Many homeowners dream of the luxury of lounging by their very own pool. So if your new residence has a pool, congratulations on achieving the dream! But as exciting as it is to have a pool of your own, it also comes with responsibility. Read on for our guide to pool care for the total newbie. You’ll feel like a pro in no time!
Pool Care for the Total Newbie: First Things First
A swimming pool requires routine maintenance to keep all of the parts in good working order. That’s right – it’s about more than just keeping the water clean and clear. So first things first, let’s discuss the various components of your pool.
Your pool filter system is the workhorse of your entire pool setup. This is the piece that is responsible for keeping your pool’s water circulating and clean. The pool pump will force the water to circulate to the pool filter, while the filter will catch debris, dirt, and contaminants.
The filter protects your pool and those who use it. It stops bacteria and algae from building up, keeping your water safe. However, if your filter system were to fail, your pool water would turn cloudy and polluted. Saltwater chlorinators, sand filters, cartridge filters, and diatomaceous earth (DE) filters are all popular filter options.
Skimmers & Returns
The skimmers are the holes in the side of the pool that pull your pool’s water into the filter They also push the water through the filter as it is cleaned. The returns are the components that return the clean water to the pool.
These two parts work best if you clean and maintain them well. If you allow a lot of debris or obstruction, the water won’t flow correctly. Thus, you’ll end up with dirty water. This is why you must routinely backwash these systems. Ideally, you should do this and clean them out at least once a week.
No matter what type of pool you have, it has walls! So this advice applies whether you have a fiberglass, concrete, rubber, plastic, or vinyl pool. Pool walls come into constant contact with the pool water. Thus, if your water doesn’t have the correct chemical balance, it becomes much easier for bacteria and algae to grow and thrive. These pollutants are bad for your water and can also cause problems for your pool walls.
Every other week, you should make a point to scrub the pool’s interior walls to get rid of any bacteria or algae growth. If you don’t have time to do it by hand, you can invest in a robotic cleaner and set it to run automatically.
Pool Care for the Total Newbie: Water
To keep your pool water clean and clear, your water should circulate constantly. Thus, your pump and filter system should run daily. Ideally, your pump and filters should run around the clock. However, between the constant noise and the higher energy bills, many people eschew this rule.
Instead, run the system for at least 10 to 12 hours every day. This is ample time for your system to circulate all of your pool’s water at least once or twice. If you have a small or shallow play pool, you may be able to get away with running your pump a little less, like 6-8 hours per day.
For a newbie, finding and maintaining the correct chemical balance for the water can seem like a Herculean challenge. However, there are kits that can help to keep your water crystal-clear and safe to swim in. To keep your water clean and safe, you should focus on the following chemical ranges:
- pH level – pH levels show how acidic or alkaline the water is. A neutral pH protects your pool equipment from corrosion while also stopping skin and eye irritation. We recommend a pH range between 7.2 to 7.6 ppm.
- Total Alkalinity – This keeps your pH level in the pool balanced, and it should stay between 100ppm to 150ppm (parts per million).
- Chlorine – Chlorine acts like a sanitizer that rids the pool’s water of bacteria and algae. Keep chlorine levels between 1.0ppm and 2.0ppm. Up to 3.0ppm is acceptable, but beyond that, your eyes and skin will start to burn.
- Stabilizer (Cyanuric Acid) – If you have chlorine in your pool, this will shield it from sunlight. The ideal value is 50pppm, and cyanuric acid determines how much free chlorine you need in your water.
- Calcium Hardness – You want to prevent damage to your pool’s walls, and keeping your calcium hardness between 175ppm and 225ppm will help. Calcium buildup is caused by high pH or alkalinity levels in your pool water. This causes calcium carbonate to separate from the water and stick to the pool tile.
- Water Balance – Should be zero, or slightly negative on the Langelier Saturation Index (-0.2).
Pool Care for the Total Newbie: Supplies
As you may have caught on from the long list of chemical measurements above, you will be needing some supplies. To help you control the bacteria and algae while keeping your water clear, stock up on the following items.
Pool shock is a chemical that oxidizes organic water contaminants like algae and bacteria, destroying them. These are powerful sanitizers that you want to use either after heavy pool usage or at the beginning of the season. Most pool shock requires you to stay out of the water for 12 to 24 hours after use. Thus, this won’t be part of your regular maintenance, just something to use on an as-needed basis.
Chlorine is a popular pool sanitizer, but it has a strong smell that many people find unappealing. Bromine is another sanitizing chemical that helps clear out any bacteria and keep your water clear between uses. There are also natural or enzyme-based sanitizers available on the market.
Algaecides destroy any algae in your pool and prevent build-up on your pool walls. Algae can clog your filter system and cause your water to look cloudy. Algae thrives in warm water, so most homeowners only contend with it from late spring through the summer.
You have to keep track of and alter a range of chemicals in your pool water to keep your pool looking its best. The easiest way to stay on top of this is to buy a pool chemical test kit. This kit will come with several vials and test strips. You fill the vials with pool water and compare the colors to the chart. This will tell you whether or not you have to adjust your chemicals.
Adding and monitoring water balancing chemicals are essential parts of pool maintenance. Evaporation, sunlight, rain, and the presence of oils can all throw off your pool’s chemical levels. Your test kit helps you monitor these changes. Thus, you should test your levels at least once a week.
Pool Care for the Total Newbie: Getting Help
A big part of pool maintenance is cleaning your pool regularly. It’s so easy to skip a day here or a week there, but this can significantly impact how long your pool components last. So be really honest with yourself about how much time and attention you plan to give to your pool. While you may have the best intentions of staying on top of cleaning and maintenance, slipups can become costly.
However, there are several ways you can clean your pool depending on your budget. At the very least, you’ll need a net skimmer to get rid of surface debris, and a pool brush to clean the sides and bottom of the pool. If you have money set aside, a robotic pool cleaner can help automate much of this task. But the biggest budget line item with DIY care is time.
Alternatively, a well-priced, experience pool service can be an affordable way to keep your pool clean without the stress and time of doing it yourself.
If you’re interested in white-glove service to keep your new pool in top shape, contact the pros at The Pool Butler. Even if you plan to care for your pool on your own, it’s always helpful to have a reputable pool company you can trust for repairs or one-time services. The Pool Butler is a full-service swimming pool service and maintenance company based in the metro Atlanta area. We look forward to helping you keep your pool sparkling clean, at whatever service level works best for your budget.