Top 10 Pool Opening Tips – Spring opening is one of the most exciting times of the year for any pool owner. After months of cold, snow, and ice, the weather is starting to warm up and your pool is nearly ready to be the centerpiece of some backyard fun in the sun! Even though the sun is shining and the water is warm, the pool isn’t quite ready for swimmers just yet. There are some necessary steps every pool owner must take in order to have a clean and safe pool ready to handle a long summer season. Aquatic Pool Management is here to help you through the process of opening your pool, so make sure you read through these Top 10 Pool Opening Tips and have all the chemicals you will need when opening your pool for summer. Leslie’s Top 10 Pool Opening Tips is designed to be a quick and easy reference guide for opening pools in all climates. For a comprehensive guide on how to open your pool, specific to climate, please feel free to visit our Pool Opening Page.
- 1. Use a Sump Pump to Remove Water Before Taking Off Pool Cover
If you have a winter cover or a solid safety cover, chances are that a fair amount of water and debris has built up on the cover during the long winter offseason. Pool covers can be difficult to remove when there is water on them, so it would be a good idea to use a sump pump to drain the water off the cover before moving it.
When taking the cover off of the pool, it is best to use two people because, even with most of the water drained off, pool covers can still be heavy. Take care not to spill too much debris from the cover into the pool. If a small amount of water or debris does spill in, this won’t be problem because the pool will be thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed.
- 2. Properly Caring For Your Pool Cover Will Help Keep It Clean and Strong
After removing the cover from your pool, it is important to clean, fold, and store the cover properly to avoid any damage during the summer. Once the cover has been taken off the pool, lay it out flat and brush off the remaining water and debris. Let the cover dry and then, before folding it, sprinkle on Leslie’s Alkalinity Up or talcum powder to prevent mold or mildew from growing on the cover.
Take special care when folding the cover to prevent cracks and rips. Fold the cover loosely, and then store it in a cool, dry place like a basement, garage, or storage shed. This should help keep your cover in good condition year after year.
- 3. Make Sure To Reconnect All Pool Equipment
You will want to reconnect all the equipment that you disconnected before the winter season. This usually includes the filter, the pump, the heater, the automatic pool cleaner, and all other pool equipment that was unplugged at winter closing. This is also the time to connect any ladders, hand rails, and pool accessories that were taken down for winter.
When reconnecting your equipment, it is a good idea to lubricate all O-rings on your equipment and all bolts and screws on accessories like ladders, diving boards, and rails with silicone lubricant. This will keep the equipment working properly all year, and will make it easier for you to disassemble them when you close your pool.
- 4. Remove All Winterizing Plugs and Replace Them With the Correct Drain Plugs
If you live in an area where the temperature stays below freezing for much of the winter, then you most likely replaced most of the drain plugs in your equipment with special winterizing plugs. These winterizing plugs provide a very tight seal and prevent any damage due to leaks or ice during winter. After reconnecting your equipment, you will want to replace the winter plugs with the normal, correct plugs to allow the equipment to run properly.
- 5. Adding Metal Free Removes and Prevents Metal Stains Built Up During Winter
Over a long winter offseason, metals like copper and iron can build up in your pool and cause stains. These metals can be difficult to remove once they have stained the walls, so it is best to attack them early. Just one quart of Metal Free added during spring opening can help neutralize the metals that are in your pool, and prevent them from staining the walls and pool floor. Metal Free will also quickly get rid of “stained water” that comes from having a high metal content.
- 6. Using Test Strips or a Test Kit, Measure Your Water Chemistry
The easiest and quickest way to test your water is to use either Test Strips or a Test Kit. It is important to test your water chemistry before adding any chemicals, because this will tell you what you need to add and how much to use. When checking your water, you will want to test for Total Alkalinity, pH, chlorine, calcium hardness, and stabilizer (Cyanuric acid) levels.
Pool chemicals can get out of balance during a long winter, and will need to be brought back down to safe levels before swimming. The safe and proper chemical levels for standard, chlorine pool water are as follows:
- Total Alkalinity – 80 to 120 ppm
- pH Level – 7.4 to 7.6
- Free Available Chlorine – 2.0 to 4.0 ppm
- Calcium Hardness – 200 to 400 ppm
- Stabilizer (Cyanuric Acid) – 30 to 50 ppm
- 7. When Balancing Water, Start With Total Alkalinity
Once you have tested your water chemistry, it is time to start adding chemicals to balance your water. It is important to begin with balancing your Total Alkalinity because this will help to bring your other chemicals closer to their normal range, making it significantly easier to achieve a safe and clean pool.
To lower the Total Alkalinity, you can use either Leslie’s Dry Acid. This product will quickly decrease Total Alkalinity levels in your pool. Just 1 ½ pounds of Leslie’s Dry Acid will lower the Total Alkalinity by 10 ppm in 10,000 gallons of water. To raise Total Alkalinity by 10 ppm in 10,000 gallons, use 1 ½ pounds of Leslie’s Alkalinity Up.
Once the Total Alkalinity has been brought to within 80 and 120 ppm, you can begin to adjust the other chemicals. To increase pH, adding Leslie’s Soda Ash will help raise it to an acceptable range. To decrease pH, you can again use Leslie’s Dry Acid.
If the Calcium Hardness is too low, just 1 ¼ pounds of Leslie’s Hardness Plus will raise the Calcium Hardness by 10 ppm in 10,000 gallons of water. It is much more difficult to lower the Calcium Hardness than to raise it, so be sure not to let the calcium levels get beyond 400 ppm.
- 8. Brush and Vacuum Your Pool Thoroughly
Even if you use a solid cover on your pool during the winter, there will still be a fair amount of dirt and debris in your pool. It is a good idea to give your pool a thorough brushing and vacuuming before shocking the pool. This will prevent any algae or bacteria from clinging to the pool walls, and help your filtration and sanitation systems start to eliminate any algae spores.
When brushing your pool, it is a good idea to start in the shallow end of the pool and move towards the deep end. If you can, vacuum your pool directly to waste. Once you have brushed and vacuumed your pool, allow your circulation and filtration systems to run overnight before shocking the pool.
- 9. Shock The Pool to Remove Bacteria and Contaminants
Shocking your pool is the last and final step for getting rid of all the dirt, debris, bacteria, algae spores, and other organic contaminants that may have entered your pool during the winter offseason. To shock your pool, use 2 pounds of shock for every 10,000 gallons of water, which should raise your chlorine to 10.0 ppm. Depending on your pool, you can use Leslie’s Power Powder Plus or Leslie’s Chlor Brite. After shocking the pool, run the circulation system for at least 2 hours before adding an algaecide.
- 10. Prevent Algae All Season Long
For a clean and algae-free swimming season, it is recommended to start treatment before the first swimmers even jump into the pool. After shocking your pool, it is a good idea to add either Leslie’s Algae Control or Pool Perfect + PHOSfree to your water. Both of these products, when used both at the beginning of summer and regularly during the season, will prevent the growth of most types of algae, and help keep your pool clean, clear, and fresh all year long.
The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Pool Maintenance Company
The PROS of Hiring a Pool Maintenance Company
What is your time worth? Having your pool maintained by a swimming pool service company can be a fairly sizable time saver. Let’s do the math.
Pool Cleaning: 3-4 hrs per month
In Texas most residential swimming pools take a professional 30 minutes to 1 hour each week for a full cleaning that includes vacuuming the floor of the pool. Multiply this weekly time by 4.33 weeks in a month (there are 4 and 1/3 weeks average each month) and this adds up to between 2.12 to 4.3 hours per month for a professional to clean the pool.
A professional has great tools and performs 55-65 pool cleanings per week. Most pool owners don’t have battery powered leaf vacuums or vacuum heads with ball bearings so their actual time is a little more. We’ll estimate a DIY pool owner’s time to be 3-4 hours instead of 2-4 for the pool cleaning aspects of maintenance.
From a cost standpoint chemicals are often a wash or breakeven when using a pool service company for maintenance. Here in TX they start at $39 along with the service portion of the bid. It is pretty common to spend this as a pool owner each month if all chemicals and DE are taken into account. So a TX pool service bid might be $98 labor + $39 chemicals = $137 per month.
Water Balance and Chemicals: 2 hrs per month
DIY (do it yourself) homeowners typically take their water to be tested at a local swimming pool retailer on a regular basis when purchasing pool chemicals or if they have a water balance issue to resolve. Each of these trips to the local swimming pool supply retailer takes time. There also is more time needed to add the additional chemicals and re-check the water, as well as to unload and store chemicals properly in a safe location. There is also time added to backwash the filter and re-charge it. We’ll estimate these at 2hrs per month total time.
Total Time Saved = 5-6 hours per month; Cost for Time Saved = about $100
Note: FL, CA and AZ have pools that take half the time to clean as those in TX. However the labor portion of their pool services also costs about half as much which means the net savings per hour should be relatively similar.
So what is your time worth? Is it worth more than a potential breakeven of $20 per hour?
Save Money on Repairs and Remodeling Costs
Taking the guesswork out of water balance helps make the chemicals work more effectively and efficiently. It also helps prolong the life of the swimming pool equipment and plaster surfaces.
Said another way, improperly balanced pool water contributes to pool problems in future years that could have been avoided. It is easy to become a casualty of these problems simply due to over /under shooting when adding chemicals to your pool as a homeowner.
There are several DIY homeowner chemical test kits available. However the test strips can be highly inaccurate and the drops or turbidity based kits can have reagents that lose their accuracy over time. The Taylor test kit reagent #0002 for testing chlorine will become inaccurate due to exposure to sunlight for less than 24 hours for example.
A professional pool company by comparison will stock and use new reagents on a regular basis since they are performing so many service stops per day. If they have a chemical balance guarantee then it is in their best interest to keep the water as balanced as possible.
Maintenance is cheaper than repairs so there are savings to be had by using a professional pool service company. Equipment and surfaces will last longer with proper water balance. To be fair, it can be hard to quantify the savings here on an hourly basis.
Swimming pool surfaces are in many ways similar to a nice roof or fence. They can get worn out in a few years if they have a hard life or last several times as long if well maintained. Proper maintenance that’s free of guesswork can save thousands of dollars in upkeep. It can also help avoid premature equipment replacement over the years.
Reduce Hassles and Risks in Storing Chemicals
Chemicals must be stored in a safe location where the weather does not cause undue spoilage. Swimming pool chemicals (especially chlorine) tend to rust whatever they are around whether that be pool equipment, yard equipment stored nearby, or a car if stored in a garage.
There are also safety issues with chemicals. Calcium Hypochlorite based shock (the most common form on the market) is a highly flammable oxidizer. If mixed with Tri-Chlor or most other organic compounds it will catch fire. Many homeowners underestimate the risks associated with storing chemicals.
A swimming pool service company will eliminate the need to store anything at your home. If any issues arise they will have the ingredients on their service vehicles to resolve them.
The CONS of Hiring a Pool Maintenance Company
No surprise here. The primary additional cost is the labor for weekly or twice-a-month pool maintenance visits. Per the calculations above weekly service labor costs about $100 in TX and saves a typical pool owner 5-6 hours per month. Other states might cost $60 for the labor portion of the bill and save a pool owner 3-4 hours per month. Bottom line is it is likely going to cost $20 per hour to outsource your pool maintenance in terms of time savings.
There are some pool owners that opt to have their teenager perform the vacuuming and other cleaning items in the pool – or they might want to do those aspects themselves. Many pool service companies offer a “Chemicals Only” or “Partial” maintenance program that costs proportionately less. There are some who might find cleaning a swimming pool therapeutic. However it’s probably not as popular as say… gardening for example.
Risk of working with a less than fully professional company.
Swimming pool service companies generally don’t have much regulation. Texas now requires an appliance installer’s license to perform equipment repairs that involve electricity. Also some cities in Texas have chosen to require a pool maintenance company to have a Certified Pool Operator on staff to be responsible for maintaining commercial swimming pools. There has been more regulation in several other states but in general the level of compliance needed in the industry is less than other home services such as Plumbing or Pest Control.
When hiring a swimming pool maintenance company it is important to choose one that is licensed, insured, and certified if possible. It can be tempting to save $10-20 per month by getting a pool maintenance company that doesn’t carry insurance and may not be licensed – however pool owners often get stuck with the tab if a company like that makes a mistake – especially one like draining a swimming pool or flooding a house. If you are outsourcing this why not be sure to reduce your risk while doing it?
You can also look up to see whether a pool maintenance company you are considering is a member of the local Better Business Bureau. But keep in mind that the BBB really only comes into play if the size of the claim justifies the fees for filing a complaint. If a pool service customer were unhappy with their pool service and wanted a refund on it the claim is small. The claim amount might not justify paying the BBB claim fees (often $50-$75). Most unsatisfied customers just move on. Until recently with the rise of online reviews many prospective new customers didn’t have a way of hearing about customers that might have had a bad experience with a pool maintenance company.
Finally you can learn a lot about a company via looking up their online reviews on Google or Yahoo. Look beyond the number of stars in their ratings. We’ve seen competitors give fake ratings to each other in this business. Take a look at what is said and pay attention to see if and how the company responds. All pool service companies will eventually make some honest mistakes. If a customer complains about mistakes how does the company respond? Do they offer to make things right?
Bottom line is there is a risk in choosing a pool company that is not fully compliant and doesn’t have an online presence where there is transparent customer feedback and resolutions offered for service experience problems.