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Where can you learn how to maintain your own pool?

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2004-10-27 20:05:41
2004-10-27 20:05:41

I maintain my own pool and had the same question. There are lots of websites that talk about pool maintenance and lots of sites with discussion groups for specific problems. I never found a single site that had everything I wanted, but here are some basics: 1) Pool Chemistry. The ideal low to ideal high values (ideal in the middle) are as follows: pH: 7.4-7.6 Total Alkalinity: 80-120 ppm Calcium Hardness: 200-400 ppm Cyanuric Acid (CYA): 30-50 ppm Total Dissolved Solids (TDS): 100-800 ppm Temperature: 78-82 The first 3 are most critical to pool chemistry. CYA you can keep lower (even 5 ppm gives you good protection from breakdown of chlorine). TDS doesn't matter much (and salt pools will be more like 4500 ppm). Temperature is really personal preference. If you vary too much from the above, then your pool water may be out of balance and will either scale by depositing Calcium Carbonate on pool surfaces (and pipes) or will corrode by dissolving calcium from pool plaster. I have a spreadsheet that calculates this stuff if you're interested, or get a good test kit such as a complete kit from Taylor Technologies. It will measure everything but TDS. You basically just add acid or base to keep your pH normal and add bicarbonate of soda to keep total alkalinity up. You rarely need to change calcium hardness. 2) Sanitation. Most people use some form of chlorine for sanitation. Here you have a choice of the following (an incomplete list): a) Sodium Hypochlorite (NaOCl). This is a stronger (12.5%) version of your standard chlorine bleach. It is the most economical method of adding chlorine, but also a bit of a pain as you must add it rather frequently. It also will bleach your clothes :) You will need to initially add conditioner (CYA) if you don't have some in the pool already. It takes around 12 ounces per 10,000 gallons of NaOCl to get 1 ppm of chlorine. b) Tri-Chlor. Usually comes in 3" tablets. One tablet provides around 4 ppm of chlorine per 10,000 gallons, but also adds 3.3 ppm of CYA as well. So, constant use of Tri-Chlor will often lead to a build-up of CYA unless you backwash frequently or have a lot of splash-out. Tri-Chlor is slow dissolving so you use it in a floating feeder (usually). c) Di-Chlor. Comes as granulated powder. Has less chlorine by weight than Tri-Chlor, but for the equivalent amount of chlorine Di-Chlor has 1.5 times as much CYA. In general, Di-Chlor shouldn't be used. d) Lithium and Calcium Hypochlorite. More expensive than Sodium Hypochlorite so why bother (there are some reasons, say for spas, but generally these aren't as good). e) Chlorine generator / Salt pool. Will automatically generate chlorine and will increase pH over time. Not a bad choice, but there are initial costs for the generator (around $1000 or less) which tends to get deposits so get a generator that reverses voltage (sort of self-cleaning). 3) Circulation. You should run your pool pump so that your pool water "turns over" several times per day (at least twice). Usually, this means running the pump for 8-10 hours per day during the summer. This can be cut way back (as can the use of chemicals) in the winter, but still run the pump for 3-4 hours per day even in winter (unless you live where your pool freezes in which case you may end up turning everything off and "starting over" in the spring). Your pool filter will need periodic cleaning. Supposedly, DE filters are better at filtering, but you need to periodically backwash them compared to cartridge fiber filters. 4) Other chemicals. a) You will need to periodically shock your pool either with a non-chlorine shock or with a high (5-10 ppm) amount of chlorine. This is done when the Combined Chlorine becomes measurable (by 0.5 ppm, usually). b) You can also add an algicide to prevent algae in case your chlorine ever drops too low (accidentally, of course). c) You can also add a coagulant or flocculant to make small particles clump together to get out in the filter (or pool sweep). This will make the pool water clear instead of cloudy. d) You can add an enzyme to remove scum from the water surface. e) You can also add a sequestering agent to prevent metal stains. All of this is optional and only has to be done either when needed or if you feel safer with maintenance amounts (and the expense) of these chemicals (except you MUST shock the pool when needed). 5) Pool Cleaning. You should have an automatic pool sweep that runs a few hours each day (unless you don't use your pool much). You should manually brush all pool surfaces once a week or so during the summer. All of the above sounds like a lot of work, but it's really not that bad. The hardest work is the weekly pool surface brushing, but I just treat that as part of the exercise I should be getting anyway.

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