Owning a pool can be a big learning curve. Every year, we talk to new pool owners who are struggling to keep their pools clean and clear. Often what we find is that these people have recently moved into a house with a pool.
These new pool owners get little to no instruction on how to properly maintain their pool and are left guessing about what they should do. Those that do get thorough instructions often inherit the bad habits of the previous owners, or from friends of theirs that also own a pool.
With that in mind, we decided to help new pool owners with this article, pool maintenance 101. By the end of this article, you should have the basic skills required to keep your pool looking clean and clear all summer long!
Get Your Water Tested
Our first tip is the most important; test your pool water. Testing your water is the only way to know for sure that it is safe to swim in. As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, just because the water is clear, doesn’t mean that it is safe to swim in.
You should test your water at home at least 2-3 times per week, paying close attention to the chlorine level in the water. Try to maintain the chlorine level between 1-3ppm. If the chorine level ever dips below 1ppm, add more before swimming.
Along with testing your water at home, you should also have your water professionally tested at least once per month. Simply fill a water bottle with pool water (taken from elbow deep water) and bring it to our water care professionals. Our water testing system is much more accurate than home test kits, and tests for more things.
After we have tested your water, you will receive a list of recommendations for how to keep your water balanced. To learn about the importance of good water balance, check out our article on why you should test your water.
On top of balancing your water, you also need to make sure that it has enough chlorine in it to prevent algae and bacteria from growing. This is done by adding three chemicals to the water once a week.
- Shock. “Shocking” the water burns off any organic matter in the pool and allows your chlorine pucks to work more effectively.
- Chlorine Pucks. These pucks slowly dissolve over the week, releasing a steady stream of chlorine into the water.
- Algaecide. Algae naturally coats itself in a slimy protective shell. This shell can even keep the algae alive in water with low levels of chlorine. Algaecides break up this protective shell, making it much easier for chlorine to kill.
Brushing The Surface Of The Pool
Next to adding algaecide and chlorine, the best way to avoid algae problems is to regularly brush the surface of the pool.
All pools have areas with poor circulation, known as “dead spots”. Algae love still water, so these dead spots are particularly prone to algae growth. Without fresh, chlorinated water being introduced, once these algae blooms start to grow, they can quickly turn the whole pool green.
Brushing the liner breaks up any small algae blooms that have started to grow. These smaller pieces of algae are then quickly killed off with the combination of chlorine and algaecide that you added earlier.
Brushing also stirs up the water, letting fresh, chlorinated water into areas with poor circulation, which inhibits the growth of new algae. For best results, brush your liner at least once per week, right after you add your weekly chemicals.
Cleaning Out The Skimmer and Pump Basket
Regularly cleaning out your skimmer basket is important to properly maintain the circulation of the pool. As debris builds up in the basket it begins to restrict the amount of water that makes it to the pump. It also reduces the amount of water that gets filtered and can increase the chances of the water turning cloudy or green. This restriction also forces the pump to work harder to cycle the water, leading to increased wear and tear and a shorter lifespan for the pump.
For these same reasons you should also check the filter basket in the pump itself. Take a look at the basket through the pump’s see through lid. If there is debris caught in the basket, you should remove it.
To remove debris caught in your skimmer you should:
- Turn off the pump.
- Remove the skimmer lid.
- Remove the skimmer basket and empty.
- Reinstall the skimmer basket and lid. Turn the pump back on.
To remove debris from the pump basket:
- Turn off the pump.
- Close the valves leading to the pump.
- Remove the lid of the pump.
- Remove the basket and empty.
- Reinstall the pump basket and lid. Turn the pump back on.
How To Properly Vacuum A Pool
Proper pool maintenance also involves periodic vacuuming. How often you need to vacuum your pool will depend on where you live. If your house is surrounded by large trees, you will need to vacuum more often than if your house is in a newly built neighbourhood with few trees.
You’ll know it’s time to vacuum when you start to see pockets of dirt and debris settling on the bottom of the pool. Once that happens you will need to:
- Attach the vacuum pole to the vacuum head.
- Attach the vacuum hose to the vacuum head.
- Attach a vacuum plate to the other end of the vacuum hose.
- Remove air from the vacuum hose. To do this, start by lowering the vacuum head to the bottom of the pool. Once the vacuum head is at the bottom of the pool, grab the vacuum plate attached to the other end of the hose and place it in front of the return jet. This will remove any air trapped in the hose and fully fill it with water.
- Place the vacuum plate on top of the skimmer basket.
- Slowly move the vacuum head over the debris you want to suck up. If the bottom is really dirty, you may have to empty the skimmer basket part way through the cleaning.
Note: Make sure that you use a vacuum plate. Some pool owners will instead remove the filter basket and insert the vacuum hose directly into the hole at the bottom of the skimmer. While this does work, you run the risk of clogging both the pump basket and the plumbing with debris.
How Full Should The Pool Be?
To properly maintain circulation and filtration, your pool should be filled to around halfway up the opening at the front of the skimmer.
Overfilling the pool will cause water to move past the skimmer more slowly. This reduces its ability to skim debris off of the surface of the water.
Under-filling the pool will cause the skimmer to start sucking in air. This can cause the pump to lose its prime and could eventually burn out the pump motor entirely.
When To Backwash Your Pool
One of the least understood aspects of owning a pool is how often you should backwash the sand filter. “Backwashing” reverses the flow of water through the filter, removing all of the dirt and debris trapped by the filter and flushing it out of the system through the “backwash hose”.
While most pool owners are familiar with backwashing, few of them know how often they should be backwashing. Some backwash weekly, others monthly, others only when the water turns cloudy. These are all incorrect.
The only way to truly know when it’s time to backwash is to monitor the pressure gauge on the sand filter. Check the gauge immediately after backwashing the pool and note its PSI. When the pressure increases by 8-10 PSI, it’s time to backwash.
Following this method will mean less backwashing and better filtration. Dirty sand filters actually clean better than clean ones. Not only that, you will lose less water and spend less money balancing the water!
Note: Sand filter pressure gauges are notorious for breaking. To see if yours still works, turn off your pump. If the pressure gauge reads anything other than 0 PSI, it’s broken and needs to be replaced.
How Do You Backwash A Pool?
So now that you know when to backwash, it’s time to go over how to properly backwash.
- Attach your backwash hose to the backwash line on the filter head. Unroll the hose and place the end where you want the water to go.
- Turn off the pump.
- Turn the dial on the top of the sand filter to the “Backwash” setting.
- Turn the pump back on.
- Let the pump run for at least 2-3 minutes.
- Turn the pump off.
- Turn the dial on the top of the sand filter to the “Rinse” setting. This will clean out the pipes and prevent loose sand from getting back into pool once we’re done backwashing.
- Turn the pump back on.
- Let the pump run for 20-30 seconds.
- Turn the pump off.
- Turn the dial on the top of the sand filter back to the “Filter” setting.
Cleaning Your Filter
Once per year, usually just before closing the pool, your pool filter should also be chemically cleaned. While backwashing clears out most of the debris caught in the filter, it doesn’t get it all. Oils, lotions, metals and other debris can remain trapped in the filter sand.
Chemically cleaning the pool filter not only helps it clean more efficiently, it can also extend the life of the filter.
Having a pool can be a ton of fun. There’s also nothing quite like jumping into a cool, refreshing pool on a hot summer day. For a lot of new pool owners, it can also be frustrating as the water always seems to be turning cloudy or green.
The difference between enjoying your pool and fighting to keep it looking good often comes down to simple maintenance. We hope this guide has given you some useful tips and tricks you can use to avoid common pool problems and enjoy your summer to the fullest!
Still have questions? Contact the pool experts at Brady’s Pool and Spa Care.