You packed away the pool toys and haven't washed a swimsuit in months. Your pool is the last thing on your mind. Before you let this no-maintenance approach drag all the way through to spring, remember this: You will want to swim in your pool again, and sooner than you think!
Sure, when the water feels like something only a polar bear would love, it's hard to envision fun in the sun and lounging poolside. However, summer is just around the corner. A little TLC now makes opening your pool a breeze, and may save you some money to boot.
Check the Pool Cover First
Clear the debris from your pool cover, using either brush or air blower to get rid of twigs, leaves, branches, and anything else that is littering the cover. Your goal is keeping these items from slipping into the water (the whole reason you have the cover to begin with).
You may clear away standing water and snow, but leave ice alone. The ice does less damage to the cover than your attempts to clear it away do.
Look at the cover for damage. Patch anything you can. If repairs are beyond your abilities, look at repositioning the cover (if possible) to arrange damaged areas closer to the pool's edge.
Check the water level once the cover is clear. It needs to be below the skimmer box, and it definitely should not reach the top of the edge of your pool. The cover should protect the pool water from evaporation, but a slightly lower level is normal. However, if the level drops significantly, you may have a leak.
Finally, perform a water chemistry test, looking at alkalinity, calcium, and pH, and make any necessary adjustments.
Balancing the Pool Water
Even during winter months, your pool's water chemistry fluctuates. Temperatures rise and fall; even with a cover in place, foreign items find their way into your pool.
Balanced chemistry does more than make the water safe for swimmers; it also protects your pool, as well as its components and equipment. You run the risk of staining the surface and calcium buildup when you fail to maintain proper chemical balance. This means ensuring proper alkalinity, calcium hardness, and pH levels.
Alkalinity relates to your pH level, and measures all alkaline substances, including bicarbonates and hydroxides. Ideal alkalinity helps your pool water fight pH variations.
For a concrete or gunite pool, shoot for an alkalinity level between 80 and 120 ppm. Vinyl, fiberglass, and painted pools require 125 to 170 ppm. If alkalinity is low, add a base such as sodium bicarbonate. With high alkalinity, lower it with acid.
Water contains calcium carbonate, and high levels result in "hard" water. When water contains excess calcium and magnesium, it attempts to get rid of these excess minerals.
If you have hard water, you see evidence of this throughout your home: the white deposits at the end of faucets, the buildup in showers and bathtubs. This same buildup occurs in your pool, on tiles, ladders, and pool lights. When water is extremely hard, it forms little clumps of these calcium magnesium crystals.
Too little calcium is hardly better, as your pool water attempts to find what it's missing from your pool, such as the plaster. Shoot for a range between 200 and 400 ppm. Reduce calcium by adding more water to the pool. Increase it with calcium chloride.
Your pool water's pH tells you how acidic it is, with 7.0 being neutral. Numbers below 7.0 indicate acidic, while above 7.0 represents alkaline (also known as basic) water. Any item entering your pool affects its pH level.
To change the pH of your pool, you need to add either an increaser (base) or decreaser (acid) to reach the ideal pH level of 7.4, although the range of 7.2 to 7.6 is acceptable.
If your pH test reveals a number below 7.0, prevent corrosion by adding base. If the level tops 7.8, adding acid helps prevent calcium buildup on the filter and tile. It also helps keep the water clear and improves the effectiveness of your chlorine.
Although you may not use your pool in the winter, it is important to keep the water healthy. Once a pool gets out of balance, it’s a lot harder and more expensive to get it balanced again. Keep it healthy, make your pool happy.
Maintaining Your Pool and Hot Tub Year-Round
The easiest way to maintain proper balance year-round is with a pHin smart monitor. This little device constantly monitors your water and automatically sends you exactly what you need to keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. If you're looking for someone to service your equipment, Pool Service on Demand instantly connects you to local, qualified pool techs.