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Why is it important to keep my pool chemically balanced?

Balanced water is happy water. When you water chemistry is not balanced, it will affect the operation of your pool, the condition of your equipment and surface and the swimming experience for your bathers. If the water is not balanced, it can lead to a lot of issues. Balanced water can protect the pool surface and pool equipment and provide a comfortable swimming environment for bathers.

  • High pH: Scaling Water which causes clogged filters, clogged heater elements, reduced circulation, cloudy water, metal staining; Chlorine inefficiency; Eye/Skin Irritation
  • Low pH: Corrosive Water which causes etching of pool/spa surface, corrosion of metals, staining of surface walls; Wrinkles in Vinyl Liners; Eye/Skin Irritation
  • High Alkalinity: pH Lock – cloudy water, rough pool/spa surfaces, clogged filters, clogged heater elements, reduced circulation
  • Low Alkalinity: pH bounce – etching of pool/spa surface, staining of surface walls, heater failure
  • High Calcium Hardness: Scaling Water which causes rough pool/spa surfaces, clogged filters, cloudy water, clogged heater elements, reduced circulation, eye/skin irritation.
  • Low Calcium Hardness: Corrosive Water – etching of pool/spa surfaces, heater failure. Water becomes aggressive seeking calcium from other sources including through the surface of the pool/spa.
  • High Cyanuric Acid: Cloudy water, Affects alkalinity readings
  • Low Cyanuric Acid: Cannot maintain a sanitizer effectively

My child is allergic to chlorine so we have a salt water pool. We have all hard it. But, a salt water pool still has chlorine. The chlorine is generated on-site through the salt generation system instead of being added in its true chlorine form. The pool salt is added to the pool and that salt water flow through the salt system where electrolysis converts that salt (sodium chloride) into chlorine. That chlorine is used to sanitize and oxidize your pool water and later converts back to salt.

Chlorine levels have guidelines per state. You should check with your state bathing code to see what permissible levels are. Residential pools recommend a level between 1.0-4.0 ppm. Chlorine does not start “bleaching” swimsuits until higher levels upwards of 30-40 ppm. And chlorine does not turn your hair green! When you bleach things, you whiten them. If you are seeing “green” hair, it is minerals in your water that is being deposited onto people’s hair.

Algae need nutrients, sunlight and a place to grow. The best way to prevent algae is to maintain a proper sanitizer level and brush. Algae needs to have something to cling onto and grow. If you are consistently brushing, it will help prevent it from getting n those crevices and areas of poor circulation. Green algae is the most common and tends to make its presence known when we get a few days of high heat. Black algae shows up in areas of poor circulation like deep end corner, step corners and behind ladders. Yellow algae is a bit stubborn and resistant to chlorine. If you get yellow algae, be sure to follow manufacturer’s directions on the yellow algae product. And remember, algae can be transferred from pool to pool. If you are vacationing, make sure to clean your swimsuits well before taking them home.

Maintaining a proper sanitizer level, and showering before entering the pool, are the best ways to help prevent developing a recreational water illness (RWI). Not all organisms are easily controlled by chlorine, so it is important to encourage those who have had diarrhea to not use the pool for two weeks. Those that can be controlled by chlorine require time for it to take effect. The CDC has found that proper chlorine levels can kill most organisms that cause RWIs within minutes. However, it takes longer to kill some germs such as Cryptosporidium.

The term 'shock' is used in the pool industry as both a noun and a verb. When you want to buy 'shock', it is describing the sanitizer you use. This includes calcium hypochlorite, lithium hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite. Pool stores will generally sell a small package of 'shock' which is typically calcium hypochlorite flakes. When you need to 'shock' the pool, you are raising your sanitizer level to 10 ppm. Whatever type of sanitizer you are using be sure to follow chemical precautions and wear your personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves, goggles and chemical masks. If you are going to shock, always add the chemical to the water and not the water to the chemical. Also, be aware that calcium generates a lot of heat when diluted. As a rule of thumb, it s recommended to shock pools at least once a week to oxidize bather waste, kill off any bacteria that may be growing and maintain your sanitizer level.

As mentioned above, shocking is raising your sanitizer level to 10 ppm. Performing breakpoint super chlorination is what is performed when you need to rid the pool of combined chlorine. Your total chlorine reading (TAC) is comprised of free available chlorine (FAC) and combined chlorine (CAC). Ideally, you want no combined chlorine, although many codes and standards recommend less than 0.2 ppm. If you need to get rid of CAC, you need to perform breakpoint superchlorination to determine the amount of sanitizer needed to break the bond between the nitrates and the chlorine ion. When breakpoint occurs, that bond is broken and the nitrates are gassed off leaving the chlorine ion in the pool water ready to sanitize. You can learn how to perform breakpoint superchlorination here.

When you are at an indoor facility and you smell the chlorine, the inclination is to think the chlorine is too high. But, what you actually smell are the nitrates, sulfates and bather waste that irritate eyes and the respiratory system as a result of combined chlorine. In this case, there is not enough chlorine. This is when breakpoint superchlorination needs to be performed.

When there is a fecal accident in the pool, you need to take it seriously. You want to clear the pool of users. Then, remove the fecal release with a skimmer net, bucket or some other carrying vessel. Put the object you used to remove the fecal release in the pool. Then, you want to superchlorinate the pool according to CDC guidelines.

Not every ear ache, your child gets is from swimming pool. In fact, swimmer’s ear is different than the typical middle ear infection your child typically will suffer from. Get information here.

Your pool surface can be stained by many different sources including environmental sources (I.e., leaves, acorns, etc.), minerals (I.e., copper, iron, manganese, etc.), chlorine, improper water chemistry and more. The longer the stain stays on the surface, the harder it is to remove. For isolated surface stains can, you can try a stain treatment (always follow manufacturer’s directions). For more encompassing discoloration, an acid wash may help. An acid wash will also remove a layer of your pool plaster during the process. If you are going to use chlorine to treat a stain, please consult a pool professional.

For staining and build up on your tile line, there are tile cleansers that can be used (again follow manufacturer’s directions). On vinyl liner pools, the scum line and steps can be with non-abrasive cleaners. We have found that the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is highly effective with cleaning stains on residential fiberglass steps.

Be careful with the chemicals you use. Make sure they are for vinyl liners and be sure whatever you put directly into the pool dissolves before it hits the bottom. Lithium hypochlorite, while a bit more expensive, is great for vinyl liners. And no matter what surface, please do not throw the tablets or pucks into the pool and let them sit on the surface. That will leave a stain.

Vinyl liner pools require soft bristle brushes and vinyl liner vacuum heads for manual vacuuming. Be careful while cleaning to ensure you do not puncture, tear or rip the liner. Limit the use of automatic cleaners, running them only when the pool needs cleaning and not letting them sit in one spot for too long. Consistent wear and tear can weaken an area. Also, beware of letting your canine friends in a vinyl liner pool as their nails have been the culprit of many ripped liners.

When the liner starts to lose elasticity, it can start to come out of the track. Eventually the part of the liner that is above water level and exposed to the most afternoon sun will start to fade and bleach and become weak points in the liner. A pool professional can easily tuck it back in to help extend the lifespan of the liner.

Generally it is safe to use your pool after chemicals have dispersed throughout the pool. Industry standards recommend one turnover which varies by state for commercial pools, usually between 6-8 hours. That is generally why chemical adjustments are typically done at night. Residential pools are between 8-12 hours.

Commercial pools need to follow bathing code regulations for how often water needs to be tested. However, you may need to test more often if your bather load dictates. For residential pools, it is recommended to test at least twice a week, and always after parties. It is best to have a chemical feeder of some type to continuously feed your sanitizer and maintain proper levels.

It is not recommended to store chemicals on your property from year to year to use in the next season. Chemicals do expire, and lose their potency. In addition, you need to be concerned about properly chemical storage and protecting people from possible chemical exposure. If you intend to disposes of chemicals, do not dispose of chemicals in the household trash or down any drains or toilets. You can ask your pool professional to remove and properly dispose of any leftover chemicals, as well as purchase new ones at the next season’s start.

Just as you would hire an experienced, professional home inspector to inspect your home, you want to do the same with your pool. Currently, in the state of California, there is no licensing requirement for pool companies. But, that is going to be changing. Pool companies will be required different levels of certifications in order to perform different types of services, as well as building them. You want to make sure you select an inspector that can tell about the condition of operation of all the pool equipment, the safety equipment, the structural integrity and if they meet applicable codes and regulations.

Also, with pool inspections, be warned of those that tell you they can perform an inspection when the pool is in a closed or winterized state. When a pool is winterized properly, the lines will have been “blown out” and plugged to avoid winter freeze/thaw damage from pipes that contract and expand in the variable Northeast climate. (You know, one day it is 60 degrees and the next day it snows!) When the line is plugged, the system cannot be turned on to allow water to flow through the equipment (pump, filter, heater, chemical feeder, etc.) and piping. If water is not flowing through the system, the inspector would be unable to opine on the proper operation of the equipment and possible leaks.

Diving boards can be a lot of fun, but also increases your odds of injury. Diving boards need to be properly installed to set standards to ensure it meets tolerances and slope requirements. We also recommend removing diving boards to help you. If you have a diving board, ensure it was installed properly and meets standards. Also, be sure to inspect it often for delamination, cracks, wobbles and loose bolts. We always promote safety first.

Evaporation in pools is a normal occurrence. It is typical to lose up to ½” of water a day from evaporation. If you think you have a leak, look for signs including overgrown patches of grass, multiple water stain level lines, bubbles from your returns, closed valves, missing or warped gaskets and more. You can perform a basic bucket test to see if you have a leak. Place a five gallon bucket on the second pool step and fill it to match the water level of the pool and leave it in place for 2-3 days. Be aware of that water will be lost from evaporation and gained from rain water but this will occur in both your pool and the bucket. Do not backwash during this time. If the pool level drops more than the bucket, then you have a leak and it is recommended to have leak detection performed.

If you have an important event coming up and you plan to use your pool for this function you should be testing and preparing the pool weeks in advance. It is certainly understandable that your water can suddenly take a turn for the worse 24 hours before the party, but more commonly the pool is not currently balanced or clear, or requires extensive repairs. Leaving your pool to the last minute is a big mistake. If your pool is currently requiring repair then do not book a party until after it is fixed. If you want to have a pool party first thing in the year plan to open your pool and begin to balance the water a minimum of two weeks before the event. This will give you ample time to deal with any potential repairs that may have come up from a long winter season. If you suspect you will need a service technician be sure to call as early in the season as possible to schedule an appointment. During peak periods many pool professionals will be working sun up, to sun down, every day so you can end up waiting if you are too far down on the list.

It is not scientifically possible to tell whether pool or spa water is balanced by eye. Our eyes are useful for all kinds of great stuff like looking at loved ones, or swimming pools, but as far as advanced water chemistry analysis goes the human eye leaves much to be desired. The lack of understanding of proper water chemistry values is the number one cause of premature swimming pool component failure. While it is possible that you have been lucky enough to own a pool for 10 years without balancing your water properly, adopting this attitude towards water chemistry is going to cost you one day. It might cost you a new liner 5 years early, or it might cost you a bacterial infection, but rest assured if you rely on visual inspection of your pool and spa water you are going to have a bad time. At the very least you need to test the water for total alkalinity, calcium hardness and pH in addition to the sanitizer levels. To do this you will need a reliable pool test kit.

When you see deficiencies with your swimming pool, have them fixed right away. Just like with a car if you ignore the smaller things when they break you will eventually end up needing to replace something that is much more expensive down the road. You would be shocked to know how few pool problems can actually be resolved with duct tape, silicone and epoxy. If you have holes everywhere in your liner and the corners have not been in the coping track for as long as you can remember then you are overdue. Concrete pool tiles falling off – Can’t you just put them back on? Sure, but there is a reason they fell off right?

Of course nobody wants to spend thousands of dollars to fix something they already have but to put a swimming pool in context against other luxury items ask yourself this question – how many yacht owners patch up their problems with duct tape for 'one more year'. Owning a pool is a financial responsibility with a steep learning curve for pool owners that have a tendency to let things go longer than they should. Bite the bullet and get the work done and in the long term you will be rewarded for this.

We love our homeowners, but please do not do any preemptive work on our behalf unless we specifically instruct you to do so. A vinyl pool requires water to keep the liner in place but if you are getting the liner replaced who cares right? Wrong. The water helps to protect the slopes and floors quite a bit and you could very likely buy yourself some additional floor repairs from draining early. Concrete pools should not be drained unless the ground water around the pool is controlled and you typically pull the hydrostatic relief valves during the course of the repair. Fiberglass pools should not ever be drained by the pool owner and doing so can cause permanent failure. Please let us do our job.

Our team prides ourselves on being highly educated and trained. We ALL make it our job to be able to serve you. If you have any questions, contact us.