The Basic Components of a Swimming Pool
Every type of swimming pool has four components that need regular care. These include:
1. Pool Water
It might seem like a no-brainer but the water in your pool is key to lasting pool happiness. Keeping it clean, clear, and balanced protects you and your family from contaminants and pollutants. It also helps you avoid costly hardware repairs due to corrosion or mineral build-up, and helps your whole pool last longer.
2. Pool Interior
The walls of your pool liner are in constant contact with pool water, and everything that enters it. Keeping these surfaces in good repair, and clear of algae, mold, and debris, will help keep your pool clean and safe.
3. Pool Filter System
The pumping heart of your pool is also its liver. OK, that sounds a little weird. But think about it: your pool pump draws water keeps your water circulating, like your heart does with your blood. Your pool filter clears dirt and other contaminants from your water just like your liver filters last night’s cheese fries from your blood.
Both protect you and your pool from harm. Without a functioning filter system, your pool will soon be a cloudy, polluted, and unswimmable mess.
Depending on your setup, you might have a cartridge filter, a sand filter, a diatomaceous earth (D.E.) filter. Or, if you have a salt water system, a salt water chlorinator.
4. Pool Skimmers and Returns
If your pool’s filter is its liver, then your skimmers and returns are its veins and arteries. Your skimmers—not to be confused with a net skimmer, the cleaning tool attached to a telescoping pole—pull water into the filter for cleaning, while the returns push the cleaned water back into your pool. And like your veins and arteries, they work best when they’re clean and clear of obstructions.
No two pools are alike, and you’ll no doubt encounter pool maintenance challenges specific to your pool as time goes on. But if you’ve got a firm grasp on these four pool components, you’ll be well equipped to face down most upkeep challenges.
The Three C’s of Proper Pool Maintenance
The foundation of effective pool care is built on three simple but important concepts: circulation, cleaning, and chemistry.
1. Good Water Circulation
In your pool, moving water is cleaner, clearer, and safer. Proper pool circulation is key to healthy and safe swimming.
A pool with good circulation rarely has issues like cloudy water or pool algae infestation. Keep your pump and filter system running daily to maximize circulation.
How long should you run your pool pump? Ideally, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But since that’s not feasible for everyone’s budget or equipment, we recommend running your filter at least 10 to 12 hours a day. That’ll turn the water over a few times and help keep your pool safe and clean.
The other key component to good pool circulation is frequently backwashing your filter. Backwashing refers to reversing the flow of water through your filter and shunting the dirty water and built-up contaminants to the waste port, carrying them out of your pool.
If you’re not sure how to clean a pool filter, it’s imperative to learn and make it part of your regular pool care routine.
Tip: If your pool has a sand filter, add a cup of D.E. powder to boost its filtering power. Cloudy water will clear more quickly as the D.E. aids your sand filter in straining fine particles.
2. A Pool Cleaning Schedule
If it has proper circulation, you’ve already made cleaning your pool much easier. But you’ll still need to apply some good old-fashioned elbow grease. The basic tools you’ll need are:
Both Mother Nature and the folks using your pool bring all sorts of wild and wacky things into your pool, from leaves, mold, and the odd duck or frog to residues from shampoos, perfumes, and hair products. Add in the risks of bacterial contamination, and cleaning your pool becomes an absolutely essential part of safe swimming.
Skim, brush, and vacuum your pool weekly, at a minimum. This will keep debris out of your water, and your walls sparkling clean. Baking soda paste works particularly well as a basic scouring cleaner that won’t damage delicate tile or a vinyl liner when you brush.
An automatic pool cleaner can significantly cut your pool cleaning time. It won’t eliminate the need for regular skimming and brushing, but it’ll make both tasks easier, freeing you up to spend time enjoying your pool instead of cleaning it.
You can also make your cleaning life easier with a few unorthodox additions to your pool. Toss a few tennis balls into your skimmer basket, or even right into the pool, and they’ll absorb surface oils left behind by suntan lotion, cosmetics, etc. You can also wrap your skimmer baskets with pantyhose to create an extra-fine filter that’ll catch more contaminants than a skimmer alone.
Simply replace both the tennis balls and the pantyhose when they start to show signs of wear.
Tip: If you have an inground pool, the drains built into the bottom of the deep end will help pull water into the filter and make it easier to clear debris loosened during cleaning. Above ground pools don’t have these drains, but you can get the same water-clearing boost with a manual pool vacuum.
Simply attach your vacuum to your filter system and place it in the middle of your above ground pool, making sure the vacuum is upside down. Turn it on, and it’ll act as a main drain to help you clear cloudy water more quickly.
3. Balancing Your Water Chemistry
Step away from the Bunsen burner. Pool chemistry might sound intimidating and complicated, but you don’t have to worry. While it is an essential part of effective pool maintenance and water care, basic pool chemistry is surprisingly straightforward.
The most important tool in your bag of water care tricks is your water testing kit. You wouldn’t season your stew without tasting it. So before you reach for the chemicals, do some pool water testing. Understanding what’s in your water, and what isn’t, is the first step to balancing it.
The three most important parts of pool water chemistry are:
pH levels: The measure of how acidic or basic your pool water is. Low pH levels are acidic, while high levels are basic. The ideal range for your pool is 7.4 to 7.6.
Alkalinity: Works as a pH buffer and helps avoid huge spikes in basicity or acidity. The ideal range is 100 to 150 parts per million (ppm). And you can use baking soda to increase your pool’s alkalinity level.
Sanitizer levels: The amount of chlorine, bromine, etc. in your pool water. Proper levels vary depending on which type of sanitizer you choose.
Once you know your pH, alkalinity, and sanitizer levels, you can start to add chemicals to tweak your water balance. Take your time, follow all the directions, and be sure you know what each chemical does and how it’ll affect the water, and the folks who swim in it, before you add it.
Create a Maintenance Schedule
As you learn more about your pool and how to care for it, your to-do list might start to seem a little intimidating. Creating a pool maintenance schedule makes it easy to stay organized and make sure important tasks don’t slip through the cracks.
Not only will you be able to stay on top of basic upkeep, but you’ll be able to plan ahead for more advanced pool maintenance tasks like closing your pool, caring for it during the off season, or getting your swimming pool ready to roll when pool season returns.
Keep it Simple
Write down your pool maintenance schedule and tape it on the wall, fridge, or even somewhere near your swimming pool. If others in the household are available on certain days to do some of the simple maintenance tasks, jot down a name beside each task and share the workload.