Weekly Pool Maintenance
An inground swimming pool requires weekly maintenance during the "swimming season". Depending upon where you live, this season can range in the number of weeks you will have to set aside a little extra time to be sure your pool and its mechanical components are functioning at a proper level.
Here in Florida, with a pool heater we can swim all year long, so pool maintenance becomes a ritual for some owners. Others just hire a service company to come out and worry about it for them. That is always an option, and in most warm climates there is no shortage of pool service companies out there.
If you are going to handle it yourself, you will need to have a few items on hand at all times. You will need:
1. A chemical test kit. You need to test the pH, calcium hardness, alkalinity, chlorine, and cyanauric acid at a bare minimum.
2. Cleaning supplies. An automatic pool vacuum is a great item to have, but you still need to have the good old manual stuff like a brush, pole, hose and leaf net.
3. Chemicals. Sounds too obvious not to list. Once you test your water, unless you live in a bubble, you will probably have to add some type of chemical to make it right. The ones I will talk about are muriatic acid, cyanuric acid, sodium bicarbonate, and calcium chloride.
4. A hose. Here in Florida it is really hot. It is not uncommon to lose a an inch or two of pool water to evaporation every week or two if we haven't gotten any substantial rain.
If you've gotten a pool, now you need to know how to keep it "balanced", right? Well, you could pay a pool service company every month to come out and do it for you. This will range in cost depending upon what size pool you have, where you live, whether it is salt chlorinated or not, whether it is screen enclosed or not, and so on...
Or, you could learn the basics of doing it yourself! It really isn't that hard, however it may be time consuming. Maintaining your pool and its chemical balance is not a once a month chore. It is a continuous process that needs to be checked weekly during the swimming season. There are many things that alter the waters chemical state. Things like urine (I know its gross, but lets face it, it happens...especially if you have kids in the pool); make-up; hair products; natural skin oils; sun tan oils and lotions; and organic matter (skin, leaves, pine needles, dead bugs, etc) all play a role.
The basic components of pool water chemistry are a disinfecting agent, pH, alkalinity, and calcium hardness. Some of the more prevalent reasons that chemical balance is so utterly necessary in your pool include your families health. Untreated water provides a great place for bacteria and disease to grow as well as amoebas and insect larvae. This can irritate your skin, eyes and hair as well as your well-being. Another good reason is that your pool was probably a significant investment, and improper balance will affect and ultimately destroy your pools finish and mechanical components. The water will also grow algae or turn cloudy making it ugly and undesirable to swim in.
Chemicals to maintain pH
pH is on of the most important measurements, telling you how basic or acidic your water is. It is technically a measure of hydrogen ion in the water. On a scale of 0 - 14, 0 is acid, 14 is basic, and 7 is neutral. A swimming pool is best suited for swimmers at a pH of 7.2-7.8, and I'll tell you why:
An acidic pH is not only bad for our bodies, it is bad for the finish of the pool. If your pH is reading lower than a 7, the water will begin to etch your pools plaster finish, it will corrode any metal parts or fittings in your pool, pump, and filter, it will throw your alkalinity(I'll talk about alkalinity in a second) out of whack, and it will irritate human eyes and skin.
A basic or alkaline pH is also harmful to our bodies and the swimming pool itself. A pH above 8 will also irritate your eyes, but rather than etching your pool, it will form a scale build-up.
If your pH is high, you can lower it by adding muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate. Your chemical test kit should give you instructions on running an acid demand test which will tell you how much acid you should add based off of the size of your pool in gallons and how far from the normal or "balanced" range your pH is off. Once you know how much to add, the best distribution method is to walk around the perimeter of your pool slowly pouring the acid into the pool's water. This will get it disbursed more evenly than if you just poured it in one spot. It also prevents any damage the straight acid could do to your pool. Be very careful when working with acid as it is dangerous and can give you chemical burns.
If your pH is too low, you would use Sodium Carbonate or Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) to raise the pH. Again, either the product label, or your test kit will give you a guide of how much you should add. This is a powder like substance that you can add slowly to the skimmer.
Disinfection & Stabilization
Most pool owners use chlorine as a disinfecting agent. Chlorine tablets are commonly made of calcium hypochlorite, or you may pour sodium hypochlorite or liquid chlorine into your pools water. Other options are bromide and salt chlorination which has become quite popular.
The chemical reaction of chlorine and water produces hypochlorous acid which kills the unwanted organisms in the water. Hypochlorous acid, also known as the "free chlorine" in your pool, is not a very stable compound, so we use cyanuric acid to help balance it. You would by Cyanuric Acid in the form of "Stabilizer" at your local pool supply store.
Alkalinity is the ability of water to resist changes in pH. It's main function is to prevent pH bounce. When you measure for alkalinity, you are measuring the amount of alkaline substances in the water...such as, carbonates and bicarbonates. Your alkalinity should measure between 80-120 ppm for a gunite swimming pool, but can be slightly higher for vinyl or fiberglass with a range of 125-170 ppm. To raise or lower alkalinity, you would use the same chemicals as you would to raise and lower pH. The only real difference is that some pool service professionals recommend "pooling" the acid in one general area rather than distributing it all aroundthe pool as I described for pH.
A measurement of calcium hardness is a measurement of how hard or soft your pools water is. Your water can become either undersaturated or oversaturated with calcium and magnesium leading to water problems. Oversaturation can lead to scale build-up, and undersaturation can cause etching on your pools finish. Calcium hardenss should be maintained between 200ppm and 400 ppm.
If your test reveals low calcium content you need to add calcium chloride. You can purchase this online or at your local pool supply store as a flaked calcium salt that you pour slowly into your skimmer to allow it to dispurse throughout your pool. If you have too much calcium hardness, the very best way to get rid of it is to dilute your pool water. Drain 1-2' at a time and replace the oversaturated water with a lower calcium content water. Before you go to all of the trouble of doing this, you should check your water source. It is possible that your well or city water is high in calcium to start with and will not benefit you.
There are chemical additives available that claim to lower the calcium hardness without removing and replacing any water.
brushing your pool
It is important to remember that you need to periodically brush your pools walls and tile line. We install tile at the water line because it is a relatively easy surface to clean. All of the small floating debris, and body oils can buildup on the tile creating a visible line...you don't want that! Also, concrete pools have been knows to harbor algae, so it isa good idea to brush the walls of the pool while you are brushing off the tile. This can help ensure you don't have anything adhering to the pool finish. When brushing, always brush debris toward the main drain, so it can be sucked into the filtration systen and removed from the water.
Basic Pool Maintenance
cleaning the skimmer and pump baskets
You should check and empty the skimmer basket at least once a week...even more often if you have an un-covered and un-enclosed pool. All you have to do is reach down into the skimmer, pull out the basket, and dump it out.
You also should check the pump catch basket weekly. Larger objects like leaves that are vacuumed up or sucked into the main drains will be caught here. To empty it, you need to turn the pump off, open the air releif valve on the filter if you have one, loosen and remove the pump strainer lid, grab the basket and dump it out, then replace the lid (hand tighten), and turn the pump back on. If your filter is equipped with an air release valve, wait until water comes out of it then close the valve.