You've waited all year, and it's finally pool season. But all that fun in the sun also comes with big responsibilities for those tasked with maintaining the pool. You want to keep it in pristine condition so your family and friends can splash around all summer long, but your efforts at maintenance might be doing more harm than good.
That's right: Well-meaning homeowners might actually be going at it all wrong when it comes to servicing their pools. Here's a breakdown of the most frequent mistakes people make.
Servicing your pool only when it's hot
Don't save maintenance for the beginning of summer—be sure to have a professional service your pool in the spring and fall, too. During the spring, a pro should inspect the pool to ensure there hasn’t been any damage from the winter. The pro will be searching for pipe damage or tears in the pool liner.
In the fall, it’s a good idea to have your pool winterized. You’ll want to have your pipes “blown out” so all the water that has collected will be removed to ensure the pipes don’t expand or break if the water freezes. It’s also a good idea to cover the pool or have a pro handle the task to close it down for the season.
Using the wrong chemicals
Many pool owners treat the water with chemicals to keep it free of bacteria and algae. But not all pools are the same—each one needs a particular cocktail of chemicals. Throw in the wrong mixture, and it could do some serious damage. Water with the wrong chemical balance can irritate your eyes, skin, and mouth. It can also cause the materials in your pool to deteriorate, which could lead to leaks in the future.
"The biggest mistake that pool owners make is not putting in the proper chemicals," says Craig Cohen, president of Treasure Pools & Service in West Palm Beach, FL.
That's why it's imperative that you take a sample of your pool water to a local pool store for analysis. The staff will be able to instruct you exactly on which chemicals to add.
Cohen recommends heading to a pool shop monthly to have the staff check the chemical levels of your pool. Why? Pool surface companies won't warranty the material if you don't show them you've been maintaining the chemicals, Cohen says.
Not keeping the pool full of water
If you let the water level get too low, water won't circulate through the filters, and you can burn out the pump. It's important to keep your water level up to the midpoint of the pool skimmer, the small opening on the pool's perimeter that leads to the filter.
You won't do any harm by filling it up higher. This might be especially helpful if you'll be out of town because the water will evaporate while you're gone.
Not running the equipment for long enough
Pool owners should run the pool pump and other equipment for eight hours a day during the summer, says Cohen. Some owners choose to shut it off for periods of time to save money on electricity, but you should avoid doing this if possible. The water in the pool needs to circulate through the equipment to prevent algae from growing in stagnant water, so running the equipment for the proper amount of time is key. During the winter, you can decrease the amount of time the pump is on, but make sure circulation still occurs.
Not cleaning the filters
Cohen recommends cleaning the filter once a month, and having two filters on hand so your pool never has to go without a clean one. Cleaning and changing them is something you can easily do yourself.
Forgetting to put up fencing
Fences can help keep animals like deer out of the water, but they're also required by law for safety reasons. Fence height is mandated on a state-by-state basis, but most governments require a 4-foot fence around the pool. Check with your local government to see how high your fence needs to be.
Fence pricing depends on the size of the area and the materials you use. Black aluminum is a popular choice, but if you’re looking to save some money, opt for a post and rail with a wire in-between says Jodie Freeland, senior landscape designer and project manager at Black River Landscape Management in Randolph, NJ.
Before buying anything, you always want to check with your local government to see if it has any requirements about materials or design of the fence.
Sticking with chlorine
A saltwater pool might be a better option for you than a chlorinated pool. Instead of requiring harsh chemicals, saltwater stays clean with a special kind of pool salt that is gentler on the skin and eyes than standard tricolor chemicals.
"It's pretty much an epsom salt bath," says Freeland. "It really relaxes your muscles."
Bear in mind that saltwater pools have lofty costs upfront; you need to put in a saltwater generator, which costs about $2,000 for parts and installation. This piece of equipment can also raise your electricity bill, especially if your pool is heated. But if you can shoulder the costs, you might want to consider converting your pool from chlorine to saltwater.