Healthy pool water needs routine care
Owning a swimming pool really is one of life’s greatest luxuries and one of the biggest investments a property owner is likely to make. Done well, they can add tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars to a property’s value; left neglected, they not only become an eyesore but a bottomless pit to fix.
While all pools have unique maintenance needs, they all share one commonality: the secret to pristine pool clarity and water health is regular, routine care. From small weekly jobs to annual health checks, proper pool maintenance not only keeps equipment in peak working order but also means the pool is ready to be enjoyed all day, every day.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to keep the pool clean is by skimming the surface with a long-handled net every few days. Floating debris such as leaves, insects and pet hair not only clog the filtration system, but also build up as black spots that are much harder to remove once stuck to the pool floor.
Regular skimming significantly increases the efficiency of the pool’s circulation system and reduces the amount of chlorine required when topping up the water. Checking the skimmer box and removing unwanted dirt and debris on a regular basis will also impact on the health of the pool.
When it comes to pool cleaners, the industry has an array of suction, geared, pressure or electric options to suit all needs and all budgets. There are robotic cleaners with remote-controlled features and dual motor manoeuvrability, whisper-quiet hydrodynamic suction cleaners and hardworking pool pressure cleaners that tackle concrete, Pebblecrete, Quartzon, tile, fibreglass and vinyl surfaces with ease.
There is also a new generation of environmentally friendly cleaners that work independently of the pool pump and filtration system. Self-driven by internal motors, they vacuum in water, dirt and debris via an internal pump and filter the water with its own filtration system. These clever cleaners don’t require installation, hoses or additional equipment. Simply switch them on and watch them vacuum!
Automated chemical controllers
Keeping pH and chlorine levels perfectly balanced in a swimming pool is a little trickier - getting it wrong can result in additional chemical costs, potential damage to filtration and sanitation equipment, as well as health risks to users.
Testing the quality of the pool water is the most important requirement of owning a pool. There is an extensive range of manual and digital test kits available from all pool shops but what owners need to look for is the following three factors:
- The pH scale is a measurement of acidity or alkalinity that runs from 0 to 14. A reading between 7.2 and 7.8 is ideal; this range is safe for swimmers and helps sanitisers work at top efficiency.
- Alkalinity is a measurement of all the carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides and other alkaline substances found in the pool water. The total alkalinity range for chlorine disinfection should be 60 to 200 mg/L and is adjusted by using sodium bicarbonate as advised by the supplier.
- The third factor is calcium hardness, which is often measured by how ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ the water is. The ideal range of calcium hardness is 150 to 400 mg/L.
From intelligent water care systems to automatic tablet feeders, pool manufacturers are developing a slew of products that make this aspect of pool maintenance significantly easier.
Automated chlorine and chemical feeders are a great invention because they sense when the water isn’t balanced, then add preset doses of ozone or chlorine to bring it back to the optimum range. The more sophisticated products on the market measure and precisely control set levels of sanitiser (chlorine) and pH balance (acid) through feedback from inline sensors.
There’s even a special chlorine generator for those looking to convert to a healthy saltwater pool and a safer alternative to manually dosing liquid chlorine. Other ‘set and forget’ systems include a digital timer with maintenance functions and an advanced super-chlorination function perfect for high-use periods.
If a swimming pool is used heavily, or there have been large amounts of rain or hot, sunny weather, then it may need to be superchlorinated - or shocked - back to normal chlorine levels. This basically means raising the chlorine level of the water for a short time, to a high enough level that the combined chlorine is burned up. Some pools should be superchlorinated once a week, while others can go a significantly longer time, depending on manufacturers’ instructions.
Saltwater pool care
It has been estimated that 80% of all new in-ground pools built in Australia are equipped with salt chlorination. The benefits of using this alternative to standard chlorination include smaller environmental footprint, greater energy efficiency and lower maintenance.
Put simply, a saltwater chlorinator uses electrolysis to separate the chlorine. An electrolytic cell then converts the salt into sodium hypochloride, which does the actual work of chlorination. This material then reforms back into salt.
Once installed, quality salt chlorinators automatically maintain chlorine levels and by doing so eliminate problems caused by high or low chlorine levels such as algae growth. After installation, the pool requires far less attention compared with standard chlorination processes and will keep the pool water balanced and healthy.
Additional features on some of the more smarter systems include a winter timer that helps cut energy usage in half during the cooler months, battery backup, UV and weatherproof housing, space-saving vertical design, super chlorination function and no-flow LED alert.
In addition, regular use of a reputable salt chlorinator water conditioner will help prevent scale deposition on salt chlorinator electrodes and heat exchange elements. It also prolongs the life of salt chlorinator electrodes and heater elements and lowers maintenance requirements as scale can simply be hosed off.
Smart control systems
Gone are the days when pool owners had to spend all weekend preparing the pool before they could enjoy a refreshing dip. Today’s technology enables just about everything around the pool to be automated so the benefits can be enjoyed with minimal effort.
Things like covers, cleaners, chlorination, shading and pool temperature can be regulated with the simple press of a button on a remote controller or smartphone. The level of automation ranges from simple timers for pool lights to sophisticated wireless waterproof remotes that manage heating, valves, cleaning components, water treatment systems and even ancillary backyard functions like water features.
These handy devices are totally programmable, fully rechargeable and completely waterproof. In fact, one is even designed to float horizontally so swimmers don’t even need to get out of the pool to use them.
Some automatic control systems actually allow you to operate pool and spa equipment from your office using a desktop or laptop computer, while other systems use colour touch-screen devices such as PDAs and handheld tablets for remote monitoring and control of pool and spa functions - perfect for avid entertainers or those wanting to quickly set the scene for unexpected guests.
The latest and greatest approach is to use your mobile phone to activate features. It’s really simple: basically you can ring ahead on your mobile phone on the way home, dialling into your spa and pool with a special key-in code to set the controls the way you want. When you arrive home, voila! Everything is ready and waiting.
10 common swimming pool maintenance mistakes
Swimming pool maintenance doesn’t have to be an arduous or time-consuming process but knowing what to do and when to do it can lengthen the lifespan of the investment and save pool owners money in the process. Here are 10 maintenance mistakes to avoid:
- Not cleaning the skimmer basket and/or hair and lint pot regularly. Letting these become full of debris results in poor circulation, which potentially leads to bigger problems with related equipment.
- Forgetting to brush pool walls. Cleaning surface dirt off pool walls and floor helps prevent algae build-up so try and do this every few weeks.
- Ignoring pool chemistry. Check this twice a week in summer and once a week in winter and you’ll be able to finetune the balance along the way. Leave it for too long and you’ll need big doses of chemicals to fix the problem and time out of the pool while everything settles.
- Failing to clean the cells in saltwater systems (also known as chlorine generators). Corroded or calcified cells don’t produce as much chlorine so keep them clear with a salt chlorinator water conditioner.
- Adding chemicals in the heat of the day. Get more out of your chlorine by adding it to pool water at night when the sun can’t cause any of it to dissipate.
- Backwashing sand or DE filters too often. Not only does this waste water but it doesn’t allow the filter to do its job as most work best when the pressure gauge rises 8-10 PSI from clean.
- Not switching pumps on or not letting them run long enough. Circulation is paramount to effective pool maintenance so run your pump roughly one hour for every 10° of temperature.
- Forgetting to check total dissolved solids (TDS) or calcium hardness. Let this go and your whole water balance will go out of whack. It’s recommended you check TDS every six months and calcium hardness every month.
- Letting water levels drop. Low water levels can result in the pool pump drawing air instead of water, which can cause it to break and allow algae to bloom. Monitor water levels at least once a month and adjust so that it’s in the middle of the skimmer.
- Not shocking the pool after a party. Lots of swimmers in the pool at once can use up the free chlorine residual in the water. To avoid an algae bloom, shock the pool with a big dose of chlorine then run the filter for several hours.
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