New Pool? Tips for Getting Water Ready for Swimming

You wanted a pool, longing to jump into cool water after a hot day, splashing with your family on the weekends, or floating around with a cocktail after work. So, you researched. You planned and consulted. You purchased, you landscaped, and you waited.

Congratulations on your new pool! A pool full of new water isn’t safe to swim in right away. To get the most out of it (and protect your investment), you need to prepare it before welcoming swimmers. pHin team put together what you need to know to get your water safe and ready for swimming:

Assemble your tools.

Every pool owner should have a standard set of tools they use to test and treat their pool water. That includes:

  • A water test kit
  • Pool brushes and cleaning tools
  • Chemicals
    • Chlorine or salt, depending on your system
    • Baking soda
    • Muriatic acid: One of the chemicals used to lower pH and total alkalinity in pools. Follow the instructions on the label, and make sure it is compatible with your pool; some muriatic acid can’t be used in hot tubs or with fiberglass, vinyl, or painted pools.
    • Sequestering agent: Iron and copper can build up in your pool. Sequestering agents help prevent staining and scaling by suspending the metal particles in solution.

Test the pool water.

Take your first water measurements with test strips to get the pH, chlorine, and total alkalinity levels of the water. You can purchase a test kit at your local pool store, or online.

Safe water should have pH between 6.8 and 7.2, and total alkalinity between 70 and 80 ppm.

There is a range for an optimal pH, which should then be raised between 8 7.1 and 7.7 for chlorine pools and 7.0 and 7.5 for salt pools. Lower pH provides better sanitizing benefits. At the same time, this will raise the total alkalinity. For example, concrete pools should have total alkalinity between 80 and 120 ppm, where painted, vinyl, or fiberglass pools should be between 125 and 170 ppm.

Remember, whenever you’re adding chemicals to your pool, use extra caution to prevent them from touching your skin or eyes, by using gloves or goggles. Keep the chemicals secured and stored safely away from children and pets.

Grab your scrub brush.

To get the water balance right, you’ll need to keep your pool clean.

As a best practice, brush the pool often using a nylon brush. Particles, leaves, or dirt can get stuck in corners, steps, and other crevices, so make sure they get extra attention. You can also use a pool skimmer to catch leaves or bugs that accumulate on the surface overnight.

After the pool is balanced, you may want to add algaecide. Always check with your manufacturer to make sure it’s compatible with your pool, how much to add, and when it would be safe to swim.

Let the water settle.

Your pool water needs time to run through the system. Allow the pump to run for 1-2 days, and, as you add chemicals through the process, you may need to wait a few days in between to allow for stabilization.

You should also wait until the chemicals settle before using a heater or vacuum. If you don’t wait, it could interfere with the pool’s curing time, which can cause long-term damage. Some experts recommend letting your pool cure for 21 days, but it’s best to check with your manufacturer or local pool expert to determine the most suitable time-frame.

Set your pool care routine.

Once your pool is open and ready for swimming, you need to set a routine to keep it safe. Schedule weekly water test strips and chemical adjustments.

If you’re brand new to pools, testing, and chemicals, technology like the pHin Smart Water Monitor can remove the guesswork of water care. Instead of testing just once a week, pHin gives you a clear picture of your water quality in real-time. The device takes over 1,000 measurements a week (few pool owners can match that by hand!), and sends alerts, reminders, and chemical dose instructions in the app. See what users think of pHin.

As Pool Season Kicks Off, Next Generation pHin Monitor Makes Water Care Easy

With a refreshed app experience, pHin uses smart technology to make pool and hot tub water care a breeze with robust analytics and enhanced pool chemical compatibility.

pHinTM, by Hayward Industries introduces the next generation pHin smart water monitor. Featuring software upgrades that enhance built-in analytics and augment pHin’s proprietary algorithm for water care as well as an updated user interface and monitoring subscription free for the first year, the smart monitor now works with an expanded list of compatible chemical brands for the 2020 season.

The pHin Smart Monitor removes the guesswork from pool and hot tub water care for chlorine, bromine, or saltwater systems. The next generation model now offers an enhanced and streamlined experience. Missteps in water care can present cloudy water, sub-optimal conditions, or health risks like recreational water illnesses that detract from the joy and benefits of pool and spa ownership.

Engineered to float in the water 24/7 throughout the pool season, whether in the summer or year-round, pHin measures pH, sanitizer, and temperature levels over 1,000 times per week. Robust on-board analytics and a proprietary algorithm acclimate pHin to its water environment and leverage data continuously taken in the water to improve chemical dosing instructions over time. With the monitoring subscription, users can view historical charts of their water conditions and share data with their pool technician or retail store.

The pHin app user interface has been refreshed, and provides easy-to-read, color-coded guides regarding water status. Through the app, pHin users receive alerts directly on their smartphone about their water quality and temperature, with actionable chemical dosing instructions. The next generation pHin model features a growing list of compatible chemicals for chlorine, saltwater, or bromine pools and hot tubs. Users can scan or select the chemical brand of their choice from the supported chemical database of over 60 brands, including poolife®, Applied Biochemists®, BioGuard, E-Z CLOR®, Pool Breeze®, SHOCK-IT®, and more; the full list is available here.

“The height of the swim season is here, and families need to know that their water is safe for everything from a morning swim, to relaxation, and fun and games,” said pHin Co-Founder Justin Miller. “We designed pHin to take the guesswork out of maintenance, and we’ve continued to evolve the pHin experience to reduce the time spent on pool and hot tub care. With increased reliability and more compatible chemicals, pHin’s algorithm and intelligence is the easiest way to maintain safe swimming water this year.”

Enhancements to pHin also include connection to local retailers, where users can select their local pool store of choice and add chemicals to their shopping cart right from the app for easy pickup.

pHin is $349 U.S. MSRP, and available for order on Amazon and phin.co, as well as at local retailers.

To learn more about pHin visit phin.co.

Why and How Do We Shock Our Pools?

Seasoned pool owners know shocking is important to water care. When new pool owners research maintenance tips, they quickly find the advice: “Shock your pool. Shock your pool. Shock your pool.”

But, why do we shock?  

Regular pool shocks are critical to keeping the water safe, and to maintaining balanced water.

The main reason you need to shock is to get rid of the chloramines in the pool, which can be responsible for eye irritation and an ammonia smell. Shocking is an extra boost to burn off of bacteria so that the free chlorine can do its job.

Chlorine or bromine sanitizers can get overworked and need to be removed from the pool. This could be after a heavy rainstorm, lots of kids in the pool, or a pool party. Using a non-chlorine shock is the first step to eliminating bacteria, and doesn’t disrupt your chlorine or bromine levels, so your water can remain balanced.

How do you shock?

  • Check the label: If you have shock for a chlorine pool, carefully read the instructions to know how long the manufacturer recommends waiting before you can swim.
  • Set a schedule: Shocking your pool should be done each week – and it can be as simple as tossing a pod in the water. There are many brands that offer shock, so find what works best for your pool, or consult a local pool retailer or service technician.
  • Pick a time: Shock your pool when it’s not going to be occupied. These chemicals aren’t stabilized, so you may have to stay out of the water for at least a few hours to let the shock spread and start working, depending on the type of shock you’re using. Evenings or late afternoons work, or if you’re not a morning swimmer, maybe your shock can be in the morning.

In addition to pool shocking, make sure you check your pool water balance regularly. The right water balance keeps your pool safe to jump in anytime, and it can be simple. Pool experts created the pHin Smart Monitor, a system that measures your pool water chemistry, sends you alerts, and helps with chemical dosing. 

Need more pool know-how? Check out our Pool Chemicals 101 guide.

Pool Chemicals 101: What You Need To Know

When you first decide to get a pool, you’re thinking about the fun you’ll have: pool parties, kids frolicking, swimming laps in the morning. Unfortunately, once you fill your pool up with water you can’t just “set it and forget it.”

Pools tend to grow algae and get dirty from the chemicals and skin cells from all those swimmers, plus debris and other natural contaminants can also cloud the water and create an unswimmable, bacteria-infested environment. The last thing you want is to go for a pleasant dip and find that the water is too dirty and might even make you and your friends or family ill.

Sometimes it seems like you need a degree in chemistry to make sure your pool chemicals are perfectly balanced. Not true. It doesn’t have to be hard to make sure your pool is always clean, safe and ready for a good time. Once you understand the basics of pool chemicals and maintenance, it becomes easier and less time-consuming to make sure your pool is balanced and swimmable, especially if you have a smart water monitoring system to help.

It’s important to check your chemicals often and to perform regular maintenance. Why? One: You won’t have the long-term issues like algae blooms or bacterial infections that might create health issues for you and your swimmers. Two: You’ll avoid issues that might require draining and refilling your pool, or even more serious repairs that are expensive and will have your pool out of commission for a long time. Three: Your pool will always be ready and waiting for you to dive in and enjoy.

This overview of pool chemical basics will help any new pool owner as well as those with years of experience owning and maintaining their pools. The basic chemicals you need to monitor and adjust are:

●       Pool Sanitizers: Chlorine and Bromine

●       Algaecides

●       pH Balancers

●       Alkalinity Balancers

●       Hardness Balancers

●       Pool Shock

Don’t worry! It may seem like a lot to manage but we make keeping track of your pool’s chemical balance simple and easy.

What are pool sanitizers and why do you need them?

What do pool sanitizers do?

Pool sanitizers combine with bacteria, viruses, algae and other natural contaminants in your pool to neutralize (destroy) them. The two most popular pool sanitizers are chlorine and bromine. Sanitizers are the most important pool chemical, but it’s important to know that they work best when all of the other levels in your pool — alkaline, pH and calcium hardness — are balanced as well.

What is the difference between chlorine and bromine?

Chlorine neutralizes bacteria and viruses by attaching to them and changing their chemical profile. Once this happens, the chlorine is no longer effective, but the contaminants are gone.

Chlorine comes in a granule form which you can drop right in the pool. Granular chlorine has to be added to your pool  and tested  almost daily so it’s a little more time-intensive to manage.

Chlorine also comes in 1-inch or 3-inch tablets which can be administered using a floating chlorine dispenser, through the pool skimmer, or through an automatic chlorinator. These methods guarantee a more consistent distribution of the pool sanitizer and are also less labor intensive, especially if you have a smart pool monitor that will send you alerts about your current chemical levels if and when they get out of balance.

Chlorine 101:

●       The ideal target balance for chlorine is 3ppm (parts per million). If you are under 3ppm, your pool is probably starting to become a petri dish. Anything more than 3ppm, and you probably need to dilute the chemicals in your water.

●       Most brands of chlorine are pretty similar. If you’re looking for a reason to buy one over another, check the “active ingredients” list which is what actually works to destroy the bacteria. 

●       Weekly pool shocks are required with chlorine to clear the pool.

Bromine is similar to chlorine, but it tends to work better in pools, spas and hot tubs that run at warmer temperatures. Bromine is a great option for people whose skin is sensitive to chlorine, although it is actually chlorine-based, in case you have anyone who is allergic to chlorine.

Bromine can be more expensive than chlorine; however, bromine actually ionizes the bacteria and viruses and then continues to work, unlike chlorine, so it does last longer. Bromine comes in tablets and must be administered using a chemical dispenser.

Bromine 101:

●       The ideal target balance for bromine is between 3ppm (parts per million) and 5ppm.

●       Weekly pool shocks are required with bromine to clear the pool.

●       Bromine does not add cyanuric acid or chlorine to the water.

●       Bromine is less stable than chlorine when exposed to the sun, so you need to make sure you are constantly checking your pool chemical levels.

What are algaecides and why do you need them?

What do algaecides do?

If, or when, you see your pool looking a little cloudy and green (green pool water is a warning sign, but it can also be  yellow, blue, or black) it’s time to worry about algae. Sometimes you can spot an algae outbreak before it shows in the pool water by checking the water line, the corners of the pool and stairs for discoloration. It’s important to keep an eye out for algae in your pool as it can cause bacterial skin infections or even injuries due to slips and scrapes from a slimy surface. You want to jump into a crystal clear pool, right?!

There are several types of algae that can infest your pool; green algae is the most common and black algae is the hardest to remove. Algaecides stop algae from growing in your pool and prevent outbreaks from happening. It’s much easier and more efficient  to use the right pool chemicals during regular maintenance to prevent an outbreak rather than to try to use algaecides to cure an algae outbreak in your pool. Most algaecides are based on copper sulfates or copper chelates which stop the algae from growing. Copper-based algae treatments may stain your pool — so make sure to check before you purchase.

Algaecides 101:

●       Monitor your pool’s chemical levels constantly. A smart pool water management system, like pHin, can help you make sure that your chemical levels are balanced to help avoid an algae outbreak.

●       Make sure that your pool circulation is functioning correctly: Stagnant water is a breeding ground for algae.

●       Brush the waterline of your pool regularly to make sure that algae isn’t breeding at the surface of your pool.

●       Shock your pool. Shock your pool. Shock your pool. This should be a weekly ritual if you want to ensure healthy, swimmable water for you, your family and friends.

●       Mustard and black algae are not impacted by chlorine so you will need an algaecide to treat those conditions.

What are pH balancers and why do you need them?

What do pH balancers do?

pH balancers maintain a healthy pH range in your pool, critical to its overall health and functionality. If your pH gets too high or too low, swimmers will experience eye irritation or other skin discomforts. It can also corrode your pool tiles and damage your pumps and other expensive pool systems. Plus, if your pH is not within the correct range, your pool sanitizer and other chemical levels will be less effective.

A pool’s pH level is extremely sensitive. Anything that comes in contact with your pool — leaves, bugs,  popsicles, sunscreen, beer, kids — will affect it. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to maintain your pH levels with consistent monitoring. Keep a pH increaser and a pH decreaser in your stockpile of pool chemical management tools.

pH balancers 101:

●       To keep your pool at the best, most effective pH level, readings  should be between 7.2 to 7.6. Use a smart pool monitoring device that checks these levels constantly every day and sends an alert to your mobile device letting you know if you need to make any adjustments.

●                   Alkalinity and pH are yin and yang. You need to make sure they’re both in the right zone in order to maintain your overall pool chemistry.

●                   7 is a neutral zone for your pool’s pH. Anything below 7 will be acidic. Anything over 7 indicates that it is too alkaline. If your pool is over or under, you’ll need to add acid or alkaline to get back in balance.

What are alkalinity balancers and why do you need them?

What do alkalinity balancers do?

Alkalinity balancers are used to maintain a safe total alkalinity range for a comfortable swimming experience. Alkalinity acts as a buffer or a shield for pH levels so if your levels are off, you need to adjust for the alkalinity first and sometimes the pH will correct itself.

Alkalinity 101:

●       The recommended level for alkalinity is 125 ppm, but anywhere in the 100 – 150ppm range should be acceptable.

●       Make sure you have an alkalinity increaser in your chemical kit just in case. There is no such thing as a chemical decreaser but a pH decreaser will lower both pH and alkalinity.

What are calcium hardness balancers and why do you need them?

What do calcium hardness balancers do?

You’ve heard of hard and soft water, right? The “hardness” of your water is based on how much calcium is in the water. This is totally dependent on where you live and what source you use to fill your pool. If your calcium level is too low, it can corrode your pool systems, equipment and plumbing. If the calcium level is too high and you have a plaster or tile/mason pool, it will damage the interior of the pool. Either way, nobody wants to replace expensive pool infrastructure because they didn’t monitor the calcium hardness level of their pool so it’s an important chemical level to check regularly.

Calcium Hardness 101:

●       The ideal targets for calcium are 80-150ppm in a vinyl pool and 150-200ppm in a concrete, plaster or tile pool.

●       If your calcium levels are off, check your alkalinity first, then address your pH levels. If those adjustments don’t fix the issue, there are some more advanced tools and chemicals you can use to correct the calcium hardness.

●       Check your calcium levels regularly. This is one of the easiest, yet most overlooked, steps to extending the longevity of your pool.

What is a pool shock and why is it so important?

What does a pool shock do?

Pool shocks clean your pool when its sanitizer (chlorine or bromine) is overworked and needs to have the remnants removed from the pool, which is why regular pool shocks are so critical. You may want to shock or superchlorinate your pool after specific events as well like a heavy rain storm, a big pool party, or a few small children who may or may not have accidents! Shocking your pool on a weekly basis with non-chlorine shock eliminates bacteria without shifting your chlorine levels and goes a long way towards keeping it balanced.

 Pool Shock 101:

●       Shock your pool every week. EVERY WEEK. A smart water monitoring system will remind you to shock your pool so it’s always ready and waiting for you to have fun.

●       Pool shock chemicals aren’t stabilized, so it’s best to shock your pool in the late afternoon or evening. Make sure to run the pump for several hours to make sure the chemicals are spread evenly and working.

●       If you use a chlorine-based pool shock, make sure you know how long the manufacturer recommends to wait before allowing swimmers into the pool.

Pool chemical testing and why is it so important?

So, you’re not a chemist — although you might be starting to feel like one! But you are a pool owner. Now that you know the basics of pool chemicals, balance and the importance of keeping your pool at the right chemical levels, you know that measuring chemical levels is the first and most important step. If you don’t know the status of your pool’s chemical levels, you won’t know how to correct and get back in balance.

You can use test strips at home, or take a water sample to your local pool store to determine what you need to adjust at any given time but that can be time-consuming, annoying and frustrating. There are now digital pool test kits like pHin that will automatically check your pool water 24/7 and send you alerts if anything needs to be adjusted so all you have to do is fix what’s broken… and enjoy your pool!

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.

How Brushing Your Pool or Hot Tub Interior Surfaces Weekly Saves You Time and Money

It can be a long and difficult process to maintain and clean a pool. While most people remember to perform such necessary tasks as removing debris, emptying skimmer baskets, or cleaning tiles, brushing the pool is a job that often gets forgotten if you don’t use a pool cleaning service. Sweeping may seem like an unimportant task, but it needs to be done on a regular basis for both aesthetic and sanitary purposes. If you do not regularly and consistently brush the interior surface of your pool or spa, it may lead to issues down the road. Read on to see how brushing your pool or hot tub interior surfaces weekly saves you time and money.

Why Is Brushing So Important?

Brushing your pool is one of the most important aspects of pool maintenance, yet a surprising number of pool owners don’t do it. Much like brushing your teeth, brushing your pool is meant to prevent, not solve issues. By consistently brushing your swimming pool’s interior surface, you prevent algae buildup, remove dirt particles, and smooth the surface to ensure a long lasting finish. Also, brushing your pool is a major contributor to proper circulation, as it breaks up debris, biofilms such as pink slime, white water mold, and other microorganisms, introducing them into the water and your filtration system.

How Often Should I Brush?

You should brush the walls, ladders, steps, and corners of your pool at least once a week. To prevent any lurking algae formations, make sure to get into every nook and cranny your brush can reach. It is also important to make sure that your brush’s bristles are in good shape. Over time, the sunlight causes them to deteriorate, sending errant bristles into your filtration system or causing you to miss spots. Not brushing your pool or hot tub at least weekly allows algae and other bio-films to build up along its interior surface. If you already have an algae buildup in your pool, you need to treat the problem; brushing will not solve it.

How to Brush Effectively

Brushing a pool is truly a simple process. Even if you hire a professional cleaning service, if they come only once a week, you still need to brush weekly yourself.

Start with a nylon pool brush, or one made of stainless steel and nylon, providing the pool’s interior surface is of a cementitious finish. Do not leave the brush out in the sun, as this reduces its lifespan significantly. Properly storing your pool care tools protects them from the elements and ensures they enjoy a long life.

Attach the brush to your telepole and run it along the surfaces of your pool’s walls, steps, and benches. You don’t need to apply a great deal of force, but you do need to use firm pressure. Begin at the top of the tile line and push straight down. Work your way completely around the pool in this manner, always moving toward the drain.

If you use an automatic pool cleaning system, you do not need to brush the floor every time you brush the walls, although it never hurts. However, you should brush the entire surface at least every six to eight weeks, even if you have an automatic cleaner.

Saving Time and Money

Regularly brushing your pool and hot tub prevents algae and mineral buildup that may cause damage in the long run. Taking care of widespread algae growth costs far more time and money than a weekly brushing, and severe growth may require completely draining the pool to take care of the issue. With effective brushing and properly balancing the chemicals, you save yourself the time, effort, and money required by more intensive cleaning methods.

Keep it Clean

Brushing the interior surfaces of your swimming pool keeps it clean, healthy, and smooth. Dirt and mineral buildup doesn’t just keep it from being clean; it can also cause surfaces to become rougher. Make the time to give your pool a thorough brushing every week, particularly if you do not employ a cleaning service. Establishing a weekly routine helps keep your pool and hot tub in tip-top shape, saving you valuable time and resources.

To ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced, consider pHin. It constantly monitors your water and tells your smartphone when you need to take action to keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. If you need someone to service your equipment, try Pool Service on Demand.

Landscaping Around Your Pool And Hot Tub: How to Choose the Perfect Plants

There should be a lot of thought when planning the landscaping around your pool and hot tub. After all, it’s not just a matter of planting what looks good. You also need to worry about planting what is good for your pool and hot tub. Issues to consider include whether the plants will shed into the water, if they have thorns that could possibly hurt swimmers, or if they have invasive roots (the last thing you’d want near a pool or a hot tub). Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to planning the plant-life around your pool or hot tub.

Ideal Planting

A pool or hot tub and the plants around it should create a luxurious and relaxing space, where one can both lounge and entertain. It is important that the plants you place around your pool or hot tub are in line with the look and feel you want to create. Ideally, you want to surround your pool area with plants that create privacy, add texture, and bring some color. Plant sun perennials (such as windflowers or day lilies) to transform this area into an oasis. Plant bamboo, hedges, or palm trees to create a tropical fence about the pool (but note that palm trees do shed and can be messy). Mix a variety of plants in multiple shapes and sizes to add the most texture and get the most out of this area’s landscaping.

What to Plant

While you may be looking to achieve a specific theme or vibe with the vegetation you plant, there are some important things to consider. First and foremost is the type of plants that work, not just around the water, but in the area where you live. For example, in desert climates, cacti, agave, or palm trees would work perfectly around your pool or hot tub. But in that same climate, it might be difficult to keep certain types of flowers or shrubbery alive. It can be difficult or costly to try to keep plants that require more attention or water in hotter, drier areas of the country than it would be in areas that receive plenty of rain or enjoy more mild temperatures. Always do plenty of research before choosing the plants for landscaping.

Problems Vegetation Can Present

One of the main problems that any plant can present for a pool is shedding; acorns, leaves, blades of grass, or berries can be a pool or hot tub’s worst enemy. Beyond just causing extra maintenance or cleaning, these things can stain the pool’s floor and walls, as well as the deck surrounding the pool. And when it comes to maintenance, they can throw your entire water chemistry out of balance, leading to cloudy water or algae outbreaks.

Two more things to consider are how the plant takes root and whether or not it will drop pollen. Overgrown roots tend to grow towards a water source and, when they’re right next to a pool, that pool becomes the water source their roots reach for. This can lead to erosion of the soil around your pool or hot tub, uneven pool decking, or a complete shift in the pool’s structural integrity. Pollen can cause an algae breakout in the pool and invite some unwanted and pesky insects to the area.

Bottom Line

Choosing the proper, beneficial plant-life to place around your pool has practically endless benefits. Aside from creating the perfect look or atmosphere, you can provide shade, privacy, and even play a hand in dictating your pool’s temperature. Picking the perfect vegetation may seem daunting, but always remember that the primary goal should be to keep it simple. Personal preference and geographic location will always dictate what you want and choose to plant, but also remember to consider the shedding and rooting of each plant.

If you’re looking for an easy way to ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced year-round, consider 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.

Do Pools Need More Chlorine When It’s Hot?

Do Pools Need More Chlorine When It’s Hot? Chlorine is a necessity for keeping your pool clean, free of bacteria, algae and viruses. Without it, your pool water can become murky, green, and even unsafe. However, too much also leads to trouble. To keep pool water safe and clean, chlorine should be maintained within a specific range. Too much chlorine can irritate the skin, eyes, and even lungs, while too little leaves you with a potentially unhealthy pool. What’s more, chemical needs change depending on the time of year, since heat and UV rays affect chlorine. To maintain the proper balance, consider the following factors.

What Is Chlorine Demand?

Pool service technicians measure two types of chlorine: combined chlorine and free chlorine.

  • Combined chlorine is the fraction of the chlorine that has reacted with organic matter, such as ammonia and nitrogen compounds and is, essentially, tied (“combined”) up. When your pool smells like chlorine, generally it is not because there is too much chlorine in the water but rather due to chloramines, the chemical compounds that result when chlorine meets organic material.
  • Free chlorine is the fraction of the chlorine that hasn’t yet reacted with organic matter; it is still able to disinfect the water.

High levels of combined chlorine indicate that there are too many foreign particulates in your pool water and free chlorine is the chlorine that needs to be replenished. It is important to remember that things like heat, increased bather load, and rain or wash-ins increase your chlorine demand.

How Do Heat and Light Affect Chlorine?

Free chlorine isn’t just lost when it interacts with organic matter; it is lost when it interacts with sunlight as well. Chlorine forms hypochlorite ions in water, which break apart when hit by ultraviolet radiation, releasing chlorine gas into the atmosphere. The light from the sun can reduce pool chlorination by 90 percent in just a few hours. This is why many pool service technicians add a stabilized chlorine and use a chlorine stabilizer when necessary to maintain the conditioner levels.

Temperature also has an effect on chlorine, as some bacteria and organisms grow better in warmer environments. When temperatures increase, it uses up free chlorine more quickly, potentially turning your pool into a swamp.

Rule of Thumb: For every 10-degree Fahrenheit (6 degree Celsius) rise in temperature above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius), you should add as much as 50% more chlorine to your pool water to maintain appropriate levels of free chlorine. This is especially true for those hot tubs that are not always covered, as they tend to run warmer.

Adjusting to Meet Chlorine Demand

It can take more than a week for your pool to recover from an algae outbreak or sudden water cloudiness. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help avoid any loss in the use of your pool:

  • Test Water Frequently: When conditions that require more chlorine arise, you will be able to see your sanitizer disappearing when you test the water. You don’t have to be a certified technician or water chemist to be able to test and know the condition of your pool water. Purchase some dip-strips to easily test your water and take care of any algae or cloudiness before it begins.
  • Inform Service Providers of Pool Parties: While an increase in bathers definitely has an impact on your water’s chemicals, you can minimize that impact. Informing your service technician of any plans you may have involving your pool allows your tech to take preventative steps and keep your pool clean and safe. Don’t wait until the last minute to let your service tech know about your upcoming pool party. They need to find time in their schedules to help you get your pool ready in addition to their regular commitments.
  • Monitor the Pool after a Storm: Even light rainfall can dilute your water and offset the chemical balance of the pool. In addition, be on the lookout for anything that might have gotten washed into the pool, such as fertilizer or other lawn / plant chemicals, as well as leaves and debris blown in by the storm. Some of these may actually render your sanitizer or other chemicals ineffective, so be on the lookout.
  • Prevention is Always Easier: It is easier to simply maintain well-balanced pool water than to clean cloudy or green water. Consistent testing and monitoring ensures that your water stays clean and safe to use, whereas ignoring it can leave you without a pool until you or your technician figure out exactly what is going on.

If you’re looking for an easy way to ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced year-round, a pHin smart monitor constantly analyzes the water and automatically sends exactly what you need to keep your pool and hot tub healthy. Do you need someone to service your equipment? Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.

Pros and Cons of Natural Gas Heaters

A natural gas heater is an efficient way to heat your pool or hot tub all year round. Even during the summer, outdoor temperatures might not stay high enough for long enough to keep your pool’s water warm without the help of a heater. Ideal for cooler climates and those that want their pool or hot tub heated quickly, natural gas heaters also work well when paired with solar heating or pools that don’t need to be heated often. While a natural gas heater is always a viable option, there are some disadvantages, so you should consult a pool professional before making any final decisions. A professional can help you determine what size and type of heater will work best for you.

How Natural Gas Heaters Work

As the pump circulates water from the pool, the water it draws from the pool. Next, it passes through the filter and makes its way to the heater. Gas burns in the heater’s combustion chamber. The water heats as it passes over this chamber and the hot water returns to the pool.

Natural gas heaters are ideal for heating pools for a short period of time and work great when you want to heat a pool quickly. These heaters are ideal for pools that are not used regularly, as gas pool heaters can help to maintain any desired temperature regardless of weather or climate conditions.

Pros of a Natural Gas Heater

  • Convenience: If you have access to a natural gas service, then getting the fuel to your heater is far easier than if you chose propane. Natural gas enters through a permanently fixed line and there is always more available.
  • Speed: If quick heating is what you need, then look no further than a natural gas heater. Unlike electric, solar, or heat pumps, natural gas burns quickly, making it a faster way to heat up your water. Gas heaters are especially effective if you don’t use your pool on a regular basis (since it heats the water quickly there is less need for prep time) or if you are trying to heat a smaller body of water, like a spa or hot tub.
  • Maintenance: Natural gas heaters generate enough heat to warm your pool in a short amount of time, so they don’t have to run as often or as long as some other heating methods, resulting in fewer problems due to wear and tear or consistent use. If you want a heater that requires little maintenance, then a natural gas heater is perfect for you.
  • Cost: While an electric heater or a heat pump may need to be turned on aseveral hours in advance, a natural gas heater only needs about 30 minutes for a typical hot tub or to simply raise the temperature a few degrees in a typical backyard swimming pool. This saves a considerable amount of money through reduced energy usage.

Cons of a Natural Gas Heater

  • Energy Efficiency: While natural gas heaters are more efficient than electric heaters, this does not mean that they are the most efficient way to heat your pool or spa. Solar heaters and heat pumps use the sun and recirculated warm air respectively to heat your pool or spa, making them the more energy efficient options when it comes to heaters. That does not mean you cannot get an energy efficient natural gas heater. Look for one with an efficiency rating of 89 to 95 percent according to energy.gov.
  • Purchase and Install Price: Gas heaters are incredibly efficient when it comes to heating your pool or spa and so might seem like the perfect choice for you, but there are some expenses to running a natural gas heater. In addition to installation and any initial purchase costs, you need to run pipe underground to provide a natural gas source for the heater’s furnace. If a natural gas source or pipe is not close to the pool equipment pad area itself, the cost can be prohibitive.
  • Rising Fuel Prices: Oil and gas prices fluctuate, meaning that operating your natural gas heater will not always cost the same. In the colder months, when oil and gas prices are usually at their highest, the cost of heating your pool can increase as much as 30 to 40 percent.
  • Repair and Replacement: Natural gas heaters are more susceptible to corrosion if your pool water is unbalanced. The amount of use your natural gas heater gets, in addition to outdoor temperatures and desired water temperature, determines how long the heater will last. Most natural gas heaters last about five years before requiring service or maintenance.

To ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced year round, 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.

How to Get New Pool Water in Safe Swimming Condition

Congratulations! You have a new pool! Whether it’s a fiberglass pool, vinyl liner pool or concrete pool, you will want to get the water perfectly balanced before you do your first cannonball. This process will take two to three weeks.

(This post How to Get New Pool Water in Safe Swimming Condition first appeared on SFGate.)

Things You Will Need

  • Nylon pool brush
  • Water test kit
  • Baking soda
  • Muriatic acid
  • Sequestering agent
  • Chlorine

Steps:

  1. Turn on the pool pump and filtration system. Allow it to run continuously until the pool is clean and the chemicals are balanced.
  2. Test the pool water for pH, chlorine and total alkalinity. A variety of test kits are available at any pool store.
  3. Adjust the pH until it is between 6.8 and 7.2. Bring up a low pH rating by adding baking soda or lower a high pH with muriatic acid diluted in water. These chemicals also affect the total alkalinity, which should be between 70 and 80. Ensure that both pH and total alkalinity are within the desired parameters.
  4. Add a sequestering agent according to package directions. Sequestering agents suspend metal particles in solution and help to prevent staining or scaling.
  5. Allow two days for the pool balance to settle. Keep the pump running and test the pool water daily.
  6. Add chlorine until the chlorine level is between 1.0 and 2.0. Although some sources allow chlorine levels as high as 3.5, this may be irritating to skin and eyes. Allow 24 hours for the pool chemicals to stabilize.
  7. Raise the pH to between 7.2 and 7.8. The ideal pH is 7.4 to 7.6, but slight leeway is acceptable. Raising the pH will raise the total alkalinity, which should read between 80 and 120 in concrete pools and 125 to 170 in vinyl, fiberglass or painted pools.

Tips

  • As you’re conditioning the new water, brush all parts of the pool twice per day with a nylon brush. Pay particular attention to corners and crevices where dust and debris hide. Continue brushing twice per day until the pool chemicals are balanced and the pool is ready for swimming.
  • Use a manual pool skimmer daily to remove floating debris.
  • Wait 30 days to turn on a salt-based cleaning system, turn on a pool heater or begin using a pool vacuum. Wait 21 days before installing an automatic pool cleaner. The waiting period gives the pool’s finish time to cure, avoiding possible damage.
  • Consider adding an algaecide after all other pool chemicals are balanced. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the proper amount to add and how long to wait before swimming.

Warnings

  • Pool chemicals are extremely caustic. Use gloves and goggles when handling chemicals. Wear old clothes and avoid adding chemicals during windy conditions. Tightly seal chemical containers and store them away from pets and children.
  • Do not “shock” or overchlorinate the pool except under the guidance of a professional.

(This post How to Get New Pool Water in Safe Swimming Condition first appeared on SFGate.)

 

Here’s two final things to keep in mind, from pHin’s resident water chemist, Christian Ballard elaborates:

  • Monitoring the water chemistry at least once per day for the first two to three weeks is crucial to preserving the surface and related plumbing and equipment. (Emphasis for cementitious (plaster/pebble, etc.) on the importance of brushing at least twice daily.)
  • The surface is curing for up to 21 – days and lots of dusting and various minerals rise to the surface of the finish. Very important to disrupt the dust by brushing to prevent buildup and blemishes.

Your Guide to Chlorine and Bromine Hot Tubs

Your Guide to Chlorine and Bromine Hot Tubs. When you type “bromine or chlorine for a hot tub” into Google, you get about 205,000 search results in just half a second. The age-old debate between chlorine and bromine for hot tubs continues. Is one better than the other? Should you consider using bromine tablets? And if so, what do you have to gain?

Both chlorine and bromine are popular hot tub sanitizers but they get the job done differently. Let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of each.

1. Maintenance

Chlorine hot tubs require much more active maintenance and attention than bromine hot tubs. Without constant attention, chlorine hot tubs are much more likely to turn cloudy or green.

In addition, pH levels can often rise quickly in hot tubs and bromine is less exposed to these pH fluctuations. Chlorine, on the other hand, can’t handle large swings as efficiently as bromine, requiring frequent attention.

2. Efficiency And Effectiveness

Chlorine acts faster than bromine but dissipates quicker because it breaks down faster in high water temperatures. Once all the chlorine is used up, however, it requires frequent additions. On the other hand, bromine tablets take longer to dissolve, and once the active bromine has killed off unwanted organisms, dormant bromine salt remains behind, which can be reactivated into active bromine over and over. This makes bromine an active sanitizer for a longer period of time.

3. Water Temperature

The sweet spot for chlorine is between about 65 and 99 degrees. It quickly turns into vapor at around 100 degrees. While bromine is less effective at temperatures below 75 degrees, it thrives in hot water environments, especially over 100 degrees.

Hot tubs are, well, hot, small and typically have more people in them at the same time relative to their size. It is said that “4 people soaking in a typical hot tub equates to approximately 160 people in a backyard swimming pool due to chemical demands”. These factors make bathers perspire more, resulting in an increased amount of sweat and oils, and higher demand for sanitization. Bromine is better suited than chlorine to handle the buildup of these waste materials in hot water.

4. Cost

Many people choose chlorine because it’s less expensive at first. Although bromine can cost 20% or more than chlorine, it can stay longer in your water due to its ability to be reactivated after it has killed all the bacteria. This means that in the long run, you’ll use less bromine and hence, will pay less.

If you live in an area that gets a lot of sunshine all year round, costs related to sun protection may also play a role in your decision. Chlorine can be protected from the sun if you add the right amount of stabilizer to it. Bromine is broken down by the sun faster, requiring you to add bromine to compensate for the UV breakdown. However, when bromine is broken down by the sun’s UV, it leaves behind dormant bromine salt (sodium bromide), which can be reactivated by additional bromine or non-chlorine shock to perform additional sanitization.

5. Personal Considerations

Chlorine has been the subject of many jokes and urban legends. Some people with sensitive skin may find chlorine to be more irritating than bromine. Experts say that bromine protects the eyes and skin better, and emits less odor than chlorine.

 

For Chemistry Lovers

We’ve asked our chemistry expert to give his pick between bromine and chlorine for hot tubs.

This is what he had to say:

Bromine! It remains effective in a wider range of pH levels (7.0 – 8.4) than chlorine (7.4 – 7.8), and therefore, it can better protect your water from bacteria and viruses. Also, bromine in itself is a strong sanitizer. At a high pH level of 7.8, only about 25% of chlorine is active, but bromine remains efficient. And its byproducts, bromamines (a combined substance), produce their own sanitizing action, making bromine an even more powerful bacteria and virus killer. Add to that, that bromine already in your water can be reactivated using potassium monopersulfate after it has killed the bacteria. Reactivated bromine means less chemical use and bigger cost savings for you in the long run.”

Using Bromine Is Easy

Using bromine tablets in your hot tub is simple:

No need to drain your hot tub: you can get started with bromine right away. There’s no need to interrupt your hot tub usage for several days to drain and refill your hot tub. This also means that if you change your mind later and want to switch back to chlorine, you can easily do so.

Get the chemicals you need: To help provide the healthiest water care option and further simplify hot tub care, we will send you the chemicals you need at the time of shipping so you can start using bromine in your hot tub.

Is it Okay to Drain a Pool Into the Yard?

Is it Okay to Drain a Pool Into the Yard? If you own a pool for long enough, eventually you face the task of draining it. When that happens, you may wonder what to do with the water. After all, that’s thousands of gallons of chemically treated pool water; it can’t go just anywhere. Are there laws in your area about draining the pool? Is it safe to drain it directly into your yard? Does it matter whether your pool is chlorinated or uses saltwater? Is there anything you should do before draining to make the process safer? Read on for tips on how to safely drain your pool.

Check Before You Drain

Before draining your pool, call or look online for any regulations in your city or town. Not sure where to begin? Start with the environmental, public works, and sewage pages. Another option is simply typing the words “pool drainage regulations YOUR CITY” into Google. Then, just follow the links. If the city has a page devoted to draining your pool, it likely also includes tips on how to do it in a way that follows city guidelines, such as Mesa, Arizona’s page on draining and backwashing your pool.

The storm drains in most towns were built to handle standard rainwater, not thousands of gallons of water over a short period, and certainly not water treated with chlorine and other chemicals. Taking on too much water at once may cause flooding and other damage in the sewer system, and pool water may poison local bodies of water. Always check before you drain.

Preparing to Drain: Neutralize pH and Cut the Chlorine

If you know you need to drain your pool, stop adding chemicals to the water for at least a few days. Before you drain, test the water; you’re looking for a chlorine level that’s either zero or close to it. Chlorine is particularly toxic and could damage your landscaping or infect wildlife should any water enter your local drainage system. You also protect your neighbors’ plants from water that enters their yard.

You also want to balance pH levels. Highly acidic water damages landscaping and plants just as chlorine does, both in your yard and beyond it. Again, we’re talking about thousands of gallons of water. Unless you empty the pool with a bucket, it’s almost guaranteed that some of that water will wind up in a neighbor’s yard, surrounding greenbelt, or the local sewer system, so do everything you can to make the water as safe as possible.

Draining a Saltwater Pool

The Dead Sea got its name because its high salt levels inhibit life. Of course, your saltwater pool doesn’t have nearly the salinity levels of the Dead Sea, but it’s still not a good idea to dump thousands of gallons of saltwater into your yard. For best results, drain your pool in intervals, saturating the ground with fresh water after each draining session.

Avoid Flooding when Draining the Pool

Most yards don’t have the ability to absorb all of the water from a pool. One the ground reaches its saturation level, you need to worry about flooding, especially since stagnant water attracts mosquitoes, which begin breeding within two or three days.

Flat, level ground is particularly prone to flooding. Guard against this by moving the hose to different parts of the yard. You may also need to drain the pool in intervals.

To ensure that fresh new pool water is perfectly balanced, Pool Service on Demand instantly connects local, qualified pool techs with pool owners. You can also use the pHin smart monitor to keep the water in your pool or hot tub balanced. This handy device constantly monitors the water, automatically sending you the exact chemicals you need for safe, healthy swimming all summer.