Well, it's time to get the grill out and drag the porch furniture up from the basement, and yep, time to start thinking about opening your pool. Just moved into a house with a pool? Tired of paying someone to come over and open it for you? C'mon, grab some teenagers with healthy backs and do it yourself!
Keeping your pool clean and clear is all a matter of balance. Just enough sanitizer, enough water movement, the right pH and temperature, and regular brushing and vacuuming, it seems so complicated! Well, relax, if I can keep my pool clean so can you! Since most of you have already opened your pool this summer, let's consider what factors help keep your pool clean and sparkley. We'll cover how to open and close your pool in another article.
For those who don't like to read manuals, skip to the bottom of the page where I've listed the steps in order. For those of you with nothing else to do, read on…
Now, optimally, the first thing is to get all that horrible, decaying and soggy mess off the pool cover. This is best accomplished by the use of a submersible pump. They run about $25.00-80.00, depending on the size and features. They last forever, or at least mine has and I don't exactly baby it. I start pumping water off around Easter. It takes a few days and you'll have to go out and shake off the decaying leaves a few times. When the level is low enough, get out your skimmer pole and (yeecchh) scoop out the leaves. You may have to cycle through pumping and scooping to get rid of all of them. The leaves are great for the compost, but slogging them there is grunt work (here is where the teenagers with healthy backs come in - promise them food, it usually works for me).
Before it warms up reliably, check your pump and filter. Make sure the leaf basket in the pump is cleaned out. You should have drained the filter last year at the end of the season. If not, well then lets hope nothing too terrible has grown in there. If you haven't changed the filter media, or cleaned it in a few years, or you don't know when it was last changed, or you have no idea what type of filter you have, then your best bet is to take the top of the filter off and have a peek. If you are going to replace the filter media, arm yourself with a ratchet set, pliers, hammer, screwdriver, pen and paper, and plenty of patience. There should be a drain at the bottom of the filter - open it and let the water drain out. The top of the filter may or may not have your multiport valve on it, depending on the size and make. Be sure the lines to the filter are shut, otherwise add your bathing suit to the list above. Remove the top and inside should either be the sand, diatomaceous earth (DE) or a cartridge. Sand can be scooped out (kitchen ladle works well), the DE can be rinsed out and off the filter support, and cartridge can just be removed. Write down the make and model number of your filter and set it aside (remember where you put it!). Clean the filter out as best you can. For sand filters, remove the center tube and unscrew the vanes at the bottom, clean those and inspect them for damage. Set aside any that are broken (put them with the paper you wrote the filter model number on). For DE filters, remove the support and make sure it is not ripped or torn. Rinse the support off and reinstall it. For a cartridge filter, just remove the cartridge and take it with you to the pool store when you go.
Okay, hopefully the water is off of the pool cover, you've scooped the leaves off, and the top is relatively dry. The filter is clean and may still be apart. The reason I do this early is that I hate this part and I am usually sick of the pool by the time I get to filling it, so I give myself a few weeks break where I don't rush home and get the pool ready because it's 90 degrees out and I want to go swimming NOW. It's also easier to repair something early in the season, especially if you have to get someone out to work on the pool. Much into May and you have to battle the pool opening schedule.
Even if it is weeks away from swimming weather, you can fill the pool and test the lines and get the water balanced so when it warms up you'll be ready to go. Fill the pool with water so that water just enters the skimmer if you have one. This is probably 3-6 inches from the top of the pool. Depending on how much you lowered the water in the fall and how big your pool is, and your water pressure, this may take 1-3 days. While the pool is filling, let's consider what chemicals you'll need for the season, so you'll only need to make one trip to the pool store.
Most people use chlorine to sanitize the pool. It's widely available, relatively cheap, and available in a number of different forms. Bromine is also used for people who can't tolerate chlorine. There are other systems out there that I haven't used but people SWEAR by them. Chlorine is a good place to start if you've never owned a pool. You can convert later as you know more about pool care. I try to buy all the chemicals I need at the start of the season, minimizing the trips to the pool store. For above ground pools, a good figure to start with is about 25 lbs of stabilized chlorine. For in-ground pools, which are usually larger, plan on about 50lbs. You'll need some shock also, to start up the pool with, and after heavy use or if you start to see an algae problem, plan on 6 bags for an in-ground or 12 for above ground, bearing in mind that one bag treats about 10,000 gallons of water. I only shock at the beginning of the season, maybe once, twice tops during the season, then when I close. A non chlorine shock is also available, but I didn't need it last year. It will depend on how balanced your water is, the pool usage, and how well you are filtering. Algecide, is almost essential. I use a copper based product, it goes by a variety of names, and it is a bit more expensive than others, but it REALLY works. Plan on one quart for above ground pools and 2 quarts for in-ground. (follow directions carefully) . Clarifier, a polymer, is great for polishing your water after opening the pool. One quart will last one season and maybe two, depending on the particulate matter in your pool. ( algae…). The above products should run you between $100.00-200.00 tops. You may need some stabilizer or something to adjust the pH of the water once the pool is up and running, but you should take your water to the store and have it analyzed to determine that.
Finally, if the water is still cloudy and your filter is clean, then it is possible that the particulates are too small to be trapped by the filter. A coagulating agent, usually a polymer, can be used. This will aggregate the particles and allow them to be trapped by the filter. This will usually work within a day, but you need to watch the pressure gauge on the filter, and clean it as the pressure rises.
NOW is the time to head to the store, remember your filter make and model, any broken parts from your filter check a few days ago, and the chemical list from above. Purchase new media or cartridges and the chemicals you need. Your checkbook will recover. Reinstall any parts on the filter and...
Whew, ready to open the pool yet??
The rest is easy. With the water level up, grab those teenagers again and take the cover off. Try not to be carried into your neighbor's yard while doing this. Lay the cover somewhere and hose it off, sweep any leaves off and let it dry. Later, sprinkle some talc powder on it and fold it up for the season. Store it in a dry place. If you have a leaf bagger, which I highly recommend, attach it to your garden hose and get rid of all the leaves and debris on the bottom of the pool. Now, add the chlorine shock. I like to dissolve the shock in a bucket of water first then toss that into the pool. Less of it lands on the bottom that way. If it is still daylight and you have any energy left, it really is a good time to scrub the walls and bottom of the pool. That way all you expose the maximum amount of algae to the chlorine. With that done, and the filter running, the days work is done. Relax, cook something on the grill.
The next day, check the chlorine level, have a look at the water clarity. If your water was icky to start with, you may need to scrub and shock again, but if you are opening a pretty well cared for pool, the water should be clear at start up. After a few days the chlorine levels should come down and you should add the stabilized chlorine, either in the skimmer or in the floater. If you had some algae in the pool, you may need to shut the pump off overnight and vacuum the next day. Once the chlorine usage stabilizes, and the water is pretty clear, you can add the clarifier. That should really make the water sparkle within 24 hours. Now you can add the algecide.
That's about it! The rest is fine tuning, and most problems can be easily diagnosed by the pool store. Once your water is clear an balanced, check the chlorine every few days to get an idea of how fast the pool uses up chlorine and how the pH is doing. Then just bring in your water and have them test it. If the pH is above 7.6, then you may need to add Muriatic acid (follow directions on package) or Sodium Bisulfite (4-6oz/10,000). If it is below 7.2 then you will need to add some Soda Ash (1lb/10,000 gal). If you are using up too much chlorine then a stabilizer, cyanurinc acid, can be added right through the skimmer at 1-2 lbs per 10,000 gal. All of this should only take a few days to sort itself out and as long as the chlorine level is around 1.0ppm and the water is pretty clear go ahead and dive in!E-mail us if you have any pool questions or comments. Happy swimming!
Here is a quick reference list for opening your pool:
- Drain water and remove leaves from top of pool cover
- Inspect filter and pump for damaged/worn parts
- Change or clean filter media if needed
- Fill pool (cover on)
- Purchase new parts for filter and chemicals for the season
- Take cover off, hose off and dry, store.
- Leaf bag debris from bottom of pool
- Shock pool, scrub sides and bottom
- Filter continuously for a few days, backwashing as needed to keep filter media clean. Scrub daily if algae was present at opening. (uninvited guest)
- Shut pump off to allow dead algae to settle overnight. Vacuum the next day and begin filtering again. Vacuum to waste to avoid reintroducing algae into the pool. (If you are opening a pool that is really green or yellow, repeat steps 8-10 until water clears)
- Adjust chlorine levels to maintain 1.0ppm and pH to 7.2-7.6. Add clarifier. Keep filtering another 24 hrs.
- Add algecide and monitor pool every few days for chlorine use, pH and clarity. Add chlorine at night. Adjust filtering times to keep pool clear. You may only need to filter 8-10 hrs a day for the rest of the summer.
Read our other Pool Maintenance Articles:
Closing Your Pool
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