Most Australian households see above ground pools as a welcome addition into their homes. Whilst the question of whether owning a swimming pool makes financial sense is still up for debate, nothing beats the refreshing feeling of diving into your own pool especially under the harsh Aussie summer.
Unfortunately, it’s not all fun and games for owners of above ground swimming pools. There are tonnes of things you should know before you purchase and install one in your backyard. Aside from that, you need to prepare yourself (and your wallet) for the pool upkeep and the regular pool water treatment to prevent possible bacterial and fungal growth in your pool.
Why is pool maintenance important?
If you want to maximise your swimming pool’s lifespan, then you should faithfully stick to a regular maintenance programme; else, you could cut its longevity up to 25% of its supposed product life. Besides, skimping on maintenance is more expensive in the long run as it can also significantly reduce your pool pump’s efficiency which often leads to a dramatic increase in your energy bill. Beyond that, skipping on regular maintenance and pool water treatment can result in freakishly green water due to uncontrollable algae and bacterial growth. Let’s face it – there’s nothing more unpleasant than swimming in a sickly green pool. Aside from aesthetic reasons, green pools can indicate presence of disease-causing bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, and shigella.
What are the common sources of pool water contamination?
Of course, the major source of pool water contamination is the people swimming in it. Just imagine that a single person’s skin contains several chemicals (i.e. bath soap, conditioner, lotion, makeup), not to mention the usual pollutants like dust and smoke. Nevertheless, it’s not the only source of pool water contamination. Debris like fallen leaves, dust, grass, as well as the occasional drowned and dead insects, add up to the filth. Pets can also be a source of contamination, especially if you have dogs who love to paddle during the hot summer days. Whilst putting chlorine into your pool can keep your water from turning green, it’s not the only water treatment that you should apply to keep all those nasty bacteria away. There are basic steps in treating pool water such as filtering, stabilising, chlorinating, and shocking. If you follow these steps, plus several other reminders, you’ll be able to ensure the water quality of your pool.
1. Turn on your pump at least eight hours a day
Most brands like the Bestway pools are fully equipped with their own pump and filtration system. This helps remove any debris like dust and other particles. For optimum clean-up, you need to turn your pump on at least eight hours daily. This amount of time should be enough to turn over all the water in and pump it through the filter. The pool water circulation should also be long enough to get rid of any ‘dead spots’ where bacteria and fungi tend to accumulate. The common dead spots include corners for rectangular pools, centre for round pools, the lower half (for most pools), and behind the pool ladders. The best way to do this step is to leave your pump on at night so that you’ll have fresh, clean water for your morning swim. You should also note that if you are living somewhere with a milder climate, you can reduce your pump run time from eight to six hours as microbes are not well-known to thrive in colder climates.
2. Choose your pool filter wisely
There are plenty of pool filters in the market, but the most popular consist of either sand, cartridge, or diatomaceous earth. On hindsight, most of these filters work in the same way. The only difference is the size of debris that they can filter. For example, if you are really worried about keeping microscopic particles away from your pool, then you should choose a diatomaceous earth filter rather than the other two. The most important thing is that your chosen product can thoroughly filter the pool water when your pump is on. This means turning on your filter together with your pump system for at least eight hours a day. For convenience’s sake, you can set your pump and filtration system on automatic timer. While still on the subject of filters, you should also always remember to regularly clean it. Using a pool filter is useless if it’s clogged. However, it’s not enough to just wipe the grime off it – you need to chemically clean it. You need to disassemble the filter and soak it in a suitable cleaning solution to remove any oil, grease, and dirt that stubbornly clings onto it. It is important to remember that some filter brands don’t need disassembly but require regular spraying of chemical solutions to clean.
3. Invest in pool cleaning accessories
Even with a good quality pump and filtration system, you still need to purchase cleaning accessories like skimmers and robotic pool cleaners to ensure the cleanliness of your pool. Skimmers are particularly useful in scooping up large debris like fallen leaves so that your filter doesn’t have to do so much work. You should also invest in a high-performance robotic pool cleaner to reduce the volume of any algae that are blooming in your pool water. Lastly, you should buy some good quality wall and floor brush to remove any slimy films, especially on hard-to-reach spots (i.e. corners of pool stairs). With above-ground pools, brushing is one of the most neglected cleaning procedures, yet it is also one of the most important cleaning steps. After all, brushing your pool walls and floor is not only hygienic, it also guarantees that your pool water’s quality is good.
4. Always test your pool water’s pH balance
If you can remember your general chemistry, not all water is the same. Depending on the source, plain water can cause all sorts of technical and medical problems in your swimming pool. The water does not need to be ‘contaminated’ per se, but a simple change in chemistry (i.e. pH, hardness, alkalinity) can also be damaging. Maintaining your pool’s water pH balance is essentially crucial. Ideally, you need to keep your pool water’s pH levels at 7.4 to 7.6. On a pH scale, anything lower than 7 is acidic, whilst those that are higher than 7 are considered alkaline or basic. If your pool water is too acidic, it can cause both skin and eye irritation to swimmers. In addition, swimming in acidic pool waters can strip your skin and hair of all the necessary vitamins, leaving it dry and brittle. Aside from these medical concerns, low pH can also degrade important pool parts like the pump. Acidic water can effectively corrode mechanical parts, which can inevitably cut your pool’s lifespan. On the other hand, pool water with too high pH values can lead to murky, slimy, and unsightly mineral deposits floating on your pool. In addition, alkaline water deactivates the chlorine, a chemical usually placed in water to prevent microbial growth. Test your water daily using test strips to determine if your pool’s pH is still within acceptable limits. If ever your pool’s water needs some adjustment, you can use commercially available pH increasers or decreasers. The amount you add varies depending on your water’s current pH levels. For the best results, you might also want to simultaneously test for the total alkalinity of your pool water. The ideal range for total alkalinity is 80 to 150 parts per million (ppm), depending on the pool’s structure. There are also alkalinity boosters that are commercially available in the market. However, if you are on a budget, you can replace pH increasers and alkalinity boosters with simple baking soda. You just need to be careful not to add too much, as baking soda is powdery and can turn your water cloudy.
5. Don’t forget to check your pool’s water hardness levels
Water hardness is defined as the total amount of calcium and magnesium dissolved in it. The simplest way to determine whether you have hard water flowing through your faucet or not is to wash your hands with soap. Washing your hands with hard water will often leave a slippery film residue on your hand, which makes cleaning your hands with soap difficult. As a result, you’d need more soap to clean your hands. This little titbit seems unimportant to pool owners. After all, no swimmer in their right mind would bring soap and wash themselves whilst in the pool. The real problem starts when you use a pool heater as the heat reacts with the minerals in the water to yield solid deposits more commonly known as scaling or scum. Scaling can reduce your pool equipment’s life and clog your pipes and filter. It can also deteriorate your pool’s surfaces. If you live in an area where the only supplied water is hard and you don’t have a water softener to correct it, you should regularly check your pool’s pH and total alkalinity levels. At the very least, you’ll know how much pool scale inhibitor you should add when you fill your swimming pool with locally sourced water.
6. Determine the type of chlorine you should purchase
It is easy to get lost with the various types and brands of commercially available chlorine in the market. As mentioned, chlorine is essential in killing off bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that are living in your pool water. The least expensive type of pool chlorine is the three-inch tablet or stick because of its tendency to dissolve very slowly. Whilst there’s nothing wrong in choosing the cheapest chlorine tablet or stick brand, you must consider that they most likely consist of binders and fillers (chemical substances whose only job is to fill the weight requirement of the product and does not necessarily enhance the product’s antimicrobial properties). If you are going to choose this type, you should always check the label, as the product should contain at least 90% concentration of the active ingredient Trichloro-S- triazinetrione for good measure. If you want something that works a bit faster, try the granular chlorine. They might not contain a concentration as high as tablets (granular chlorine only contains around 62%), but they certainly help you maintain the cleanliness of your pool.
7. If your pool water is exposed to the sun, add cyanuric acid
Most of the time, adding chlorine is not enough to ensure that your pool’s water is microbe-free. Cyanuric acid (CYA) is sometimes used to stabilise chlorine and prevent its degradation due to exposure to the sun. Sunlight is chlorine’s natural enemy, as it hastens the dissipation of chemical from pool water, which ultimately brings the chlorine levels down enough to invite bacteria. If you are thinking of adding CYA, you should be prepared to check its level everyday as the acceptable maximum limit for pools is only 40ppm. There’s also commercially available stabilised chlorine which already contains high amounts of CYA. You can use either calcium or sodium hypochlorite which function the same without adding CYA to your water levels. Test both chlorine and CYA at least once a week to ensure that they are still at their optimum levels for water treatment.
8. Regularly shock your pool water
Shocking pool water means that you add chemicals that can effectively kill off microbial organisms and oxidise contaminants such as perspiration, lotion, and others. and prevent microbial growth. Shock treatments vary depending on your pool water’s chemistry (i.e. specifically designed to shock hard water). Regular water shocking can help reduce the possibility of a green pool, as it helps clear up your pool’s water.
Do you need help in keeping your pool’s water quality?
You don’t have to worry so much about the technical terms and chemicals needed for pool water treatment. Outbax offers high quality pool cleaning accessories and chemicals to keep your above ground swimming pool in tiptop shape. With Outbax, the only thing you need to worry about is planning a fantastic a summer swimming party with your relatives and friends. Call us now!