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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Swimming Pool Preparation For Winter / Freezing Weather

In the temperate climate of coastal North / South Carolina and further south, many pools are not winterized as they are in other areas of the country. (see brown area above) However, every few years we get unusual cold and freezing weather that lasts for days with little to no thaw.  In these situations we must take measures to protect our pool and pool equipment.  Always refer to your owners manuals that may be located online.  REMEMBER:  IF YOU ARE IN A HIGH WATER TABLE AREA OR WILL EXPERIENCE LOTS OF RAIN OR MELTING SNOW DO NOT LOWER THE WATER LEVEL IN YOUR POOL BEFORE OR EVEN AFTER THE STORM.  Water needs time to travel through the ground to lower areas and the ground water static pressure remains high which could cause a pool to "float" (yes, all pools concrete, fiberglass and vinyl).

Although temperatures may be close to freezing if there is a wind chill / shade it will increase chance of freezing of pipes and equipment.

1.) Clean the skimmer baskets from any leaves or debris.  This may have to be done after the storm as well if temperatures remain low.  WATER FLOW IS VERY IMPORTANT.  

2.) Clean pump baskets.

3.) Clean filters.  Dirty filters cause lower flow.  It is not unusual to see a sand filter freeze while the pump is running due to the nature of the sand in the tank having no way for water to go around it and the water within the sand freezing.  You may want to put a lamp on the filter area and shelter it from wind if possible.  DO NOT COVER SYSTEM IN PLASTIC.  The condensation can increase the rate of freeze.

4.) Pumps need to run 24/7 during extreme cold and when there is no high temperatures expected for 24 hours.  If you are on a mechanical timer I suggest putting it in manual mode and running constantly.  There is no guarantee that the freezing temps will only be at night or when you have the "on" time set. 

Variable Speed Pumps without Automation Systems:  There is a freeze protection mode on the variable speed pumps that need to be "enabled" in the programming.  HOWEVER THIS DOES NOT TURN THE PUMP ON FOR COLD AIR OR WATER.  This is a safety feature for the circuit drive (computer part) of the pump only.  There are no water temperature sensors AND air sensors with a stand alone variable speed pump.

Run the pump at high speed (may not be 3750 rpm, should be what was programmed into pump for the size pool you have) . Easy way to tell is when the pump is turned on and the skimmer wier (flap/door) opens should be the minimum speed you need.  

Automation Systems: Automation systems have freeze control program and if in good working order/enabled and programmed correctly.  IF you are not sure you can put the automation control panel (where the breakers are) and hit the "SERVICE" mode and then turn the pump on.  DO NOT put in "TIME OUT" mode as it will go back to program after 2 hours or so.

5.) Heat Pumps need water to flow through so open any by pass if you have one.  Gas Heaters need water run through or winterized if you have a by pass system that can close water to it and then you MUST remove 4 plugs to drain.  Consult owners manual.

 Remove 2 plugs on pump (one in basket area, one in impeller area)

Remove drain cap/plug from filter 

Remove any salt cells or loosen any equipment with unions.

Remove plugs from any other pool equipment such as sand strainers etc.

Place a bottle of  Rubbing alcohol (still in container or pour 1/2 way into a 16 oz plastic drink bottle with the lid on the bottle into the skimmer.  This will serve as an antifreeze device for the skimmer.  There is also a plastic device called a gizzmo available.  The alcohol in bottle is "old school" and how we did it before Gizzmo's were invented.  DO NOT PLACE ANTIFREEZE IN THE POOL PLUMBING OR EQUIPMENT.  

Be sure to turn breaker off to power in case freezing occurs if your power goes out. You don't want the pump to come on and pump the pool water level down.

IF YOUR POOL EQUIPMENT IS BELOW WATER LEVEL OF POOL  - you must plug all wall fittings and skimmer before draining pool equipment.


Salt water pools don't freeze.   Yes they do if cold enough.  Salt in the water lowers the freeze temp for water but when water gets cold enough the salt is forced out during the solidification process and allows water to freeze.  Example:  Icebergs.

I hope this helps....stay warm.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring Into Summer

Ready, Get Set, Swim

         Easy spring swimming pool start up can be achieved with a yearly maintenance and inspection checklist.  This checklist should systematically include areas in and around the pool and items used for the pool during the season.  Having an early “to do” list will allow you to be enjoying your pool instead of working on it.

The Poolscape

          Most pool environments not only include the pool itself but the surrounding areas also known as the poolscape.  The deck and patio areas need to be inspected for repair and cleaning.  An early warm spring day is perfect for pressure washing and cleaning the walkway / patio areas and patio furniture. If there is an outdoor kitchen now is the time to be sure it is in good working order.  Easter dinner prepared outside by the pool even if it is too cold to swim can be a memorable experience if you are ready.  This is a good time to add on that fire pit or the outside shower you have been wanting.  Be sure to check your fence gates that they are self-closing and latching.


          De-winterize the pool equipment once the threat of freezing has passed to confirm that all your circulation equipment is working properly. The cover can remain on the pool until you are ready to swim.  However if you need equipment serviced you can schedule and repair before the spring rush which could delay a successful and prompt opening.   Consider upgrading the pool equipment especially if it is aging to an energy efficient system.  Many states offer rebates on newer equipment in addition to the money you save over time which can actually pay for the upgrade.  Your pool professional can help consult on what your needs are and proper sizing of equipment. 

Give the filter a thorough cleaning as per the manufacturer recommendations.  If you have chlorine generator be sure to clean and inspect the cell. The colder water may give error codes but these should subside as the water warms.  Consult your owner’s manual to see what temperature you unit works properly at. Order any mineral cartridges for mineralizers.  

Inventory and Pool Chemicals

          At this time take an inventory of your cleaning equipment and chemical supply.  Brushes, hoses and nets left outside in the sunlight become brittle and may need to be replaced.  Safety pool alarms need the batteries changed.  If your winter pool cover was damaged over the winter have a plan to either replace or repair when you remove it.  Safety covers that need repair will need the hardware removed before sending in for repair.  It is much easier to remove the hardware now.  Make a list of your chemical supply and note how much you have.  This will be handy when you visit your local pool supply store.  You can also mark each container with the level of product and take pictures to show your pool professional.

Clean the bathtub ring at the pools water edge and also inside the skimmer throats and basket area.  Brush under ladder steps and behind ladders.  A thorough brushing of the pool will help lift any bio-film that may have developed during the winter.  The last item to check off is the pool water quality.  Have your pool water professionally checked so that you have the peace of mind that the water is safely sanitized for swimmers and properly balanced to protect your investment and give you many hours of enjoyment. Jump in, have fun!

Wendy L. Purser

NC Contractor, NSPF Certification Instructor, CPO, CPI, APSP CBP,

Aquatic Engineering Technologist AS

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Making Memories at the Dive In Movie Night

Summer fun and summer memories are made in the swimming pool.  Either at summer camp or in your parents or friends pool you can recall many "firsts".   The first time you went  "all the way under" the water, the first time you jumped in the deep end, the first time you swam from one end to the other of the pool are just a few.  Remember how much fun and excitement it was to swim at night with your friends?  Playing Marco Polo?  Not only are these still done but now many families are starting "Dive In Movie Night" to create summer memories.  Dive In Movie Night has been used by many community pools as an additional program to their aquatic offerings.  As we invest in our backyards with sound systems and movies available on laptops or Netflix all you need is a screen and a projector.  Fill up the rafts and fire up the grill.

Computer projectors are used by us in many types of business and are available to rent.  Screens can be purchased at yard sales or may be in Grandpa's attic. Camp Chef has an outdoor screen and there is a Gemmy inflatable screen in various cost from under $200.  Some cities have outdoor movie rental companies for your large event or function.  Use your imagination for various themes such as Classic Films that may require a home made bathing cap and entrance to pool like Esther Williams or Caddy Shack where yes...Baby Ruths are the appetizer of the night.  Make it fun...make the memories.

Dive In Movie Nights are like the old fashioned Drive In's but much more fun...

Monday, March 17, 2014

History of Swimming Pool Filtration

Water filtration was first used as a means to keep drinking water free of germs. Most of our swimming pool filtration began as a way to purify drinking water for municipal water systems. 
     The ancient Sanskrit and Egyptian writings first described of this process of heating water and letting it drip through sand and/or charcoal.  Hippocrates commonly called the father of medicine wrote of public hygiene and mentioned how water could be purified.  The “Hippocrates’s sleeve” was invented by him and consisted of a cloth bag that could help remove hardness and bad smell from the water.  Water was boiled and poured through his “sleeve” for his patients.  He was able to prove that the water from the Greek aqueducts was not pure in quality.  Like others before him he also thought that if the water tasted good it was clean and pure.  The Greek and Romans also wrote of water treating devices.
     Desalination of water was elaborately talked about by Sir Francis Bacon in his compilation “A Natural History of Ten Centuries”.  He felt that if seawater was allowed to percolate through sand it could be purified.  Lucas Antonius Portius was a famous Italian physician that illustrated through the use of three sand filters a multiple sand filter experiment for clarifying water.  During this time of exploration, seashells were used on ships to clarify water.
     In the first decade of the 18th century La Hire, a Parisian scientist proposed in the French Academy of Sciences that every household had a sand filter and rainwater cistern to help keep drinking water pure and fresh.
     Municipal water treatment began in Scotland in 1804 and consisted of sand and gravel filters.  In 1829 London also installed filters using this method.  During the mid 19th century when outbreaks of disease such as cholera were rampant it was found that areas that had sand filtration there were less cases reported. In 1892, Wilhelm Berkefield recognized the filtration media diatomaceous earth, and the Berkefield candle filters were used during the cholera epidemic as well. 
Berkefeld Ceramic Filter
 ( I own a modern  "Berkey" version for my drinking water)
      John Snow a British scientist found that by using a microscope he was able to trace the disease back to a contaminated pump and disproved the myth that if water tasted and looked good it was pure.  He used chlorine to kill the bacteria and this started the process of treating water in addition to filtration for water municipalities.  After this discovery England mandated that all water be treated before drinking. This was the first government mandate on drinking water.  In 1835, Queen Victoria recognized health dangers in her drinking water and commissioned John Doulton (Doulton Pottery) to make a ceramic filter for her household.  His son in 1862 introduced the Doulton Manganous Carbon water filter around the same time that Louis Pasteur’s bacteria experiments conclusively showed Spontaneous Generation and the ceramic filter research went to providing a filter that could filter out these bacteria.       
     Moving forward we all began to swim and soak in the states for recreation in large contained bodies of water that were manmade, the swimming pool.  After use for a while it was found that the pools of water became dirty and did not look inviting. 
     In 1919 one of the first proclaimed pool builders was Ed L. Wagner of Connecticut.  As a builder of water and sewage treatment plants he applied his experience to building swimming pools. These pools were of the “fill and draw” type.  Concrete was poured into a hole in the ground and water let into it.  After a couple of weeks the pools became unsanitary and unsafe.  Pools were built on a slope so that the water could be drained by gravity and water re-introduced uphill from the pool by gravity as well.  In the 1950’s on the west coast many of these pools were built and a reservoir of water was located uphill of the pool.  Chlorine and soda ash were used to extend the water life but eventually they had to be drained and refilled.  Today there is an example of this pool at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

     As pumps and valves were not a part of the pool business yet they were purchased from marine suppliers and were crude beginnings.  Filters were purchased from the petroleum and dry cleaning industry and modified for pool service.  In 1925 a pool supply business was started by John Mudge a former chemical engineer.  After that water recirculation systems were developed and installed.  This alleviated the waste of water and allowed for building of pools not near a water source.
     Around 1940 water systems improved.  Paddock Pools invented a floating plastic skimmer around 1942 to skim the water and bring water back to the filter.  This worked on irregular shaped pools.  In wall skimmers that were fixed were available in 1952.
     Up to this point slow sand filtration was used fed by gravity and then with the equipment borrowed from other industries we moved into using rapid rate filtration which increased the filtration turnover time to 3-5 gpm/sq. ft. but the tanks were large and the process was still slow.  In the 1950’s came space exploration and also the discovery of newer materials that could withstand high pressure.  The high rate pressurized filter came into existence that could filter with the aid of a pump up to 20gpm/sq. ft.
     In 1956 Phil Anthony of Anthony pools placed an order with Dick Meissner who worked sewing in his garage on an order for the first “Anthony McIntosh Filter Bag”.  This was at a time when DE filtration was at its infancy for residential pools.  He then received orders from Swimquip, Landon, Paddock and Pac-Fab.  This nighttime extra job grew into the company we now know as Unicel in 1959.  By 1962 this business had tripled.
     When cartridge filters came into being Dick Meissner saw an opportunity to grow his company further.  As the first cartridge elements were paper and did not hold up well Unicel developed an element made of more durable polyester in 1964.  Now we see Microban which is a microbiocide being added to the filter elements as well.
     Bag filters are still available and used heavily in the beach areas to trap sand as a secondary filter system installed before the base filtration.  So this idea goes back to Hippocrates.  Drinking water uses ceramic filtration today in our small drinking water devices. 
     Although we have updated scientific information we have found that ancient methods of slow filtration through media are still the standard today.  But, I’m not drinking the pool water, unless I have to.

“Filtration Focus Builds Niche”  The History of Unicel 
Swimming Pool/Spa Age July 1997

“Swimming Pool Filtration: Pool water that sparkles like Diamonds”
Everything H20 /  & Rec Business December 2007

The Springboard in the Pond

Thomas A.P. van Leeuwen 1998

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Winterized Pool But Opened to a Mess?

                It is disappointing to open a pool after the winter and reveal a green pool with a black bathtub ring.  I have seen this occur more often in the past few years due to winterization kits that do not provide sufficient sanitizer and many times none at all.  It is common when purchasing winterization kits online and in discount stores that the oxidation product they sell does not contain chlorine but a non chlorine oxidizer.  Although the non chlorine oxidizer is a wonderful product for oxidizing wastes it does not leave a residual of sanitizer to combat bacteria and algae over the winter.   With no sanitizer in the pool it will enable bacteria to grow in a bio film within the pool, equipment and pool piping.  This bio film will then enable algae to grow as it is producing food for the algae as well beyond what the algaecide can handle.
Accumulated Oils at Waterline in Swimming Pool
 Here is a good way to imagine what is happening in your pool over the winter.  During the summer months your pool is used by swimmers with sunscreen, tanning oils and body oils.  These oils are in the pool water after use.  This can be compared to making a pot of soup.  Think of that pot of soup that is put into the fridge for storage.  It is not being heated to emulsify the oils nor stirred like circulation in a swimming pool.  The oils rise to the top of the soup or water base and form a ring around the edge of the pot.  This is what happens in a pool as well.  The oils accumulated around the edge of the pool are a haven for bacteria growth which consumes sanitizer.  Algaecide works with sanitizers to allow them to compromise the algae cells causing their death.  The result that occurs is algae in the pool and a bathtub ring around the winter water level.  Then the biofilm starts in areas that you normally do not brush in spring.  And they are smart (please read bio film hyperlink for further information).   This leads to reoccurring algae throughout the year. 
Decades ago when winterization kits were not available we closed pools with a super shock to raise the chlorine level to 5 ppm or higher and added an initial dose of algaecide.  We still had a bathtub ring from the oils.  The trend to a non chlorine oxidizer came about from a desire to lessen the bleaching of vinyl liners ( white concrete pools were shocked and this helped remove stains), and also the ability to ship non hazardous chemicals from internet warehouses.  However we have seen staining of pools from algaecides with metals and also bleached areas on vinyl pools (as well as blistered fiberglass pools) from floating tablet feeders that failed and sunk to the bottom or stayed close to a wall of a pool.  The chlorine tablets have a very low pH which can cause a  liner or finish to fail as it is so very acidic.  Also, the chlorine sitting on a pool liner will cause a large bleached area.  Floaters over the winter are advised to be used only in white plaster pools.
What can you do?  First of all add an enzyme to the pool to remove the oils and bathtub ring.  Many times adding a good enzyme will remove the bathtub ring without scrubbing within a 2 week period.  Also in the spring scrub under the ladder treads, skimmer throats and other areas of poor circulation and raise the chlorine level to 10ppm.  This will drop in a short period of time.  Add an initial dose of algaecide to your pool.  Be sure to clean your filter media with a product made to do this. 
Keep in mind that your filter media is taking out these oils all during the summer and the bathtub ring you see occur is intensified in your filter.  The use of an enzyme product during the summer will eliminate having to clean the waterline area of the pool, use less sanitizing and algaecide, and keep your filters cleaner giving you a carefree summer.
  Next winter use quality products that have a sanitizer, algaecide, and enzyme. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vinyl Liners: mil or gauge? Buyer Beware

Vinyl Liners 20 mil VS 20 gauge:  Buyer Beware

We have always measured liner thickness in mil since I can remember for the past 45 years.  I remember my shock and confusion when a customer came in and asked "what gauge is your liner?" recently.  I had to do some research.  A distributor's representative where many liners are purchased by pool professionals told me they were the same.  I didn't buy it or I would have heard that before in my life.  I talked to a quality liner company, Loop Loc and their young representative Andres, and knew the answer.  They had done their homework with what was happening in our industry.  

What I found out is that mil is the exact measurement of .001 of an inch.  This is a standard measurement when measuring with a micrometer to determine thickness.  Gauge is what we usually measure the steel pool panels by.  Gauge does not have a predetermined set thickness.  Gauge means approximately close to but not exact.  The steel process of manufacture does not allow a consistent thickness, but close to.  Only iron metal products are measured in gauge.  Metals such as aluminum and copper are measured by ounce.   As you go up in gauge the thickness is less.  So a 20 gauge panel is about as thick as a sink and a 14 gauge panel will hold up to static pressure such as in a pool better.

So lately many will advertise the upgrade of going to a 27 mil liner for the same price as a 20 mil. Certain manufacturers are able to get a gauge liner and are not held to the exact measurement.  The savings for them can be made up over a whole roll of material.  However once stretched into a pool this would mean less than usual thickness and shorter lifespan but advertising allows 27 gauges at the same price.  Look at the table on the table below where actual measurements were made with a caliper and you will see it does make a difference when looking at the numbers.  This is why an experienced person can tell there is a difference between 20mil and 30 mil but has a hard time with telling from touch a 20 mil and a 27 gauge.
Bottom line is liners sold in gauge are not adhering to set principles and trying to deceive you.   

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Swimming Pool Robotic Cleaner Safety.

Robotic Cleaner Safety

     No doubt about it, robotic swimming pool cleaners are easy to use, do a great job of cleaning a dirty pool and are economical.  They save money in electrical costs, chemicals and conserve water; not to mention save us all time before jumping in the water.  But with any piece of equipment used around water we must follow safety precautions.  I highly recommend reading (yes, follow the directions) the owner’s manual to fully understand what is necessary for a safe swim.

1.) Leave the pool cleaner power supply in the cleaner caddy and a minimum of 5' from pool edge. It is highly recommended to use a caddy so that the cleaner power supply is in a stable area and to deter from pulling on the electrical cords. This can also help with preventing the power supply from being “accidently” kicked into the pool.

2.) Do not bury the cord, this way it cannot be hit by a shovel or machine doing yard work. Also the insulation is not meant to be underground. All underground connections should be in conduit but this would not allow for inspection for worn areas which is mandatory.

3.) Most cleaners use a grounded plug and should be plugged into a grounded GFCI receptacle.  There is a unit on the market (Zodiac S3) however that uses double insulation and therefore the 3 wire ground plug is not used on this unit. This unit avoids people trying to use a grounded plug in an ungrounded outlet. All metal parts are also double insulated from the electrical components.

4.) The homeowner, facility or unauthorized repair center should never try to repair a power supply or cord (either floating cord or power cord) and should never open the power supply. When sending a unit away for repair be sure to include the power supply.

5.) Do not use the unit with worn cables or damaged cables. These should be inspected before each use. Never remove or pull the unit by the cord, always use the handle on top of the unit.

6.) Never use an extension cord. Plug the power supply directly into the GFCI outlet at least 10' from pool.  The cleaner power supply should always be 5’ from the pool water edge.

7.) Many units have an automatic shut off in case of over -heating. Therefore; do not use the unit in water over 95 degrees.

8.) Do not have anyone or anything in the pool when the unit is being used as they could become entrapped. 

The safety issues that I see repeatedly have to do with electrical shock of ungrounded units and entrapment by the cord of a body, limb or the moving parts could entrap hair easily. The hair entrapment is a serious issue although I could not find anything to substantiate any cases so far – and I hope we don’t see any.  After working closely with the Pool & Spa Safety Act 2007 it just makes sense.