Pool Care basics – pool water chemistry
Pool care basics is the fundamental understanding of pool water chemistry and pool equipment for the typical pool owner. Pool water chemistry is actually fairly simple once you learn the basics of keeping your water “balanced” properly. Several factors have to work with each other to keep your water clear and healthy. Understanding your pool equipment and how it works is also equally important. The average home owner with a pool can easily grasp the few simple concepts outlined here and save money by keeping problems at bay before they get out of hand.
Get a good test kit first!
You absolutely need a good test kit that will give you reliable readings before you can do anything to measure and balance your pool water’s chemistry. There are several styles on the market including test strips and the more accurate drop-style test kits. Here are some suggestions that I recommend and use…
PH 7.4 – 7.6
This is one of the most basic readings that is measured in pool water. PH determines if your water is either basic or acidic. When your PH is out of range a number of bad things like eye irritation or even pool equipment damage can occur. The best PH range for swimming pool water is between 7.4 to 7.6 and once you have your PH adjusted properly then you can move on to adjusting other parameters such as sanitizer. If your PH is high you can lower it using muriatic acid and if your PH is low you can raise it using sodium carbonate or PH-UP as it’s commonly called.
Alkalinity 80-120 ppm
Total alkalinity will help buffer the PH from rapid changes. It’s often misunderstood and ignored for that reason. If your alkalinity is high you will want to lower it using muriatic or dry acid after performing an acid demand test. If it is low then you want to raise it using a sodium bicarb such as common baking soda which will raise the alkalinity without raising the PH much.
Sanitizer (CL) 1.5-3.0 ppm
After you have both the PH and alkalinity in range then you can add or adjust your sanitizer. Several types are available, but they all use chlorine as the main ingredient. Liquid bleach such as what you use in the laundry room is the most common. Make sure that you use plain unscented liquid chlorine bleach if you go that route. Other forms of sanitizer are Tri-Chlor tabs or sticks and lastly using a salt water system that produces it’s own chlorine. The ideal CL range should be between 1.5 to 3.0 ppm. Keeping your CL level within range is very important so that you do not have to super chlorinate or “shock” your pool after heavy use or a wild pool party.
Cyanuric Acid (Conditioner) 30-50 ppm
CYA is used to stabilize the volatile chlorine sanitizer. Without it the CL would burn off in the sunlight before it has time to sanitize the water. Without it your CL would burn off in a matter of hours in direct sunlight. The ideal range is between 30 to 50 ppm but a little higher up to 90 ppm is OK. Tri-Chlor tabs and sticks add significant CYA to your water so you have to monitor your levels regularly. The most reliable way to lower CYA is to drain some of your pool water and start over. There are some new and emerging products that claim to lower the CYA level chemically also.
Basic Pool Equipment
The filter pump is the heart of the pool circulation system. The pump pulls water from the pool and then pushes it into the filter. The pump will have a strainer basket that catches large debris and trash that gets sucked in the lines occasionally. I usually recommend cleaning this strainer basket weekly or more depending on how much trash gets sucked in. If the filter is not circulating the water properly then nothing else matters on the pool. You absolutely must have proper circulation to keep the pool water clean and sanitized first before anything else is necessary. Here are a few common replacement pumps if you need one…
The pump must be sized properly for the pool water volume so if you need a replacement be sure to match the HP rating labeled on your old existing pump. If you do need a new pump I would highly recommend that you use a professional to install it as there is high voltage wiring inside that could be hazardous or even fatal if installed incorrectly.
Pool filters are generally composed of three different types on most residential pools;
The old standby sand filter has been faithfully keeping pools clean for many years. It is a large vessel that is literally filled with fine grain sand that the water circulates through to filter out debris. There are better options on the market today, but if you have one that is working there is no real need to replace it. You just need to backwash it occasionally to keep it cleared out and that’s about all there is to it.
The DE filter is rather advanced in that it has panels of a very fine mesh grid that holds DE powder (diatomaceous earth) that does the filtering. Most DE filters will filter down to around 10 microns so they are extremely efficient. You still have to backwash occasionally and recharge the filter grids with new DE powder. The grid panels themselves will need replacing every few years also.
Most modern pools use a cartridge type filter these days. It looks like the DE Filter except that it has one or more disposable filter elements inside. No back washing is necessary but the filter elements do have to be removed and hosed off till clean occasionally. The elements usually last around 3 or 4 years till they have to be replaced. Here are some examples of these various types of filters…
There are many smaller components used in the water circulation system, but the pool pump and filter are the biggest and most important.
Basic Pool Cleaning
Once you have your pool water balanced and your pump and filter are working properly you will be faced with the task of cleaning your pool on a regular basis. Most pools need to be cleaned once a week or more depending on any trees or vegetation in the pool area. I have cleaned pools many thousands of times over the years in my service business. I have it down to a fine art and I will share some basic tips with you here;
Take your pool brush and brush debris away from the waterline tiles or rocks to dislodge and debris into the water. Also brush the steps so that the debris sinks to the pool floor.
Skim the surface next
Take your pool net and skim any leaves or floating debris off of the water surface. I prefer to use a full 24″ pool net for this and just skim the net along the surface.
Vacuum the bottom last
Hook up your vacuum hose to the pool vacuum and the other end into the pool skimmer port and vacuum the remaining debris off of the pool bottom. Beware of large sticks, stones, and pool toys that could plug up your skimmer line underground making for a very expensive repair. If your pool accumulates large debris, then I would use a leaf trap canister inline with the vacuum hose to prevent any problems. Here is some of the equipment that I use to clean my pools…
There is much more to swimming pool care and equipment, but these are the basics to get you started.
Now you have a grasp of the pool care basics and you can easily maintain your pool and enjoy it they way it was meant to be! Check out some of my other topics here on my blog including 3 Main Things That Will Keep Your Pool Clear and Basic Chemicals Need For a Pool. Better yet just click on the home page icon at the top of this page and you’ll find topics covering just about every aspect of swimming pool care.