Spring is in the air and it's time to start getting those pools opened across America! After months of neglect, your pool needs filtering, cleaning and water balancing, and not necessarily in that order.
Unless you have a pool cover that as solid as Fort Knox, your pool water balance has changed drastically over winter. For mesh covered pools, pounds of solids have washed into the pool, and each bit of dust, rain drop or snow flake that dissolved in the pool changed your water balance in some small way.
Clean the Pool!
The first step to water balance is to clean the pool and start filtering the water, to remove all of the particles and contaminants that have blown or washed into the pool during the winter.
Remove all debris and brush the pool very well, and keep it skimmed during the first week. You may even want to run the pump extra long (or perhaps even 24/7) for the first few days, to help the pool clean-up and and re-balance faster.
It's a common phrase that means you should start with Alkalinity, followed by pH. Alkalinity 'buffers' the pH, making it more or less resistant to change. With low Alkalinity (<75 ppm), your pH will fluctuate more easily. When Alkalinity is too high (>120 ppm), your pH may be hard to adjust.
Total Alkalinity for pools should be in the 80-120 ppm range. If it's too low, add Alkalinity Increaser and if it's too high, add pH decreaser. Lowering alkalinity sometimes must be done in stages, to keep the pH level from getting too low. In other words, you may need to lower alkalinity, raise pH and lower alkalinity again, since the same chemical (pH down) is used to lower both pH and Alkalinity.
For easier control over pH and Alkalinity, take a look at pHree & Clear tablets. Patented formula maintains both pH and Alkalinity in pools and spas, while also delivering powerful clarifiers to make a fast spring clean-up. One bucket of pHree & Clear each year is usually all that's needed to tame wild pH-Alkalinity pool conditions.
What comes after the Alkalinity (and pH) are straightened out? Calcium Hardness - the measure of how hard or soft your pool water is. When your water is very hard (>400 ppm), it can more easily produce scale, cloudy water and stains. When water is very soft (<150 ppm), it can foam easily, or damage can occur to cements and metals.
Calcium Hardness for pools should be in the 180-220 ppm range. When calcium hardness is too low, add Calcium Increaser to the pool to increase the hardness. When water is too hard and calcium is very high, the usual solution is to replace some of the water with softer water. There are some chemicals such as Cal-Treat, designed for lowering pool calcium levels, but results have been mixed, and some experience side effects.
When pH, Alkalinity and Calcium have been tested and adjusted, it's time to check the conditioner or stabilizer level, also known as cyanuric acid. This protects chlorine from the depletion by the sun and is considered a part of water balance.
Twenty years ago, most pool operators would strive for a 50 ppm+ level of cyanuric acid, but new thinking has this being the top end of the range. Check cyanuric acid levels and shoot for 20-50 ppm. Too little and you can have a hard time keeping a chlorine reading during the day, and too much and your chlorine can become sluggish.
To raise your conditioner (stabilizer/cyanuric acid) level, just add Pool Conditioner to the pool. If the level is too high (>50 ppm), dilute the pool with water containing no stabilizer, or use Bio-Active cyanuric acid remover.
Shock the Pool!
Finally, you can shock the pool with chlorine, now that the pool is cleaned and the water balanced. Shocking the pool before doing these things results in less effective shocking, and possibly creating stains that could be avoided.
For a spring opening when the pool has been closed for 4-6 months, hit it hard with pool shock - usually a double dose, or triple dose if moderate to severe algae is present. (A single dose is usually 1 lb (16 oz), per 10,000 gallons, but check your label to be sure).
That's my recipe for re-establishing your spring pool water balance. The steps taken are not unique, but doing them in the proper order will make it easier overall to restore your pool water balance.
SPP Pool Expert