If you’ve recently installed a new pool or are considering getting one, the responsibilities may seem daunting. From rules and regulations to care and maintenance, there are many facets to ownership that need attention before you invite all your friends and family over for a weekend swim party.
We’re not trying to frighten you! That’s the reason we created Sutro — we want the most cumbersome part of the process, namely testing your water, to be simple, safe, and seamless. To help you understand and enjoy your new investment, here are five helpful tips.
Tip 1: Rules, Regulations & Liability
Having a private pool means strictly adhering to regulations about pool safety and liability. From fences and signs to specific insurance, private pool owners need to be aware of these regulations. A good place to start is this website by signs.com. Not only do they describe requirements for public pools but they also describe the requirements for private pools for every state in the country.
Another excellent resource for new residential pool owners is from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Here you can find various resources for each state as well as tips for safely maintaining your pool. They can be found at CDC’s website
Ensure you have a pool cover and be sure to use it when the pool is not in use, especially overnight. Pool covers will prevent materials from wind-blown debris and they will discourage unauthorized visitors. Depending on their weight, they may also prevent accidental falls.
Tip 2: Your Pool and Its Components
While every pool may be different, they share the same basics. You should know the volume of your pool in gallons and know about the models of your filter and pump. Another excellent resource for pool owners, Swim University, has a pretty cool pool calculator.
You also need to know how often filter cartridges and units need to be cleaned and when they need to be replaced.
So, what are the major components of most pools? Take a look at this list for the playbook.
- The Filter: This device collects all the non-water stuff from the pool. Dirt, sand, leaves, suntan lotion, swimsuit threads, detergent residue, etc. The water flows through the filter, which then traps debris and contains it. There are generally three types of filters, and with regular cleaning, they generally last for one to two years, before they must be replaced. The folks at All About Water Filters have an excellent article on the different types of filters and how to service them. Filters themselves have various components to them including baskets, cartridges, and drains. Drains at the water surface are called skimmers.
- Drains and Returns: These built-in components work with the filtration system to drain dirty water and debris and then return clean water to the pool. As a side note, pools generally need to be fully drained and cleaned every five years.
- The Vacuum: Exactly as it sounds, this robotic device roams the bottom on a pool vacuuming dirt. At a minimum, vacuuming should be performed twice each week and they will need to be replaced after about five years.
- The Pump: The muscle behind the filter is the Pump. Pumps circulate the water in the pool and thereby push the debris in the water to the filter drains on the sides of the pool. Pumps can be turned on and off but they should generally be run during the day since that’s when the sunlight is feeding algae and that’s also when the majority of pools are being used. A general rule of thumb is that they should run for one hour per ten degrees of air temperature but running it continuously doesn’t hurt. Pumps have a lifespan of a decade or so.
- The Chemical Feeder: Also known as chlorinators, these provide an easy way to introduce chlorine to your pool. Many pool owners use chlorine tablets which introduce chlorine slowly and over time. Chlorinators generally need to be replaced after four years.
Tip 3: Ongoing Maintenance
Ongoing maintenance is critical to the smooth operation of a pool. While vacuuming and skimming should be done on a daily basis, measuring and adjusting chlorine levels, pH levels, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, etc are important. Best practices dictate that these should be adjusted 2-3 times per week. Knowing certain numbers is useful. For example. Chlorine levels should be between 1 and 4 parts per million. pH levels should be 7.2 – 7.8. Evaporation will cause water levels to drop daily but the entire pool should be drained and refilled every five years.
There are also times when you’ll want to introduce a lot of chemicals to the pool at one time as opposed to regular treatments. These one-time barrages are called “shock treatments” and are usually necessary after heavy pool use or anytime some event out of the ordinary, such as heavy rainstorms affects the pool.
For regular, ongoing treatment, here’s a list of some of the more common chemicals needed for pool care:
- Chlorine: Chlorine disinfects the pool. Pool owners often add chlorine in the form of a liquid or powder supplemented by chlorine tablets, as mentioned above in Tip #2, which are placed in the chemical feeders and slowly introduce chlorine into the pool.
- pH increasers and pH decreasers: pH is a measure of water acidity between 0 and 14. A pH of 7.0 is standard rainwater. Pools should have a pH between 7.2 and 7.8 with 7.4 being optimal. Fun fact: the pH of the mucous in the human eye is also 7.4 which explains the ideal reason for the pH of swimming pools to be 7.4. It reduces eye irritation
- Alkalinity increasers and decreasers: total alkalinity is a measurement of the water’s ability to resist change in pH.
- Calcium hardness increasers: Calcium and magnesium comprise the hardness of water but, for simplicity, only the calcium concentration is expressed.The ideal range for calcium is 200-400ppm. If the level is too high, calcium deposits will result as “scale”. If too low, the water will corrode the pool infrastructure and may also discolor the water.
Tip 4: Utility Bills Awareness
With all the additional water and power that pools use, many new owners are surprised by their increased power and water bills. In addition, some municipalities add a monthly fee for pools and spas. So make sure you are aware of your bills and monitor them closely for a few months. If something is out of the ordinary, you may have a leak, which will need to be repaired.
Tip 5: Beware of Recreational Water Illnesses
According to the CDC, Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans. So, the next time one of your guests tells you their poop smells of roses, show them this little fact from the CDC site: “Swimmers share the water—and the germs in it—with every person who enters the pool. On average, people have about 0.14 grams of feces on their bottoms which, when rinsed off, can contaminate recreational water. In addition, when someone is ill with diarrhea, their stool can contain millions of germs. This means that just one person with diarrhea can easily contaminate the water in a large pool or water park. Swallowing even a small amount of recreational water that has been contaminated with feces containing germs can make you sick. Remember, chlorine does not kill germs instantly, and some germs, such as Cryptosporidium (or “Crypto”), are extremely chlorine tolerant.”
Pool owners can reduce the chances of guests contracting RWI’s with proper pool maintenance and having their guests practice good hygiene.