Winter cold has blown in this week, and you still haven't winterized the pool? Around this time of year, you'll see freeze warnings as far south as Virginia.
This post is for the emergency inground pool winterization - I'm not so concerned with how clean the pool is, but we need to protect the plumbing and equipment - quickly. Even if you do not use a pool chemical winterizing kit, and even if you do not use a winter pool cover, you'll want to protect the equipment and underground plumbing. Here's how.
Lower water below returns: For DE and Sand filters, set your filter valve to backwash and before it gets below the skimmer, shut off the skimmer valve or plug the skimmer to continue pumping below the pool wall returns. Once the water is an inch or so below the skimmer, open the skimmer valve slowly to suck the water out of the pipe, until you start to suck in air. Close the valve quickly when the air begins to come into the pump and continue pumping from the main drain only.
If the pool pump is not operating, or won't pump below the skimmer, you can also use a pool cover pump, or if you have a small hillside, use the pool vacuum hose and allow it to siphon. Draining below the return openings on the pool wall is important, so that the lines can mostly drain out. If you do not lower the water level far enough, or if you are using a Skimmer Plug or Aquador skimmer closure system, you will need to blow out the pipes with air, or use pipe heating cables (see below).
Drain the equipment: Find the drain plug on each piece of pool equipment. Filter drains will be near the base of the tank. Pool pumps and pool heaters usually have two drain plugs. Inspect your pipes, and look for any low spots in your plumbing that may have been drilled and tapped, and a drain plug or cap inserted.
Pour in Antifreeze: Not in the equipment, but in the pipes. Pour 1 gallon of Pool Antifreeze into the skimmer. With a second gallon, use a funnel/hose or a hand pump to introduce antifreeze into the main drain pipe. For the main drain line, insert the hose into the pipe through a valve lid or through the pump opening and pump in a third gallon of non-toxic pool antifreeze.
For the return line, if there is no valve or way to introduce antifreeze, cut the pipe with a hacksaw to pour pool antifreeze in the pipe. Repair with a tee fitting, with the horizontal side threaded, so a threaded plug can be installed, and removed each winter.
Plug the lines: To keep the water from getting back in the return lines or the skimmer(s), use a threaded plug with o-ring, or use a rubber expansion plug, sometimes called freeze plugs.
Pipe Heating Cable: For those pools that do not have a way to lower the water level, or do not have enough pool antifreeze on hand, you can wrap the pipes sticking up above ground with an electrical cable that can warm the pipe (and water inside) so that it won't freeze. Follow directions to line or wrap the skimmer, main drain and return pipes, at ground level. Use electrical tape to secure it to the pipe, then wrap it with foam or fiberglass insulation. Many are thermostat controlled, and will begin heating up at some point below 40 degrees. You should still drain the pump, filter and pipes as much as possible, and use antifreeze as needed.
OK, maybe this will take longer than 5 minutes, sorry! If you want to do more, for instance, blow out the lines with air, put a winter cover on the pool, or add a winter chemical kit to the pool, you'll find more how-to information in our Pool Closing category of blog posts.
But - if you are looking for the down -and- dirty way to protect pool pipes and equipment, you've read the right blog post. This is not a complete winterization - and, your results may vary with successful freeze protection. If you do nothing else, make sure the pump, filter and heater is drained completely, and you pour some antifreeze into the pipes.
Do not Drain the Pool! Although that is a pretty good way to prevent freeze damage, a pool without water in it can be damaged in all sorts of ways - always keep the pool at least halfway full, three-quarters full is even better.
Questions? We are happy to help you with any last minute pool winterization questions you may have, and you can send us pictures if you like. Any of the SPP Pool Experts can give you expert advice on inground pool winterization - even if you didn't buy your pool from us, and even if you do not purchase any pool winterization supplies from us - we love to help!
SPP Pool Expert