Opening a pool is something everyone looks forward to but closing the pool not so much! The good news though if we take a few extra minutes and do it correctly, opening the pool will be a breeze. The cleaner the pool is when you close the easier it will be at opening time. Lets get started!
1. Order Pool Closing Supplies
A few weeks before closing my above ground pool, I make sure I have an air pillow, my cover is in good shape and I have my closing chemicals. I really like the Ultimate closing kit, it is a little more than I need but it has a little extra that ensures my pool will make it to Memorial Day weekend which is when I open the pool. The Ultimate is a little large for my pool but because I like the extras that you get with it, I only need to use ½ and save the rest for the following year. This kit especially works well if you are using a mesh cover.
2. Add Winter Chemicals, Clean the Pool
I start with the Natural Chemistry Pool Magic + Phos-Free a few days ahead and let the filter run overnight. Over the next few days I balance my pH and alkalinity, and then add Metal Free, algaecide and finally the non-chlorine pool shock. I put each chemical in one at a time and let the filter run for a couple hours between each chemical. Vacuum the pool and brush the floors and walls. Always make sure you do not have any leaks at this time. More on leaking pools later.
3. Lower the Pool Water 3" below the Skimmer
For my pool, I always lower my water to below the skimmer and the returns, using my cover pump - takes a few hours. Remove the eye balls from the returns and insert the winterizing plugs. This is pretty easy. Next close up the skimmer. I have a metal plate that screws into the skimmer blocking any water from getting into that area. Another option is an Aquador cover that fits over the skimmer. These work great too, but you will have to change the faceplate on your skimmer if you are going to use this type. A new type is the Skimmer Plug, that seals up on the inside of the faceplate. If you have hoses that connect to your pump, remove and store these indoors. If you have PVC pipes, drain or blow out the pipes, or add pool antifreeze as needed.
4. Winterize Equipment
Clean and Dry just about sums up this step. If you live in an area where the temperature drops to freezing, you will want to winterize your filter and heater. A lot of time people think they do not have to do anything, but if the temps drop you are taking a big chance of water that may be in the pump or filter, freezing and expanding, shattering or cracking. This is something that you do not want to take a chance on. We have a DE filter; we always drain the tank completely, wash all the DE out, make sure the tank and the hoses are drained well and let them dry out before storing the pump and filter inside for the winter. It only takes a little bit of water to be left in there to freeze. If you do store it indoors, dry your filter fully, to kill any microbes, and prevent mildew.
5. Cover the Pool
Just slide your pool cover over the pool, up over the air pillow, being careful not to snag the cover on any sharp edges. String the cable in/out all the way around the cover and work it into the ratchet. Tighten the ratchet up so that the cover does not blow around or off the pool. I like to keep a little bit of water on my cover to prevent any wind from getting under the edges causing it to flap around. We also have Cover Clips or Cover Seal which will install over the edge of the pool side and cover and hold the cover down if you live in a windy area.
Air Pillows: Make sure you have at least one air pillow in the pool, blown up to 75-80% of its capacity. Larger above ground pools should use more than one air pillow. I always inflate the air pillow a couple of days ahead of time - this way if there is a leak, I can patch it before installing it. Use a shop vac to inflate it if you have one. When you place your air pillow, do your best to put it in the middle. I always tie two strings, one on each side of the pillow and tie each string to the side of the pool.
Some people may say that an air pillow is not necessary. They say it just makes the rain water and snow melts go to the outside and makes it easier to drain the water off the pool. This is very true but it is not the reason you use an air pillow. Air pillows prevent a solid ice sheet from forming across your pool, which can cause big problems.
When an above ground pool freezes, it starts around the edges of the pool and slowly keeps freezing to the center of the pool. When the whole pool top freezes, the ice keeps expanding, if there is nothing to take the pressure of the expansion, the pressure goes to the walls. An air pillow keeps a large unfrozen spot in the center of the pool, absorbing the ice expansion.
Leaking Liners: The other major reason that a pool can collapse during winter is a problem with a leaky liner. A very important note, if you think there may be a leak in your pool, you want to be sure to make the repair or replace the liner before you close the pool. If there is a leak, and the water leaks out beneath a very heavy layer of ice - it can fall or tilt, ripping the liner to pieces! If you notice your pool cover sagging deeper and deeper during winter, add water as needed to keep it full.
Lots of Leaves? For those of you who have a lot of trees around the pool, the Leaf Net is by far the best invention every made for the pool. I put off buying one for a long time, biggest mistake I ever made. The leaf net comes with a cable and ratchet also, just lay it over the pool cover, the leaves fall on it. We have a lot of leaves so every 3-4 weeks during fall, my husband and I each take one end and walk the length of the pool and pop the leaves off. It beats the heck out of dredging wet leaves off of the pool cover.
Another great product I love is my automatic cover pump that stays out all winter and has freeze protection. It pumps the water off the top of the pool cover when the water level reaches about ½ inch. It keeps an eye on the amount of water on the pool, so you do not have to worry about it.
In a nutshell, the process is: vacuum and brush the pool, add your winter chemicals, lower the water, winterize your filter/pump, plug the returns and skimmer, and cover the pool (with the air pillow).
No one likes closing the pool. It means summer is over! If you close the pool correctly, opening the pool is no more than balancing the water and shocking the pool. Most of the time you will not even have to vacuum. Close an aboveground pool as clean as possible and you will find opening it next year to be faster and easier, and cheaper!
SPP Pool Expert