There are few greater homeowner aspirations than the home swimming pool. Whether for your family’s enjoyment or to share with friends and neighbors, it’s the quintessential summer retreat. While a home pool is a great source of R & R, it also requires some specialized maintenance to keep it safe and enjoyable and to maximize its lifespan. If you’re the fortunate owner of a pool or are considering taking the plunge, here are some good pool care habits to establish.
Start the season right
After a season of non-use, you’ll likely be eager to hop back in your pool, but there are steps that must be followed to get it back in swimmable condition. After uncovering your pool, you may need to spend some time clearing away any debris that may have accumulated over the off season. Then, you should run the filter to get the water circulating again before you start to chemically treat the water. A common 1-horsepower pool pump moves approximately 3,000 gallons of water per hour, so allow it to run long enough for the entire pool’s water to circulate. If you don’t know your pool’s capacity in gallons, multiply its number of cubic feet by 7.5.
Keep it on the level
Keeping your pool water safe for swimmers – and the pool itself – is both art and science. This means ensuring that you maintain the proper chemical balances in your pool water. Too much chlorine can irritate eyes and skin whereas too little can allow harmful bacteria to grow. Maintaining the recommended pH, overall alkalinity and calcium levels helps prevent corrosion, degradation, scale formation, staining and clogging of your pool equipment while keeping your water from turning cloudy.
Stay clean with chlorine
Chlorine is no one’s favorite part of swimming pools, but it’s often the best way to keep pool water safe from harmful bacteria. Alternative antibacterial additives are available, but they are either more expensive or less effective. Do your research and decide whether you want to use chlorine tabs or liquid and if you want an all-in-one solution that includes algaecide.
Use shock treatment
In addition to maintaining your pool’s regular chlorine (or bromine) balance, it’s also recommended to “shock” your pool with an extra-high amount of chlorine at least twice a month, if not weekly. This purges your water of many bacteria that can survive the pool’s regular chlorine level. Shocking involves applying three to five times the normal amount of chlorine. Shock products are separate from normal chlorine treatments and are available in either liquid or granular form. For liquid, add 3.5 quarts for every 10,000 gallons of pool water. With granular, use one pound per 10,000 gallons. While shocking renders your pool temporarily unusable, some products work so fast that the pool will be swimmable again in as few as 15 minutes. As UV rays can interfere with the process, it’s best to wait until after sunset to conduct your shock treatment.
Keep your scene free of green
Chlorine alone isn’t enough to keep your pool clear of microscopic invaders. Algae spores can easily make their way into your pool and bloom into a very unattractive outbreak of the aquatic plant life. Apply algaecide according to its directions to kill any existing algae and prevent new algae from taking hold. This treatment is particularly important in windy and rainy climates as both conditions help introduce algae spores. Typically, a weekly or biweekly algaecide treatment provides sufficient protection.
Don’t let runoff run away
Pool water and run off from other sources make a poor mix. When washing down surfaces with a hose or power washer, make sure that you don’t rinse debris into your pool, dirtying the water and making more work for your filter. Rainwater can contribute to algae growth, so cover your pool if possible before significant rainfall.
Be careful with chemicals
The risk of explosion probably isn’t the first danger that comes to mind when thinking of swimming pools, but it can be a very real hazard if pool chemicals are mishandled. To stay safe, follow the rule of always adding chemicals to water and never adding water to chemicals. This means disposing of chemical containers properly and not rinsing them out or attempting to reuse them. And of course, you’ll want to use all chemicals exactly as their instructions direct.
Maintaining a pool takes some effort, but if you stick to your routine, you and your loved ones can enjoy the recreation and relaxation it provides for years to come.