Before jumping right into the pool of your dreams, equip yourself for the amount of swimming pool maintenance and care it may entail. If you keep up with cleaning and maintaining your pool, you can save money and avoid hiring a service. Here's what you need to know about standard pool equipment, water analysis and chemicals, cleaning, and seasonal maintenance chores.
Operational Equipment for Pools
All pools, with the exception of the most basic above-ground pools, require operational equipment to circulate and clean the water.
- Pump and Motor: The motor drives the pump which circulates the water from the pool through the filtration system—including skimmer baskets, filter, heater and automatic chlorinator—and returns the water to the pool.
- Skimmer Baskets: As water is drawn to the filtration system it first passes through skimmer baskets, located at the perimeter of the pool, to catch large debris such as leaves and twigs.
- Filter: Swimming pool filters the pool of fine particles. There are three basic types of pool filters available on the market: Diatomaceous Earth filters, sand filters, and cartridge filters. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) filters are fine mesh that has been coated with diatomaceous earth. Although these filters are organic, some areas restrict disposal of DE, which is done each time the filter is cleaned or backwashed. Sand filters force the pool water to pass through a fine sand which filters particles from the water. The sand needs to be replaced every few years. Cartridge filters pass the pool water through a series of grid-like devices made of a pleated mesh material.
- Heaters: Pool heaters heat the pool water. Although common in cooler climates to extend the pool season, they are also popular in warmer climates for the comfort.
- Ladders and Safety Equipment: Ladders provide an exit from the pool and are typically located at the opposite end from the pool steps.
- Pool Float: A pool float is a line which crosses the pool at the point where the depth changes.
Sanitizing and Balancing Your Pool
To provide a clean and safe swimming environment, pool water must be sanitized and balanced regularly. Learn about the elements and pool chemicals you'll need to maintain a clean pool.
- Sanitizers: Chlorine and bromine are the most common chemicals used to sanitize—or keep your pool free from microscopic particles. Other sanitizers such as chlorine generators and oxidizers are also available.
- Balance: Balanced water means the pool water's pH level, total alkalinity, water hardness and total dissolved solids fall within certain ranges. Imbalanced water causes eye irritation, cloudy water, and can spell trouble for your pool's operation equipment and your interior finish. Sodium bicarbonate (soda ash) and muratic acid are the two most common products used to balance pool water.
- Testing: Pool water needs to be tested regularly. The frequency depends on your region, weather conditions, and how much the pool gets used, although a good rule of thumb is four to five times per week.
- Testing Kits: Don't worry if chemistry was not your best subject in high school. Simple to use and read, test kits make it easy to test your pool water.
- Shocking: It is occasionally necessary to add high doses of sanitizers. Heavy rains, unusually high temperatures and heavy usage create the need for shocking.
Cleaning Your Pool
Keeping your pool water free of debris helps to maintain its cleanliness and provides a more attractive swimming environment. Here are the methods you'll need to clean a pool.
- Skimming: This is the process of removing debris from the pool's surface.
- Vacuuming: This is the process of removing debris from the pool's surface.
- Brushing: This removes debris from the pool walls. Pool cleaners are available for stubborn build-up and stains on the walls.
- Emptying: You must empty the skimmer baskets and filter trap to clean the pool of debris.
- Backwashing: This reverses the pool's circulation system, forcing water backwards and completely out of the system while carrying small particles with it.
Opening and Closing a Pool
Unless you live in a region that is warm year-round, pools are typically opened during swim season and closed during the off season. Learn pool care tips for each season.
- Opening a Pool: Beginning your pool season requires removing, cleaning and storing the cover; removing the anti-freeze chemicals from the plumbing system; and re-filling the water to an appropriate level; starting the equipment and adding the first dose of chemicals.
- Closing a Pool: Closing down the pool for the year requires draining the water level below the freezing level; clearing water out of all of the pool's plumbing lines and adding an anti-freeze to keep the plumbing from freezing and cracking during the winter. A pool cover is typically used to keep debris from settling into the pool while the filter and circulation equipment is disconnected.