The changing face of winter
For more than 25 years I’ve been involved in the water treatment industry — in particular, the domestic swimming pool and spa market — and I have seen firsthand how time, the climate and the economy have changed our industry.
The 2016 Australian summer was the third-hottest on record and we are certainly noticing an ever-shifting pattern in the seasons. Winter is no exception. Hotter than expected averages are forecast until May of this year and this in turn indicates a very short turnaround in the ‘off season’, which should be a real positive for all of us.
However, in my travels I am already hearing the doom and gloom that the season is over, summer has gone, kids are back at school, blah blah blah... No! We should be excited about what lies ahead as the climate and people’s lifestyles are in our favour.
In the past we have focused as an industry on ‘shutting down’ pools for winter and in turn we go into shutdown mode with our businesses too. Winterising compounds were first formulated by the late Andrew Simons (founder of Lo-Chlor Chemicals) in the late 1970s and today chemical companies all over the globe continue to market such compounds, including Lo-Chlor with its Winter Energy Savers. There most certainly is a place for winterising a pool: it cuts costs, cuts maintenance and cuts down on having to worry about the pool during the colder months. However, times are changing, seasons are changing and people’s lifestyles are changing.
Winter is not stopping people from setting up fire pits, using their decks, jumping into spas, playing in the snow or feeding the birds. It’s not stopping the great Aussie barbecue where the entertaining used to come to a standstill once Easter was over.
Shutting down a pool is no longer the preferred option in my opinion. What we need is insurance policies for the consumer to ensure they have a clean, safe and healthy swimming pool 365 days of the year.
As industry professionals we need to adjust our focus and our attitude towards winter. No longer should winter be all about the doom and gloom our industry is so famous for. Instead, it needs to be about being proactive, innovative and providing a professional, enthusiastic service 12 months of the year, not just in those summer months where the coin is rolling in.
I’ve seen too many long faces in winter and it’s time for change!
During the summer months pools get smashed by heavy bather loads, radical weather, high patterns of gardening and fertilising (which lead to nutrient contamination), harsh sunlight and UV erosion of chemicals.
What all this means is your client’s pool needs a health check before winter sets in. Here are some keys to ensuring your customers are satisfied 365 days of the year:
1. Winterise using a long-term organo-complex algaecide
High-end winteriser products have a slow-release compound that makes the algaecide effective over a long period of time. The colder water along with the addition of such an algaecide means you can cut down pump run times and reduce sanitiser levels while continuing to have a safe and clean pool. More copper is not better; find yourself a low-dose copper compound that has the right bonding agent to ensure you are not overloading the pool with copper, which causes staining to occur.
2. Filter media check and clean
With summer comes an influx of suntan lotions, body fats, oils, organic matter and high use of chemicals to ensure pools are in tip-top shape for the swimming season. These increases place a higher load on filtration and the media used to remove all this debris. All filters — whether they be sand, glass, cartridge or DE — should be degreased with the correct filter cleaner and degreaser. This should be done at the end of the swim season and the beginning of the next.
3. Pool surface analysis
Like the filter media, the pool surface itself takes a battering. Organic stains, mineral stains, hair clips, etc all have an impact on the pool surface. Left untreated for a long period of time, you’ll end up with unhappy customers and a lot of acid washing at the start of the swim season. Be proactive and remove these stains with the right multipurpose stain remover and place your customer on a stain prevention cycle whereby you maintain a level of metal sequestering agent to ensure these stains don’t return once you fire up the pool for summer.
4. Expand your water testing capability
As pool professionals we should have the latest in testing equipment to enable us to perform more than just chlorine, pH, total alkalinity and stabiliser tests. Calcium hardness levels need to be monitored. (Remember, this is not total hardness, which is a combination of minerals such as magnesium chloride.) Total dissolved solids (TDS), iron, copper, manganese and other elements should be checked as you come into winter. Winter is the ideal time to perform these more tedious tests. Not only will they keep you on top of these unwanted additions to the water chemistry but you will ensure you have them under control well before you fire up your pools in late August/September.
5. Phosphates and increased nutrients
Phosphates are always high at the end of autumn as we lead into winter. The remnants of the summer rush are still in the pool, fertilising has all but finished and if you are like me you have a skimmer box full of leaves and debris that we are all too familiar with in autumn. Choose your phosphate removers carefully. There are a lot of imitations out there — stick with tried and tested products that work.
6. Oversaturated water
This can lead to long-term pool problems — too many people go for the quick fix in summer just to get the pool right and this can lead to an overload of chemicals and by-products from these chemicals in the water. Staining, calcium build-up and high levels of metals can all give you and your customers grief when the water starts to warm as the next season catches us by surprise. Use a 3-in-1 calcium, scale and metal remover during winter to remove these contaminants and ensure there are no nasties as summer rolls in.
The key to a successful summer is not just to winterise but to winterise intelligently. Ensure you give your customers a winter prevention program that is not only going to keep your business viable and ticking over but will give your customers the satisfaction of a clean, clear and safe pool 365 days of the year.
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