Pool and Spa Maintenance
Here are some useful tips for maintaining your swimming pool or spa.
1. Get to Know Your Pool or Spa
Before you tackle a cleaning routine, you should first familiarize yourself with your pool and spa's equipment. Both pools and spas are equipped with operational systems that include motors, pumps, heaters, filters and plumbing lines. Let's look briefly at the role each plays in the system -- and what you need to know to keep them running smoothly.
Note: The following explanations are generic and can be applied to both pools and spas. Don't assume, however, that each brand of motor or pump or any other equipment is the same. There are unique characteristics and design features to each make and model and you should always refer to your owner's manual or check with your retailer or service technician if you have any questions.
1.1. Useful Pool Facts
1.1.1 Weight And Volume Measurement Of Water
1.1.2 Estimating Pool Capacity
Generally speaking, a pool pump should run at least six hours a day and a spa pump -- which in portable spas is part-and-parcel of the spa pack -- should run for at least two hours a day when the spa's not in use.
1.6 Cleaning Routine
So how often do you have to clean your pool or spa? Generally, once a week should be sufficient -- unless you have an unusually large number of swimmers or bathers getting in and out of the water. If that's the case, then by all means clean it more often. Of course, if you are not using your pool or spa often for some reason, you could probably push your cleaning to every other week. To give you some idea of what's involved in caring for a pool or spa, let's review the basic maintenance procedures you must follow, step by step.
1.6.1 STEP 1: Remove debris
Hint: Do not empty the net onto the deck. One strong gust of wind can blow all the debris back into the pool or spa and all your work will be for naught. You can avoid this by always emptying the skimmer's contents into a waiting trash bag or bin.
Once you've skimmed the water, you will need to check the pool's skimmer baskets. First, to prevent injury due to suction pressure, you should shut off the pool pump. You can then simply lift the access lid in the deck and remove the skimmer basket. Once again, empty the contents into a nearby trash bag or bin to prevent the debris from being blown or knocked back into the water.
1.6.2 STEP 2: Add water
1.6.3 STEP 3: Clean the pump strainer
Because pumps do differ, refer to the manufacturer's manual for the proper way to remove the lid and retrieve the trap. But no matter what type you have, you should always be careful not to damage the O-ring between the lid and the rest of the pump. A flat, round piece of rubber, the O-ring ensures a tight seal. Without that seal, your pump will lose pressure and stop working.
1.6.4 STEP 4: Check the filter pressure
If the pressure is high -- according to experts, anything 8 to 10 pounds above a "clean" pressure reading is considered high -- then it's time to clean your filter. In the case of cartridge filters, all you need to do is remove the cartridges and hose them off. To clean sand and DE filters, you will have to backwash them.
Backwashing is nothing more than reversing the water flow in the filter. Normally, water comes into the filter with debris, works its way through the filtering material and, finally, returns to the pool and spa, having left behind all its impurities.
What backwashing does is push the water into the return valve instead of the other way around in order to relieve some of the filter pressure that has built up over time with the accumulation of dirt. In this procedure, the dirt and backwash water are diverted to either run off into the city sewer or empty into some other designated area.
Each filter has its own backwash protocol that must be followed. The one exception is cartridge filters, which you can clean by simply removing and hosing off the cartridges. Generally speaking, you will have to clean or backwash your filter at least once every three to four months. (For more detail on when and how to backwash, refer to your owners' manual.)
Every once in a while, however, backwashing just won't be enough to bring the filter pressure back into an acceptable range. Your best bet here is to contact a service professional to disassemble the filter and give it a thorough cleaning. Not only can the procedure be complicated, but in some states you have to comply with some very particular disposal regulations.
1.6.5 STEP 5: Vacuum the pool and spa
Automatic vacuums and cleaning systems are very popular today and do most of the work for you. If your pool is not equipped with this sort of automation, you will need to do the work manually.
The vacuum consists of a vacuum head, wheels, a pole for your use in moving the vacuum and a hose that you must attach to the skimmer to pull suction power off the circulation system.
Hint: For your convenience, make sure the hose is long enough to allow you to circle your entire pool and spa.
To get started, submerge the vacuum head with the hose attached and then sink the other end of the hose. This will fill the hose with water and displace all air. Once the hose is full of water, you can attach it to the skimmer's outlet and turn the pump on to start the suction going. Remember that the pump should still be off at this point in your maintenance routine. Never do any work with the skimmer while it is on or you may be injured.
The dirt that's collected is usually sent straight to the filter, unless the plumbing has it directed elsewhere. The important thing to remember when vacuuming is to find the speed that's right for your pool and spa. Sometimes slow is better. But sometimes your pool can handle a little more assertive vacuuming style. No matter what your speed, use steady, gentle movements to minimize swirling the dirt that has settled onto the floor or walls back into the water.
1.6.6 STEP 6: Scrub the walls
As part of your weekly maintenance routine, you should scrub plaster walls and tiles with a nylon-bristle brush attached to a T-pole. The most efficient way to brush a plaster pool or spa is to start in the shallow end, brushing from above the water line to the floor, working your way around the entire vessel until you reach the pool's deep end.
Be sure, as you go along, to push all the dirt and other materials toward the main drain. By doing this, you've created a miniature vacuuming system. The drain, just by doing its job, will suck in some of the small debris and send it on to be removed by the pump strainer or the filter.
Sometimes, the accumulated dirt may be too much for the brushing alone to remove. If this happens, there are several tile soaps and cleaners available. Before choosing one, however, consult your retailer or service technician -- some are not appropriate for vinyl-lined or fiberglass pools.
Caution: The majority of free-standing, portable spas have acrylic or other surfaces that require special care. In some cases, you may need to use a different kind of brush or cleaner to avoid scratching the surface material.
If you find you have a recurring problem with dirt on the walls or tile lines, you may have a problem with your water chemistry. Once again, you should confer with a professional to help bring your pool and spa water back into line.
1.6.7 STEP 7: Take one last look
If there is any standing water around the equipment pad, carefully check the designated drain to see if it's clogged or blocked. If there isn't anything prohibiting draining, then there's more going on here and a professional technician or repair expert should be called in immediately.
2. Draining your pool or spa
How often you drain your pool and spa depends on how much use it receives and how well the water's been behaving. In many cases, you may not have to drain it completely: A partial drainage will usually work well in the case of pools. (Please consult a professional for help with this procedure.)
Generally speaking, a pool may not need to be drained for up to three years, depending on the pool's use and location. As for spas, it is recommended that you drain all the water every three months or so.
The procedure is simple but will vary depending on the type of pool or spa you have. Please refer to the steps outlined in your owner's manual or check with your local pool/spa professional. Once you've gotten rid of the old water, you should take the opportunity to scrub the walls with a recommended soap before you refill the vessel.
While draining does allow you to give the pool and spa walls a good cleaning, it does not guarantee they'll stay clean for an extended amount of time. There is much more at play than just scrubbing and adding fresh water. In fact, if you just add the new water without chemically treating it, you run the risk of exposing your pool and spa equipment to imbalanced and potentially damaging water. You may also unintentionally encourage bacteria, algae and other unwelcome guests to take hold in your pool and spa.
So when adding any large amounts of fill water to your pool and spa, always make sure you follow the start-up procedures recommended for your pool and spa by a local pool/spa professional.
3. Troubleshooting Guide
Table 1: Estimated Swimming Pool Heating Costs and Savings (from the U.S. Department of Energy RSPEC! pool efficiency program)
For more specific advice -- or if you have any questions -- please consult a professional service technician or pool and spa retailer or supply store.
For information on pool chemicals and maintaining the proper pH balance in your pool, click here, which is an excellent resource.
General Maintenance Tips
Daily Pool Care
Weekly Pool Care