As we all bunker down to slow the spread of coronavirus, it's important that we also keep an eye on the health of our swimming pools. This not only protects valuable equipment and keeps chemical costs down but also ensures we're able to swim in healthy water whenever we need to let off steam or keep the kids entertained.
1: Check chlorine levels To keep your pool clean and clear, maintain your pool's free available chlorine at a constant level of 1-2 PPM (parts per million) throughout autumn and winter. If you're using a salt chlorinator and a pool blanket, remember to reduce the output of the chlorinator to 1 PPM, as pool blankets trap chemicals and chlorine, and can cause high chlorine levels to occur – potentially damaging pool equipment if not monitored carefully
2: Balance pool water The pool's pH level needs to be between 7.2 and 7.6, which you can easily check by taking a water sample from elbow depth and adding the appropriate treatment to bring the pool to the correct level
3: Clean the pool Brushing the walls and floor and then vacuuming the whole pool on a regular basis will help prevent algae from blooming. Cleaning the skimmer baskets and the pump's lint basket of leaves and debris will also ensure the filtration system works efficiently
4: Clean the filter Ensure that the pool's filter is clean, as any grease or oil deposits will harden over winter and make the filter even harder to clean in the warmer months
5: Use a shock treatment Regularly 'shocking' your pool helps remove organic and inorganic wastes (known as chloramines), which range from sweat and suntan lotion to bird droppings and dead bugs. It also ensures that the sanitiser can concentrate on killing bacteria and algae instead of these contaminants. Once you’ve added the shock treatment appropriate for your pool, run both the pump and filter for several hours to ensure it has been well distributed throughout the pool
6: Remove algae as soon as you see it When there is an algal bloom, most of the sanitiser in your pool is used trying to control and kill the algae, leaving no residual to keep pool water clean and healthy. Swimart recommends Aqua-Health Concide as it provides year-round protection against algae
7: Reduce filter-running times The pool’s filter should operate 3-4 hours each day during winter. If you’re using a timer, adjust it to suit.
8: Set your solar heater to Winter Mode If you don't have an automatic controller on your solar pool heating system, manually switch it to Winter Mode or switch it off completely if you’re heading out of town
9: Use your pool cover Pool covers and blankets help keep leaves and other organic material out of the pool, which means less cleaning for you and less food for algae and bugs to feed on. They also help minimise chemical evaporation – saving you time and money
10: Keep up your maintenance schedule Once you’ve completed your preparation for the cooler months, it’s important that you keep to a weekly maintenance schedule even when you're not using the pool. This involves doing a visual inspection to make sure all your equipment is working properly, checking the water level and topping up if necessary, emptying the skimmer basket, and checking your chlorine and pH levels.
For people who have moved into a new home with an existing pool, or recently installed one on their property, the thought of maintaining correct chemistry can seem daunting. Even if you’re renting a home with a pool in the backyard, it’s important to understand how it works and what you need to do to keep it clean, healthy and, most importantly, safe to swim in.
Here’s a brief outline of the main processes that keep a pool operating. We’ll try and keep the technical jargon to a minimum and focus on what really matters: how to keep your pool clean and healthy with minimal effort.
Correctly balanced water, also known as pool chemistry, is essential when considering the long-term effect on pool finishes, exposed metal, and pool and spa equipment. Unbalanced water is either corrosive or scale forming. Either way, it can be detrimental to the management of the pool.
There are three main factors that contribute to pool water balance:
- Total Alkalinity
- Calcium Hardness
Now, before you go adding chemicals, you need to test you’re the water first, which is very easy to do at home using a test kit or dropping off a sample at your local pool shop when lock-down restrictions ease.
Your swimming pool needs an efficient filtration system to remove dirt, debris and other contaminants, and prevent the growth of harmful, waterborne bacteria. This is achieved with a pump and a filter, which work together to create crystal clear, inviting pool water.
Without adequate filtration, suspended (undissolved) solids in the water create an unsightly and unhealthy cloudiness. These can include dust, pollen, mineral salts such as calcium and magnesium, algae (dead and alive), and other organic material such as sweat from swimmers.
The pump is considered the heart of the filtration system, while the filter – be it sand, cartridge, Diatomaceous Earth (DE) or Glass Pearls – completes the process.
Emptying the skimmer basket, scooping leaves from the water, scrubbing algae off the sides and vacuuming dirt and debris from the pool – together these help keep your pool clean, and your pricey pool equipment functioning properly.