ARTICLE Jason Burgess
While that ‘maintenance’ be a dirty word to many, innovations in automated cleaning, filtering and sensor systems now take the headache out of scheduled water treatments. Even so, there are still a few pool basics that should not be overlooked.
Pool maintenance begins with surface ‘skimming’ to remove floating debris. There are two types of skimmer: the hand held, fine mesh net on a pole, which is used manually for larger items. And, the in-built pool skimmer – usually located on the upper edge of the pool – that works when the pump and filter is running.
Water is sucked through the skimmer basket on its way to the filter. Fitting a “skimmer sock” over the skimmer basket helps trap finer pollens and particles. A pool’s skimmer basket should be cleaned out every couple of days.
Robotic or manual vacuums remove dust and dirt from the bottom of the pool. Pools should be vacuumed once a week. Regular brushing of the pool walls will loosen particles for the vacuum to pick up. Plaster-lined, concrete walls benefit from a stiff-bristled brush, while tile, vinyl and fibreglass walls require a soft-bristled brush. Brush your pool before vacuuming. For the best filter health, backwash the filter after each pool clean.
Sand filters are the most popular filtration system, but long-lasting glass media and cartridge systems are common too. Sand filters must be “backwashed” and treated with a special sand-cleaning chemical. Cartridge filters are removed and sprayed with a garden hose.
Beads of glass are a new filter medium. The benefit of these is that they are finer than sand, require less backwashing and have a longer life-span than sand. All filtration media should be replaced when they fail to maintain clear water in the pool.
It is good practice to run the filter at least eight hours a day. Filters are equipped with a pressure gauge. If the pressure is too high, the filter is not functioning properly. The force of this pressure can cause the tank to rupture.
The pool pump is essential to pool health. Better pumps offer superior water flow rates and longevity. If the pump motor fails, water cannot circulate, heat or filter. Regularly check the filter on the pump. Blockages here or in the skimmer basket can cause decreases in water circulation rates and eventually the pump burns out. A danger sign for any pump is water leaking from the pump, causing an audible whistle or hum while the pump is running. It could be bearings or a seal, so check the pump motor regularly and address problems as early as possible.
A good chemical balance
In summer, a pool’s PH levels need to be tested at least three times a week to maintain good chemical balance. Excessively acidic water can damage pool surfaces, equipment and even skin. Water that is too alkaline may clog filters and cloud the water – this can cause eyes and nose burn and/or dry and itchy skin. Only add chemicals while the pool pump is running.
Alternatively, ionizers and UV light disinfection systems are chlorine and salt-chlorinator replacement systems. Ionizers were developed by NASA and use a low-level current between copper and silver electrodes to generate positive mineral ions that destroy waterborne algae and automatically control PH levels. Ultraviolet uses an energy efficiency UV lamp to purify water. Ionizers and ultraviolet systems can be retrofitted to any pool.
Keeping your water level
A pool loses water through natural evaporation, splashing and bathers’ movements in and out. Make sure the water level is half way up the pool’s skimmer to avoid sucking in air and possibly ruining the pump. A pool that needs regular topping up may have a leak. To diagnose a leak, fill a plastic bucket three-quarters full then mark the water line on the inside. Float it in the pool or set it on the steps and mark the waterline of the pool on the outside of the bucket. After two or three days, compare the water lines. If the amount lost is the same, then water loss is due to evaporation. If there is a disparity between the bucket line and the line of water inside, you have a leak.
A landscaping specialist can help determine whether the leak starts at the filter or in the pool itself. Earth movement can cause hairline cracks within in-ground pools. Water must be drained below the level of the crack for repairs.
Keeping your walls in tact
Chemical damage and temperatures variation can cause chipping or flaking in concrete pools. Regular repainting every three-to-five years or replastering every 10-15 years, will give the ultimate protection. Also, check the tile trims for cracking or loose tiles. Fibreglass pools can fade, chip and discolour. Older fibreglass pools – out of warranty – can be revived with a coat of epoxy paint.
If a pool is out of action over winter, clean and vacuum, and add an algaecide or an extra dose of chlorine to the water before covering. If the filtering system is to be turned off, then it should be backwashed first. A pool cover will keep a pool secure and debris out. When swimming season comes around again, open up, clear debris and clean the cover. Refill the pool to its normal level, restart the circulation system, clean the pool, backwash the filter and leave the system running for at least 40hours or until the pool water clears. Then, dive in!
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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.