Pool Maintenance Equipment and Advice
Telescopic poles are indispensable. They are usually made of aluminium or fibreglass. There are several sizes, from a 4-foot pole that telescopes to 8 feet, all the way up to a 12-foot pole that telescopes to 24 feet (by pulling the inner pole out of the outer one). The one you will use most on pools is 8 feet long, telescoping to 16 feet. The end of the pole has a handgrip or a rounded tip to prevent your hand from slipping off the pole. The tip might also include a magnet for picking up hairpins or nails from the pool bottom. To lock the two poles together, there is a cam lock or compression nut ring.
When you purchase your first telescopic pole, take it apart and observe how this cam system works. Sooner or later, scale, corrosion, or wear and tear will clog or jam the cam. Rather than buy an entirely new telescopic pole, you can take it apart, clean it up, replace the cam if necessary, and get on with the job.
The other locking device for telescopic poles is a compression nut ring. By twisting the ring at the joint of the two poles, pressure is applied to the inner pole, locking the two together.
At the end of the outer pole you will notice two small holes drilled through each side, about 2 inches from the end and again about 6 inches higher. The various tools you will use are designed to fit the diameter of the pole. You attach them to the pole by sliding the end of the tool into the end of the pole. Small clips inside the tool have nipples that snap into place in one of these sets of holes, locking the tool in place. Other tools are designed to slip over the circumference of the pole, but they also use a clip device to secure the tool to the holes at the end of the telescopic pole.
Leaf rakes are used to remove the leaf and other debris from the pool. The net itself is made from stainless steel mesh and the frame is aluminium with a generous 16-inch wide opening. There are numerous leaf rakes (deep net) and skimmer nets (shallow net) you can buy, but but buy a good one which will last. The cheap ones are made from plastic net material and frames. Although the original price is about twice that of the cheap ones, metal ones last a long time and resist tearing when you are scooping out huge volumes of wet leaves after a windy autumn day. They also stand up to rubbing them along rough plaster surfaces, thanks to a rubber-plastic gasket that fits around the edge, unlike the plastic rakes that break or wear down when you apply such pressures.
The leaf rake shank fits into the elescopic pole and clips in place as described previously. Some leaf rakes are designed so you can disassemble them and replace the netting, which is fine if you have the time and patience to do it.
Wall and Floor Brushes
Wall brushes are used to remove the dirt, stains and other material sticking on the interior surface. The wall brush is designed to brush pool and spa interior surfaces. Made of an aluminium frame with a shank that fits the telescopic pole, the nylon bristles are built on the brush either straight across or curved slightly at each end.
The curved unit is useful for getting into pool corners and tight step areas.
Wall brushes come in various sizes, the most common for pool use being 18 inches wide. Don’t ever use a wire brush that is not stainless steel in a pool or spa. Steel bristles can snap off during brushing and leave stains on the plaster when they rust. Also, if they are a bit rusty already, when you brush the plaster you will transfer the rust to the plaster, causing a stain.
Vacuum Head and Hose
Vacuum heads are used to suck the dirt out of the pool or spa. There are two ways to vacuum the bottom of a pool or spa. One sucks dirt from the water and sends it to the filter. The other uses water pressure from a garden hose to force debris into a bag that you then remove and clean (leaf vacuum).
The vacuum head and hose are designed to operate with the pool or spa circulation equipment. The hose is attached at one end to the bottom of the skimmer opening and at the other end to the vacuum head. The vacuum head is also attached to the telescopic pole. With the pump running, you glide the vacuum head over the underwater surfaces, vacuuming up the dirt directly to the filter.
Vacuum heads are made of flexible plastic, with plastic wheels that keep the head just above the pool surface. The flexibility of the head allows it to contour to the curvature of pool corners and bottoms. Adjustable-height wheels allow you to set the vacuum head to the best clearance for each pool’s conditions. The closer to the surface, the better the removal of dirt. But if the suction is too great, it might suck the vacuum head right onto the surface, rendering it immobile. In this case, adjust the head height upward.
Wheels for vacuum heads are made of plastic or high-tech composite resins. Their bearing systems can be as simple as a hole in the wheel through which the axle is inserted or wheels with ball bearings to distribute the load and help the vacuum glide smoothly.
Some commercial vacuum heads are made several feet wide and are built of stainless steel. Another type is a plastic helmet style, with a ridge of bristles instead of wheels. This vacuum head is used for vinyl pools, fibreglass spas, and when breaking in new plaster. In each of these cases, standard wheels can tear or score the surface. The brush vacuum is not only less harsh, but it brushes dirt loose from the surface being vacuumed for easier removal.
Hoses are available in different models, and in various lengths (10 to 50 feet). The hose cuff is made 1 1/4- or 1 1/2-inch diameter to be used with similar vacuum head dimensions. Cuffs are female threaded at the end that attaches to the hose so you can screw replacement cuffs onto a hose. The best cuffs swivel on the end of the hose, so when you are vacuuming there is less tendency for the hose to coil and kink. Another valuable hose fitting is the connector. It is designed with female threads on both ends to allow joining of two hose lengths-a useful feature when you encounter a large or extremely deep pool.
Leaf Vacuum and Garden Hose
The Leaf vacuum is used when there are many leaves or other debris in the pool. Its effectiveness is dependent on the water pressure form the garden hose. Leafmasters are made in rigid plastic or aluminium.
The leafmaster is one which is attached to the telescopic pole and a garden hose, operates by forcing water from the hose into the unit where it is diverted into dozens of tiny jets that are directed upward toward a fabric bag on top of the unit. The up welling water creates a vacuum at the base of the plastic helmet, sucking leaves and debris into the unit and up into the bag. Water passes through the mesh of the bag but the debris is trapped.
Fine dirt passes through the filter bag, but a fine-mesh bag is sold for these units that will capture more dirt. When the bag has a few leaves in it, they will also trap much of the sand and other fine particulate matter that would otherwise pass through.
The only other drawback to the leafmaster is if you are in a location where water pressure from the garden hose is weak. The result is weak jet action and weak suction. The other result is that asdebris fills the bag, the weight of it (especially wet leaves) tips the bag over, scraping the pool floor, stirring up debris, or tangling with the hose. The latter problem is easily solved by putting a tennis ball in the bag before placing it in the pool. The tennis ball floats, keeping the bag upright.
To remove the leaf vacuum, turn it slightly to one side and slowly lift it through the water to the surface. If pulled straight up, some of the debris is forced out of the bag and back into the pool. So do not turn off the water till the leafmaster is out of the pool water and on to the deck.
Tile Brush and Tile Soap
Tile brush is used to clean your ceramic tile. Tile brushes are made to snap into your telescopic pole so you can scrub the tile without too much bending. Mounted to a simple L-shaped, two-part aluminium tube, the brush itself is about 3-by-5 inches with a fairly abrasive foam pad for effective scrubbing.
Tile soap is sold in standard preparation at the supply house. Mix one part of muriatic acid to five parts of soap. This will help cut the stubborn stains and oils, but it will also eat into the plastic on the tile brush pads and plastic barbecue grill brush handle, so keep rinsing them in pool water after each application and scrubbing. Don’t use other types of soap in place of tile formulations, because they might foam and suds up when they enter the circulation system.
Cleaning a spa is much like cleaning a pool, only many of the tools are smaller. The smaller version of the leaf vacuum is called spa vacuum. It works on the same principle using a garden hose for water pressure to create suction. The dirt and debris are forced into a small sock and, like the leaf vacuum bag, fine dirt passes through the bag.
The spa vacuum attaches to the telescopic pole and is provided with various attachments, much like a household vacuum cleaner, for getting into crevices or brushing while you vacuum. The spa vacuum is also a useful tool for sucking up small hairpins, nails, coins, or other hard to grab items from the bottom of pools.
Pumice stone is used to remove the scale from tiles and other deposits or stains from plaster surfaces without scratching them excessively. The soft pumice stone is made from volcanic ash and is used for its abrasive action. Pumice stones are sold as blocks, and as small bladed stones that attach to your telescopic pole for reaching tight spaces and underwater depths. Since pumice stones disintegrate, it is advisable to scrub before you vacuum clean the pool. A good alternative to pumice, which scratches easily on fibreglass, is a block of Styrofoam or similar plastic foam.
Many leaves will stain plaster, but they bleach out with normal chlorination over a few days. Some stains simply cannot be removed, such as when rebar or a rebar tie has started to corrode from beneath the pool floor.
The acid spotter is a useful tool, which allows you to deliver full-strength acid to a stain at the bottom of a body of water. The disc portion attaches to the telescopic pole for placement over a stained area. A small plastic hose runs from the disc to a bottle of muriatic acid on the deck. You start a siphon and drain acid into the disc, where it is kept in direct contact with the stain. It is time-consuming and not always necessary.
Water Testing Kits
Test kits and Thermometers are important part of cleaning and maintenance. Using your test kit, perform the necessary test to make chemical adjustments in the water. Pool and Spa owners must still conduct home tests of their pool or spa water at least once a week.
A thermometer is needed to check heater performance, spa temperatures, and other questions or concern about pool or spa water.
Automatic Pool Cleaners
Different designs of automatic pool cleaner available today. Basically there are two categories of automatic pool cleaner in common use today and three other technologies which might be in use.
The electric robot type are the automatic pool cleaner, are expensive and most often found on large commercial pools. It is more like a battery-powered vacuum cleaner with a bag that catches debris as the unit patrols the pool bottom.
Some automatic cleaners work like your leaf vacuum, by sending a pressurized stream of water up into a catch bag, creating a vacuum for the unit as it patrols the bottom. The pressure is created by taking return water and boosting the pressure with a separate pump and motor. This is the boostered type of automatic cleaner.
But in the Boosterless water pressure design there is a small variation in the unit that uses the circulation pump itself as the booster, by connecting to the return line after the pump but before the filter. This style is called boosterless because it uses no separate water pressure boosting device. These units require an automated valve and control system so that the heater doesn’t try to operate while the cleaning unit is in operation. This is the drawback of the system. If the cleaner and heater are on simultaneously, the cleaner receives the return water before the heater, thus starving the heater. Low water circulation in the heater will cause it to shut off or overheat. Boosterless cleaners are not popular units because you can’t filter and heat the water at the same time you vacuum debris, and also additional expensive plumbing and controls are needed.
The bottom of the pool is fitted with a series of jets. These jets would push the dirt from the shallow end to the deep end, each jet sweeping the dirt toward the deepest part of the pool where the main drain would suck it into the filter system. The jets are connected to a diverter at the circulation equipment area. As the water leaves the heater destined for the pool, it passes through the diverter which sends it to the floor jets on the shallow end first, then the deeper jets, and so on. In this type of system it is presumed that the dirt will come loose from the floor by these jets and not stick to the floor, and also the dirt will be only of the finer type that will not clog the main drains. Last, it assumed that these jets, would equally cover all areas of the bottom. Obviously, the jet sweeping action is greatest near the source, then gets progressively weaker as the jetstream moves outward, resulting in uneven cleaning. Some times the water pressure may not be strong enough to power such a system.
This design creates stress on the entire plumbing and equipment system. When the diverter switches flow from one set of jets to the next, the whole circulation gets restricted or closed creating backpressure and stress on the entire system, since this happens three to four times a minute.
Booster Pump Systems
As described earlier, booster pump systems take water after the filter and heater, which is already on its way back to the pool, pressurizing it by a separate pump and motor, then sending this high-pressure water stream through flexible hoses into a cleaner that patrols the pool bottom.
The Booster pump systems are of two styles first is called a vacuum head type which has its own catch bag for collecting debris, much like a vacuum cleaner. The other type is sweep head type that floats on top of the water with long flexible arms that swirl along the walls and bottom, stirring up the debris. A special basket is fitted over the main drain so that the stirred-up debris is caught in either the main drain or the skimmer and any fine dirt is filtered out normally. Let us review the details of each type.
Vacuum head type
Polaris Vac Sweep is an example of this type. As with other pool and spa equipment, if you understand the leading manufacturer’s equipment, you will easily comprehend the operating concepts of the others.
The vacuum unit is with a catch bag and pressurized water from the booster pump enters the unit through the stalk and some is immediately jetted out the tail. This water pressure causes the tail to sweep back and forth behind the unit to brush loose any fine dirt on the bottom that is then filtered out by the pool circulation system. The remainder of the water powers a turbine that has a horizontal shaft with gear teeth to engage comparable gear teeth on the inside of the single left-side wheel and the front right-side wheel. A small right-side drive wheel transfers power to the trailing right-side wheel as the unit moves forward. Some jetted water is diverted to the thrust jet which can be adjusted up or down to help keep the unit from moving nose-up. The head float also serves this function and keeps the unit upright.
Installation Vac Sweeps are available as pre-plumbed units, where the supply pipe from the equipment to the pool area is plumbed into the original pool plumbing. They are also available as over-deck models, which requires a garden hose be run from the equipment area over the deck to the pool’s edge. The booster pump and vacuum unit are identical, only the plumbing between the two are different with these two models. A complete installation guide is provided with the unit when purchased.
Operation Here are few guidelines that will help you keep the vacuum head automatic cleaner cleaning the pool efficiently. Always operate the booster pump with the circulation pump working too. The booster is not self-priming, but relies on the system circulation pump to provide water. If it runs dry, the plastic pump will overheat and may burn out the seal.
Be careful to set the booster time clock to come on at least one hour after the circulation pump and to go off at least one hour before the circulation pump does for, more than that and you are just wearing out components. This allows for slight time differences between the clocks. The vacuum head will cover as much of the pool as it’s going to cover in about three hours.
Then install the catch bag to capture fine dirt and sand. Empty the catch bag as needed. Make sure the openings on the bottom and through the centre of the unit are not clogged with large leaves so there is always a clear path for the debris to get into the bag.
Repairs Perhaps the simplest way to explain the few repairs needed by these cleaners is to list the symptoms of the problems you might encounter.
- If water is not flowing out one or more of the jets in the vacuum unit, it may be because the jets inside the unit are small and grains of sand can clog them. To catch these particles that get through the filter, install a fine-mesh strainer at the point where the plumbing connects to the feeder hose. Sometimes dirt or sand can, however, be picked up by the unit and clog any of the internal jets. If this happens, there is probably sand or dirt in other parts of the unit as well. Disassemble the unit carefully note how the unit comes apart so that you will know exactly how to put it back and clean each part thoroughly. Use a thin wire to clear out the jets. Follow the path of the water and simply clean it all out.
- If vacuum head does not pick up debris, the water pressure supplied to the vacuum might be too powerful for normal operation. This happens when the return pressure is very strong. Special pressure reducing washers can be added at the vacuum hose connection. These washers are smaller in diameter than the plumbing so they restrict the amount of water that flows to the vacuum head.
- If wheels are not turning, it is because over the period of time the metal drive gear wears out the plastic drive gear inside the wheels. Check to make sure the gears are meshing and that there are enough teeth on the inside of each wheel. If they do not engage properly, replace them. If the wheels are sloppy, they will also fail to properly engage with the drive gear. Replace the wheel bearings, which simply pop in place like a pump seal. Sometimes the wheels are not turning because the vacuum unit is not performing well then the booster pump is not getting enough water because of restrictions in the main circulation system. Clean the filter and circulation system and you will usually find that the automatic pool cleaner works better.
- If vacuum unit falls over, remove the head float by pulling it off of the stalk, taking care not to break the stalk. If it is full of water, it is not floating the unit upright, replace it.
- The screws that secure the wheels are made of plastic. Over tightening will snap them, breaking the screw. If this happens, replace the screw.
- The tail assembly will be the first thing to wear out because it is constantly sweeping the pool bottom and sides. Water will squirt out of parts of the hose where it shouldn’t, making the tail swing wildly. To help prevent this, the tail is fitted with rubber rings that absorb the wear, so as you see these rings wearing down, replace them before the tail goes.
- Wheels seize up. Sometimes the drive wheel gets hung up and actually prevents the wheels from turning. Since the tension for the drive wheel is spring loaded, the tension will either be too much or too little, as the spring wears out. Remove this drive wheel completely from the units. The turbine powers the front wheel on the right side and the single wheel on the left side with the rear right-side wheel just trailing behind. The unit works fine and the wheels never seize up. Try it.
- Unit gets caught in ladder, corner, or steps. The irregular-shaped pools that are popular today are the automatic pool cleaner’s nightmare. if all adjustments and hose lengths are correct but you still have problems, a backup valve is the answer. This valve shuts off the water supply to the vacuum unit about every five minutes, shooting the water out of the valve to act as a jet to pull the unit backwards. Read the directions that come with the backup valve for installation and servicing instructions. They work very well.
- If unit runs too fast, just skipping over the dirt, simply follow the simple instructions provided and test the pressure at poolside to determine if pressure-reducing washers are needed. On some pool systems the return water pressure is very strong, and the vacuum head pressure is too great for normal operation. If so, this simple reduction technique employs a washer with a smaller diameter than the plumbing, thus restricting the amount of water that can flow to the vacuum head.
This pressure tester is a valuable tool to use when you suspect inadequate pressure might be the cause of sluggish operation. Pressure values and test techniques are explained in the installation booklet or test kit instructions.
Sweep head type
The Sweep head type is a booster pump that floats on the water and has long ,flexible, swirling arms that stir up the debris found along the pool walls and bottom. The main drain uses suction to pull the agitated debris into its basket which is removed and emptied when full, the finer dirt getting caught in the filter.
If you service a pool with one of these units, they are not hard to maintain or figure out. Installation, operation, and troubleshooting guidelines are very much as described previously.
Suction-side automatic pool cleaners uses the suction from the pool’s skimmer. In this design, a standard vacuum hose of 1-1/2 inch diameter is connected between the skimmer suction opening at one end and a vacuum head that patrols the pool bottom at the other end.
As the vacuum patrols the pool it collects leaves and other debris and sends it to the pump strainer pot. When the pot fills with obstructions, suction is dramatically reduced, causing the cleaner to become inefficient. To prevent this keep the strainer pot clean or add a leaf collecting canister to the vacuum hose. A simple in line canister is easier than the pump strainer pot and can be purchased at a pool supply store. Troubleshooting will usually find leaves and debris clogged somewhere in the system or the inability of the circulation pump to generate enough suction to make the vacuum effective.
Pool Cleaning Procedures
There are a few basic procedures that are efficient and save time which any one can follow. Determining the surface composition before starting the cleanup procedure.
Deck and Cover Cleaning
Remove as much debris as possible from the pool or spa deck and cover before removing it. A quick sweep or hosing can remove the debris near the pool. If the cover is a floating type without a roller system, be sure to fold or place it on a clean surface. Otherwise, when you put it back in place it will drag leaves, grass, or dirt into the pool. If it is a mechanized cover system, any small amount of standing water on top of the cover will slide off as you roll it up. If there is greater amount of water motor will be labouring, so you will need to use the water removal pump. Also be careful to avoid abrasive or sharp surfaces as you drag the cover off of the pool.
Dirt floating on the surface of the water is easier to remove than to remove it from the bottom. Remove floating debris off the surface, using a leaf rake and telescopic pole. As the net fills, empty it into a trash can or plastic garbage bag. Do not empty your skimming debris into the garden or on the lawn for the debris is likely to blow right back into the pool as soon as it dries out.
There is no particular method to skim, but as you do, scrape the tile line, which acts as a magnet for small bits of leaves and dirt. The rubber-plastic edge gasket on the professional leaf rake will prevent scratching the tile.
If there is scum or general dirt on the water surface, squirt a quick shot of tile soap over the length of the pool. The soap will spread the scum toward the edges of the pool, making it more concentrated and easier to skim off.
Always do the tiles first. Dirt falls from the tiles as they are being cleaned and settles to the bottom of the pool. If you need to remove stubborn stains with a pumice stone, the pumice itself breaks down as you scrub, depositing debris on the bottom.
Use the tile soap and tile brush to clean the tiles. Apply a squirt of tile soap directly to the brush and start scrubbing. To remove stubborn stains and oils, mix one part muriatic acid to five parts of soap. When cleaning tile, scrub below the waterline as well as above. Evaporation and refilling can change the water line. Never use really abrasive brushes or scouring pads to clean tiles they may cause scratches.
If you add an inch or so of water to the pool each time you service it, you will probably keep up with normal evaporation. If you wait a few weeks until the level is several inches low, it will take hours to fill. Never leave the water on to fill by itself for it may take longer and most likely you may forget to turn it off.
After rains you might need to lower the pool level. In this case, use your submersible pump and a backwash hose or spare vacuum hose for the discharge. Alternatively, you can run the pool circulation system and turn the valves to waste. If you use this method, remember to return the valves to normal circulation.
Checking your equipment and maintaining your support system is best way to solve the small corrective problems.
Start by circulation system by following the path of the water. Clean out the pool’s skimmer basket and Emptying the contents of the skimmer basket into your trash can or garbage bag.
Next, open the pump strainer basket and clean it. Check the pressure of the filter. There is no point in checking it before cleaning out the skimmer and strainer baskets, because if they are full the filter pressure will be low and will come back up after cleaning the baskets. If the pressure is high, the filter might need cleaning.
Now check the heater for leaves or debris. Turn the heater on and off a few times to make sure it is operating properly. While the heater is running, turn the pump off. The heater should shut off by itself when the pressure from the pump drops. This is an important safety check.
Now check the time clock for the time of the day ; setting for the daily filter runs; setting for the cleaner’s clock. Always check the clocks because trippers come loose and power fluctuations or some service work on household items unrelated to the pool can also affect the clocks. Also, electromechanical time clocks are not exactly precision instruments. One might run slightly faster than another, so over a few weeks one might show a difference of an hour or more, upsetting your planned timing schedule.
After the equipment check, look for leaks or other early signs of equipment failure. Clean up the equipment area by removing leaves from around the motor vents and heater to prevent fires, and clear deck drains of debris that could prevent water from draining away from the equipment during rain.
If the pool is not dirty, simply brush the walls and bottom, skipping the vacuuming completely. If the pool or spa is dirty, however, you have two ways to clean it: vacuuming to the filter or vacuuming with the leafmaster.
Vacuum to filter
Dirt collected from the pool or spa is sent to the filter of the circulation system. This is Vacuuming to filter.
- Run the circulation system correctly and that all suction is concentrated at the skimmer port. Use your skimmer diverter for this process if dealing with a single port skimmer. If the system includes valves for diversion of suction between the main drain and the skimmer, close the main drain valve completely and turn the open skimmer valve completely . If there are two skimmers in the pool, close off one by covering the skimmer suction port with a tennis ball, there by increasing the suction in the other one. On large pools, you might have to vacuum each half separately.
- Attach your vacuum head to the telescopic pole and attach the vacuum hose to the vacuum head. Slowly feed the hose straight down into the pool; water will fill the hose and displace the air. When you have fed all the hose into the pool, there is water at the other end.
- To avoid draining the water from the hose keep it at water level, slide the hose through the skimmer opening and into the skimmer. Attach the hose to the diverter ( with two-port skimmers, insert the hose cuff into the skimmer’s suction port). The hose and vacuum head now have suction. The suction port might be in the side of the pool below the skimmer in older pools. In this case you might need to put tennis ball over the skimmer suction port to increase the suction at the wall port. Make sure the hose does not contain a significant amount of air for if air reaches the pump, you will lose prime. If this occurs, remove the vacuum hose, re-prime the pump, then try again.
- To Vacuum a pool or spa, work your way around the bottom and sides of the pool. If the pool is dirty, vacuum slowly to pick all the dirt, for moving the vacuum head too quickly, will stir up the dirt rather than suck it into the vacuum. If the suction is strong it sucks the vacuum head to the pool surfaces, then you need to adjust the skimmer diverter or valves to reduce the flow. You might also need to lower the wheels on the vacuum head, raising the vacuum head itself. If the suction is weak, you might want to lower the vacuum head or you might need to move the head more slowly around the pool to vacuum it thoroughly.
- If the pool is very dirty, strainer basket or filter may be filled. When suction becomes weak, stop vacuuming and empty the strainer basket or clean the filter.
- If the pool contains both fine dirt and leaves, the leaves will clog the strainer basket. You can use a leaf canister, which is an inline strainer that collects the leaves and allows fine dirt to pass on to the filter.
- If the spa operates on the same circulation system, as the swimming pool, simply lift the vacuum out of the pool and immediately place it into the spa. Do this quickly because while the vacuum is out of the water, air enters the hose, causing it temporarily to lose suction. There should be enough water in the line for it to re-prime itself.
- When you are finished, remove the vacuum head from the water. The suction will rapidly pull the water from the hose so it is advisable to pull the vacuum head from the pool and the suction end of the hose from the skimmer simultaneously, remove the hose from the water, and drain it on the deck.
- After removing the equipment from the pool, check the pump strainer basket and filter for any debris. Clean if needed. Replace the skimmer basket.
Vacuum to leafmaster
Leafmaster is used instead of the vacuum if the pool is littered with leaves or heavy debris, then allowing the fine dirt to settle and vacuuming to the filter.
- A garden hose is attached to a water supply and then to the leafmaster. Clip the leafmaster onto the telescopic pole.
- Place the leafmaster in the pool. Turn on the water supply and vacuum, covering the pool floor and walls. Because the leafmaster is large, you can move it quickly and vacuum the pool, taking care not to stir up the debris either by the non floating type of hose or by moving the leafmaster too fast. Emptying the bag periodically may be needed if there is too much of dirt in the pool.
- Lift and remove the leafmaster slowly by turning it slightly to one side from the water to the surface for pulling it straight up will force the debris back into the pool. Do not turn the water supply off before removing the leafmaster from the pool, the loss of vacuum action can dump the collected debris back into the pool. When the leafmaster is on the deck, turn off the water supply and clean out the collection bag.
Brushing removes algae from surfaces of pools or spas. If they are not very dirty, you can skip vacuuming but brush the walls and bottom of the pool, starting from the shallow to the deep end. Directing the dirt toward the main drain so it is sucked to the filter.
Cleaning Spas or Water Features
The steps outlined for pool cleaning will work just as well for spas and water features. Here are a few special tips about what you might encounter that is unique to these bodies of water.
- Many spas are made of fibreglass, so take care when vacuuming to avoid scratching the surfaces.
- Vacuum the corners of water features and small spas with the spa vacuum described earlier.
- Evaluate the spa or water feature when you arrive, before you invest a great deal of time in cleaning. Test the chemistry first, so you can determine if you are better advised to drain the unit rather than clean and treat it. If the water or surfaces are very dirty, if the water is extremely hard or cloudy, if the dirt is in among rocks and gravel where it might be very hard to reach, pump out the water and clean the unit that way.
- If you do drain a spa or water feature, be sure the equipment is turned off at the breaker so the time clock won’t turn it on before you are ready. You might need to set up your submersible pump and go to another job while the unit is draining. Your submersible has a small hole in the bottom to re-circulate the last inch of water to avoid burning out it’s seal, so you can let it run without worrying that it will run dry.
- Before you clean the spa or water feature, clean the filter and run some fresh water (from the garden hose) through the circulation system to purge any dirty water from the lines. Nothing is worse than draining, cleaning, and refilling a spa only to turn the circulation back on and watch dirty water contaminate your work.
- Be extra careful with chemical testing and application. Most spas and water features contain a tiny fraction of the volume of water in a pool, so they can’t absorb a mistake the way a pool might. It is better to add chemicals more slowly and in less quantity than you think necessary. You can always add more, but it is a real problem to remove any excess.
Water Testing and Application
Follow the general testing guidelines, testing for chlorine residual, pH, total alkalinity, and acid (or base) demand, calcium hardness or total hardness and total dissolved solids should be conducted once per month.
On a hot summer day, who wouldn’t want to jump into a cool and refreshing pool? And then, as the sun sets, what better way to relax than to slip into your own backyard spa — summer or winter?
But enjoying all that requires some regular attention. Remember, the water in your pool and spa is an ever-changing environment that calls for constant and careful monitoring. For some, this means hiring a professional service technician to come by once or twice a week. You can, however, take care of your pool and spa yourself.
The need to treat water has been widely accepted for a long time. Sanitation, especially, is recognized as a means of controlling communicable diseases. The pool operator is expected to provide safe, clean water for bathers.
More recently, however, the importance of mineral saturation, or ‘water balance” as it is more popularly known, is recognized by those responsible for maintaining the pool and equipment. Water can become aggressive and destroy pools with corrosion, or it can become scaling and damage the pool with mineral deposits.
The pool operator must learn about the use of chemical agents for sanitation and for control of pH, total alkalinity and calcium hardness. It may seem confusing at first but after a month or two you’ll easily get the hang of it and be able to anticipate what needs to be done in any specific instance during the various seasons of the year.
Water balance is not such a complicated exercise. It is simply the relationships of different chemical parameters to each other. Your water is constantly changing. Anything and everything directly and indirectly affects water balance – from sunlight, wind and rain to the oil, dirt and cosmetics which may enter the water.
You will likely not change the water in your pool for many years. Continuous filtration and disinfection remove contaminants which keep the water enjoyable, but this is not water balance. A pool that is “balanced” has proper levels of pH, Total Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness. It may also be defined as water that is neither corrosive or scaling. This concept is derived from the fact that water will dissolve and “hold” minerals until it becomes saturated and cannot hold any more water in solution. When water is considerably less than saturated it is said to be in a corrosive or aggressive condition. When water is over saturated, and can no longer hold the minerals in solution; this is known as a scaling condition. So then, balanced water is that which is neither over or under saturated. The cliché that “water seeks its own level” certainly applies here. Water which is under saturated will attempt to saturate itself by dissolving everything in contact with it in order to build up its content. Water which is over saturated will attempt to throw off some of its content by precipitating minerals out of solution in the form of scale.
How do we know when our water is over or under saturated? First of all, we use a good test kit (with fresh testing reagents) to measure the chemical parameters of pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness.
pH: pH is a measure of how acidic or basic the water is. pH is a logarithmic scale from 0-14, with 7 being neutral. Below 7, a substance is defined as being acidic, while levels above 7 are said to be basic or alkaline. Everything that enters your pool has a pH value. Heard of acid rain? This is rainfall with a very low pH. The human eye, at a pH value of 7.35, is just slightly basic. This is coincidentally, in range with proper pH levels for your pool. To have pH in balance, we adjust the water with additions of pH increasers (bases) or pH decreasers (acids) to achieve the range of 7.2 – 7.8. If your testing (recommended daily) of the water shows a pH value below 7.2, the water is in an corrosive (acidic) condition, and we need to add a base to bring the pH into a more basic range and prevent corrosion. Conversely, if the pH is above 7.8, we are in a scaling (basic) condition and must add an acid to bring down the pH to prevent the formation of scale.
Total Alkalinity: A close cousin of pH, the level of alkalinity in the water is a measurement of all the carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides and other alkaline substances found in the pool water. pH is alkaline dependent; that is, alkalinity is defined as the ability of the water to resist changes in pH. Also known as the buffering capacity of the water, alkalinity keeps the pH from “bouncing” all over the place. Low alkalinity is raised by the addition of a base (just like pH); sodium bicarbonate is commonly used. High levels of alkalinity are lowered by the addition of an acid (again, just like pH). Experts recommend “pooling” the acid in a small area of low current for a greater effect on alkalinity. That is, adding an acid will lower both pH and alkalinity. Walking the acid around the pool, in a highly distributed manner is said to have a greater effect lowering the pH than the alkalinity. Pooling the acid has the opposite effect. A very important component of water balance, alkalinity should be maintained in the 80-120 ppm range. Levels should be tested weekly.
Calcium Hardness: When we speak of scale, we are talking about Calcium Carbonate, which has come out of solution and deposited itself on surfaces. It is a combination of carbonate ions, a part of Total Alkalinity and Calcium, a part of the Calcium Hardness level. The test for Calcium Hardness is a measure of how hard or soft the water is. Hard water can have high levels of calcium and magnesium. If these levels are too high, the water becomes saturated and will throw off excess particles out of solution, which then seek to deposit themselves on almost any surface inside the pool. This is calcium carbonate scale, a whitish, crystallized rough spot. If the levels are too low, the water is under saturated. The water becomes aggressive as it attempts to obtain the calcium it needs. Such soft water will actually corrode surfaces inside the pool which contain calcium and other minerals to maintain its hardness demand. If your Calcium Hardness levels are too high, you can use TSP to lower the levels, or a product called Hydroquest. It can also be accomplished by dilution (adding water to the pool which has a lower calcium hardness content). Levels which are too low require the addition of calcium chloride. Recommended range for calcium hardness is 200 – 400 ppm. Levels should be tested weekly.
The Saturation Index: Also called the Langelier Index, this chemical equation or formula is used to diagnose the water balance in the pool. The formula is SI = pH+TF+CF+AF-12.1. To calculate the Saturation Index, test the water for pH, temperature, calcium hardness and total alkalinity. Refer to a chart for assigned values for your temperature, hardness and alkalinity readings and add these to your pH value. Subtract 12.1, which is the constant value assigned to Total Dissolved Solids, and a resultant number will be produced. A result between -0.3 and +0.5 is said to indicate balanced water. Results outside of these parameters require adjustment to one or more chemical components to achieve balance. This formula is not foolproof, however. Some readings for pH, calcium and alkalinity which, taken individually would be considered to be well beyond recommendations, can combine within the formula to produce “balanced water”, when it just ain’t so. Regardless, the SI can be used to pinpoint potential water balance problems.