The weather is getting warmer. Everyone is looking forward to opening their pools. It just means there are fun times ahead. Opening the pool is not very hard and if you closed it correctly it will be a lot easier than you think. So here we go!
Hopefully, when you take the pool cover off, the water is nice and clear. This means it was closed correctly and the winter cover kept it clean. If blue and hazy, that's good, it will be so easy to get the water ready for the swimmers. Before I start to do anything with the pool, I would wash off the cover, let it dry and fold it up to be stored for the season. I always recommend that you store a pool cover in a trash can or other container so that mice or other small rodents cannot get into it. Mice and other nesting rodents can make a cover look like Swiss cheese.
Next, you want to get your filter system hooked up or reassembled, and all your winter plugs removed from the pool and replaced on the filter and pump. Add water so that your water level is 2/3 of the way up the skimmer. Once everything is back together, prime up the pump, open all the valves and start your filter system. Replace your skimmer baskets and return eyeball fittings, ladders and handrails.
Check the pH and Alkalinity First, or you are just throwing money away, because your pool shock is most effective at a lower pH level. If your pH test is really pink, 7.8 or higher, chlorine will only be half as strong as it would be at 7.2. Lower the pH if necessary to 7.3 or so, using a pH decreaser. The alkalinity should also be on the low side during cooler temperatures, so the best range for pool opening is around 80-90 ppm. Use a pH decreaser to reduce alkalinity and an alkalinity increaser to bring it up.
Clean the Pool as much as Possible to make sure the pool is clean and free of debris otherwise you are just throwing your money away. If the pool is not free of debris, you spend money killing the leaves, no benefit to that. The shock will do less for the water quality but will make leaves look like skeletons. At a minimum, use a leaf rake to skim the surface well, and scoop any debris from the floor. If you have a vacuum hose and head, you can manually vacuum the debris, and if you have a multiport valve on the filter, you can vacuum to waste, which is useful for when the pool has a lot of silt, dirt or algae.
Calcium Hardness levels is next and should be around 200 ppm. This test measures how hard or soft your water is. Calcium Hardness is actually a measurement of the calcium, magnesium and sodium in your pool water. If the calcium hardness is too low or too high, you can have problems with the water. If the calcium hardness is too low, add some calcium hardness increaser to your pool. If the calcium hardness is too high, you will begin to see scaling on plumbing, filter, and pool surfaces. Swimmers may notice eye and skin irritation when the calcium hardness level is high. If you find the calcium hardness is too high (over 400 ppm), it is recommended to drain some of the water out of the pool and add softer water, where possible.
Cyanuric Acid is the next step. This is also referred to as Conditioner and Stabilizer. This is a chemical level that doesn't fluctuate so much, but you would still try to test for cyanuric acid once a month. This will prevent the sun from attacking your chlorine and other chemicals in the pool. It allows the chlorine to last longer and work harder for you. Cyanuric Acid level should be in the range of 20-40 ppm. If it gets over 40 ppm, drain out some of the pool water and refill, to prevent over-stabilizing the pool.
Now you can shock the pool! Read the package label, but most chlorine shocks are dosed around 1 bag, or 1 lb. per 10,000 gallons of pool water. If your pool is cloudy, double the dose, and if the water is green, triple the dose. For vinyl pools, dilute chlorine pool shock by pouring 1-2 bags into a bucket full of pool water. Stir with a clean and sturdy stick or long wooden handle until dissolved. Pour the mixture around the edge of the pool, being careful not to let any undissolved granules at the bottom of the bucket spill into the pool. If that happens, grab your pool brush and push it around on the floor until it dissolves.
Let the filter run overnight, backwash if needed and test the pool water again. The first thing I do the next day is test my chlorine level, and if it's at zero, shock the pool again, after rechecking pH and alkalinity and adjusting if needed. If green, shock the pool until the water turns blue gray, and if it doesn't hold a chlorine residual 12-24 hours after shocking, shock the pool again.
The Langelier Saturation Index is helpful to balance your pool water. To use this formula you would measure your Total Alkalinity, pH, Calcium Hardness, Cyanuric Acid and the temperature of the pool water. Plug these figures into one of the many online Saturation Index tools, and it will compute a value from -100 to +100. Water is considered balanced when the result is closest to zero.
If you have a salt system, salt chlorinator or salt generator (so many names!), you want to check your salt level and adjust if necessary, but you should still shock with a granular or liquid chlorine product on pool opening to thoroughly oxidize and sanitize the water. Many salt systems, although they may have a shock function, do not deliver enough oomph for most pool openings.
Test strips and test reagents have an expiration date stamped on them. If you are using a test kit with liquid drops, make sure you are using new reagents. Test kit reagents should be replaced every year. Test strips do not last forever either, usually 2-3 years. Test strips can be ruined by moisture or excessive heat, and if liquid test kits have been allowed to freeze or exposed to direct sunlight, their results may not be so trustworthy.
Run the pool filter pump 24/7 for the first few days after opening the pool, then you can cut back on the hours. As the weather gets warmer, you will need more filtering run time. One of the biggest problems pool owners face is when they do not run the pump long enough each day. They do not want to waste the energy and only run the filter for a couple of hours and feel that is plenty and then they start having water problems. After opening, run your filter system for at least 12 hours a day. If your filter system is properly sized for your pool, 12 hours should be enough time.
Pool Opening Kits are super convenient and I use them myself on my own pool opening. These have everything you need to test, shock and clean the water, but you still need to have balancing chemicals on hand for pH, alkalinity, calcium and maybe cyanuric acid. Pool opening kits make it nice and easy for the pool owner, and include shock, algaecide, clarifier, stain & scale, test strips, and an oil sorb. And, our pool opening kits have over 100 reviews with a 4.8 star rating!
Balancing pool chemicals sounds a little tricky but it really isn’t. Start with the first step and go down the list. I would recommend testing the pool water twice a week. If you test regularly, adjustments are small and manageable, and keeps you from having larger problems.
Have fun, too! :-)
SPP Pool Expert