New Pool Owners FAQ
This new pool owners FAQ (frequently asked questions) will help you if you are new to owning and operating a pool. If you just had a new pool built or perhaps you just bought a house with a pool, you may be wondering just how to get started with taking good care of your new pool. There are a number of pieces and components to a pool system and you need to understand what they do and how to spot any potential problems down the road.
This looks complicated!
Actually a pool’s circulatory system is pretty basic. Your filter pumps suck water out of the pool, then pushes it through the pool filter and then back into the pool. That’s it! There are other components of course, but that is the basic premise of any pool water flow system.
First, what type of pool do I have?
Pool types generally fall within four main categories;
- Concrete pools – This is the most common type of pool. It is a concrete pool finished with plaster, quartz, tile, or painted etc.
- Vinyl liner pools – This pool looks like a concrete pool except that it is lined with a thin vinyl liner to keep the water inside. A hole is dug into the ground just like a concrete pool and then a shell is constructed that is made of thin metal panels held together in a framework to form the shape of the pool. The vinyl liner is draped from the top edge of these panels and held into place usually by a top bead. The pressure of the water helps hold the liner in place within the framework.
- Fiberglass pools – These pools are usually pre-made in a factory and then installed in your yard in one big piece. The are a big fiberglass shell finished inside with smooth gel coat in a variety of colors.
- Above ground pools – This pool is very common also. They are usually composed of two types – hard sided and soft sided. The soft sided pools are a big thick vinyl liner held into shape by a tubular frame. Some low cost seasonal temporary pools are self supporting with no exterior frame at all. The hard sided pools are usually intended to be more permanent with metal walls and a metal framework that supports the vinyl liner placed inside. Although these pools are completely free standing and self supporting, many homeowners opt to build decks around the pool which gives the appearance of an in ground pool.
Identifying Your Pool Parts
Pool Pump – The pool pump is the main component in your pool’s circulatory system. It’s job is to move the water from the pool, through various filters, chlorinators, heaters, and then back into the pool. The pump has an electric motor that turns an impeller inside which pushes the water. It has a removable plastic lid attached to a strainer basket that filters out large debris and this protects the internal components of the pump. It is very important that you clean this pump strainer basket regularly to ensure free water flow into the pump. The water flowing through the pump keeps the pump internals cool and if the pump is allowed to run dry, you will damage the internal seals of the pump.
Main Filter – The filter’s job is to clean the water of debris and return clean water back to the pool. The are 3 main types of filters – sand, cartridge, and D.E. filters. Sand filters use actual sand to filter the water, cartridge filters use a reusable pleated cartridge, and D. E. Filters use a cloth covered plastic grid that is coated with diatomaceous earth to filter the water. All three types work well for keeping your pool water clean, provided that they are sized correctly for your pool volume. They are each cleaned a different way so you need to know what type of filter that you have. There is usually a label printed on the filter that will tell you.
- Sand filters are cleaned by backwashing or in other words flowing water in reverse which helps dislodge the debris trapped in the sand. This is accomplished by turning a multi-port valve.
- Cartridge filters are cleaned by actually disassembling the filter body and removing the filter cartridges and washing them thoroughly with a water hose.
- D.E. filters are also disassembled and cleaned with a water hose much like a cartridge filter. In between cleanings you can also backwash using a multi-port valve just like a sand filter and adding more D.E. powder after backwashing.
Pool/Spa Heater – the heater is used to physically heat the water that is then returned to your pool or spa or both. Most heaters are either Natural Gas fired or Propane fired depending on where you live. The water is circulated through the heater manifold. The outside of the manifold chamber is exposed to the gas flames which transfers the heat inside to the water. Because heaters are large, and can be dangerous due to the flames inside, it is recommended that you call a service professional for any repairs that may be needed. All heaters incorporate several safety switches and devices to shut down the heater if it detects a problem.
Manual Chlorinator or Salt Cell Chlorine Generator- After water passes through the heater the last major component would be either the salt cell chlorine generator or perhaps a manual chlorinator depending on the type of pool that you have.
- In a manual chlorinator such as the Pentair Rainbow 320 the water pressure in the return line forces circulation around 3″ chlorine tablets that you place inside a tall tube usually on a weekly basis. This water slowly dissolves the tablets at a controlled rate and the chlorine is introduced back into the return flow line and then back into the pool itself.
- A salt cell chlorine generator is an electronic device such as the Pentair IC40 that is plumbed inline usually just after the heater outlet. This devices uses electronic plates inside the unit to generate it’s own chlorine gas by electrolysis from the salt water passing around the plates. These chlorine gas bubbles are dissolved into the return water flow and the chlorine then goes into the pool.
That’s it! These are the four major components of any pool. You may or may not have a pool heater or chlorinator, but at the very least you should have a pump and filter. Now that you have read and understand this new pool owners FAQ, you have a basic understanding of what each component looks like and how they work.
In our next installment we will go into some detail about how your properly balanced pool water uses simple chemistry to sanitize your pool. Stay Tuned!