I do not know about you, but I am tired of all this snow! It seems like it has been a tough winter for everyone. With March bringing the Vernal Equinox, it is time to put our thoughts to a more pleasant time of year, and start thinking about opening our swimming pools. I'm thinking about sunny days and nice quiet evening outside. Time to shred these bulky clothes and coats and get out the shorts and bathing suits. Just saying it warms me up. Get those pools open and think about picnics and pool parties. Fun, fun, fun!
If you closed your pool properly, balancing the water should be a breeze. If for some reason you have leaves or debris in the pool, you will need to remove all of this stuff before you do anything. Take it from someone that learned this lesson the hard way! If you do not clean the pool first, all the shock you put in the pool is useless. The only thing that you will get are leaves that look like white skeletons. Debris also makes it hard to balance your pool water.
Once you have taken the cover off, you will want to skim the top of the pool to remove anything floating on the top. If the water is not clear, I would recommend vacuuming and then brushing the steps, sides of the pool and the bottom to pick anything that was missed. If there are a lot of leaves, focus on removing them first. After cleaning the pool, I like to add a Clarifier and let the pool pump run for about 24 hours to filter the water. This makes my water really clear and perfect, and lets me get a good look at the pool to see if I need more cleaning before adding chemicals to the pool.
ALKALINITY: After cleaning the pool, we need to balance the water and get it ready for the season. Remember keeping your water balanced is one of the most important things you can do to keep your water clean for swimming. First thing to check is the Alkalinity. Alkalinity is a measure of the alkaline materials in your water. The idea range for alkalinity is 80-120 ppm. By keeping your alkalinity in this range, it will also help to keep your pH balanced. If the total alkalinity is low, you will notice your pH bouncing every which way. To correct low TA, add small amount of Alkalinity Increaser. Allow the filter to system to run a few hours before retesting. If the alkalinity is too high, the pH will also probably be high. If the alkalinity is too high, you add small amounts of pH reducer to the water and allow the filter system to run for a few hours before retesting.
pH: Once the alkalinity is set, it is time to test the pH. The pH is actually the acidity level of the water. The water chemistry is constantly changing from rain and snow, swimmers body oils, dust and dirt. pH is the most important part of the water chemistry. If the pH is too low, it will cause heater corrosion, etching of plaster, eye and skin irritation. If the pH is too high, your water can be cloudy, scaling or staining, and more prone to algae. The pH should be between 7.2 – 7.6. it is recommended that you test the pH about 3 times a week, especially if you have had a lot of swimmers in the pool or a lot of rain. If the pH is too low, you will need to add pH increaser and pH reducer if the pH is too high.
CALCIUM: Next we want to test for the Calcium Hardness. When testing for Calcium Hardness, we are actually testing for minerals in the water – calcium, magnesium and other minerals. High levels of calcium and other minerals can cause the water to be cloudy, corrosion of pool equipment, staining and scaling. Calcium deposits can ruin heaters very quickly. For vinyl, fiberglass and painted pools, keep the calcium hardness between 150-300 ppm. To raise calcium hardness you just add calcium increaser. To lower calcium hardness the best way is to empty some of the water and add new water. If that is not practical in your area, you can add a scale remover, like Scale Free. This keeps minerals in solution and prevents staining and scale from forming on the pool and pipe surfaces.
Cyanuric Acid or Stabilizer is the next chemical level you want to check. Check the level monthly, to keep your cyanuric acid level around 40 ppm. This is especially true if you have a very sunny pool. Cyanuric acid cloaks the chlorine molecule, and prevents the sun from evaporating the chemicals very quickly. If you are using chlorine, I would strongly recommend that you use stabilizer, but do not let it get too high. Add stabilizer if you test below 20 ppm, and dilute the pool water to lower the stabilizer level if the water is above 50 ppm.
CHLORINE, or chlorine level, you will probably test at zero. You can add tablets to your feeder or floater, to begin chlorinating the water again. When choosing a chlorine, make sure it is stabilized. There are different manufacturers of chlorine. If you decide to buy chlorine somewhere other than SPP - check the label! A lot of times when you find chlorine tabs cheap, it's only 30% stabilized and 40% trichlor - this is not a very good buy! There is not much stabilizer and it has mostly filler in it. You are going to go through a whole lot more of these tabs than you would if you paid a little more and bought a chlorine tab that was 90% stabilized and 99% trichlor. Trichlor is the active ingredient to sanitize the pool and the 90% level of stabilizer will work and last a lot longer than a cheaper chlorine tab.
The last step in balancing the chemicals is shocking the pool. You should shock the pool before anyone goes in the water when opening the pool for the season. We want to wake up the water after its long winter nap, and kill anything in the water that may have survived the winter months, or recently bloomed with warm weather. I usually shock with a double-dose of pool shock for spring pool openings, or about 2 lbs per 10000 gallons. A triple dose may be needed if your pool is very green - keep shocking it until a blue-gray color appears.
The pool should be shocked every 7-14 days depending on how hot it gets out and how many swimmers are using the pool. As a rule of thumb, people usually shock the pool before and after a party and approximately every two weeks. If you have a bad rain storm or the weather has been hotter than usual, I would shock a little more often.
Once the chemicals are balanced, and the shock is added, I brush and the pools walls and bottom again. The next day, I backwash the filter if necessary and check all chemical levels again. I then announce the "Pool Officially Open!"
Again, opening the pool is really not hard. If you closed the pool the correct way, you will find that this is an extremely easy process. For the most part, the water will be pretty clear. If you live in a warmer climate you will want to open it a little earlier so you get the filter running before it gets too warm out. To reiterate the process:
Spring Pool Water Balancing
- Remove Pool Cover
- Skim, Vacuum and Brush the Pool
- Add Clarifier and Run the Filter
- Balance the Alkalinity, pH, Calcium Hardness, and Stabilizer
- Shock the Pool
- Brush the Pool. Again
- Test Water Chemistry. Again
- Run the Filter 24/7 until clear. Backwash as needed.
If your pool is clean and the water is balanced. but the water remains cloudy, try another shock (if green), or use Super Floc to settle out suspended materials.
And now the pool is ready for swimming. Be sure to maintain your chlorine level at 3.0 , and check your pH and chlorine levels 2-3 times per week, and alkalinity, calcium and stabilizer every 2-3 weeks, until it's time to close the pool. The best pool test kit is the Taylor DPD, or K2005 test kit - it will test all of the levels, plus acid demand and base demand tests, so you know exactly how much to add.
The rest is easy; throw your floats in the pool, grab a cool drink and relax!
SPP Pool Expert