Should I maintain my own swimming pool?
Do you want to save time, or save money? Will you be consistent in maintaining you pool? These are the questions you need to answer when deciding whether or not to maintain your own pool. While looking at this list of things you’ll need to maintain on a regular basis may appear daunting – it is absolutely within your capabilities of maintaining your pool. But you will need to be consistent.
DIY Pool Maintenance
Pros and Cons
- PSaves Money
- PSatisfaction of DIY
- ORequires time commitment
- OLearning curve
Service Professional Pool Maintenance
Pros and Cons
- PSaves time
- PThird Party is accountable
- OMore expensive
- OFinding quality service
How long should I spend maintaining my pool each week?
Typically you should expect to devote about 30 minutes per week on maintaining your swimming pool. This may vary depending on your individual pool and its unique requirements. Some things may just require checking once week, and servicing less frequently.
Pool service professionals can often spend as little as 15 minutes to get all this done. And with a little practice, so can you.
So let’s get started to keep your pool clean!
Weekly Pool Maintenance 10 To-Do’s
Check the Baskets
The baskets in your pool’s system are there to capture debris and prevent it from getting trapped in the system. With the filter system off, you’ll need to dump out the debris. Most pools have two baskets.
- Skimmer Basket: this skims the leaves off the water and traps them. It’s located underneath the cover over your skimmer inlet. This usually has the most debris between the two baskets. Just pop off the cover and dump the contents into the trash.
- Pump Basket: this is located at the front of your pool pump. This basket prevents debris from getting stuck in the pump impeller. This will be underneath a secured cover (usually clear). Simply remove the cover and dump the contents in the trash.
Check Basket for Damage
Make sure to check the basket for any damage. If you find that it’s broken make sure to replace it.
Pump Basket Cover O-Ring
There should be a black o-ring underneath the pump basket cover. Make sure to check it and lube it before putting it back (you can use vaseline to lube it). Often these get worn out and can cause air to enter the system – reducing pump efficiency.
Skim the Leaves
Using your pool pole and a skimmer net, remove any leaves and debris from the pool. Start by skimming the surface of anything floating, before trying to remove anything from the bottom of the pool. This is what you’re likely to spend the most time doing.
Let the water come to a still
Turn off your equipment and let the water come to a still.
Move Net Slowly
If you move the net too quickly, you’ll end up pushing the leaves around more than catching them. Instead move at a steady deliberate pace.
Circular continuous motion
As you move the net, some debris will follow the current you’re creating. Simply rotate the net and you can catch it. Try to move in a continuous direction to capture more debris quicker and keep things in the net.
Getting stuff off the bottom
For debris that sank to the bottom, move the net above the debris to create a small current that will lift it momentarily off the surface. Then in this moment use the net to capture it before it sinks again.
Brushing can remove dirt and a small amount of algae growth from the surface. This gets sent into the water where it can be caught by your filter system or dissolved into the water.
You don’t have to scrub the surface – just one pass with a nylon brush attachment should do the trick.
Brush Towards Main Drain
Brush your pool surface towards the main drain (deepest point in your pool). If you find that there is a large amount of dirt collecting there, you may need to vacuum it by using your pool-vac.
If you find that after brushing there’s a fair amount of dirt collecting around the main drain, you’ll probably need to vacuum. Simply take your pool vacuum hose attachment and connect the hose to the skimmer inlet pipe (the hole underneath the skimmer basket). Your pool’s setup may vary.
When vacuuming you have two options: vacuum to waste or vacuum to filter.
- Vacuuming to your filter is the default. Vacuuming to your filter will result in everything that gets vacuumed being trapped in your filter. While this doesn’t drain the water, it will get the filter dirtier. This may mean you need to clean it a little more frequently.
- Vacuuming to waste will require you to turn your valve after your pump to “drain” or “waste”. And in doing so everything you vacuum will be dumped from the pool – resulting in water loss. In general, you only need to vacuum to waste if you have lots of debris.
Clean your filter
Your pump filter system removes dirt, debris, as well as prevents algae and cloudy water. So it can get dirty pretty quickly. As it gets dirty, the filter pressure will rise.
There are generally three types of filters:
- Sand Filters: as the name suggests, this uses sand to filter the pool water. Cheap but filter the least.
- Cartridge: cartridge filters use a grid in a canister to do the filtering work. These offer the middle ground in terms of cost and filter capability.
- Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.): these use grids coated in fine diatomaceous earth particles. These offer the very best filtering ability at a premium.
A general rule of thumb is that if the filter pressure is 10psi or more above what it is normally, it’s time to clean it. You can refer to your filter manufacturer for specific directions on how to clean your filter.
Adjust water level
Water evaporates, so you’ll need to occasionally top off your pool. Your water level should be halfway up the skimmer inlet. This is typically along the middle of your tile line if you have a built in pool.
If you notice your water level is below the inlet, you’ll need to turn off your pump immediately. Your pump generates some heat, and is cooled by the water passing through it. If it runs long enough with no water, you can burn out the motor. And that is a very expensive thing to replace.
Check the Hardness
We recommend testing Total Hardness – which gives a more complete picture of what’s in the water. However, it’s easier to find a Calcium Hardness test, so you’ll likely be using one of those.
Check and make sure your Total Hardness is above 150 ppm, or that your Calcium Hardness is above 100 ppm. Your Total Hardness will always be higher than calcium hardness. If it’s under that hardness level, the water will try to dissolve hardness from your surface. In plaster pools, this can lead to etching over time.
Dilute Hard Water with Fill Water
If your Total Hardness is higher than 300ppm (Calcium Hardness above 200ppm) your water is considered hard. This means that it might be prone to scaling and staining. In this case, test your fill water’s hardness. If your fill water is 300ppm less than the pool, you can drain the pool a third of the way and refill to dilute the hardness. Otherwise, we’ll compensate for this in the next step.
Use Calcium Hypochlorite for Soft Water
If you need to increase your hardness, you can use Calcium Hypochlorite to shock the pool. This will not only raise your chlorine level, but will also increase your water hardness. Just remember to stop using it when your hardness reaches the desired level.
Adjust Total Alkalinity
The Total Alkalinity of your pool is the most important single parameter you can influence. The Total Alkalinity will dictate how pH behaves and how prone to staining and scaling the pool is. So make sure you always keep an eye on your TA.
You’ll want to adjust your Total Alkalinity based on your hardness. In general, the harder your water is the lower you’ll need to keep your Total Alkalinity to avoid stains and scale.
Use our Hamilton Index™ chart to find your hardness type, and then lower your Total Alkalinity accordingly. To lower your Alkalinity, simply use acid. You’ll want to lower the Alkalinity about 10ppm below the target number in the chart to give yourself some room.
Inversely, if you find that your Total Alkalinity is way below this number, then use an alkalinity increaser to bring it closer to your target Total Alkalinity.
Use Dry Acid to Lower Alkalinity
To prevent your pH from dropping significantly when you lower your Total Alkalinity, consider using Dry Acid (Sodium Bisulfate). This will affect your pH a lot less, saving you time and money when you go to adjust pH.
Lower Total Alkalinity for stains
If your pool stain frequently, try lowering the Total Alkalinity 10ppm. This should slow the staining down and even remove some light stains. You can repeat this until staining stops to “walk” the Alkalinity to your pool’s sweet spot.
Now that we have your Alkalinity in the right place, let’s adjust your pH. The range we recommend for maintenance is 7.8 to 8.2. A pH below 7.8 will burn chlorine much more quickly, while a pH greater than 8.2 can contribute to scale build-up.
Predict you pH
After a while you’ll begin to notice how your pH changes over time. For example, pools that use Chlorine Tabs typically see their pH drop. While Salt Pools tend to see their pH raise. With this in mind, balance your pH closer to one end of the range to compensate. If your pH tends to drop, then balance closer to 8.2. If your pH tends to raise, shoot for 7.8.
Adjust Sanitizer (i.e. Chlorine) Levels
Sanitizer is what keeps algae and bacteria from growing in the pool. And odds are you’ll need to replenish it weekly. The most commonly used sanitizer in pools is chlorine.
- Floaters: If you use chlorine floaters you’ll want to make sure that they are topped off with the appropriate amount. This is approximately one (1) 3-inch chlorine puck for 5,000 gallons. Do not throw out leftovers from the chlorine puck. If you leave the granules in the trash they can start a fire. Just let them dissolve into the water.
- Inline Chlorinators: You may have a chlorinator plumbed into your system. As with floaters, make sure it’s topped off with the appropriate number of 3-inch chlorine tabs, and adjust the flow rate as necessary.
- Salt Generators: Salt generators produce liquid chlorine using the salt in the pool. Check your control panel for readings and refer to your salt cell manufacturer for recommendations. You can adjust the amount of chlorine produced if necessary.
Shocking is adding a large amount of chlorine to the pool at once. This is sometimes required to break up chloramines (chlorine + ammonia), which gives a pool a strong chlorine smell and irritates the eyes. If you see a high combined chlorine on your test, you should consider shocking the pool.
While there is a large variety of things that you may have growing in your pool, eliminating and preventing algae is pretty straightforward:
- Eliminate the algae using a strong algicide
- Maintain proper santizer levels
- Use a preventative algicide to keep it from coming back
If you’re struggling with any of these problems, feel free to open a support ticket and we’ll be happy to diagnose your problem for you and advise on the best way to solve it.