OPENING AND CLOSING A POOL –

Opening a pool for the summertime is fairly easy.  The chemicals in the water should be somewhat level since the colder winter weather slows down the pH and Alkalinity change.  If you’ve covered the pool over the winter, more than likely you’re chlorine balance is in good shape as well.  Begin by cleaning the pool cover off.  Once clean, remove the cover completely then store for use at the end of the summer.  If this is your first time setting up the pool, fill it with fresh, clean water.  In the summer, the heat speeds up changes in pH and Alkalinity and the sun eats up chlorine.  It’s necessary to keep an eye on these three chemical readings to keep your pool clean and clear all summer long and even extend your season into the Fall! Go to the POOL BALANCING AND CHEMICALS sections to learn how to adjust pool chemicals properly!

To close a pool and prepare it for the winter, it is important to balance to Chlorine, pH and Alkalinity before covering the pool.  If you live in a very cold climate, it might be wise to purchase equipment to protect your filtration and/or solar heating pipes from freezing over.  For above ground pools, there are tarps available to purchase that you can put over the top of the pool to keep leaves and rain water out.  Tie downs or winches are usually the method on these tarps to secure them to the pool border.  For in ground pools, tarps are also available but the method of securing them is a bit different.   The typical method is to use water or sand bags to hold the tarp around the perimeter of the pool.

POOL BALANCING AND CHEMICALS –

Three basic but very important readings for a pool are Chlorine, pH and Alkalinity.

Chlorine: This is your sanitizer in the water.  It comes in tablet, powder and liquid form.  The most powerful of the three forms is powder because it is more concentrated and the chlorine percentage is usually much higher.  Tablets also have a high chlorine content but they are designed to be slow dissolving. Tablets are meant to be used in a floater or in chemical feeder.  Liquid chlorine is commonly used because it is cheap.  What most people don’t realize though, is that liquid chlorine, most of the time, comes packaged with only 10% available chlorine!  The rest is typically salt water! Salt water systems generate chlorine for you and it produces pure chlorine unlike other methods of chlorine sanitation.  Salt water pools give off a softer feel when you swim and the chemical burn and smell of chlorine is much less due to the fact that the chlorine is in a pure form. “Shocking” the pool is term used to add a lot of chlorine to the water to “burn out” or “shock” all the impurities out of the water.  Shocking is usually required to once a month in the winter and twice a month or more in the summer depending upon usage. For more shocking information (no pun intended) check out the SHOCKING THE POOL section.

pH: This is test of how acidic your pool water is.  The pH scale runs between 0-14.   Pool water should be kept between 7.2 – 7.8 because that is the pH range of our blood and skin.  When the pH goes to low (below 7.2) a base product is needed to raise the pH (typically Soda Ash).  When the pH goes to high (above 7.8) an acidic product is required to lower the pH (typically Muriatic Acid for in ground pools and Sodium Bisulfate for above ground pools).

Alkalinity: The easiest way to understand Alkalinity is to think of it as pH’s big brother.  In this sense, pH will typically fluctuate before the Alkalinity does.  When the pH goes up, more likely than not, Alkalinity will go up, but at a slower rate.  The same happens when the pH goes down.  Alkalinity can range anywhere from 0 – 300+.  The range is much higher but most pools stay in this level.  The ideal range to keep alkalinity is 80 – 120.  The exact definition of Alkalinity (quoting Wikipedia) is this: “A measure of the ability of a solution to neutralize acids to the equivalence point of carbonate or bicarbonate.”  What does that mean?  Basically Alkalinity is a test to see how much of an overall base solution is in the water to balance out the acidity.  There is no real way to lower Alkalinity besides using Muriatic Acid, Sodium Bisulfate, or some sort of pH- product.  To raise the Alkalinity, use Sodium Bicarbonate.

Ranges:

Chlorine: 1 – 3 (unless shocking the pool, then you want this level around 10)
pH: 7.2 – 7.8 (Ideal range is 7.4 – 7.6)
Alkalinity: 80 – 120

SHOCKING THE POOL –

Shocking the pool is required when having a pool.  Sometimes the normal dosage of chlorine in the water is not enough to kill all the bacteria and impurities that are in the water.  To successfully rid your pool, shocking with chlorine is required.  Powdered chlorine is the most common way to shock the pool and usually there are “shock bags” in the store designed for this purpose.  If you have a salt system, shocking the pool is even easier!  Most salt systems have a designated “super-chlorinate” or “shock” button on them that is used.  Some systems just have a percentage knob for chlorination.  If this is the case, turn the knob to 100%.  If you’ve got both, use both, especially if your pool is a little under-the-weather and looking green.  Always double-check with your user manual on salt systems and always read the chemical bag/boxes for instructions on how to use that specific chemical.

ADMINISTERING CHEMICALS ***IMPORTANT***

ALWAYS ADD CHEMICALS ONE AT A TIME AND GIVE AT LEAST 30 MINUTE – 1 HOUR INTERVALS BETWEEN ADDITION OF OTHER CHEMICALS.  DO NOT MIX CHEMICALS IN WATER UNLESS DIRECTED TO ON THE CHEMICAL’S INSTRUCTIONS.  ALMOST 100% OF ALL CHEMICALS REQURE THAT THEY BE ADDED DIRECTLY TO THE WATER.  NEVER MIX CHEMICALS TOGETHER!!

POOL CLEANERS

Sometimes it can be a hassle to vacuum and clean a pool yourself.  Why not by a pool cleaner?  A pool cleaner is a vacuum that runs off the filtration systems’ suction and cleans the walls of your pool for you.  They cost a little bit of money but it’s totally worth it in the end!  There are also more expensive cleaners that run off the pressure side of your filtration system and will also clean the surface of your pool.  Top of the line cleaners (as I call them, the Cadillac of pool cleaners) are robot pool cleaners.  These run off of electricity and have a built in, machine-washable bag that collects all dirt and debris.  They cost more upfront but save you money in the long run by collecting all the dirt instead of sending it to the filter like suction side cleaners do.

CHEMICAL PERCENTAGES

Sometimes the same product from one brand has a different percentage than another brand’s. Most products have CLOSE TO the same percentage of active chemicals in their products but for some (mostly powdered chlorine products), the percentages can be different. This section will give the percentages of all the chemicals that are listed for use in the Pool Care program.

Alkalinity Up (Sodium Bicarbonate): 100% Sodium Bicarbonate
Soda Ash (Sodium Carbonate or powdered pH+): 100% Sodium Carbonate
Dry Acid (Sodium Bisulfate or powdered pH-): +90% Sodium Bisulfate & +4% Sodium Sulfate
Muriatic Acid (Hydrochloric Acid or liquid pH-): 40% Hydrochloric Acid
Liquid Chlorine: 10-12% Sodium Chloride (The rest is just salt water so it’s best NOT to use liquid chlorine.)
Powdered Chlorine (Di-chlor compound): 55% Di-chlor compound
Shock (Calcium Hypochlorite): 65% Cal Hypo
Tablets (Tri-chlor compound): Tablets greatly differ but it’s best to find tablets that have the HIGHEST percentage of chlorine in them.

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