Maintaining the proper pH balance in your pool will keep your pool finish and equipment in good working order. pH balance is also important for the comfort and safety of the people using your pool. pH balance is the measure of how acidic or basic your pool water is. An ideal pH level for pool water is 7.4 as measured on a numeric test strip.
Keeping the Right pH for Your Pool
pH balance measures the acidity or baseness of the water in your pool. The proper pH balance can keep your pool equipment working longer. It will also make your pool finish and other fixtures (like ladders, handrails, and drains) last longer. Besides its effect on your pool and equipment, pH balance can affect how comfortable your pool water is to swim in. If the pool water is too acidic or too basic it can irritate that skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.
What is pH
pH stands for potential of hydrogen. While the mechanism for measuring the potential of hydrogen is quite complex, the general application of pH is to measure the acidity or baseness of a liquid solution. Pure water is considered neutral, at a pH of 7. pH levels from below 7 are acidic and pH levels from above 7 are basic.
Both acids and bases can be corrosive at high concentrations. This means that a strong acid or a strong base will act on a substance (such as metal, plaster, or human tissue) in a destructive manner. At lower concentrations, both acids and bases can be irritants to human tissue and slowly cause damage to metal and other components of your swimming pool. That’s why keeping the pH balance in your pool is so important. If you are at all unsure of how to do this, a quick call to The Pool Butler can get you started on the path of regular professional pool maintenance, saving you time and money while keeping your pool in its optimal condition.
How to Measure the pH of a Pool
The short answer is that there are many ways to test the pH of a pool. At your local retail chain or pool supply store you will find a wide variety of tests. Test range from simple test strips that are dipped in the water to complex tests using wet or dry reagents. Reagents are used in very specific amounts to test not just for pH, but a host of other chemicals important to your pool’s water balance.
Testing for the complete balance of your pool water is not going to be simple. Test strips seem like the easiest way to measure pH and chlorine levels, but they are also the least accurate. More complicated tests measure a variety of chemicals in the water. They can even tell you how much chemical to add to balance the pool water. But these tests only work when used exactly according to the directions supplied, which is easier said than done.
The most accurate way to test the balance of your water is to let the professionals do it. The Pool Butler provides regular maintenance packages. Packages include swimming pool water balance testing and treatment to keep your pool at the perfect levels for your health and the safety of your pool, fixtures, and equipment.
What Causes the pH to Go Up in a Pool
The most common culprit in a rising pH is chlorine stabilizer. Adding chlorine stabilizer will always cause the pH of your pool to rise. Too much can make your water overly soft. A sudden rise in the temperature of your pool water can also cause a rise in pH. If your pool is in direct sunlight for most or all of the day, an unexpected heat wave could raise the pH of your pool water.
Another cause of pH increase could be a saltwater chlorine generator. A saltwater chlorine generator will always have some effect on the pH of a pool. If pH level seems to be rising too quickly, check the settings on the generator to see if they are set too high.
Problem Caused by High pH in a Swimming Pool
Soft water may sound ok, but the results are not desirable. Water that is too soft will begin to irritate the skin, causing dryness and red eyes. It will also start to damage swim gear like goggles and swim caps. Soft water will also keep the chlorine in your pool from working effectively. To solve this you will just have to keep adding chlorine, of to 80%, just to get the same results, wasting time and money.
Water that is too soft can also cause undesirable chemical reactions. Calcium in the pool water can combine with carbonates to form unsightly scales around the edge of the pool. These scales can trap dust and dirt, eventually turning into dirty black scales surrounding your pool.
Another unwelcome chemical reaction is also caused by calcium carbonate, the molecule formed by the combination of calcium in the water with carbonates. The calcium carbonate can clog a sand filter, ultimately turning the sand into a material more like cement. Fixing this is not a do it yourself job and can sometimes be quite costly.
The simplest fix to high pH in your pool is to add some pH minus. pH minus is an acidic solution that will lower the pH of your pool water. However, determining the cause of the pH rise and resolving the issue will take a little more detective work.
Low pH in a Swimming Pool
Low pH in a swimming pool is also a reason for concern. While a slightly low pH is not a huge problem, as the pH drops the acidity rises, and this can cause some serious problems.
First of all, acidity in the water can negatively affect swimmers, causing irritated skin and burning eyes and mucous membranes. Acidity in the water can also start to eat away at metal fixtures, such as ladders and handrails.
Corrosion from the acid in the water causes rust which can create discoloration in the area around the rust. If the pH imbalance is left unchecked, corrosion can even weaken pool fixtures to the point that they need to be replaced.
The low pH will also eat away at the pool plaster and grouting. Low pH water can also cause pool accessories, such a floating toys and pool noodles, as well as bathing accessories like swimsuits, goggles, and swim caps to fade as the acid burns out the color.
Just like high pH, low pH can increase the necessary dosage of chlorine in your water, since the low pH causes the chlorine to dissipate more quickly.
Causes of Low pH in a Swimming Pool
One common cause of Low pH in a swimming pool is acid rain. Due to environmental pollution, much of the precipitation we receive actually has a pretty low pH. After heavy precipitation, the addition of this low pH water to your pool can be enough to cause a significant drop in pH levels.
Another common cause of consistently low pH is low total alkalinity. Before attempting to use pH increaser, you should check the total alkalinity of your pool water. Standard pH increaser usually contains sodium carbonate. This should not be confused with sodium bicarbonate with is used to increase the total alkalinity of your pool.
Consider Hiring a Professional
Controlling pH is just one part of maintaining the proper overall balance of your pool water. Maintaining balance actually means controlling several different chemicals. You have to keep their levels in check and continually monitor chemical levels to make adjustments as necessary. Ideally a pool should be checked daily, though it is more realistic to check a pool weekly.
While it is possible to check and manage the balance of your pool water yourself, there are many potential pitfalls. Any of a number of mistakes or incorrect readings can lead to costly and dangerous mistakes. If you are not 100% sure of what you are doing, your best bet is to hire a professional pool maintenance team. The Pool Butler can keep your pool water balanced and you pool in optimum shape. The Pool Butler has a complete suite of services. Find services you could use to simplify your life and keep your pool clean, safe, and in good condition.