Category Archives: Pool & Spa Tips

Winter Pool Closing Checklist

Massachusetts winters bring an abundance of snow and frigid temperatures. If you live in New England, or in another place where the temperature dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need to winterize your swimming pool before the cold months.

The good news? We have put together an easy-to-follow checklist to help you close like a pro and set you up for an easy opening in the spring.

1. Perform Inspection & Repairs

☐ Is your equipment all functioning properly?
☐ Is your swimming pool structurally sound?
☐ Does your pool cover over have any rips or tears that need patching? Stop by our Retail Store for a safety cover patch if yours needs repair.
☐ Fix any issues prior to winterizing.

2. Clean it Like You Mean it

☐ Thoroughly vacuum and skim your pool to remove all debris, or run your robotic pool cleaner a few times prior to closing.
☐ Backwash or clean the pool filter to remove all dirt from the system.

3. Work on Your Water

☐ Check your water chemistry 5-7 days before closing.
☐ Test and balance your alkalinity, pH and calcium hardness.
☐ Shock your pool with chlorine a 2-3 days after balancing the water. We recommend a cold weather enzyme treatment like Natural Chemistry Pool Magic Spring and Fall.
☐ Add a winterizing algaecide right before covering your pool. Be sure you’ve waited the requisite 2-3 days after adding shock, when chlorine levels return to somewhere between 1-3 ppm.
☐ Water must be lowered for the closing. We recommend lowering the water 18-24” below the top of the pool. This allows for rain to replenish the level to at least 18” below the cover before the snow and ice accumulate.

  • Pools with tarp covers must have the water level 2-3″
    below the skimmer.
  • Be careful not to lower the water too much in vinyl pools, the liner can float and cause serious problems.
  • If your water level goes down further than 18″, your pool cover can stretch, rip or cause damage to cover springs and anchors.
  • Rain and snow will fill the pool over the winter.  Continue to monitor your pool water level, ensuring it is below the tile line but not more than 18” below the cover.
  • “Maintaining the proper water level in your pool is a key
    factor in supporting the weight of any debris (including snow and ice) that may collect on the pool cover. Water levels that fall below the recommended level may put excess stress on the cover, which might result in damage and voiding of the cover’s warranty. You can check the water levels by clearing any debris that has collected in the skimmer box. If the levels are low, be sure to add enough water to reach the
    recommended levels.” – LOOP-LOC

    • Guidelines for mesh and solid safety covers:
      • Mesh & Solid Pool Covers: 18″ below the top of the pool.

4. Protect Your Plumbing

☐ Drain all water from your plumbing lines including your pump, filter, heater, chlorinators and chemical feeders. Draining your lines completely (or blowing them out with a Shop-Vac) will ensure that your pipes won’t crack in freezing temperatures and cause major issues in the spring.
☐ “If you have an in-ground pool, you should blow out the lines from the skimmer, through the equipment and back to the pool, then plug the lines at the pool using expansion plugs. If you don’t blow the lines, add swimming pool antifreeze into the lines following manufacturer’s package directions. If you have an above-ground pool, you usually just need to disconnect the hoses to and from the pump and filter and plug the wall outlets.” – Hayward Pool Products

5. Remove the Extras

☐ Put away your ladders, toys, ropes, baskets, hoses, fittings, pumps, heaters, filters and any other equipment from your pool area. Rinse everything off, allow it to dry and consider storing it all in a waterproof container that animals cannot get into.
☐ Fully drain your robotic cleaner and remove the reusable filter bag. Neatly coil up the power cable and store your robotic pool cleaner and accessories in a warm,
dry location.
☐ Store the eyeball fittings, drain caps, plugs, and gauges in the skimmer basket so you know exactly where to find them in the spring.
☐ Store any equipment plugs in the pump basket so they don’t get lost.
☐ Keep everything clean, dry and organized to help you
prolong the life of your pool and equipment.

6. Cover Time

☐ Make sure you have an intact, properly fitting pool cover.

  • Covers that do not fit properly (you can see gaps) will leave your pool exposed to the elements.
  • Use a mesh or solid pool cover and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure proper installation.

The closing process varies for in-ground and above ground pools. For additional pool closing information, be sure to check out the links below for pool-specific tips from our friends at Swim University.

How to Close An In-Ground Pool in 6 Steps

How to Close An Above Ground Pool in 6 Steps

It is a bummer that pool season has come to an end, but when spring rolls around you will be happy to have taken the necessary steps in the fall for an easier opening in the spring.

 

Is it Pool Closing Time?

Choosing the best time to close your pool feels like a game played against Mother Nature. In New England, we follow the mantra “If you don’t like the weather just wait a minute.” It can be particularly tricky in the northeast to get your pool closing timing just right.

Early Close Woes

Did you know it can actually be a detriment to close too early? If the weather is still warm, your winter pool chemicals will not be sufficient to keep algae at bay. You’ll be even more disappointed when you open your pool next season to find it green, algae stained and in need of an abundance of TLC. Avoid having to drain and refill your pool or the expensive, labor intensive process of cleaning by increasing your chemical cocktail.

Photo credits: Hayward Pool

Keys to a Successful Close

As a general rule, avoid closing your pool until temperatures are consistently below 65℉. To play it really safe, wait until temps are averaging 50℉ or below. Pay attention to the forecast and your pool thermometer to be sure summer weather is over before starting the closing process. There is a perfect window of time when the summer fades away and autumn begins, right before the first hard frost of winter sets in. This is the ideal time to close your pool.

Have your water tested by a professional so you know exactly the amount and kinds of chemicals you will need to get through fall, winter and much of the spring. Keep in mind, if you’re hiring a professional to close your pool, schedule your closing well in advance as they are really busy this time of year (especially the good ones!). A well-timed close in the fall will set you up for a successful opening in the spring. Winterizing your pool properly prevents damage, costly repairs, and additional expenses.

If you need assistance winterizing your pool or have further questions on the topic, please contact us at (781) 383-3300. We’re happy to help!

Protecting Your Pool Deck from Winter Weather

As much as we love time in the pool, we also love time spent around it. Your pool deck is a place for your family and friends to gather, a place to host meals and entertain. We spend so much time making sure your pool is winterized, we often neglect the deck that surrounds it. Before winter hits, take these steps to properly protect and maintain your pool deck.

Step 1

Sweep your deck to remove all leaves, loose dirt and other debris. A basic broom should do the trick to remove all of the bigger debris and make step 2 easier.

Step 2

Once your decking is clear of debris, use a power washer to get a more thorough clean. Whether wood, cement, stone, brick or composite, your deck should be power washed to remove ground-in dirt and stains from everyday use.

Step 3

Remove and store your deck furniture, potted plants, grill, fire features, and anything else that may invite mold and mildew to grow. Moving these items will help avoid staining that will be hard to remove come spring.

Step 4

For a wood deck, stain and/or seal your decking to add a layer of protection from the ice and snow. Sealing your deck will also protect against moisture and sun when it is pool season again.

For concrete decking, seal the concrete in the fall and be prepared to fix potential cracks that can occur from freezing and thawing throughout the winter.

Step 5

When winter weather hits, shovel your wooden deck to remove snow from your pool decking. Avoid corrosive products like ice melt and salt that will cause damage to your decking material. By shoveling after every storm, you will help to avoid moisture and snow weight from causing issues with your deck’s integrity. Select a shovel without a metal edge to avoid scratching your deck’s surface.

Step 6

Consider a deck cover that will further protect your decking from winter woes.

Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to maintaining a beautiful entertainment space for your family and guests to enjoy year after year.

Need your patio or deck power washed? We offer power washing services. Contact us today at (781) 383-3300 to schedule this service.

Pool Landscaping to Love

Photo credits: Cipriano Pools of NJ.

When it comes to your poolside oasis, beautiful landscaping can add both an aesthetic appeal and functionality. Set yourself up for success with plants that compliment your space and bring you joy.

Landscaping vs. Hardscaping

Whether you’re starting from scratch or sprucing up an existing patio area, you will want to account for both landscaping and hardscaping. The landscaping will consist of trees, plants, shrubs, flowers any other vegetation you choose to accent your space. As the name implies, hardscaping consists of hard features like stone walls, pathways, fountains, decks and water features.

Design for Functionality, Style & Safety

For most homeowners, your swimming pool serves as the focal point of your backyard. The landscaping and hardscaping should compliment both your home and pool.

Choose hardscape materials that speak to your sense of design, are durable, and make sense for your climate. Most importantly, keep safety top of mind. Choose products that will not become slippery when wet or when walking barefoot. Become familiar with your state building codes to avoid any potential design problems.

Pro Tip: Be sure to plan your landscaping so you leave enough room to accommodate your pool cover!

Photo credits: Home & Style KC

Landscaping elements bring life to a backyard. Trees provide shade and a habitat for birds and other animals while bushes and shrubs offer privacy and help prevent soil erosion. Vibrant flowers add beauty, fragrance and color while vines and ivy can supply attractive wall and ground cover. Don’t forget native perennial plants such as ornamental grasses that last through the seasons and come back year after year.

Avoid plants that drop a lot of leaves or debris in or around your pool. Be careful not to plant trees where they will grow to block sunlight from shining on your pool. It’s also a good idea to stay away from flowers that have thorns or will attract bees around the pool area.

Get creative, make a plan, consult with a local nursery or landscaping professional to learn which plants will thrive in your climate zone.

Photo credits: Tampa Magazine

Finishing Touches

Once your backyard plan is in motion, take a minute to consider the details. Now that you’ve revamped your landscaping, you will need either automatic irrigation or easy access to a hose for watering. Create a convenient place to store your gardening tools.

Consider adding LED solar lighting to your pool and pathways to make navigating at night safer. The right lighting can help soften the space and set the mood. Hanging overhead lights can provide enough lighting to barbecue or play yard games. Resist the temptation to hang them over the pool as this is not a safe practice and they are not intended for this use.

With your landscaping complete, be sure to make time to enjoy the results of your hard work!

Cooling Your Pool Water

In the hottest summer months, your pool water may get so hot that it is no longer refreshing to swim in. If you find yourself in this predicament, there are several solutions you could try to cool your pool to the optimal temperature.

Install a water fountain, feature or
waterfall.

Movement in your water, whether that’s air or forced water, helps it stay cooler than if the water were to sit still. As the water moves, evaporation removes some of the heat. We recommend operating your water features at night when the air temperature is cooler for maximum impact.

Invest in a reversible heat pump or pool cooler.

According to heat pump manufacturer AquaCal, “Heat pumps use a refrigerant to maintain a specified swimming pool water temperature by running either heating or cooling cycles.” Run your heat pump in reverse and you can actually cool your pool water. Pumps can be costly to purchase and operate, but they are effective at cooling pool water.

Using a pool cooler is another option for lowering water temperatures. Hot pool water flows into the unit, passing by a cooling fan, then the cooled water will circulate back into the pool. These units are also costly and will need to be professionally installed, but they can cool your water temperature up to 15 degrees!

Can you put your water on ice?

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, it would take 8,750 lbs. of ice to lower the water temperature of a 20,000 gallon pool by 10 degrees. Adding ice to your pool can be a temporary solution, but it is not the most practical cooling method.

Drain and refill your pool water.

A partial drain and refill of your pool water might be another option depending on where your water is sourced. While this method works (especially if your water comes from cold well water) it is a bit wasteful and will cause you to have to re-balance the chemicals in your pool.

Run your pool filter at night.

While it will not make a drastic difference in temperature, we recommend running your pool filter at night when air temperatures are cooler. Helping the water to evaporate will make your pool a bit more refreshing in the morning.

Add shade to your pool area.

Although it will not be much help to you this season, plant some trees around the pool. This shade will keep your water cooler and out of direct sunlight, especially when planted on the west side. The downside is that you will be cleaning leaves out of the pool in the fall. Installing a moveable awning or pergola may have the same shading effect without the messy debris or permanence of trees.

Say Goodbye to Cloudy Pool Water

As pool owners, we all have to deal with cloudy pool water at some point. Determining the cause of the cloudiness is the first step in remedying the situation. Cloudy pool water can be caused by improper levels of chlorine, pH and alkalinity imbalance, broken or clogged filters, algae or debris. Use this guide to help you determine which is the culprit in your cloudy pool.

Why is my pool water cloudy?

1. Are your chemicals properly balanced? (Check your chlorine, pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness.)

  • Did you shock your pool recently? Is there is too much or too little chlorine?
  • Is the pH and alkalinity out of balance?
  • Does the water have high calcium hardness levels?

Solution: Too little chlorine is a leading cause of cloudy pool water. Chlorine is used to sanitize the water and without it, your water isn’t being properly cleaned. Contaminants in the water will build up and cause cloudy water as a result.

Make sure your pH, total alkalinity (TA) and calcium are all in the acceptable range and that the combination of the three aren’t on the high end of the range. If they are, your water is likely out of balance. If the temperature of your water is also on the high side, the imbalance of these chemicals is even more likely the cause of cloudiness. High pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness can lead to cloudiness.

If any of the above are out of the acceptable range, first thoroughly scrub, skim, and brush your pool walls, then vacuum. Once that is complete, work on adjusting the chemicals to get them within the acceptable range again. Re-balance your water by adjusting the pH. Use a pH reducer or increaser to adjust pH levels or add muriatic acid to lower TA. Be aware that even shocking a clean and balanced pool can cause cloudiness temporarily. Shock your pool water to remove harmful bacteria, organic contaminants, and algae. Finally, run your filter and test your water sample.  Use a chlorine stabilizer (cyanuric acid) to protect your chlorine levels.

Chemical                                                          Industry Acceptable

pH (Potential Hydrogen)                            7.2 – 7.8

TA (Total Alkalinity                                       80-120 ppm

Calcium                                                         200-400 ppm

If your pool is 100% balanced and is still cloudy, you should also try a product like Omega Pool Clarifier, available in our store.

 

 

2. Is your pool filtration system operating properly?

Poor water circulation and filtration can occur when your
filter doesn’t run long enough, becomes clogged or needs cleaning. Poor circulation can also be caused by skimmer and pump baskets becoming full of debris.

Solution: Turn over your pool water by running your pool filter continuously for at least 12 hours each day. A diatomaceous earth (DE) filter may achieve your desired results after only a few hours because it has the finest level of filtration. A cartridge filter will likely take 2-5 times as long, while sand filters can take multiple days. Add DE powder to your sand filter for more effective filtration. Is your filter clean? Have you back washed or cleaned it recently? If not, we recommend doing so. Most contaminants will be removed if your pool filter and sanitizer are working together. When the leaves are falling because it’s dry, we recommend emptying your baskets daily.

3. Are environmental factors to blame?

  • Leaves, pollen and dust can build up in your filter and hinder the cleaning process. Other environmental factors from
    animal waste to rainwater runoff can cause your pool water to become cloudy and imbalanced. Runoff water brings
    nitrates, phosphates, and other chemicals into your pool throwing the balance out of whack. Algae can also pollute your pool water and can lead to cloudiness, using up your pool’s chlorine rapidly.
  • Are swimmers clouding up your pool water? Sunscreen, hair products, bug spray, and other contaminants can contribute to your water clarity, or lack thereof.
  • The sun alone can deplete your sanitizers. “Its powerful
    ultraviolet rays break apart the sanitizing hypochlorite ions created when you add chlorine to your pool, causing them to evaporate into the air around your pool. This means less sanitizer and more dirt in your water.” – Swim University

Solution: See Solution #2 above. Hint: run your filter! Using an enzyme product such as Natural Chemistry Pool Perfect will also help with contaminants introduced to your water by swimmers. Maintaining proper levels of cyanuric acid, aka stabilizer or conditioner, will keep the sun from using up your chlorine.

The absolute best way to rid your pool of cloudy water is to prevent it from becoming cloudy in the first place. We recommend working with our team of professionals to create a pool maintenance schedule that you can implement or signing up for our Hassle Free Pool Care program. Contact us to learn more!

Tracy’s Tips: Checking Pool Floats and Toys for Leaks

Are your pool floats and toys ready for a pool party?!

Make sure your inflatables do not have any holes and are ready for use with this quick trick. Use an electric air pump to inflate your float or toy. Once inflated, hold it under water and if you see any bubbles, you’ve got a leak! Patch the leak with a repair kit or come into our retail store to find the perfect replacement for your favorite pool activities!

Check back often for more of Tracy’s Tips on our blog!

Tracy Dieselman – Owner

Salt Water Pools: What to Love

Salt water pools are growing in popularity as an alternative to traditional chlorine pools. The benefits of owning a salt water pool are impressive and may have you considering the switch.

Photo credits: Grolie Home

Safety

Contrary to popular belief, salt water pools are not chlorine or chemical-free, but they are safer because pool owners do not have to handle the chlorine in its physical form nor find a good place to store it. You might be surprised to hear that salt water swimming pools use chlorine to keep the water clear.  A salt water pool generates chlorine through a process called electrolysis. Salt is added to the pool, the water passes through the chlorine generator, then converts the salt into chlorine using an electric discharge. Salt water pools use a salt water chlorine generator (SWCG) to turn salt into chlorine. The chlorine eventually breaks down, leaving behind the salt to be reused.

Maintenance & Cost Savings

A SWCG makes it easier to maintain constant, proper chlorine levels. This allows you to avoid high chlorine levels that commonly occur in traditionally chlorinated pools, causing eyes to dry out and become irritated. Salt water pools ultimately save you time and money on costly chemicals, after the initial purchase and installation of a SWCG. Salt pools are also cleaner because the generator runs on a consistent schedule.

Skin Care & Health

A salt water pool leaves skin feeling softer and smoother upon exiting the pool, unlike non-SWCG pool water. The water is soft and won’t leave a noticeable residue in your hair or on your skin. Salt water is also known to exfoliate, rejuvenate and detoxify skin.

As far as health benefits, swimming is great exercise and a proven stress reliever. Salt water pools are even more beneficial because they make swimmers more buoyant and help to relieve inflammation in your joints and muscles. With a salt water pool, there is the added bonus of not exposing yourself or the environment to as many harmful chemicals.

Whether you’re considering an update or planning to build a pool, salt water pools are an excellent choice.

Avoiding Pool Water Heat Loss & Evaporation

When it comes to summer pool maintenance, maintaining your water level and temperature can take a little effort. Evaporation is inevitable in the warm months. Your pool will lose water, as well as precious heat, which can be costly.

Proactively combat both problems by using a solar pool cover.  Solar pool covers use the sun’s energy to heat your pool with the added bonus of reducing water evaporation by about 95%. Keep the water in your pool and keep your money in your pocket with this smart investment.

Photo credits: Swim University

When you lose pool water due to splashing, swimming, and evaporation, you will have to replace that water. This process requires more energy to heat the water back up. When you lose water, you also lose costly chemicals in that water. Use a solar cover to heat the water from the sun’s rays, while keeping the chemicals in the pool and debris out.

Bubble Solar Covers

Bubble Solar Covers are very popular and can be cut to fit the shape and size of your pool. Some people choose to use one big solar cover, while others choose to cut their cover into strips to make it easier to take on and off frequently. Use the solar cover whenever you are not using your pool, especially when the sun’s out.

Solar Cover Reels

Solar cover reels are a great option for pool owners looking to save time and effort. They can be used on both above and in-ground pools and are generally installed at one end of the pool, though portable options are available. The solar cover reel will allow you to easily roll up the cover neatly when not in use, and pull to re-cover the pool when you are done. Always remove the solar cover completely before allowing any swimmers in the pool for everyone’s safety.

Liquid Solar Covers

Liquid solar covers are an alternative to traditional bubble solar covers. In simple terms, liquid solar covers are a thin layer of alcohol that sits on top of the water of your pool, reducing water evaporation and heat loss. When the liquid solar cover is poured into your pool, the solution will disperse across the
surface water and bind together to form the blanket.

Liquid solar covers are safe to use, biodegradable, and approved by both the FDA and EPA. The amount of solution needed will depend on the size of your pool. On average, using the liquid solar cover will cost you about $10-$30 monthly. You will want to add liquid solar cover to your pool monthly and follow the directions on the package. Weather conditions and pool use can affect how much liquid solar cover you should use.

Learn more about liquid solar covers from our friends at Swim University, and check out the videos below to see how it works.

Stop by our Retail Store to pick up Natural Chemistry COVERfree or order a HeatSavr system that automatically adds the liquid to the pool. We also can special order bubble solar covers for your pool – come in and talk to us!

Do liquid solar blankets really work?

 

Pool Cleaners: Suction Side, Pressure Side or Robotic?

If you’re short on time, or just prefer to spend your time on more traditionally enjoyable activities, consider investing in a pool cleaner to handle some of your pool maintenance. When considering pool cleaners, you will want to investigate which type of cleaner is right for your situation. Let’s discuss the options.

1. Suction Side Pool Cleaners

Suction side cleaners attach to the main filtration pump in your pool and use the suction to move the cleaner around. These cleaners scrub the pool surface and remove unwanted dirt and debris. The debris is then returned to your pump basket through your pool’s filtration system. The cleaner’s hose is connected to either a dedicated suction line or directly to your skimmer. Suction cleaners utilize an internal turbine which is spun by the force of pump’s suction.

Pros: This kind of cleaner is great for pool owners on a budget as they generally cost less than the pressure side and robotic cleaners. Maintaining a suction side cleaner is relatively easy because it has fewer moving parts that have the potential to break. It will pick up medium debris but some will remove small debris as well.

Cons: You will find that this type of cleaner puts more stress on your pool filter. Debris goes directly into the pump strainer, reducing circulation. The pump basket needs to be emptied to keep the cleaner working. Fine dirt and debris go into the filter, leading to more frequent back washing/cleaning of the filter.

2. Pressure Side Pool Cleaners

Pressure side cleaners are very popular among pool owners. They use an existing pressure side line to move the cleaner around. The water returned back into your pool fuels the cleaner, but often requires an additional booster pump to push water through the cleaner to create a jet stream. Not all pools are built with the plumbing to accommodate this type of cleaner. Pressure side cleaners don’t use your pool’s filtration system to filter out debris like the side suction cleaners. Instead, they use a filtration bag to catch the debris, so you don’t have to empty the pump basket or backwash/clean the filter to maintain circulation. Your pool pump will push water through a hose to jets that move the cleaner around your pool, loosening dirt and guiding it into the filter bag.

Pros: This type of cleaner is also less expensive than robotic cleaners and does not stress your pool filtration system as much. They are also generally easy to maintain. They’re great at picking up medium and heavy debris. Fine particles will flow through the filter bag and get cleaned out in the pool filtration system.

Cons: You will need a booster pump to run these cleaners and many pools are not plumbed for that. There are also additional electricity costs to run the second pump.

3. Robotic Pool Cleaners

Robotic pool cleaners are in a category all by themselves. They run off of power from your home and do not use your pool equipment to operate. These cleaners are top of the line and improving every day with new technology. They are excellent cleaners and have a built-in filtration system with a filter bag or built-in cartridge to collect debris. Robotic cleaners are able to remove both large and small debris (and everything in between) from your pool floor, walls, steps and water line. Simply plug your pool robot in and let it do all the work!

Pros: Robotic cleaners do not cause wear and tear on your pool equipment and are energy efficient, reducing overall power usage and costs. They virtually eliminate the need to clean your pool walls with a brush, saving you the hassle and time. The maintenance-free design make robotic pool cleaners very popular.

Cons: These cleaners are the most expensive of the three options and have a higher up-front cost. Robotic cleaners also are a bit heavier and it is slightly more difficult to empty the filter.

Which pool cleaner is best suited for your pool? Stop by our Retail Store for assistance in choosing and purchasing your new pool cleaner.