If you are lucky enough to live in the Valley of the Sun and own a swimming pool, here are some maintenance tips for keeping your pool sparkling clean, always inviting, refreshing, and ready for use every day. The key is just staying on top of it. This will save you from making mistakes that could cost you a great deal of money down the road. Routine pool maintenance may also prevent frustration and will minimize the need to make emergency runs to the pool store for chemicals or other additives.
Preventative maintenance, just like you would do on your automobile or home, will go a long way in reducing lifecycle cost on your swimming pool. Heed the advice below and save time, money and hassle. None of this is difficult; it is just a matter of making it a habit. Here, are 15 tips for keeping your swimming pool sparkling clean.
Check Pool Chemistry
You should check your pool chemistry once or twice a week during the summer and once every week or two in the winter. The pH should be kept between 7.2 and 7.8, the lower the pH on this scale the less chlorine your pool will need. As pH rises, chlorine starts becoming less and less active therefor many consumers just keep adding it. Chlorine at 7.0 pH id about 50 percent active and at 8.0 is about 10 percent active. Control pH properly and you will need and use much less chlorine.
Clean Out Skimmer Basket(s) Weekly
The skimmer is installed in the side of the pool, and its primary job is to skim the surface of the pool before debris and contaminants become saturated and float down to the bottom of the pool. Everything in your pool enters at the surface of the water, the effective the skimmer is, the more stuff it can skim off the pool the better. There is a round access panel on your deck; open it up and dump the contents of the basket as needed. Keep it cleaned out at all times.
Clean the Lint Pot Located on the Front of the Pool Pump
You should do this every couple of weeks or as needed. Turn off the pump to do this and release pressure on the system. This is the basket installed just inside the clear glass of your swimming pool pump. Or, you can clean out the debris catcher or leaf basket. A leaf trapper and a debris removal system is recommended. Get a variable speed or 2-speed pump sooner than later if you have not upgraded already. Multi-speed pumps are worth the initial expense.
Check Your Water Level
Is it too high or too low? Your water needs to be right at the center level of your pool skimmer or pool tile for optimal results and performance. If it is low, it can run the pump dry and burn it up, or if too high, the skimmer door will not work properly. That door keeps the debris in the skimmer.
If you have a deck chlor or inline chlorinator these need to be regularly checked for proper chlorine tablet levels, loading, or possible clogging. (In Arizona, use quality Tri-Chlor Tablets). This unit depending on style and features has the ability to add a constant residual of needed chlorine.
If you have an Ozonator, make sure the light is on and it is actually working. Ozone as well as UV or a combination thereof can reduce the amount of chlorine your pool uses. There are different types, and many have different installation and use instructions. Make a point to be familiar with the one installed on yours.
Check the Chlorine Generator
If you have a salt system, salt pool, or what some call a no-chlorine pool, then heed these tips. All a chlorine generator does is produce chlorine for you, so you do not have to buy it, store it, or handle it. This convenience comes at a cost and has some inherent risks. The cell must be kept clean and your pool chemistry becomes even more critical for its proper function. Do not add to much salt—if you can taste it, your pool is likely over salted. Salt systems artificially push pH up. You will use more acid as a result. This unit is great when used and understood properly. It can be costly to buy and maintain but provides a wonderful experience in the water.
Clean Pool Filters
Clean your filter regularly or as needed. A great filter for Arizona pools is a cartridge filter. They provide maximum flow rates, waste little valuable water (no backwashing), get the water crystal clean, and only need to be cleaned a couple of times a year. Yes, they may need to be cleaned after a heavy storm or once every few months depending on conditions in your pool. It would be best to clean them about every 4-6 months. If you have an extra set of elements — which is a great idea — it is a much easier and quicker job. Soak dirty filters in a 10 percent solution of muriatic acid or a solution of TSP (Trisodium phosphate). Use a rubber trash can. Wear gloves and eye protection. Be careful! Always add acid to water, NOT water to acid. Afterwards, rinse until clean and let them dry. Put your supplies away until your next swap-out.
What to Pay Attention to When You Monitor Your Pool
There are a few things you should take note of as it will let you know if there is an issue with your pool.
- Are the returns in the sidewall of the pool weak?
- Is the in-floor cleaning system working correctly? Your pool should be free of 99 percent of dirt and debris.
- How is the water clarity in your pool? The bottom should be visible and the water crystal clear.
- Is the drain at the bottom obstructed?
- Is your hose cleaner moving as it should?
- Any abnormal odors?
If any of these conditions exist, it is likely time to clean the filters. Most pools should only need this done a couple of times a year. There are exceptions though based on bather load (pool usage). Wipe/clean tile line weekly. This will reduce build-up. Keep oh at 7.2 and the scum line will have a hard time developing. When pH is really high the water will leave deposits on everything. Always keep chemicals stored out of direct sunlight. Keep them in a cool dry place. Do not store acid and chlorine right next to each other.
Your pool should not need to be shocked on any regular basis if you have an ozone system. If you need to do it, do it at night. Use non-chorine based shock if you plan on swimming any time soon. Another way to shock your pool would be to run your pump for 24 hours using your ozone system. If you are on 24-hour circulation (2-speed or variable speed pumps) than you should be just fine.
If you start seeing any cracks around the perimeter of your pool between your deck and your tile, caulk it with a small bead of clear silicon. Do not allow the water to migrate from inside the pool in and under the deck through cracks at this joint. This eventually creates problems and is easily prevented.
Keep vegetation, animals, chemicals (like fertilizers and ironite) away from and out of the pool. Nitrates from bird droppings and waste from animals and people are food for algae. Check your gates and any protective barriers to keep children safe! Gates should swing out away from the pool, not in. They should have some sort of self-closing, self-locking/latching mechanism that is functional. Pool safety should always be a priority.
Optimal Swimming Pool Chemical Ranges for Desert Pools
Keep your pool's chemical readings in these ranges:
- PH: 7.2 to 7.8 (I generally keep it on the LOW end)
- Alkalinity: 80 to 120 ppm
- Calcium Hardness: 250-450 ppm (The valley has high calcium; as a result, this is not always possible, so don’t drive yourself crazy over it.
- Cyanuric Acid or Conditioner: 30-50 ppm (Remember Tri-Chlor tablets already have conditioner built into it)
- Chorine residual: 1.0 to 1.5 ppm; up to 2.0 in the summer with ozone, 3.0 without
- Combined chlorine: 0 ppm. By managing pool chemistry right, you will substantially reduce the amount of chlorine needed. Much of it is wasted.
Phoenix does not have acid rain, so pH is always on the rise. Adjust down PH with muriatic acid. Never add more than a pint at a time. Re-test than add again as needed. As you add acid to adjust down the PH this should in turn cause the alkalinity reading to come down. Read your test kit guide; it has plenty of useful information and tips.
The temperature has a drastic effect on your swimming pool chemistry. In the desert, the extreme summer temperatures mean that you need to pay more attention to your water chemistry and the clarity of your swimming pool water. It should be crystal clear all the time and swim ready.