If you are a first-time pool owner, it can feel overwhelming to figure out what needs your focus and attention when maintaining a pool.
This guide will cover all the necessary information you need to know about pool equipment, cleaning, circulation, and chemistry without overloading you with unnecessary details. So you know exactly where you should spend your time and effort.
Let’s first briefly talk about the basic maintenance of pool equipment before we discuss cleaning and chemical maintenance.
Maintaining skimmer basket
It’s important to maintain your skimmer basket well. They are your second line of defense for keeping the pool clean since they suck the water’s top layer and filter out leaves, grass, and insects.
When you examine your skimmer system, make sure to watch out for snakes and spiders before you grab the basket.
Additionally, you want to add a valve at the bottom of the skimmer to prevent the skimmer from sucking air if the water level gets too low. Otherwise, your skimmer can potentially get damaged.
When the water leaves the skimmer, it’s going to get sucked into the pool pump basket, which collects the debris.
So don’t forget to empty the basket weekly. You can simply empty it out into the green garbage can. Besides, you can spray it with the hose to get the smaller leaves out. Over time, the basket may crack and go bad since it sits in the chlorine all the time. So, check for any damage during your check-up.
After you’re done emptying the basket, you want to re-prime the pump by adding the water back where it went away.
You can do this by taking a bucket of water and pouring it into the pump.
Another trick is to release the pressure on the top of your filter by spinning the pressure gauge, which will fill up the water. You can then put the lid back on quickly.
All pools either have sand, cartridge, or a DE filter.
A cartridge filter is a pleated polyester media like a car air filter, and it is the most common filter type for a residential pool. It will usually filter down to ten microns.
These filters can effectively catch small pollen, dirt, and other microorganisms.
You also need to know the baseline pressure in your filter housing, which should be about 10-15 psi. If the pressure reaches 20 to 25 psi, you’d want to clean the cartridge by removing it and rinsing it with a hose.
You’ll want to replace it if the pressure doesn’t fall much after you clean it. Some filters may run at higher pressure depending on the brand, so just be aware of your filter’s baseline pressure so you know when the pressure is abnormal.
I suggest you write it down on the timer box, so you don’t forget.
The timer box
The modern timer box, such as the Pentair programmable timer box, allows you to set things like heater temperature, hot tub temperature, and chlorine output. You can also schedule when you want your pump to run.
It’s also convenient If your pool has automatic valves that open and close depending on what you choose in the timer box (i.e. if you turn the hot tub on, it closes the valve and separates the hot tub from the pool). Otherwise, you’d have to close and open valves physically.
If you have a simpler, mechanical timer, you may not have many options other than adjusting how long the pump will run each day.
Protecting pool equipment with sprays
One way you can protect your pipes and pool equipment from the sun is to spray the PVC pipe with black color to protect it from the UV rays.
Moreover, you can spray down all your plastic pool equipment with 303 UV inhibitors twice a year, which works great to protect the plastic from the sun from damage.
Maintaining your pool with solar heating
If your pool has solar heating installed, there will be a sensor on the roof, and this sensor controls the pool temperature.
For example, when the roof is six degrees warmer than the pool temperature and the pump is on, a valve will open and send water up onto the solar water blanket, which will heat the pool.
This helps extend your pool’s season by allowing you to have a warmer pool for an extra month or two.
More equipment maintenance tips
- If your pool has a salt cell, you want to check and clean it weekly.
- Inspect for any leaks in the equipment area.
- Clean filters twice a year, in March and September. Occasionally, the filter might need backwashing or cleaning in between the six months.
- Inspect and clean the pump basket weekly and check for any tears.
- Examine the o-ring on the pump lid to see if it’s still good, and make sure the on and off tripper on your o-ring is tight. Put the cover back on the pump afterward.
Pool water, in its natural state, would have algae, fish frogs, etc.
To make your pool water clean and swimmable, it’s a must to exercise good maintenance.
As a very first step, you want to scan your pool to ensure there are no algae or dead animals.
You’ll want to frequently clean the top of your pool with a net to pick up any leaves and debris. The more often you do this, the longer your pool will stay clean.
But before you start cleaning your pool surface, I suggest you dilute soap with water and spray some tile soap on your pool surface. This will take the glare off the pool surface and clump any surface debris together.
You can then go ahead and clean the pool surface. It usually suffices to do it twice around the entire pool.
Pool nets, such as Poolwhale, are great because they hold the debris to prevent them from falling back into the pool. With some of the flat ones, debris just falls back into the pool each time you move the net.
Brush and vacuum your pool
If you use a robot vacuum, you don’t have to worry too much about brushing the bottom of the pool since the vacuum will suck up any of the debris on the bottom.
In case you don’t own a robot vacuum, you will want to get a water vacuum. That said, it is a pain to set up, so I highly recommend you get a robot vacuum if you can afford one.
Although it will cost you a few hundred dollars, it’s reliable and worth the investment. It’s also convenient since the robot vacuum doesn’t require a dedicated pump, and you can simply run it off your existing pool pump.
After you finish vacuuming your pool, you want to go ahead and brush the pool to prevent algae growth. You don’t want to brush the pool before you vacuum since it can stir up a lot of dirt on the bottom.
Once a week, you’ll also want to brush the walls of your pool from top to bottom. This will help prevent algae buildup.
Circulation is critical to keeping the water clean and clear. In an ideal world, you’d run the pump all day, but that’s not feasible in places like California, where the power cost can be 22 to 28 cents a kilowatt.
The first step to reducing the pool cost is making sure the pool is as clean as possible by skimming your pool regularly and ensuring your robot vacuum is doing its job (if you have one).
Also, you want to run the pump as much as you can afford.
Duration of pool pump for a good circulation
Generally, it takes around 8 to 12 hours a day to get the pool’s entire capacity through the filter. But that will also depend on your pump speed and the size of your pool. I recommend you run the pump for at least 6 hours a day.
In the winter, it’s fine to reduce your pump running time as the temperature falls since you’re less likely to get algae and other issues. But don’t shut it off completely unless you winterize your pool for freezing temperatures.
You want to increase the duration you run your pump by one hour a day per 10 degrees rise in water temperature when the summer starts. So if you were running the pump for 6 hours in the winter, you’d likely want to run the pump for seven to eight hours a day in the summer.
Also, if you reduce the circulation time and your pool loses clarity, it’s time to increase your pump circulation.
If there’s any issue with the pump, nothing else is going to work well. So make sure your pump is in good condition.
Variable-speed pump for circulation
If you have a variable-speed pump, it can save you some money. This pump has the ability to increase or decrease its speed depending on the programming.
For example, it can run full strength to heat the pool, hot tub, or run the waterfall. It then backs down to a more efficient long-term speed to slowly circulate the pool for six to eight hours a day. At full speed, it pulls about 2,000 watts. At slow speed, it’s down to about 1,000 watts.
This is probably the most intimidating part when you’re starting to learn how to take care of your pool.
You need to keep chemistry in balance in order to keep your pool clean and safe.
The easy way to get your pool chemistry checked is to take a sample of your water to the local pool store. They’ll run an extensive test and tell you what you need to add to your pool.
That said, it’s more cost-effective to test the pool yourself, and you don’t have to travel to the pool store.
But more importantly, it’s actually quite simple to do the test yourself.
I recommend you go with the test strips from AquaCheck if you decide to do your own test.
But whatever test kit you buy, I advise you to invest in a good one. Without an accurate measurement of different chemical levels in your pool, it’ll be impossible to know which adjustments to make.
Using your test kit, you’ll want to check the total chlorine and pH level weekly. It’s fine to check the alkalinity level just once a month since it doesn’t change that often. And calcium hardness only needs testing once every three months or so.
Test your pool’s cyanuric acid level when you open your pool at the start of the season. Because the cyanuric acid level stays constant for the most part, you’ll only need to test it once or twice a year.
In case you have a saltwater pool, you’ll want to test the salt level at the beginning of the season.
Ideal levels for chemicals
These are the ideal range you want to see for your pool chemicals when you run the test.
- pH: Between 7.4 to 7.6.
- Alkalinity: Between 100 to 150 parts per million.
- Chlorine: Between one to three parts per million.
Depending on your pool chemicals’ levels, you’ll want to add different chemicals to treat your pool.
When adding chemicals into your pool, the number one rule is to exercise caution. You want to wear gloves when you’re handling any form of acid.
Maintaining pH and alkalinity level
If your pool has a higher pH level than normal, you’d likely want to add muriatic acid or dry acid (sodium bisulfate) to bring the pH level down.
If you decide to use dry acid, make sure you follow the label’s direction carefully and dilute it for 24 hours in a bucket away from pets and people.
You’ll then pour the acid slowly into the skimmer and run the pump for 24 hours to get all of it to dissolve. You don’t want the acid to sit in one spot, nor do you want to broadcast it into the pool and let it sit on the bottom, as it can damage the pool’s surface.
In case your pool has a lower pH level, you’ll want to use either soda ash or borax to increase the pH level. A low alkalinity level can be treated with baking soda since it’s very effective for bringing the alkalinity level up without affecting the pH level. Both baking soda and soda ash (and borax) are quite safer to use than acid products.
Chlorine and pool stabilizer
Chlorine is one of the most important chemicals for your pool since it works as a sanitizer to keep your pool water looking good. If your pool doesn’t have any chlorine, it will suffer from all types of bacteria, viruses, and algae.
A chlorine product comes in different forms, such as liquid, granular, or tablet. Granular and tablet forms include stabilizers that protect chlorine from UV rays.
Stabilizers are basically an SPF for the chlorine in your pool. They protect the chlorine from breaking down in the sun. Without them, most of the chlorine in your pool can break down in a matter of a few hours. But with stabilizers, you’ll be extending the lifespan of your chlorine by up to 2 to 3 days.
So, they are a must if you want to reduce wasting chlorine. Otherwise, your chlorine generator may not be able to keep up.
If you use a liquid chlorine product that doesn’t contain stabilizers, you’d have to add them separately. They’ll usually be labeled as cyanuric acid at your local pool store.
Finally, If you have a saltwater pool, you may need to add some salt maybe once a year if you lose a lot of water from your kids getting in and out of the pool. But apart from that, the salt level stays pretty even throughout the year since they don’t just evaporate.
Although maintaining your pool can seem like a lot of work, it’s quite manageable when you break it down to a few major components.
The most important thing is to remember the three C’s for maintenance: Cleaning, circulation, and chemistry.
Also, investing in a good test kit will go a long way to keeping your pool’s chemical level balanced.