Get Smart About Testing: How to Use Test Strips + pHin

Proper water balance is essential for safe swimming and relaxing. All pool, hot tub, and spa owners know that they need to do regular testing as a part of their water care routine.

We are often asked why test strips are still necessary when using pHin. While it is true pHin does much of the work to simplify pool and hot tub care, it does still rely on test data collected monthly from test strips.

Why is this the case?

The pHin hardware has sensors that measure temperature, sanitizer levels, and pH over 1,000 times per week. These elements impact the vessel’s overall balance and can quickly be affected by things like environmental influences and usage.

The test strips check for total alkalinity, total hardness, and cyanuric acid levels. These three factors can also impact the overall health of the water but do not change as quickly as temperature, sanitizer and pH. Still, they are key to maintaining balanced water since total alkalinity measures the alkaline substances in the water and prevents the pH from getting out of range, total hardness measures the amount of lime dissolved in the water, and cyanuric acid stabilizes chlorine levels. Learn more about total alkalinity and total hardness here.

Test strips are the time-tested standard measurement tool and are considered relatively accurate. When combined with new smart pool technology like the pHin Smart Water Monitor, users can simplify their water care routine while also having more confidence that their water is safe for swimming. pHin prompts users to take a water sample and photo once a month to help them keep an eye on the overall status of their water. pHin test strips are uniquely calibrated to work with the pHin app. Read the full instructions for using pHin test strips  here.

pHin users can view their water report results immediately within the app and track trends about their water alkalinity and sanitizer over time. This provides important insight: in fact, one pHin user noticed that the water balance was off from the daily pHin data. After investigating the change, he found that the cause was a piece of equipment that was about to fail, and he was able to replace it before real damage was done.

The combination of pHin and the test strips, makes water care simple and routine. Users can rest easy knowing the exact status of their water without having to worry about making their own chemical calculations.

Smart Water Monitoring Leads Long-Time Pool Owner to Clear Water

Even long-time pool owners can experience the headaches, frustrations, and challenges of balancing the water for safe swimming. Many factors can affect the balance, like a recent rainfall, a pool workout, or even the temperature.

In Southern Rhode Island, pool season starts by Memorial Day. As he was gearing up for the summer, Kevin St. Lawrence began preparing his pool for barbecues, relaxation, and even for the dog to swim in!

An experienced pool owner of eight years, Kevin was stumped when the water was cloudy. “Our pool was always getting cloudy at random times. I wanted to figure out how to solve the water problems in my pool before they became too significant,” said Kevin. “We’ve had our pool for a few years but I’m no expert when it comes to testing the water.”

Kevin was exploring his options online and found the pHin Smart Water Monitor. The device promised to remove the guesswork out of his everyday pool care routine so he wouldn’t have to fuss with interpreting test strips and charts on his own. This was just the tool his family needed to keep their pool water from getting cloudy! pHin has built-in sensors that analyze data collected over 1,000 times a week to provide water charts and chemical dosing recommendations.

After getting his pHin set up, Kevin simply dropped his pHin in the water and connected it to the wireless bridge. It now floats in his pool 24/7, and allows him to check its pH, temperature, and sanitizer levels anytime in the pHin app. When the water needs attention, pHin sends a smartphone alert letting Kevin know exactly what chemicals to add to his pool, and how much of them to add – eliminating the guesswork he’d begrudgingly grown accustomed to!

The easy-to-read charts and color-coded discs made it easy for anyone in the family to understand. “I like the in-app charts because they tell you if your pool is trending in the right direction even if it’s not at the perfect level yet,” he added.

The St. Lawrence family relies on pHin to advise them on whether or not their pool is ready for guests to dive in. “Our family is always entertaining friends and family for pool days,” said Kevin. “It’s been nice to have pHin floating in the pool so I can easily check the water before we’re expecting company to make sure it’s safe for swimming.”

pHin combines the power of technology and analytics to bring families the peace of mind knowing whether their water is safe for swimming or not. This summer, Kevin St. Lawrence and his entire family will be relaxing more and enjoying his crystal clear water, thanks to pHin.

3 Ways Smart Technology Makes Water Balance Easy

A pool or hot tub can be an oasis – if the water is clear and safe. A perfect morning can start with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, enjoyed poolside in the sunshine. Summer evenings are best spent with friends and a cocktail, supported by pool noodles or fun floaties, even with a cupholder. An afternoon swim can reduce tension, or a nightly soak in the hot tub can melt a stressful day away.

But if the water balance is off, hot tubs and pools can quickly become dangerous for swimming and relaxing.

Most pool and hot tub owners aren’t water experts. Balancing pH, sanitizer, and managing chemical doses often requires professional expertise to ensure safe water. But new intelligence and algorithms are making the water balance equation simple for any family, for peace of mind, alerts, and helpful tips whether they manage their own water or rely on a professional.

The pHin Smart Monitor floats in the water, and automatically measures the pH, sanitizer, and temperature up to 1,000 times per week. The device is made smart with built-in analytics, that it simplifies to make water balance understandable and more manageable.

Here are 3 ways pHin transforms your pool and hot tub water care routine:

1.            Real-Time Alerts: Since pHin monitors your water 24/7, you can expect to receive an alert about your water balance the second it needs attention on the smartphone app or via email. You can also use the app to check in on your water temperature before you jump in.

2.            Color-Coded Guide: Tables and charts can be hard to understand. pHin simplifies water balance with a color-coded system: Blue for safe water, Orange means you need to check the water, and Red means the water isn’t safe.

3.            A Chemist in Your Pocket: Instead of having to calculate how much chemicals you need to add, pHin syncs up with the size of your pool or hot tub and the chemical brand you prefer, and gives you simple, easy dosing instructions.

pHin provides simplicity and peace-of-mind for pool care. Whether you manage your own water or work with a professional, the alerts keep you informed about your water balance, so you always know when it’s safe for swimming, relaxing, and fun. And, if you have a pool technician – they can use pHin too to check on your water from anywhere – the information helps them prepare and intervene sooner when the water needs attention.

pHin is compatible with chlorine, saltwater, and bromine water systems.

Start a new water care routine for more balanced days. Learn more about pHin here.

3 Steps to Stress-free Pool Care with pHin

 There are many perks to having a pool– relaxation and pool parties, or a nice après-ski soak. New pool owners might not realize the challenges of ongoing maintenance required to keep the water clean, healthy, and ready for a good time, so we’ve rounded up some essential pieces of pool maintenance advice to help you manage your water.

Pool-care professionals recommend measuring your water chemistry at least once a week. If neglected, getting your pool or hot tub water balanced again can be a frustrating task that costs both time and money.

 A smart water care system like pHin helps take care of this task while taking the stress out of managing your pool or hot tub, with three easy steps:

1. Constant Water Monitoring

Most people check their water levels once a week or just before they hop in the pool but water chemistry is easily affected by how much you use your pool or hot tub, how many people are using it, the weather (especially rain and heat), water temperature, sunlight, and several other factors. The lag between water checkups can create an unhealthy water situation. Since weather and water temperature are always changing, it’s best to test your pool water as often as possible to make sure you have an accurate picture of its overall water quality. Between raising a family, working, and other tasks, it’s difficult for most people to consistently test their pool water more than once per week, which is why a smart water monitor like pHin is the best alternative.

Once you drop pHin in the water, it automatically starts measuring pH, sanitizer, and temperature levels — over 1,000 times every week! The daily measurements are collected and analyzed with the monitor’s built-in intelligence to show you the status of your water health at any time, along with an easy-to-understand guide that will notify you whether your water is safe for swimming, needs chemicals to be balanced, or is unsafe.

2. Automatic Alerts

With smart technology in the pool, you’ll always know the status of your pool water. The pHin app gives you information about the water balance and temperature while sending you app alerts letting you know when you need to adjust your chemicals. Knowing the status of your water at any time can help you ensure that your pool or hot tub is always jump-in ready. It also helps you with easy steps to set unbalanced water right – continue to step three to read how!

3. Chemical Instructions

pHin is your personal pool and hot tub water expert. Instead of having to learn the charts, tables, and measurements for proper water chemistry yourself, pHin analyzes your water quality and provides easy instructions to get balanced water. It works with most major retail chemicals and uses its built-in analytics to give you precise dosing instructions for balanced water based on the chemical brand you use, your pool system, and your pool size.  All you have to do is follow the instructions and check in to see your water status on the app. Whether you’re a new pool owner or you’re looking to manage your existing hot tub or pool water, you can get the full benefits with smart monitoring from pHin.

Questions to Ask When Buying Your First Hot Tub

Congratulations on your decision to join the world of hot tub owners! You have many hours of fun and relaxation in your future. Before you buy, though, you want to answer a few questions to be sure you get the right hot tub for your lifestyle. Should you take it out for a test soak? Does it come with a warranty? How about cleaning, does it require a lot of cleaning? Answering the following questions when buying your first hot tub helps ensure you enjoy your new purchase for many years to come.

Can You Test a Hot Tub before Buying It?

In a word, yes. Taking your hot tub out for a test soak is called “wet testing” and it’s something you do with a demonstration model at the dealer. Most spa dealers offer demo models specifically for shoppers to do a wet test.

During your wet test, pay attention to the seating and the jets. If the seating is uncomfortable, or the water goes too high or too low, you don’t get the full hydrotherapeutic value. Also, make sure that the positioning of the jets is comfortable.

Aim for a 15-minute test soak to get a true feel for the spa.

How Much Does it Cost?

Before conducting your first wet test, determine your budget and decide what you are willing and able to spend. Once you have your figure in mind you can start shopping. When you begin dealing with sales reps, remain confident in your predetermined price range. Most of them work on commission, so they often push larger models or extra features that you don’t necessarily want or need. That’s okay, they’re just doing their job, but if it’s more than you’re willing to spend, don’t let yourself be talked into more hot tub than you want. And, if you want to haggle, go for it. Most hot tubs have a decent markup, so there’s usually a bit of wiggle room.

Where Should I Put My Hot Tub?

While the majority of hot tub owners choose to put their tubs outside, they can also be installed inside. Installing a tub inside comes with three main concerns:

  • Will it fit through the door? Will it fit through my gates? Will I need to pay for a crane service?
  • Will the floor support the spa’s weight? Hint: a full, 3-person tub typically weighs around 2,500 pounds; larger tubs can weigh four times as much.
  • Do you have proper ventilation to avoid moisture buildup?

If you choose to go the more traditional route and install your spa outside, your main concerns are electricity and support. The closer the hot tub is to your home, the less it will cost to install, since it will be closer to any electrical outlets or wiring and you don’t have to worry about underground wiring. As for support, it is important to make sure that whatever surface you place your hot tub on can support the extra weight.

If want an in-ground tub, you need to place it at least four feet deep, or below the frost-line. Since the ground will thaw every spring, you want to make sure that you have the support in place to keep the spa’s shell from cracking once the ground shifts.

What about the Warranty?

Warranties vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so request a copy of the warranty for any hot tub you are considering purchasing. The main things you want to keep an eye out for when it comes to the warranty are the:

  • Hot tub shell, usually covered for five years against leaks and failures
  • Plumbing, usually covered for three years
  • Electrical components, usually covered for five years

Although these are your main areas of concern, read all the provisions of your warranty carefully.

The dealer you choose also plays a role. If they go out of business or have a reputation for bad customer service, you may have a harder time getting warranty items handled. You want to be happy with the retailer, the hot tub, and the warranty before making your final decision.

How Often Should the Hot Tub be Cleaned?

It is usually recommended to clean your spa no more than three or four times a year, but it depends on how frequently it is used and how well the water is maintained.  Typically, cleaning your hot tub takes about an hour. Proper water care is vital to your enjoyment of the hot tub and fairly simple, but it’s even easier with pHin.

Should You Shower before Using the Tub?

If you are perspiring, have recently worked out, or have any creams or lotions on your skin, it is a good idea to take a quick shower before hopping into your hot tub. Any contaminants that enter the water can upset the chemical balance and lead to more frequent cleanings or maintenance issues.

As you look at these questions to ask when buying your first hot tub, there are many great tools to simplify the maintenance process. If you want an easy way to ensure the water in your hot tub is always safe and ready for a relaxing soak, consider pHin. It constantly monitors your water and tells your smartphone what you need to do to keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. Use it with your own chemicals for flexibility or get our single-dose, pre-measured chemicals delivered right to your door. If you need someone to service your equipment, Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.

The Importance of Collecting a Water Sample to Test

It will almost always be easier to avoid water chemistry issue than it will be to solve it. Eliminating something like an algae bloom once it already colors the water is no simple task. Once the walls are stained and the equipment corroded, the damage is done. Even worse is treating contamination. By the time swimmers or soakers complain about infections and rashes from contaminated pool or hot tub water, it is too late to prevent the spreading of disease. But, using proper sampling techniques and monitoring the chemical content of the water frequently helps you avoid costly, time consuming problems. It is incredibly important for pool operators to be familiar with good water testing kits and techniques.

Use a Sample Container

When conducting a test poolside, many people will just fill the four-in-one test bottles directly. This is perfectly fine provided you thoroughly rinse the bottle prior to collecting samples in order to eliminate any contamination and the pool’s circulation pump is running. Repeat the rinsing process between pH, alkalinity, and chlorine tests.

If you use a pool supply store to test your sample, most typically require eight ounces of water for testing. Some pool stores offer a free sample bottle. If yours doesn’t, make sure that you use a container that both meets the volume requirements and is free of contaminants. Thoroughly clean any repurposed container. Never use an empty chemical bottle, since it may throw off your sample, or pickle jars, since the salt and vinegar will never fully wash out. Also avoid coffee and juice containers as they can affect the pH reading.

Where to Gather Your Sample

Just as important as what you put your water sample in is where you get the water sample from. You don’t want to skim along the top, as that water is not an accurate representation of the entire pool. The recommended level to take your sample is 12 to 18 inches below the surface of the water, or about elbow-deep. Avoid the skimmer, return areas, and anywhere near a floating chlorine feeder to keep from getting an inaccurate chlorine reading. And, if your pool has varying depths, take the water sample from the deep end, which is less affected by temperature.

When to Take Your Sample

Something that many people don’t consider when taking a water sample is timing. Do not take a water sample if you’ve added any chemicals to the pool within the last 12-48 hours. While that may seem like a fairly large time-frame, there are a multitude of factors that may cause a discrepancy, such as the size of the pool and what chemicals you added. Most pool professionals should be able to tell you when to retest your pool’s water based on its specific circumstances. Rain also makes a difference. If it is currently raining, about to rain, or has just finished raining, do not take a water sample. After a rainstorm, wait at least eight hours to take a water sample.

Testing Your Sample

If your tests require using tablet reagents, do not touch the tablets when removing them from their foil packets. If they get wet or the foil packet tears, discard them. When using dip and read test strips, replace the bottle immediately after use; the strips can become reactive with moisture in the air. Pay attention to timing, as colors can change if you wait longer than the specified time. Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully, since many involve more than one step.

Your samples should be fresh; taking a sample in the morning and coming back to it after going to work or running errands is not ideal. And, if you take a sample and it rains soon after, then that sample is no longer an accurate reflection of the pool.

Ensure that your testing instruments are properly calibrated and do not expose them to high humidity conditions, drop them on the pool decking, or submerge them unless they are fully sealed. It is a good idea to purchase wide range test kits since dilution testing can be a complicated and precise process.

Working with a Pool Store

If this whole process is new to you, be sure to provide basic information to your pool store, such as pool size (in gallons), pool type (fiberglass, concrete, etc.), sanitizer (chlorine, salt system), and anything that has been done to the pool in the last 48 hours.

If you want to avoid all of these hassles and ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced, consider pHin. It constantly monitors your water and tells your smartphone what you need to do to  keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. Use it with your own chemicals for flexibility or get our single-dose, pre-measured chemicals delivered to your door. If you need someone to service your equipment, Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.