Winterizing Your Pool
For many people with swimming pools the Labor Day Holiday marks the end of the swim season. This is especially true for people living in cooler climates. Alternatively, those living in warmer climates may have a good month or more to take a dip. In either case, unless the pool is indoors or heated, swimming will begin to taper off and the pool will need to be prepared for the winter.
Winterizing your pool can protect it from damage by chemical imbalance and algae growth. A properly winterized pool will also protect little ones from drowning.
The first step is to have your pool water tested. This can be done on site by a pool maintenance professional or the water can be taken into a pool supply company. The water should be tested to protect the pool from staining, scaling, equipment damage. A bit of prevention will can result in big repair cost savings when it comes time to open the pool next spring. If the test should reveal a metals or calcium problem, follow the directions of your pool water professional.
Adjust the total alkalinity if low, then adjust the pH. If necessary raise the total alkalinity to 80 to 125 parts per million (ppm) for plaster pools or 125 to 150 ppm for vinyl, painted or fiberglass pools. With respect to pH, tests should show a pH of 7.4 to 7.6. Use acid to lower the pH or a pH increaser such as soda ash (sodium carbonate) to raise the pH.
If necessary, raise the calcium hardness to 200 to 250 ppm for plaster pools and 175 to 225 for all others or as recommended by your pool water professional.
A clean pool is a happy pool. One of the most important steps in the winterizing process is cleaning. Prior to closing or covering the pool for the season the pool walls and bottom should be brushed and vacuumed to remove any debris which could cause staining. Calcium and hard water stains at the water line tile should be removed with a pumice stone and a commercial cleaning agent. Avoid damaging the tile with abrasives and products not designed for use on tile.
Remove all debris from skimmer baskets, pump strainer basket and the mechanical pool cleaner, if one exists. Thoroughly clean the filter by back washing the system or cleaning the cartridge in the case of a cartridge filter. The traditional back washing process may not adequately clean the filter grids. Therefore, it may be necessary to periodically dismantle the filter and remove the grid system. The grids can them be thoroughly washed with a chemical cleaning agent which will remove oils and other buildup which can make the filter operate less efficiently. Never store a dirty filter since deposits and scale may harden and cake over the winter leaving a tough repair or clean up job in the spring.
The pool should be super chlorinated for the winter to protect against unwanted bacteria. The filter pump should be run for several hours to thoroughly distribute the chlorine. Plaster pool owners should consider using a chlorinating floater which contains chlorine tablets.
When the pump and filter are not operating, any algae present in your pool water will have a chance to run wild. This can be prevented by adding an algaecide directly to the water around the edges of the pool. Run the pump and filter to circulate the water and to distribute the algaecide.
Pools located in areas which frequently reach sub zero temperatures require some additional precautions. Damage due to frozen pipes can be avoided by partially draining the pool. A level of about four inches below the skimmer is most often recommended. When in doubt follow the advice of your pool builder or local pool water professional.
Prepare the pool equipment for winter by draining water from the filter, heater, pump, hoses and pipes. This will prevent damage from freezing. Make sure electricity and/or gas is turned off.
A pool cover will not only keep the pool clean it can also prevent infant drowning. There are a myriad of covers from which to choose. A well secured cover is the most effective. Loose covers can tend to be the cause of infant drowning. Therefore, we suggest that you consult the Consumer Products Safety Commission for a safe, yet effective pool cover.
Much of what we have suggested is not required (or recommended) for pools located in mild climates. Instead of closing the pool, chemical treatment and filtration can be scaled back if the pool is not to be used during the winter months.
It is still a good idea to do all of the cleaning steps and the pool can be covered. However, an automatic pool cleaner will continue to keep the pool spotless in the winter provided it is used frequently making the cover optional.
For those areas where the mercury dips below freezing only a few times a year, run the filter pump continuously to avoid damage from freezing. Some modern automation devices have a temperature sensor that will turn the filter pump on automatically to avoid damage from freezing.
Consult your local pool water professional or maintenance specialist for specific recommendations regarding winterizing your pool.