The Basics of Water
It’s the same every year. The eleventh hour arrives and it is a frantic rush to get the pool looking good before those 40-degree days begin. We wanted to help you keep your pool in tip top shape all summer without breaking a sweat. So, we put our heads together and poured our many years of knowledge into this article. Print it off so that next time you’re unsure about something you can use this as your guide.
It’s all about getting the foundation right! So, let’s get started with some basics on the water chemistry. There are 3 main elements that are key to successful water quality.
(Things are about to get a little technical!)
This is a measure of the amount of alkaline substance there is in the water. The ideal measurement is between 100 – 150 ppm. Always correct the total alkalinity first as it can alter the pH level.
But what is PPM you ask???
Just as per cent means out of a hundred, so parts per million or ppm means out of a million. Usually describes the concentration of something in water or soil.
pH (potential of hydrogen) is a scale of acidity from 0 to 14. It tells how acidic or alkaline a substance is. More acidic solutions, have lower pH. More alkaline solutions, have higher pH. Substances that aren’t acidic or alkaline (that is, neutral solutions) usually have a pH of 7. If it reads below 7, it is acidic and if it reads above 7 it is alkaline. The perfect range is between pH7.4 and pH7.6.
The sum of all the calcium dissolved in water is referred to as the calcium hardness. Calcium is important since high levels are unstable and become even more unstable if the pH or the total alkalinity rise above the normal levels. These imbalances can result in cloudy water and/or scale. In addition, calcium does not like warm water.
The ideal range for calcium hardness is 150-400 ppm (parts per million). However, before you attempt to balance your pools calcium hardness level, first make sure your pools total alkalinity level is balanced, then the pH and lastly calcium hardness.
Keeping those chlorine levels correct
By keeping these three important elements in the water happy and at the correct level, you are allowing the chlorine to work at its very best. If you don’t keep them at their correct levels, it upsets the chlorine and its ability to sanitise and oxidise.Unfortunately, many pool owners don’t realise that on a typical stinking hot Australian summers day as whopping 95% of the pools chlorine can be evaporated out into the atmosphere in just a short few hours.
Other reasons chlorine levels change is when debris gets blown into the pool or a summer storm comes through and contaminates the water, how many swimmers are using it can also cause changes.
If chlorine levels are low, it is the perfect environment for bacteria (algae) to grow. Algae is mainly introduced into the water by swimmers, water top up and pets. So, keep the dog out!!!
Algae are kind of like weeds in your garden. Unsightly, unwanted space takers that create more work for the gardener, and sap up nutrients and resources from the flora we wish to grow.
If algae do start to grow in your pool which will happen if the chlorine level dips and the pH rises or the pump or filter is not operating effectively. Algae can cloud and colour the water, making rescue attempts difficult and reducing depth perception of a diver. Algae is not harmful to swimmers per se, but pools with algae may also be a safe harbor for pathogens like E-coli bacteria.
In addition to clogging up sanitation pathways in the water, algae also clog up the pores in a pool filter, decreasing filter effectiveness and requiring more backwashing or filter media replacement.
It can hide deep in the crevices of a filter or in rough spots on pool plaster and tile, or behind the pool light and under the ladder treads. Some strains of pool algae will send roots into the plaster, and slowly degrade and stain pool surfaces. Algae can even grow under vinyl pool liners, on the walls or floor beneath the liner. Algae create a chlorine demand in the water for itself, consuming chlorine that should be working on other contaminants. As it expels carbondioxide, the pH level of pool water can rise.
The good news is..
Bacteria can be easily avoided by keeping your chlorine levels correct – 1.0 – 3.0ppm. Invest in a good quality water testing kit and test the water every day during holidays and weekends and once a week when the pool isn’t being used.
The addition of stabiliser in to your pool will be of great benefit as it protects your chlorine from being eaten by the suns UV rays. This chemical floats on the surface of your pool providing a barrier against the sun and the chlorine. Keep in mind, when it rains heavily and you need to backwash your pool, the stabiliser’s effectiveness is hindered. So, you may need to top it up regularly during summer. BUT ALWAYS test levels before you add stabiliser.
“Shock it “
No, I don’t mean chuck the hair dryer in there!!
Shock treatment is the addition of an oxidizing compound or a mixture of oxidizing compounds to the water to destroy chloramines and other undesirables.
Your pool needs to be shocked at least weekly during summer. If you are the owner of a salt water pool, don’t be under the illusion that your off the hook and you don’t need to add extra chlorine. All pools need to be shocked whether they are salt water, chlorinated or freshwater.
We recommend you shock your pool on a Sunday evening when everyone has finished swimming. Depending on what product you use to “shock” your pool you may have to wait up to 24 hours for the chlorine to return to its correct level. At Countrywide Pools Northam , we stock a product called Purex Oxy+ Shock. This allows you and your family to jump straight back in the pool, no wait time necessary.
When it starts to cool down
When the pool isn’t being used and the temperature starts to drop, we advise you to let your stabiliser level fall to zero. Low temperatures and the addition of your pool cover can cause chlorine levels to rise which will damage the pools surface. Saltwater pool chlorine levels also need to be adjusted during non-swimming times, this will increase the lifespan of the cell.
These days, most salt water chlorinators on the market have self-cleaning capabilities, so very little maintenance is necessary. Older salt chlorinators that don’t come with that luxury and need to be checked regularly for calcium build-up on the electrodes.
This may cause issues such as overheating the electrodes and therefore reduce cell life. We suggest you clean the cells regularly to avoid the issues associated with build-up. Even chlorinators that are set to self-cleaning mode will need to be checked and cleaned regularly. A premix cell cleaning solution such as Purex Salt Cell Cleaner will make cleaning your cell a breeze. The average lifespan of a salt cell is around 4-5 years.
To prevent moisture build-up within your pool lights and wiring, sit out in the yard with a bottle of wine and turn your pool lights on for 30 minutes every week (wine optional). Halogen lights may cause a worse headache then the wine, they need to be replaced frequently. Today most people are opting for LED pool lights, not only because they last longer but they are much brighter and use far less power and run cooler.
The Heart of the pool, earned its name because it works so hard. They usually run for up to 8 hours of the day, 365 days of the year. Pumps, like any other equipment or machinery, if kept out of the weather and protected from the harsh Australian elements and serviced regularly will last much longer. The Countrywide Pool specialists suggest that you keep all your pool equipment undercover and protected to prolong its lifespan.
The pumps insulation will eventually deteriorate and break down due to constant heating up and cooling. Seals leak and the bearings start getting noisy, so it is important it gets regular maintenance to ensure a longer life and more efficient performance. The latest in pool pumps are far more energy efficient and are now also available in multi speeds. Talk to Countrywide Pools about installing the new 9 Star energy efficient Viron Pump from Astral Pools and how it will save you money, time and hassle.
Always use caution when using chemicals. Never mix chemicals before adding them to water and always read the instructions. Keeping a pool in good shape does entail a certain amount of work, but it doesn’t need to be a burden. By incorporating these pool maintenance tips into a regular cleaning routine, you can ensure that you’ll spend more time sunbathing than doing chores. Which is exactly how it should be. However, if you have any concerns or questions, the team at Countrywide Pools are more than happy to help you out!