Inground pool care the cheap and easy way
Spend less time cleaning your pool and more time swimming in it!
Too many pool owners spend hours every week (if not every day!) working on their pools to keep them clean and sparkling. In fact, they probably spend more time working on their pools than they do swimming in them!
That used to be me, but not anymore. In this lens, I'll share my tips for how you can take care of your pool the easy way so you can enjoy it more! Spend less money on chemicals and energy. Spend less time measuring, skimming, brushing, and cleaning. Spend more time swimming and enjoying your pool!
I'm not trying to sell you anything. No books, no subscriptions. All the information here is completely free. I do provide links to products so you can see what I'm talking about and to make it easy for you if you do want to buy them - but you can just as well learn what you need to know here and buy the products from your local pool store.
This tutorial is written for inground chlorine pools. If you have an above ground or a bromine pool, then the tips I share may not work for you.
Easy pool care secret #1
Consistency and Patience
The secret to easy pool care is simple. You need to be consistent, and you need to be patient.
Most pool problems are the pool owner's fault. If a pool owner sees a problem, the first thing they do is throw in a chemical to fix it. That then changes the chemistry of the pool, creating another problem. So they throw in another chemical to fix that. And another. And another. The pool gets confused, you get confused, and now you have so many problems with your pool to treat that you don't know what to do.
Start by understanding the basics of pool chemistry. Then, armed with that knowledge, you can be consistent with your pool care. If you pair that consistency with the patience to let it work, you'll find yourself fighting your pool less and enjoying it more.
Pool chemistry made simple
You can't take care of your pool if you don't understand it
Easy pool care requires you to manage only two primary chemistry variables - Chlorine and Ph.
Of course, there are lots of other variables (including total alkalinity, hardness, and stabilizer) but on a day-to-day basis you shouldn't have to worry about them. If you have your pool opened professionally, your pool technicians should take care of those at opening and normally you'll be good for the entire season. If you open your pool on your own, adjust your stabilizer, hardness, and alkalinity first and give your pool a couple of weeks to settle.
So what are Chlorine and Ph? Let's start with Ph, as that's the more complicated of the two.
Easy pool care secret #2 - Get a good basic test kit
You don't need anything fancy - just a basic 4-way test kit like the one below. Don't use strips because they are not accurate. Replace your reagents every year so that you know your results are accurate.
Buy a refill pack like this every year
Start with a basic 4-way test kit like this one
Managing your Ph
What is Ph anyway?
Ph is a measure of how acidic or alkaline your water is. Ph levels between 7.2 and 7.8 are acceptable, with 7.4 to 7.6 being ideal. Most pools will not stay at in the ideal range on their own. Depending on the composition of your pool liner and the natural Ph of rain in your area, you will find that your pool tends to drift consistently either up or down from ideal.
One key of easy pool care is knowing what your pool's drift direction is. Concrete or tile pools may drift up (more alkaline) because of the calcium content that leaches into the pool water. Pools in acid rain areas (like upstate NY) may drift down (more acidic) because of the acid content of the rainfall.
Once you know which way your pool drifts - don't fight it! If your pool drifts down, buy a big bucket of Ph Up. If it drifts up, buy a big bucket of Ph Down. Don't ever adjust your pool in the direction that it drifts - just be patient and wait for it. I live in an acid rain area and tend to add Ph Up about every 3 or 4 weeks. I never need Ph Down, because the pool Ph drifts down on its own.
Ph only needs to be measured once a week. I like to keep it in the low range (around 7.4) because Chlorine is actually more effective when Ph is lower.
Important tip on adding chemicals to adjust Ph. Spread them over as wide an area as you can. If you concentrate the chemicals in one area (especially Ph Up) they will tend to adjust your total alkalinity in addition to changing the Ph. You should only adjust total alkalinity if your Ph drifts rapidly (requiring adjustment every week), or doesn't drift consistently.
Managing your Chlorine
Chlorine keeps your pool water clean
Chlorine is the magic ingredient in a pool. It's like mouthwash - it kills the germs that cause problems. If you manage your chlorine well, you won't ever have to worry about problems like algae, because the chlorine will kill it before it even starts.
You don't need to check your chlorine daily. If you're not using your pool, then check it once a week. If you are using your pool, check it before or after each use.
Chlorine doesn't like sunlight. Sunlight breaks down chlorine. If you keep your pool covered with a solar cover when not in use, you will use less chlorine.
Easy pool care secret #3 - Use 3" Chlorine Tabs
3" chlorine tabs are a great way to keep chlorine in your pool. Just put a tab in your pump basket and let it sit there. Depending on the size of your pool and how many hours you run your pump, a 3" tab should last 3 or 4 days.
What about shock? - What is shock anyway?
Lots of people say you need to shock your pool every 2 weeks. This an unnecessary waste of time and money. Only shock your pool when it needs it.
How do I know when my pool needs to be shocked?
Tip - not as often as you think!
Chlorine works by oxidizing stuff in your pool. To do this, the chlorine molecules must be free - that is, they can't be bound to anything else. Chlorine molecules like to bind to other molecules, so over time your chlorine becomes less and less effective. Shocking your pool frees up the chlorine you have so that it can work again.
When you measure your chlorine, if the water in the test kit immediately turns yellow that means you have a lot of free chlorine so you don't need to shock. If, on the other hand, it starts out pale yellow and slowly turns darker so that the initial reading is different than the reading five minutes later, then you need to shock because most of your chlorine has become bound and isn't free to attack the germs in your pool.
How do I shock my pool?
1 pound bags make it easy.
Use a single one pound bag of shock for every 10,000 gallons of water in your pool. For a standard 18' x 36' rectangular pool with an 8' deep end, you'll need 4 bags of shock.
Get a big bucket (empty 3" chlorine tab buckets are great!) and fill it with water from your pool. Dump a shock bag into the water, then stir it to dissolve the granules. Slowly pour the mixture into your pool while walking along the edge.
Make sure you don't wear your good clothes - you are likely to get bleach spots!
Easy pool care secret #4 - Get a robot!
Having an automatic pool vacuum makes like much easier!
You don't have to spent thousands of dollars on a fancy robot, though. Just get a basic one like the ones below. They will save hours of cleaning time!
They are also great to put in after adding shock or Ph adjustments. Instead of brushing up all the chemicals, your automatic pool vacuum will suck everything up for you.
Automatic Pool Vacuums
All photos are used under Creative Commons license
Thanks for checking out my lens! I hope you found it useful, and would love to get your feedback. I'd also love to hear any pool care tips that you might have to share.