So you have a few days off for the holiday, maybe enough time to spend an hour or so around the pool. What should be checked, tightened, adjusted, lubricated?
In winter time, we often do not give our pools the attention they deserve. For winterized pools, like my own pool - many of us tend to forget all about the pool after it's closed. For our customers in the south, they also may let pool maintenance slip during winter, when the pool is unused and cold.
Here's some tips for both types of pool owners, those in the frozen north, and those in the sunny south.
SNOWBELT: Winterized Pools
Winterizing your pool or closing your pool for the winter is different for those of us living in the snowbelt as compared to those living in the sunbelt regions. In northern terms, winterizing is blowing all of the water from the pipes, and plugging them. But there are some other concerns after that...
Leaks: As Larry wrote in his recent blog post about Winter Pool Leaks, "a winter pool leak can be more of a problem than a summer pool leak". This is because if the water level is not high enough to support the winter pool cover, it can fall into the pool. Even safety covers can become damaged if the water level under the cover drops too much. Pool surfaces of all types can become damaged if the water level is allowed to slip too far. Check your pool during winter to be sure that the water level is not dropping. If the pool is leaking, read Larry's post, and decide if you want to fix it now (brrr!) or add some water to fill the pool back up, and fix it when the weather warms up.
Pool Cover: Check that your pool cover is fitting tightly, and make any adjustments if necessary, to tighten it up. Cleaning the cover - a chore that no one wants to do, is important to protect the cover and help prevent holes in the cover. Larry also wrote a nice piece on Winter Pool Cover Care, if you want more information, or tips on patching pool covers.
Pool Heaters: If you have a heater, and you have mice in your area, you may want to block the area where mice could get into the heater or use some type of mice preventative. Mice tend to get into the heaters and make homes in the winter, sometimes chewing the wires. It's a good idea also to clean any leaves out from the top of the heater, and also below the burner tray. Leaves and debris hold moisture and promote rust. Remove the heater top, so you can access the burner tray, and clean it with a vacuum or wire brush. Removing the front door, you can also vacuum or sweep clean the space beneath the burner tray. A pool heater cover is a solid investment to keep debris and moisture out of your pool heater during winter.
Pumps & Filters: Not a thing to do if you have winterized them properly. Just give them a look over to check for any damage, from tree branches for instance. Check that your pump breakers are off, to be sure that the motor won't turn on during winter.
Pool Water: Maybe the most important step - check your pool water chemistry. You can open up a corner of the pool cover, or pull one side of the cover on top of the other side, to allow you to brush or skim the pool. Check that your pool water pH, Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness are still within range. You may want to refill a pool chemical floater if you use one, or add some additional winter algaecide.
Pool Deck: As a final step in a pool area spruce up, run a leaf blower or rake around the pool, to blow away or bag up any remaining fall leaves that can blow on top of or underneath of your pool cover. I have several 'leaf traps' around my pool, under the bushes and up against the fence, that if I do not clean them in early winter, they end up blowing onto my pool cover.
SUNBELT: Un-Winterized Pools
Water temps of 60-75, and reduced operation time. Sometimes pools in sunbelt regions that are under-used in the winter, are also under-sanitized and under-maintained. Give the pool, the water and the equipment a thorough cleaning and inspection.
Most people in warmer areas do not winterize their pools; they continue running their pool filters every day - they just cut their running time in half. You should continue to test the pool and add chemicals accordingly, although you will not need as much sanitizer to keep the water blue. The pool will probably use about half of the amount needed in summertime.
Keeping the water chemistry balanced and maintaining the chlorine level will allow you to still swim on warm winter days. I would recommend that you vacuum the pool periodically to keep any leaves, dust and debris from building up in the pool. Pools that are not maintained during winter can easily become stained, develop calcium nodules, or even grow algae.
Using a solar blanket on the pool will help to keep the warmth in the pool; especially if you are using a heater. Lubricate pump lid o-rings, push-pull type backwash valves, and other valves or unions that have rubber gaskets or o-rings.
Keep the pump running in the event of freezing temperatures. It only takes a few hours of below 32 degrees for a very expensive freeze damage to happen. You do not need to heat the water, but the water has to be moving, through all of the pipes - so make sure all valves are at least partially open and the pump is running when temps get very low.
Run the pump as long as you need to maintain clear water. I would recommend 8 hours daily as a minimum. Sunbelt pool owners can use the Seasonality Timer by Intermatic. It's a digital timeclock (for the pump) that has reduced operation times during winter. You can also use the Freeze Protection Timer, which you can set to turn the pump on a specific outside air temperature.
Swimming pools do require some maintenance year ' round, but it's usually only about half as much work as during the summer, spring or fall. Take good care of your pool during winter, to prevent damage that could be costly!
If you have winter time pool care concerns - let us know, we are always happy to help! Our phones are pretty quiet during the deep winter months; we'd love to hear from you!
SPP Pool Expert