Tag Archives: Pool Supplies

Pool Chemistry: The Balancing Act

Whether you are new to pool ownership or are just looking for a refresher course, balancing your pool chemistry doesn’t have to be a daunting task. The key to a clean and clear swimming pool is to ensure your pool water is both balanced and sanitized.

Check out our quick guide, followed by a more detailed chemistry lesson on pool water balance and sanitation.

Quick Guide

  • Total Alkalinity:
    • 80 – 150 ppm (concrete and gunite pools)
    • 100 – 150 ppm (painted, vinyl & fiberglass pools)
  • pH: 7.4 – 7.6
  • Calcium Hardness:
    • 175 – 225 ppm
    • 225 – 275 ppm (plaster pools)
  • Chlorine: 1.0 – 3.0 ppm
  • Cyanuric Acid:
    • 25 – 50 ppm
    • 50 – 80 ppm (pools using salt water Chlorine generators)
  • Total Dissolved Solids: 500 – 5000 ppm

Water Balance

Total Alkalinity (TA)

Total alkalinity refers to the quantity of alkaline material in the water (bicarbonates, carbonates and hydroxides). Ideally your swimming pool should maintain proper total alkalinity levels between 100-150 parts per million.

“Alkalinity is a pH buffer, meaning it helps to keep the pH from drastically moving up and down the pH scale by absorbing major changes to the waters before affecting the pH.”
Swim University

Adjusting your pool’s alkalinity is the first step. Alkalinity is defined as the ability of the water to resist changes in pH. It acts as a buffer to pH and makes it more stable.

Add an alkalinity increaser if your TA is too low. Add sodium bisulfate to decrease alkalinity if your TA is too high.

2. pH

The pH refers to the relative acidity of the water. Maintaining water at a pH between 7.4 and 7.6 (a little above neutral on the pH scale) is key to balancing your pool water. This pH range is most suitable for swimming because it is less irritable to the eyes and generally more comfortable for swimmers. Chlorine is also most effective in this range. If your pH is too high or too low, the chlorine isn’t able to do it’s job.

Precipitation, swimmers, and pool debris can all change your pool’s pH. Low pH means your water is acidic. High pH means your water is basic. Keep your pH balanced to avoid equipment and structural damage.

The biggest change to pH comes from products used for sanitation, like chlorine tabs. Chlorine tabs have a very low pH, often requiring you to add a pH increaser. Pools using a salt water chlorine generator (SWCG) often have a higher pH level. For this reason, you will need to add more pH decreaser or muriatic acid to a SWCG pool than you would in a traditional chlorine pool.

It is wise to keep both a bottle of pH Increaser (sodium carbonate) and pH decreaser (sodium bisulfate) on hand to deal with pH fluctuations that can frequently occur.

3. Calcium Hardness

Calcium hardness may not technically be part of balancing your water, but without paying attention to dissolved calcium levels, your water will pursue other avenues to find it. The proper calcium hardness level is between 175 – 225 ppm or 225 – 275 ppm for plaster pools.

Monitor the calcium levels in your pool to avoid damage to your pool walls and equipment. Protect your pool by adding calcium hardness to your water. Measure carefully, as too much calcium can lead to scaling (calcium carbonate depositing itself on surfaces) among other problems.

Use calcium chloride to raise the calcium hardness of your pool water. If you are experiencing high calcium hardness levels, the only remedy is to drain at least some of your pool water to dilute it with fresh water.

Cyanuric Acid (CYA)

Cyanuric acid (CYA) is a water stabilizer and should be in the range of 25-50 ppm or 50–80 ppm for salt pools. Cyanuric acid is sold as either a pool stabilizer or pool conditioner and helps prevent destruction of chlorine from the sun’s UV rays. It is especially important to add cyanuric acid if you are starting with fresh water and need a stabilizer base. Chlorine tabs already contain cyanuric acid, so CYA is replenished if you’re using tabs. With a salt water chlorine generator however, CYA will need to be added separately.

Sanitation

Sanitation is imperative to disinfecting your pool water to prevent disease spreading organisms, as well as bacteria and algae growth. Environmental pollution from humans, animals, cosmetics, leaves, pollen, dirt and other debris are constantly affecting your pool water. When it comes to pool sanitation, chlorine is the most commonly used ingredient.

Chlorine

Chlorine is used as a water sanitizer. It works by disinfecting your water to rid it of any bacteria, algae, ammonia, and other contaminates. Your chlorine levels should ideally stay between 1.0 – 3.0 ppm.

Add Chlorine to your water with tablets or use a powdered or granular chlorine (we prefer tablets for ease of use). Tabs can be added to a chlorinator, floating dispenser, or skimmer basket(s) in your pool.

“When buying chlorine make sure you look for Trichloro or Dichloro as an active ingredient. These types of chlorine products are stabilized. UV rays from the sun eat up chlorine, but if it’s stabilized, it drastically slows down this process.”
Swim University

Alternatives to Chlorine

Bromine, biguanide and the minerals silver and copper are sanitizer alternatives to chlorine. While they each have their pros and cons, chlorine remains the most popular and least expensive option. Using a mineral solution still requires small amounts of chlorine for complete sanitation. Contrary to popular belief, a SWCG creates chlorine. People often assume a salt water pool is better because it doesn’t use chlorine, but this is a misconception!

Pool Shock

Super chlorination or “shocking” is also vital to maintaining a clean and healthy pool. When you shock your pool, you are essentially adding 3x the normal amount of chlorine you would regularly add. A shock treatment will burn organic materials out of the water and allow the sanitizer to work properly.

Shock your chlorine pool when any of the following occur:

  • Your pool is cloudy.
  • There is pool algae present.
  • The water temperature exceeds 84 degrees.
  • Your chlorine level is lower than 3 ppm.

Finishing Touches

When you have added all the necessary chemicals to your pool, let your pool pump run so your chemicals can circulate throughout. Balancing your pool water may seem tricky at first, but it will get easier with practice and patience.

Stop by our Retail Store for all of your pool chemicals needs and bring a sample of your pool water to receive a free professional water test!

Should I Change My Pool Filter Sand?

Photo credits: Swim University

Customers often ask us if it is recommended or necessary to change their pool filter sand. The answer isn’t quite as simple as a yes or no. Even pool industry professionals are on the fence on the topic.

Let’s explore both sides of the debate.

Why Some Say NO to Changing Your Pool Filter Sand

The most common reason professionals say there is no need to change your filter sand is because sand lasts forever and need not be replaced. For maintenance, they suggest cleaning it about once a year with a professional sand cleaner.

Why Others Say YES to Changing Your Pool Filter Sand

The professionals that recommend changing your pool filter sand argue that not only should you replace your sand every 3-5 years, but you should also clean it in the interim. The argument for changing the sand is based on the belief that sand does eventually wear down and become smooth. When this happens, the sand cannot trap debris as well and it is time to replace it.

To Change or Not to Change

Filter manufacturers generally recommend changing your pool filter sand every few years. Since these companies manufacture the filters, they have nothing to gain from selling you new sand. We would advise following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

While the final decision is yours, we would advocate for changing your pool filter sand every 3-5 years.

If you do decide to change your pool filter sand, our friends at Swim University will show you how in this easy to follow video.

Tracy’s Tips: Bubble Solar Cover Installation

Solar Pool Covers: Bubble Side Up or Down?  

Are you using a bubble solar cover to keep your pool water warm? If so, you may be wondering which side of your bubble cover should face up. We recommend covering your pool with the bubble side facing down for the best results in warming your pool in the summer sun. The sun’s UV rays will heat the bubbles and in turn, transfer heat to your pool water. With the bubbles facing down directly into the water, the heating process works more quickly and the bubbles help the cover float on the water’s surface.

Applying your bubble solar cover with the bubbles facing up can eventually damage the bubbles on the cover, due to direct exposure to the sun. The sun’s rays need to be able to flow through the cover before it can reach the water. Think of your solar cover as a thermal blanket or magnifying glass for your pool, intensifying the warming effect. Putting the cover on with the bubbles upward will take longer to heat your pool water and shorten the useful life of the cover.

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

Tracy Dieselman – Owner

Pool Care Don’ts

While we generally guide pool owners toward solutions to their pool care woes, sometimes it’s best to learn from others’ mistakes to avoid making them yourself. Here are some things we DO NOT recommend.

Shocking

  • Don’t shock your pool during the day. Sunlight will burn off your unstable chlorine (aka shock), so it is vital to shock your pool during the night to ensure it has time to do the job properly.
  • Don’t add shock through your skimmer.  This mistake can be VERY dangerous because pool shock (calcium hypochlorite) and chlorine (DiChlor or TriChlor) will mix to create a deadly gas and can cause an explosion when mixed through your automatic chlorinator. This can not only cause bodily harm, but can also damage your pool liner, floor and walls.
  • Don’t add shock directly to your pool water. Dilute the shock in a bucket of warm warmer before adding it to your pool. Add shock to the water, not vice versa. The diluted solution will be safer to work with and will mix better with your pool water. It will also avoid shock settling on your pool floor and causing your lining to become frail, eventually leading to leaks.
  • Don’t swim right after shocking. Ensure chlorine and pH levels are in the proper range before swimming. If you want to be able to shock your pool and swim immediately, use a non-chlorine shock.

Brushing

  • Don’t forget your pool brush. Your pool vacuum is not a
    substitute for your pool brush. Be sure to brush the bottom and sides of your pool at least once a week, especially the hard to reach areas. Brushing is vital to removing bacteria, germs and algae, while the vacuum is great for the larger
    debris.

Vacuuming

  • Don’t use a robot on algae. If you have an algae problem on your hands, do not use an automatic cleaner to try to
    remove it. Manual cleaners are the way to go in this scenario because pressure-side automatic cleaners will push the algae up through the mesh bag, clog it and blow it around your pool.

Balancing

  • Don’t neglect pH and alkalinity. Maintaining the proper pH and alkalinity levels is necessary even if your pool water looks clear. Low pH (highly acidic water) can cause damage to your pool equipment including: pumps, filters, solar
    covers, liners and heaters. Adjust your alkalinity levels to
    ensure your pH is always balanced.

Filtering

  • Don’t forget to run your filter. Be sure your pool filter is
    running for at LEAST 12 hours each day.
    The more you run your pool filter, the cleaner your pool water, plain and
    simple. Make sure that all of your pool water runs through the filter at least once each day.
  • Don’t over backwash your filter system. The larger debris in your filter actually help to trap the smaller debris. The guideline is to backwash when the system is running 5-10 psi above the starting filter pressure (pressure with a clean filter).

Testing

  • Don’t skip your water testing. If you can’t do a full,
    comprehensive water test each week, be sure to at least test your free chlorine and pH levels. Bring a sample of your pool water into our Retail Store for a free, detailed analysis. We recommend a computer generated water test at least once a month.

Avoid these common pool care blunders and you will be well on your way to a safe and clean swimming pool.

Tracy’s Tips: Why is My Pool Green?

Why is My Pool Green?
Algae vs. Metals

When your pool turns green, your first assumption may be that algae is the offender. While this is often true, you could actually be dealing with increased heavy metals. Try these simple tests to determine the real cause of your green pool.

Test your chlorine levels. If there is free chlorine in the pool and it is green, copper is the likely culprit.  If there is no free chlorine, suspect algae.

If your pool turns green after adding shock, copper is the likely cause. Other minerals, such as iron and manganese can turn the water brown, pink or purple. A metal remover will bind with the minerals in your pool water, allowing your pool filter to remove them.

If you add chlorine and your pool clears up? Hooray! Algae was the offender. Mystery solved!

Metal vs. Algae Tip:  Metal stains won’t brush off the pool.  Most algae will, with black algae as the exception.

Need a product recommendation? Stop by our Retail Store and talk to our team and get your free water test.

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

Tracy Dieselman – Owner

Swimming Pool Safety 101

Photo credits: protectachild.com

The pool is open! Make safety your #1 priority this year. May is National Water Safety Month and the perfect time to make sure your pool and patio is up to par. Follow these recommendations to keep your family and friends safe and give yourself peace of mind so you can sit back, relax and just enjoy your pool this summer.

Fencing

Many states require your pool to be fenced on all sides. Even if you happen to live somewhere where fencing is not a requirement, installing a fence is very important, especially when there are children around. Your fence should be at least 5 feet tall and have a self-latching or self-closing gate. This simple solution will greatly reduce the risk of children getting into the pool area unsupervised.

Alarms

Gate alarms, perimeter alarms and pressure sensitive alarms will notify you when someone or something enters the pool area or pool itself. Wearable alarms are a good option for children, alerting a parent when the wearable component gets wet. Learn more about alarms from our friends at Swim University.

Chemical Storage

This one goes without saying, but pool chemicals, just like household chemicals, can make children and pets gravely ill if they are ingested, inhaled or get in their eyes. Never store your pool chemicals anywhere that would be accessible to a child or pet. For chemical storage tips, check out this article. Reducing your pool chemical use is also a favorable option to reduce any risk.

Lifesavers

Every pool should have safety equipment readily accessible. A life ring (hard plastic ring) with a rope can easily be tossed into the pool for someone in danger to grab hold of, allowing the rescuer to pull them to safety. Life jackets should also be available in case of emergency or for new swimmers to wear while learning to swim. A shepherd’s hook is another useful safety tool. The loop attaches to the end of your telescoping pool skimmer pole and can be used in the case of an emergency to grab someone and pull them to safety.

Reduce Temptation

Keep all pool floats and toys away from the pool area when not in use, as children often find their bright colors and fun shapes enticing. Also, keep any climbable objects away from your pool gate and fence.

Teach Water Safety

Children are never too young to start learning the basics of pool and water safety. Start them in swimming lessons at an early age so they gain confidence in the water and understand and respect the importance of following the rules in and around the pool.

Adult Supervision

The number one thing you can do to ensure safe pool fun is to make sure there is always an adult swimmer watching when there are any children, pets or novice swimmers around your pool. A clever way to make sure there is always an adult around is to have a safety wristband worn by the adult in charge.  When that adult leaves the pool area they are then responsible for passing the wristband on to another adult supervisor.

Safety Covers

Safety covers are a great investment for both in-ground and above ground pools in the off-season, preventing anyone or anything from falling in the often frigid and unsupervised water. Check out the following brands when purchasing your safety cover.

Use the tips above to keep children, pets and novice swimmers safe. Stop by our Retail Store and take home a safety brochure and coloring books for the kids!

Tracy’s Tips: Protect your pets and animals from swimming pool dangers

Pet and Animal Safety Around the Pool

Safety is the most important element to pool ownership, but it is not just people that are at risk of drowning accidents in the pool. Our family pets, stray animals and wildlife can all run the risk of falling into your swimming pool and not being able to find their way out. Here are a few suggestions to keep your pets and neighborhood animals safe around your pool.

1. Install a Fence, Alarm and/or Pool Cover

Fencing and alarming your pool will help prevent unwanted animals from accidentally falling into the water and discourage them from using your pool as a watering hole. Be aware that many pool alarms only go off if an animal over 15 lbs. falls in. For this reason, alarms should be used as a backup safety mechanism, not your primary solution. Your first line of defense should be a quality fence that is at least 4 feet high. A sturdy safety pool cover will also keep animals from entering your pool and greatly reduce the risk of drowning accidents.

2. Trim Your Trees

If you have trees in your pool area, be sure to cut branches back so they are not hanging above the pool. Tree dwelling animals (especially baby animals) can easily end up in your pool when jumping from branch to branch. Reduce the risk by removing the branches.

3. Remove Trash Temptations

Make sure any trash you store outside is secure in barrels that are not easily opened. Trash cans with locking lids are preferable. Storing trash in a garage or shed also discourages critters foraging in your garbage. Having a potential food source in your yard will draw animals into your yard and pool area. Eliminate the temptation.

4. NEVER Leave Dogs Unattended

While some dogs are natural swimmers, others cannot swim at all. If they seem to like the water, it is wise to teach them to swim. If they do not seem to like the water, do not force them into it. Either way, it is important that your pets are aware of a safe way to exit the pool. Even if your dog is a good swimmer, he can become disoriented and panic if he can’t find a quick exit. Guide your dog in and out of the pool to show him where the stairs or ramp are located. Just as you wouldn’t leave your children unsupervised around the pool, the same rules apply for your pets. Fencing (as stated above) is the most reliable way to keep pets out of the pool area, while still allowing them to hang out in the yard.

5. Provide an Easy Exit

Having an easy exit strategy isn’t just for family pets. Installing a pool ramp (we like the Skamper-Ramp) will give wildlife and neighborhood animals that are not familiar with your pool a highly visible escape route. For critters like frogs and squirrels, we suggest the FrogLog, which attaches to the side of your pool and floats on the surface acting as a life raft for smaller animals. Try the Critter Skimmer as another safety mechanism. “The Critter Skimmer is an eco-friendly invention that allows frogs, turtles, mice, and other small critters to rescue themselves from in-ground pool skimmers. Replacing the pool skimmer cover with a Critter Skimmer allows animals that invariably end up in the pool to climb up the attached spiral rescue ramp and through the opening in the skimmer cover to safety.”

Share these pool tips with fellow pool owners and check back often for more of Tracy’s Tips on our blog.

Tracy Dieselman – Owner

When to Replace Your Pool Liner

Vinyl pool liners typically last about 12 years if maintained properly. As your pool liner ages, activity, chemicals, weather and UV rays will eventually cause your liner to start deteriorating. When that happens, it’s time to consider whether repairing or replacing is the right choice for you.

Replacing your pool liner may be in order if…
  • there are substantial cracks and tears in your pool liner.
  • your pool is clearly losing water from a leak.
  • the color is drastically faded from chemicals and the sun.
  • you notice rust stains or algae buildups that cannot be
    removed.
  • you see wrinkles, stretching or slippage of the liner itself,
    especially around the skimmer, return jets and pump fittings.
  • your pool liner is over 12 years old and you want to be proactive before problems arise.
  • you are tired of you liner pattern and want an aesthetic
    upgrade.

There are short term solutions for tears and leaks if you are hoping to keep your current liner a bit longer. Keep in mind these are merely patches and you’ll want to address the underlying issue with a more permanent solution as soon as you can.

You don’t always have the luxury to plan a pool liner replacement, but if you keep an eye out for deterioration, you can make repairs or schedule a replacement off-season. Check your liner early this spring to make sure it’s in good shape before beginning your pool opening.

Need an expert opinion? If you need leak detection or liner replacement, contact us and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction!

Free & Total Chlorine: What You Need to Know

It is vital to keep measurements of your pool’s chlorine levels. Chlorine is essential to sanitizing your pool keeping you and your family safe.

Chlorine can often be a source of confusion as there are three distinct kinds: free chlorine, combined chlorine and
total chlorine. For the purpose of this article, we will be
focusing on free and total chlorine, but will cover the basic
definitions of three versions.

Our friends at Swim University classify the three types of
chlorine in the following ways:

3 Types of Chlorine

  • Free Chlorine – This is the chlorine that you usually test for in your pool water. Free chlorine is able to sanitize your pool. Your pool water should have between 1 and 3 parts per
    million (ppm).
  • Combined Chlorine – Chlorine that’s been used up by the sanitation process is called combined chlorine. While it’s still in the water, its ability to sanitize is reduced compared to free chlorine.
  • Total Chlorine – Total chlorine is the sum of both free chlorine and combined chlorine.

What’s the Difference? Let’s Do the Math.

As Chemical Engineers, the science behind chlorine is our specialty! Let’s begin with this simple formula for chlorine:

FC + CC = TC

“When chlorine is added to your pool, it reacts with the
water to form hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ion. These compounds together form what we call free chlorine.

Once this chlorine begins to react with the contaminants in the water, such as nitrogen and ammonia, it becomes combined chlorine.

In this state, the chlorine isn’t as effective at sanitizing
compared to free chlorine. Your goal is to make sure your pool is sanitized. You want to make sure your free chlorine levels stay in check.

For example, if your free chlorine levels and total chlorine levels are the same, then there’s no combined (or used chlorine) in your water. If your total chlorine level is higher than the free chlorine level, the difference of the two are the combined
chlorine levels.” – Swim University

Your combined chlorine should be zero, meaning your free chlorine and total chlorine (what gets tested) are equal.

To maintain the highest quality water in your pool, it is
important that you understand the math. By determining how much chlorine is optimal to add to your pool water, you will
ultimately reach the perfect balance and in doing so, kill the harmful contaminants in the water making your pool safer for swimming.

For example, if you test your pool water and the combined chlorine levels appear to be rising, this is a good indicator that it is time to add more chlorine to your pool to assist in sanitation. Conversely, if the combined chlorine levels appear to be low after testing, you may not need to add anything to your water at that time.

Safety Matters

We hope this gives you a better understanding of chlorine’s role in keeping your pool water safe and clean all season long, and that you have an easier time adjusting your pool’s chlorine levels for optimal sanitation. A clean and healthy pool maximizes your swimming and relaxation time and who doesn’t want that?!

Choose Hassle Free Pool Care and let our expert technicians maintain your healthy pool or stop by our Retail Store for a Free Water Test or to purchase a Chlorine Test Kit if you prefer to do it yourself.

Check out the two articles below from Aqua Magazine to learn more about the importance of chlorine in your pool water.

Chloramines in Source Water 

Is Superchlorinating The Best Way To Eliminate Chloramines?

 

Salt Water Chlorine Generators: How do they work?

Photo credits: http://www.poolsupplyworld.com/

You might be surprised to hear that salt water swimming pools are using chlorine to keep the water clear. 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 used again. SWCGs are not a new concept, but they continue to evolve as the technology and materials improve.

Benefits to Salt Pool Water

Many homeowners prefer salt water swimming pools for the following reasons:

  1. A salt water pool leaves skin feeling softer and smoother upon exiting the pool, unlike non-SWCG pool water.
  2. A salt water chlorine generator makes it easier to maintain constant, proper chlorine levels, avoiding high chlorine levels that can commonly occur in traditionally chlorinated pools causing eyes to dry out and become irritated. 
  3. Salt water pools reduce the need to frequently and manually add chlorine to your pool.
  4. Salt water pool owners do not have to handle the chlorine in its physical form, nor find a good place to store it.

How Salt Water Chlorine Generators Work

“Salt water chlorinators use dissolved salt as a means of creating chlorine to clean the pool. They use a different process to create the chlorine instead of just dumping the chemical into the pool.

A salt water pools make hypochlorous acid (HClO) by using table salt or sodium chloride (NaCl) and electrolysis. The salt water passes through an electric current creating chlorine gas (Cl2), but you’re also forming hydrogen gas (h2) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Using electrolysis, dissolved salt is converted into hypochlorous acid(HClO) and sodium hypochlorite, the sanitizing agents used to clean the water of any dirt and bacteria.

So, instead of just dumping chlorine into the water, you create a chlorine generator with a salt water chlorinator that continues to generate chlorine until more salt is needed.”
Swim University

Adding a Sacrificial Anode

A zinc sacrificial anode is a device that protects metal components from corrosion in a salt water pool. Salt water is corrosive, regardless of whether or not there is chlorine or an active chlorine generator. The large increase of dissolved solids in the water when salt is added makes the water more conductive, and can lead to premature corrosion of any metal components in the pool system. Adding a sacrificial anode made of zinc, a softer metal than all the stainless steel and aluminum in pool environments, and attaching it to the bonding grid, means that it will corrode before any of the more important metal components. An anode’s role is to corrode (sacrificing itself) before other metals that are part of the same underwater electrical system. Talk to us today about scheduling installation of a sacrificial anode anti-electrolosys device to your salt water pool. We highly recommend it!

SWCG systems make pool maintenance easier for salt water pool owners. A well maintained salt water chlorinator system should last you anywhere from 5 to 7 years, when serviced periodically. Spend less time managing chemicals and more time enjoying your pool!

Contact us today to learn more!