Winter Pool and Spa Care: Getting it Right During the Colder Months
When it comes to year-round professional pool and spa maintenance, there's no such thing as an 'off-season'. The most economical way to ensure pools and spas remain healthy and safe throughout winter is through regular maintenance.
During winter last year, PoolWerx identified that the majority of Australian pools didn't have healthy water levels. Out of more than one thousand pool water samples, just four percent showed a healthy pH balance and only one in five pools were properly chlorinated.
Ignoring regular pool maintenance during the colder months means when the swimming season rolls around, pool owners will be faced with the arduous task of eliminating the build-up of microorganisms and algae that can lead to serious health risks if left untreated.
Pools that haven't been cleaned, chlorinated or allowed to run properly during winter may also result in finding technical problems with the pool equipment. But whether it's fixing an unhealthy pool or replacing a damaged pool pump, both problems can quickly become expensive to resolve.
As a result, it's our responsibility as industry experts to educating pool and spa owners about how seasonal changes impact the frequency and type of pool maintenance and treatment.
A properly maintained pool is much easier to continue to maintain throughout winter, so there are a number of checks and balances all pools should go through before the cold sets in.
With a focus on tiles, grout, and any hidden edges and corners, scrub the surfaces of the pool to remove dormant scum that can worsen water quality and promote algae and bacteria growth. Once this is done, the entire pool should be vacuumed.
Pool equipment is another great place for algae and scum to harbour, so it's important to ensure devices such as skimmer baskets and pool filters are thoroughly cleaned prior to winter due to increased levels of leaves dropping from deciduous trees.
Water should be cleared of any debris as this is what algae thrives on. Once clean, check the pool's pH level is between 7.2 and 7.6 and the chlorine level at 2-3 PPM during winter. If the pool owner is using a pool blanket or salt chlorinator, the output and timers must be reduced and maintain chlorine levels of 1-2 PPM.
It is important pool owners have a regular pool maintenance schedule that includes weekly inspections and a professional check-up periodically.
With limited use during winter and reduced heat and sunlight, the approach to pool maintenance changes regarding level of pool chemicals, circulation and water filtration required. However, there are five steps to make year-round pool maintenance easy.
Circulation of pool water allows chemicals to take effect in the pool. The more the water is kept in motion, the more difficult it is for bacteria and algae to develop as well. While pool pumps should ideally run up to twelve hours every day during peak swimming season, winter only requires the pool to be run up to six hours. Electrical timers and multi speed pool pumps also make it possible to reduce power consumption throughout winter and the rest of the year.
The filter is the heart of the pool, catching and removing both visible debris and most microscopic matter in order to prevent bacteria developing in the pool. The filter should be checked weekly to ensure effective and efficient operation, with a filter backwash every month to ensure it is running at maximum capacity. In order to save water and reduce operation costs, a number of products are available to capture debris before it enters the filter. The AstralPool HydroSpin, for example, is a pre-filter cleaning device that is fitted between the pump and the filter to separate out solids of up to 40 micron.
All swimming pools have areas where little or no water circulation occurs, allowing algae and bacteria to develop. Periodic cleaning of the walls, floor and steps of the pool by vacuuming, brushing and then vacuuming again with a suction cleaner will remove any debris the filter misses. There are a number of robotic cleaners on the market that reduce energy use significantly by bypassing the filtration system. Despite the choice in manual vacuum or robotic cleaner, regular brushing is still vital through winter.
Maintaining the appropriate pool water balance throughout winter can only be achieved by regular water testing. The two most important indicators of water balance are pH and chlorine levels. With restricted bather load and a reduction in heat and sunlight, fluctuations in the water balance should be minimal in comparison to summer, however chlorine levels can often fall to an unhealthy level if neglected and allowed to deplete.
Proper water maintenance:
Applying the right quality products to your pool, and doing so properly, is vital in maintaining a healthy pool. Each pool has different chemical requirements, so it's best for pool owners to develop a treatment plan with a pool professional. This guarantees the pool remains safe to use, the water remains in balance and equipment is protected.
Despite every effort to maintain a healthy and safe pool, a number of factors can sometimes cause problems to a pool during the cold season.
Depleted sanitizer level:
The chlorine level often becomes depleted during summer through regular pool use, requiring extra chlorine to be added appropriately before and after use. However, with a lower demand for chlorination during winter chlorine levels may become insufficient to keep the pool free of bacteria. It is important to regularly check pH and chlorine levels and in some cases periodically super-chlorinate the pool.
Algae are a microscopic form of plant life containing chlorophyll that can grow in pool water, affecting the pool water quality. Algae can damage and clog pool equipment and stain pool surfaces. Green algae is the most common form of algae in swimming pools identified by its green colouration, slippery feel on the sides of the pool and water that becomes hazy and demands high levels of chlorine.
Algae normally grows quicker in summer due to the warmer climate and increased bather load but they can also grow during winter through reduced circulation of pool water and poor chemical treatment. Prevention is the best cure to stop algae blooms and a regular chemical program of regular pool maintenance is often enough. However, super-chlorination and algaecide treatment may be required in order to eliminate growth.
Just like summer is often synonymous to incredibly humid days followed by rain, cooler months can also present hot days perfect for swimming. As a result, it's important to understand how weather can influence the health of a pool. A hot day during winter can evaporate a pool by up to four centimetres and influence the chlorine level. Likewise excessive storm water can also leave the pool with debris and a platform for algae and bacteria growth.
Extend the Swimming Season
There are a number of products on the market that can help prolong the swimming season through autumn and winter ranging from pool covers through to gas heating and electric heat pumps.
Pool blankets - a correctly installed pool cover can increase water temperature by up to eight degrees celcius by trapping the heat from sunlight, keeping the pool insulated and warm. This is the most environmentally responsible way to heat a pool. However, it's important to adjust the salt water chlorination accordingly, as it can cause significant bleach damage to the pool.
Solar heating - solar pool heating can increase the swimming season by up to four months depending on where you live in Australia. This method allows a temperature to be set and solar collectors can be matched to roof colour.
Gas heating - on demand gas heating can allow for year-round pool use, taking around eight hours for an average backyard pool to be heated.
Electric heating - electric heat pumps can suit most pools using similar technology to a reverse cycle air-conditioner. This method extracts heat from the air and warms the pool to the desired temperature. Daily running costs of modern electric heater pumps are comparable to solar heating.
Ian Jenkins is Training and Operations Manager at PoolWerx with over 20 years' experience in the pool and spa care industry. PoolWerx is Australasia's largest pool and spa care network with over 200 franchise partners operating more than 300 retail service vans and 70 retail hubs in Australia and New Zealand. For more information call 1800 009 000 or visit the website www.poolwerx.com.au.
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