Volume


Calculating your pool volume is useful for sizing the filtration system as well as determining the chemical correction requirements for your pool. It is important to note that a rough estimate is going to be close enough so a general calculation is traditionally employed.

Rectangle pools
Length x Width x Avg. Depth x 7.5 = Volume in gallons

Round Pools
3.14 x Radius x Radius x Avg. Depth x 7.5 = Volume in gallons

Kidney Pools / Freeform Pools
Avg. Length x Avg. Width x Avg. Depth x 7.0 = Volume in gallons


**To convert from US gallons to liters multiply the pool volume in gallons by 3.78


How To Calculate Pump Flow Rate Requirements (pump sizing)


Now that you know the volume of your swimming pool you can use this information to determine the amount of flow you need for your filtration system to keep your pool clean and clear. The filtration requirements for residential swimming pools requires that the volume of the pool passes through the filter three times every 24 hour period as a minimum value. This will result in 95% of all of the water in your pool being filtered at least one time. The goal is to filter all of your water every day as this reduces your chemical demand and represents optimal filtration values. This means a pool with a 20,000 gallon volume will need to have a pump that moves a minimum of 60,000 gallons through the filter every 24 hours.


60,000 gallons divided by 24 hours in a day equals 2500 (which means the pump must move a minimum of 2500 gallons per hour). 2500 divided by 60 equals 41.6 gallons per minute that the pump must be capable of providing. If you only run your pump part of the day instead of 24 hours per day then use that number of hours instead. A 60,000 gallon pool that runs the pump 12 hours per day would be 60,000 divided by 12 which is 5000 GPH. 5000 divided by 60 minutes gives you 83.2 GPM in order to meet your 60,000 gallon goal running the pump 12 hours per day. It is important to note that it is no longer advisable to turn off your pump part of the day to save money on pump running costs. New variable speed pump technology has made 24 hour run schedules the most energy efficient option for pool water filtration. You can read more about this subject in this article about how many hours should I run my pump?


How To Calculate Filter Sizing Requirements (matching pump & filter size)


The filter that you choose for your pool will need to be able to handle the flow rate that your pump provides. The rating that you need to be concerned with is the maximum flow rate as exceeding this value will compromise the ability for the filter to clean the water as well as potentially damaging the filter. Using the example from above for 24 hours and you would need a filter that has a maximum GPM rating higher than 42 GPM. This would not be a problem as most filters will have a higher designed flow rate than 42 GPM. However the 12 hour filtration schedule that required over 83 GPM might be a problem. Cartridge and DE filters typically have higher maximum designed flow rates, but sand filters might not be rated to 83 GPM. Typically sand filters have lower max GPM ratings than cartridge filters of similar size due to the multiport valve and resistance of pushing water through the sand tank.


Already you might be appreciating how complicated pool ownership can be. Every part of your pool needs to function in conjunction with other components and to a new pool owner this is going to be overwhelming. Fortunately there is a finite limit of things you need to know and you can get through it all step by step. This page started with pool water filtration. This one subject represents a very basic level of pool care, but even this is a subject where pool owners can receive contradictory information which makes the learning curve for new pool owners even harder. Understanding the basics of how to calculate pool volume, how to know how much you should filter your pool, and how to apply that information to your pump and filter is definitely a great starting point for all pool owners. Still, this is just the starting point and there is definitely a lot more to know.


Why Do You Need To Balance Pool Water?


When learning about the basics of swimming pool care you will need to learn about balancing the water chemistry. Why is it so important to balance pool water anyway? We balance swimming pool water so that it will be safe for bathers. We also are concerned with bather comfort as the water might be safe from bacteria but be too acidic or too alkaline to be comfortable for swimmers. Finally, unbalanced swimming pool water is the number one cause for early failure of integral components of your pool such as the filtration equipment, heater and interior pool surfaces. If you learn how to manage your water chemistry well this will make your water safe, comfortable and congruent for maximum equipment longevity...definitely a goal worth pursuing for new pool owners.


When first learning about how to balance your pool chemistry you will most likely be overwhelmed (unless you wear a lab coat to work everyday). Fortunately there is a learning curve that will make things easier as you go along, but the first read through it intimidating. There are quite a few chemistry parameters that you don't really deal with day to day, or at all unless there is a problem, and this makes pool chemistry easier in the long term. Most pools will deal with free chlorine, total chlorine, pH and total alkalinity as day to day maintenance items, but much of the remaining parameters will be tested only rarely. To learn more about pool water chemistry you should start with the pool chemistry crash course.


Basic Swimming Pool Maintenance

Taking a step back with Pools 101 it is important to understand there is a lot to learn. Fortunately you have time to learn these things as you care for your pool day to day. At this stage as a new pool owner you should now have a new respect for the importance of water chemistry. You also should have a basic understanding about pool water filtration and how you go about determining how much you should be filtering your water. As a conclusion to this introductory article consider these important maintenance items that are actionable daily tasks you can attend to for now as you learn more about your pool:


Daily skimming
Skim all debris from pool surface to keep it free of floating leaves, bugs and organic matter

Vacuum regularly
Vacuum all debris from the floor of the pool (failure to do this will impair your ability to maintain chemical balance)

Empty strainer baskets
Keep skimmer strainer basket and pump strainer basket free of leaves and debris at all times as this can impair filtration and even damage your pump in extreme situations

Keep free chlorine between 1 to 3 ppm
Maintain 1-3ppm of free chlorine levels in the water at all times. You should aim to never let chlorine levels drop to zero as this will result in your water turning green

Keep filters clean
Record the pressure on your filter when the system is clean. When pressure rises by 7 PSI this indicates it is time to clean your filters. Maximum pressure should never exceed 30 PSI

Never drain your pool
Do not drain your pool without speaking with a professional first as this can potentially break your swimming pool or ruin the interior surface

Repair things as they break Fix leaks and deficient items like old liners or broken tiles im a timely fashion to prevent further damage to more expensive pool components


These key items are not a comprehensive list of how to care for your pool but instead a few key highlights of regular pool maintenance and upkeep. Once you have read all of the information on this page please proceed to the much more detailed new pool owner guide which contains much more in depth information to help you get started knowing about and caring for your swimming pool.


Pool and spa chemistry crash course

New pool owner guide

Swimming pool learning videos

Swimming pool questions and answers podcast

How much power does a pool pump use?

The Swimming Pool Steve blog



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- Swimming Pool Steve


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- Swimming Pool Steve