Nothing beats the feeling of warm sunlight caressing the face in the morning after a long, biting winter, proclaiming the sun’s return, just like the sound of jingle bells on Christmas morning announcing the arrival of the Christ.
With the sun glistening on the sky, the excitement of forthcoming aquatic adventures begins to swell in all corners, steering people towards their summer wardrobes in search of their swimsuits.
But all this sweet anticipation quickly turns sour when water babies make their way to the pools only to find them brimming with gunk.
Since swimming pools are shut off during the winter season, they understandably become home to many unpleasant critters and pathogens, leaving pool waters unsightly and repulsive.
While the degradation of swimming pools during the winter season is inevitable, its severity can be controlled with a little effort. That’s where the winter pool closing protocol, also known as winterization of swimming pools, comes into play.
Many people assume that properly shutting off a pool for the winter must be an unbelievably taxing and complicated procedure, involving elaborate steps.
But that’s an exaggeration. If you have the right know-how, you don’t need to take some over-the-top measures; only a little, but smart planning will do.
Before we get to the tips on winterization, we need to go over the different types of pools and water attributes that you need to balance before covering up your pool for the winter.
Fundamentally, there can be two kinds of swimming pools based on water composition. Let’s first dissect them in complete depth before all else.
- 1 Chlorine Pools Vs. Saltwater Pools
- 2 Chlorine Levels
- 3 pH Levels Of Water In Your Pool
- 4 Water Hardness
- 5 How Often Should You Change Water In Your Pool?
- 6 How to sanitize your pool?
- 7 Conclusion
Chlorine Pools Vs. Saltwater Pools
A saltwater pool or saline pool uses a saltwater generator that conducts electrolysis to convert the salt in the water to chlorine. Such a pool is maintained, and its chlorine levels are regulated by the installed generator.
On the other hand, in a chlorine pool system, the caretaker has to add chlorine manually and directly into the water. Moreover, they need to regularly check the chlorine levels and keep the pool well maintained for the system to work uninterrupted.
- Lower chlorine concentration
- Softer on the swimmers’ skin
- Do not fade swimsuits
- Easier to maintain
- Low maintenance costs
- High installation cost
- Require more electricity to function
- Require professional expertise in case of damage
- Saltwater can damage pool features, plants, and soil
Chlorine Water Pools-Pros
- Lower initial investment cost
- Use less electricity
- Do not damage pool features or plants
- Do not require professional expertise in case of damage
Chlorine Water Pools-Cons
- High annual maintenance costs
- A high concentration of chlorine
- Chlorine can irritate the skin and cause it to dry out
- Need a rigorous upkeep regimen
- Chlorine has to be added regularly
- Need to be shocked weekly or as per the requirement
According to a rough estimate, maintaining a saltwater pool can cost anywhere between $70 and $100 a year, while a chlorine pool costs anywhere between $300 and $800.
A common misconception about saltwater pools is that they have a high concentration of salt. While they do have a substantial amount of salt, it’s not more than what is in a human tear, as most of it is converted to chlorine through electrolysis.
Furthermore, having a saltwater pool doesn’t mean you’ll not be exposed to chlorine. Many people have this idea that a saltwater pool doesn’t have chlorine, but the truth is that these systems are currently among the top chorine pool setups on the market.
However, the level of chlorine in saltwater pools is controlled and much less than that in chlorine pools, which is healthy for the swimmers’ skin and eyes.
But how can one be sure of it? That is, how can you measure chlorine concentration in a pool to rest your health concerns before jumping into the water?
Well, let’s find out.
As the name suggests, the chlorine level in a pool is the chlorine concentration in the water, which is the sum of free available chlorine molecules and combined available chlorine radicals.
How to measure it?
Although there is no harm in adding excess chlorine in a swimming pool because it dissipates over time, there’s no point to it.
Adding buckets and buckets of chlorine to pool water will not kill germs any faster than usual; therefore, the right thing to do would be to only mix the required amount and maintain it.
Maintaining the level of chlorine in a pool can only be done if you know how much ppm of it is in the water and how off-scale that reading is. Simply put, measuring the chlorine concentration in a swimming pool is essential so that you can maintain it or regulate it accordingly.
When it comes to working out the level of chlorine in pool water, there are many ways to go about it. The most commonly employed method of measuring chlorine in water is using a test strip that can be brought from an online or brick and mortar store.
Test strips generally come in a cylindrical bottle with color scales corresponding to the shade scale on each strip. To run a chlorine test, take out a strip from the container and dip it into the water.
Check the package or bottle for instructions to know how long you need to hold the strip underwater and subsequently wait for the results after taking it out. Once the specified amount of time has passed, try to match the color on your strip with the guide scale on the container.
But remember, you will most likely not get an exact shade as on the bottle, so you’ll have to use your better judgment to come to a conclusion regarding the ppm volume of chlorine in the water.
The second way of conducting a chlorine test is by using a test kit. It’s a little tricky and is not the preferred route of chlorine testing used by inexperienced individuals. Generally, expert pool owners use testing kits to test the level of chlorine in their pool.
Chlorine testing kits come with a bunch of tools that play a part in testing. To begin with, there is a test tube to hold a sample of water from your pool.
Next, you’ll find a guide to pool chemistry and a saturation index tool. Since different test makers can have a particular checking method, the best bet is to follow the instructions on the pack to the dot.
Moreover, you must take out the exact amount of water as a sample, as stated in instructions; otherwise, the generated value will either an under or overestimation. Therefore, be absolutely sure about the volume of water you take out for the test.
Once you have followed the steps as mentioned on the test kit, wait for a specified amount of time (that will also be given on the manual label) to read the results.
As with the strips, your chances of getting an exact match of a color on the provided guide are slim, so you’ll have to use your judgment to make a call. Closely observe the color generated on the kit so that you match it right with the benchmark colors on the available guide.
Although the two mentioned chlorine testing methods are the most commonly used ones, a third system is also employed sometimes, and it involves a digital device.
Whenever we hear the word digital, the first thing that comes to mind is accurate and fast results, and that’s precisely what you get when using a digital tester. It features an LED screen that displays the readings once the implement is dipped in water.
The best and most convenient aspect of a digital tester is that there are no color scales for you to match. All you need to do is dip the apparatus into the water and read the number of the display later, as done when using a digital thermometer.
The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals recommends keeping free chlorine between 2.0 and 4.0 ppm.
The Center for Disease Control recommends free chlorine be kept above 1.0 ppm for pools and 3.0 ppm for hot tubs. If you find the amount of chlorine in your pool below the recommended level, mix in the deficit to get to the desired point.
Treating pool water with chlorine, in case of a shortfall, is critical to keep the quantity of unwanted foreign matter to a minimum. But how often should you do it?
How Often Should You Treat Your Pool With Chlorine?
Depending on which standard you choose to follow (the one recommended by the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals or The Center for Disease Control), you need to check the chlorine level of your pool.
Whenever it drops below the recommended value, you should mix in chlorine.
Ideally, do daily checks and act accordingly. However, as a general rule of thumb, you can shock your pool weekly aside from the daily chlorine maintenance to keep it in a tiptop condition.
In addition to the regular chlorine treatments, administer one in the event of special circumstances such as a pool party or heavy rainfall.
When a pool is exposed to a large group of people at one time, it becomes rife with organic waste; therefore, you should treat it with chlorine to restore its hygiene.
Similarly, when raindrops fall from the sky, they pick up airborne pathogens on the way that land in the pool, contaminating the water. Hence, necessitating a chlorine treatment.
pH Levels Of Water In Your Pool
After chlorine, the next water aspect that you need to balance before winterization is the pool water’s pH.
What Is The Optimal pH Level For Chlorine/Salt Water Pools?
The pH level of pool water should lie between 7.2 – 7.8. Whenever the ideal balance is disrupted, you must take restorative action and add a pH increaser or decreaser accordingly.
Whether you have a saltwater pool or a chlorine pool, you need to balance the pH level between the upper and lower limit of the ideal range. Generally, the pH value of saltwater pools is higher than their chlorine counterparts; therefore, an active maintenance program is essential.
A lower pH value indicates higher acidity that is not only bad for swimmers but also for all pool equipment.
On the other hand, a higher pH value signifies high alkalinity, which renders chlorine less effective for sanitization. Hence, having the correct pH value is necessary to have a healthy swimming pool.
The next water attribute that needs to be looked at before winterization is calcium hardness, also known as water hardness. It is the measurement of minerals in pool water, primarily calcium.
If the calcium hardness is too low, the water will corrode the pool walls and equipment, whereas, if it’s too high, the water will become cloudy. Therefore, keeping it within the recommended range is essential, which is 150 – 400 ppm.
If it drops below 150 ppm, you should add a hardness increaser. But if it shoots up to be more than 400 ppm, you’ll need to address the situation as such.
- If the water source has high hardness, get a mineral removal agent to counteract the excessive hardness.
- If the water source has a low hardness (which means the water in the tank only has a higher value), use dilution, i.e., add fresh water to the pool.
How To Measure It?
Naturally, you can only fix a reading or value when you know what it is. Similarly, you can restore the hardness of your pool water only when you see the value. Measuring water hardness is similar to chlorine testing as you need a kit or strips to run a check.
Get a testing kit from the market and follow the instructions on it to measure your pool water’s hardness. But if that’s tricky for you (it’s not uncommon, many people find hardness testing kits cumbersome to tackle), use testing strips instead.
Those are much easier to maneuver. All you need to do is dip one underwater and let it be for as many minutes as recommended on the container.
Take it out and match the color with the provided scale guide. But don’t be alarmed if you don’t get the exact replica of the shade as on the color index because that happens all the time.
How To Soften Water In Your Pool?
If your pool water source isn’t hard, then dilution will balance the hardness, i.e., soften the pool water.
However, if the water source is hard, you need to use a chemical softener or mineral removing agent to balance the hardness value. You can easily get a pool water softener from any pool implement store.
How Often Should You Change Water In Your Pool?
As unhelpful as the answer ‘it depends’ is, it is the response for most questions in life.
And this query is no different in that regard. But the good news is that we will give you a general rule of thumb that will provide you with some clarity regarding the curious case of pool water change.
While the exact time duration that should be waited out between two water changes depends on every pool’s maintenance, surrounding weather conditions, and water variables, experts generally suggest replacing pool water every five to seven years.
Even if your pool contains soft water, the environmental conditions can eventually make it hard. Therefore, the recommended practice is to replace pool water every five to seven years, aside from the regular (or daily) dilution and adding of water.
How to sanitize your pool?
Sanitizing a pool is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is add a sanitizer to the pool, and it’ll do the job. The most effective pool sanitizer is chlorine that should be added to pool water weekly, monthly, or as per the need based on the form used.
Two types of chlorine are used in pool water; stabilized and unstabilized.
Stabilized chlorine is easily dispensed using a skimmer basket, chlorinator, or floating dispenser. On the other hand, unstabilized chlorine has to be added directly to pool water in hefty amounts-this process is also known as pool shocking.
One week before, you need to shut off your pool, balance all the water attributes, and clear out all the visible debris.
Chlorinate your pool to kill even the tiniest of microbes and wash the back filter. Next, drain the pool lines and add antifreeze if you live in a region where the temperature frequently drops below the freezing point.
Once all that is done, install a safety cover over your pool. Pool covers provide the best protection against foliage, debris, and all other possible gunky particles that can contaminate a pool.
Whether you winterize your pool yourself or hire experts, be sure to check the water attributes and correct them before moving to the next step.
Otherwise, no matter how well you cover the pool, all your efforts will go in vain because the water will eventually develop bacteria on its own.