Get your pool in shape for swim season

Many pool owners are planning outdoor activities for the spring and summer, from holiday parties, to graduation celebrations, Mother’s Day brunches and birthday bashes. Now is the best time to prepare the pool, assuring pool time and those special events go off without a hitch.

Utilize the three S’s — sparkle, sanitation and safety — as the foundation to get the pool in top working condition.

“Preventative maintenance is the key to eliminating potential failures during the pool season,” states Chris Rawski, director of operations at Admiral Pool Solutions.

Rawski recommends doing a thorough systems check similar to one his company performs. Admiral’s comprehensive inspection ensures the three S’s approach is achieved.

To attain the sparkle, Admiral’s team begins by evaluating the water quality. The inspection starts with a water chemistry analysis of the pool water to determine the levels of TDS (total dissolved solids), calcium harness, cyanuric acid, PH, alkalinity, salt and phosphates.

Elevated levels of any of these would negatively affect the clarity and quality of the water. Adverse levels can result in mineral buildup on the tile and the interior surface, as well as diminish the ability of the pool to maintain itself.

The analysis results will reveal if the pool needs to be drained and if further services will be required, such as a tile cleaning or an interior acid wash. Rawski recommends draining a pool every two to three years.

Then, an equipment check and preventative maintenance is performed to keep the pool functioning properly. After doing a once-over to see if there are any obvious signs of leaks or cracks and listening for any unusual or load noises, each piece of equipment is individually tested for performance and inspected for cracks and leaks.

Pool pump baskets should be cleaned and free of damage and O-rings replaced yearly to prevent failures. The pool filter needs a complete cleaning that includes the filter cartridges and the bottom interior where sand and heavier residue collects. Damaged filters, manifolds and the O-ring should be replaced.

The heater should be fired up and tested to ensure it heats to the desired temperature. However, prior to starting it, remove all debris, leaves or animal nests that have collected around the heater and pool equipment, as well as trim any foliage that is hanging over or growing near the unit. The vertical space above the heater and equipment should be clear of any objects or plants.

Cycle through each of the following: cleaning system (in-floor, pressure or suction-side cleaner), the spa, water features, fire elements, lights and solar to ensure each functions properly. Check the GFI and breakers and reset the automated controls for the summer program.

Next is a walk around the pool to check for significant cracks in the shell or deck and loose or missing tile. Check the skimmer lid, basket and skimmer weir for damage and make certain the weir functions properly. The autofill should also be examined and tested.

Sanitization is the next focus in the process. Depending on the specific sanitization method of the pool, examine, test, clean and repair damaged or old parts. Care should be taken when handling any chemicals.

Salt-chlorine generator cells should be cleaned, ozone and UV bulbs checked. Inline chlorinators require new control valves and lid O-rings installed every spring. And, the purchase of a new water test kit is highly recommended.

Conscientious pool owners might consider updating their sanitation systems. The latest technology available to manage water sanitization and reduce chlorine use in residential pools is by combining the cleaning power of ozone and ultraviolet treatment systems.

According to Bill Burt, vice president of sales for Paramount Pool and Spa Systems, the principles have been around for a long time. Ozone and UV have been used by municipalities to purify drinking water. And, the technology is used extensively for pools in Europe and in commercial pool applications in the U.S.

Paramount has been developing ozone and UV systems specifically for residential pools for a number of years. The company sells each component separately, but highly recommends the use of the Clear O3/Ultra UV combo set for maximum effectiveness and reducing chemical use by 80 percent.

“Used in tandem, ozone and UV treatment provide a more powerful oxidizing agent and sanitizing method than chlorine or salt-chlorine generators. The ozone continuously shocks the pool water breaking down waste such as body oils and ammonia thus reducing eye and skin irritants,” Burt said. “UV kills everything else in the water, including 99.9 percent of the microorganisms that are resistant to chlorine.”

“In addition to reducing chlorine use and its harmful side effects, there are many benefits and advantages to utilizing an ozone/UV system, including clearer, cleaner, healthier and more sparkling water. The systems are PH neutral and do not emit any harmful byproducts, so they are very eco-friendly,” Burt said. “And, the units can be installed on both new and existing pools and require very low maintenance.”

And lastly, safety is addressed. Check drain covers for missing or cracked covers. Replacing old style covers with VGB-compliant anti-entrapment covers is highly recommended. (The VGB Act is named after the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker III, Virginia Graeme Baker, who died in an incident in June 2002 when the suction from a spa drain entrapped her under the water.)

Check slides, diving boards and entry/exit rails for stability and damage.

A check of the pool safety fence should confirm it is secured firmly into the ground or wall, it is free of breaches or damage, and the gate self-closes and self-latches without any snags.

Inspect the pool cover to ensure it is damage-free, fits properly and secured. Window and door alarms should be tested and batteries replaced.

When inspecting the gate, Rawski recommends a two-step method. By code, the self-closing, self-latching gate should close without any disruption. Perform the test first by releasing the gate at 6 inches open and then again fully wide open.

For added safety, remove any objects that may have been stacked against the fence or near the gate that would allow a child to reach over and unlatch the gate or climb the fence.

Rawski also recommends removing all pool toys, floats, garden tools and other items from the equipment area. This area should be kept clean and not used as storage space due to potential fire hazards or damage to the pool equipment.

Trim foliage that has overgrown into the pool. Plants dangling in the water will stimulate algae growth and causes problems with water chemistry.

And, while your reviewing the pool, it is also wise to do a full systems check on all the outdoor amenities, including the barbecue, outdoor lighting, audio system and fire pits. This is also a perfect time to consider replacing older equipment with more high-tech, energy-efficient components.

Pool owners can perform many of these tasks themselves, however, the advantage of hiring a licensed service company is the skill level and training of the service team. The technicians can easily spot trouble areas or potential failure points that may be missed by untrained individuals. In addition, some repairs and service can be performed on the spot without any further delay or downtime.

Admiral Pool Solutions’ comprehensive inspection runs $135 and includes a full report of the findings. If servicing is required, the inspection fee is applied towards any authorized repairs.

Being proactive will save a homeowner money and the inconvenience of having a pool down during the summer months.

Joseph M. Vassallo is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning pool designer. President of Paragon Pools, Vassallo has co-authored five pool design books and is currently a featured designer on HGTV.com. He can be reached at 702-400-0679 and www.paragonpoolslv.com.

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