The Ultimate Guide To Houston Pool Maintenance

Radiant Pool In The Woodlands, Texas

Swimming pool water maintenance is multifaceted, with a multitude of factors that must be controlled.  More often than not, pool maintenance is simply thought of as the periodic chore of adding a sanitizer, adjusting the pH and running the filter.  In reality, swimming pool maintenance is much more than that.  As pool professionals headquartered in The Woodlands, it’s important that we always keep in mind that our primary responsibility is not the adding of treatment chemicals or the operation of equipment, but rather strategically harnessing these tools in the overall campaign to maintain clean, clear water.   Our service is about your aesthetic and recreational enjoyment of the pool investment you've worked hard for!  After all, our performance as pool professionals is measured largely on how well we prevent problems and keep the water looking inviting, not on how well we solve recurring problems.

Three basic factors are involved in pool operation.  Each of these, when properly managed, will work with the others to provide clean, clear, and inviting water.  These factors are:

Physical Factors such as filtration and circulation.

Chemical Factors which include scale and corrosion control.

Biological Factors including sanitization and algae control.

Each of these factors requires management primarily to control what is in the water.  Consider that even before we put water into a pool, it will contain solids which will require filtration in order for the water to be clear.  Additionally, the water may contain naturally occurring minerals such as iron that can stain pool surfaces or calcium that can cause cloudy water or scale and these contaminants will require chemical treatment.  Once the water is in the pool, it will be contaminated by rain, wind-blown dust and dirt and even the swimmers contribute to the need for biological control.  A clear understanding of these factors and what is involved in each is critical to recognizing how they can be used to manage the water in a pool.  To do this we will review each in detail in this guide.  

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Physical Factors of Pool Maintenance

Keys: Filtration & circulation creating pool water turnover.

Other Factors including the control of oily wastes left behind by bathers and the general care for the appearance of pool walls, covers and equipment.  Each factor plays an important role that is all too often overlooked or considered unimportant when considering how much a pool will be enjoyed.  When faced with a pool problem, we have a tendency to immediately look into the water chemistry factors.  Cloudy water, for example, causes us to question water chemistry when the problem may simply be a filtration issue.  The management of the physical factors should be considered the first line of defense in the prevention of pool water problems.

Chemical Factors of Pool Maintenance

Proper chemical treatment is needed in order to prevent a wide range of potential problems including scale and stain formation, colored or cloudy water, corrosion of pool surfaces and equipment and to assure proper performance of the sanitizer being used.  There are five chemical factors that affect water quality.  These are listed below in order of importance along with their ideal levels:

Chemical Factor Ideal Levels:

pH 7.2-7.8

Total Alkalinity 80-120 ppm

Calcium Hardness 100-400 ppm  

Stain Producing Minerals Absent

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) 250-1500 ppm

The first three, along with the temperature of the water, determine the overall water balance. Water balance is the term used to refer to the tendency of the water to be either “scale forming” or “corrosive/aggressive.”  Water that is referred to as having scale forming tendencies is  considered likely to suffer from problems related to high pH, high total alkalinity, hard water (elevated calcium level) or combinations of two or three of these factors.   When these conditions are present, it is common for the water to be cloudy and for scale to form on pool surfaces and within equipment. Corrosive or aggressive water is most commonly associated with chemical factors which are opposite of those above, and this results in destruction of pool walls and corrosion of pool equipment such as heaters. In general, maintaining proper chemical levels or values in the pool water will prevent these problems. Problems which cannot be controlled by proper water balance alone can be managed using specialty products designed to provide such protection for home pool maintenance

Biological Factors of Pool Maintenance

Sanitization, shock oxidation treatment and algae control are the key elements in maintaining clean water. The previous two paragraphs dealt with keeping the water clear, here we will address how to keep it clean.

Sanitization

The process of controlling bacteria in pool water is known as sanitization.  Pool sanitization is not to be confused with the control of algae in the pool water, as algaecides are best used for that purpose. While a wide variety of methods for sanitizing pools are available, the two most common methods are chlorine and bromine.  Other processes have also gained wide attention, including PHMB (biguanide), ozone and ionizers.  Each of these has strengths and weaknesses.

Shock - Oxidation Treatment

Regardless of which sanitization system is used, the control of bather and other wastes is critical.

For example, one active swimmer produces two pints of perspiration per hour in a pool.
— Wade Mikulla, One Source Residential Services

For example, one active swimmer produces two pints of perspiration per hour in a pool.

Perspiration contains a wide range of organic and inorganic contaminants and these will accumulate and combine with chlorine to form the very undesirable combined chlorine form.  In bromine systems, although odors and irritation are not a problem with bromines, the wastes themselves can build up and eventually make the water uncomfortable for bathing.  The regular removal of these wastes is a must in any system.  The best way to remove these wastes is with regular oxidation.  The odor that is associated with combined chlorine is often mistakenly referred to as “too much chlorine in the water,” but actually indicates that there is too little. Shock oxidation treatment or super chlorination is needed to destroy these wastes.  We use the phrase “shock oxidation treatment” when referring to the use of non-chlorine type shock-oxidizer.  Conversely, the phrase “super chlorination” is used when referring to the use of a sudden large dose of chlorine.  In either case, the goal is to destroy and remove bather waste in addition to preventing the formation of combined chlorine or the accumulation of irritating waste products.

Pool Chemistry Resource

How To Acid-Wash A Cartridge Filter

Maintaining a clean filter is one of the most important & cost-effective actions that a pool owner can make when maintaining their pool.  A regularly cleaned filter has the following effects:

Keeps the filter pressure down which extends the life of the filter cartridges or filter grids (Diatomaceous Earth, DE filters).

Extends the life of the pool equipment by keeping the filter pressure lower because the higher the pressure, the higher the back-pressure which causes everything to work harder, especially the filter pump.  

Maintains an efficient Polaris cleaner by maintaining a lower pressure.  When the filter is clogged and pressure is high, it also reduces the flow to the cleaner (Polaris) which becomes less effective.  

A clean filter will decrease the potential for algae blooms.  The filter does collect the grass, flower petals, leaves, pine needles, etc, and they do mold inside of the filter over time.  This is why we need to clean it regularly, keeping the mold/algae from growing.

When cleaning a cartridge filter, occasionally an acid-bath is warranted.  The following video describes how we complete an acid-bath on the cartridges when needed.  One Source Residential Services is your expert advisor for pool equipment in the woodlands.

 

Proper Run Times For Your Pool - Circulation

The Woodlands Pool Filter

The filter pump is the focal point of the filtration system.  It helps by moving water from the pool and sending it to the filter so that it can expel any dirt, debris or dust before sending it back to the pool.  Wondering how often you should run your pump?  The size of the pool, pipe and the number of swimmers all play a major role in establishing how long you should run your pump.  For the right amount of time to run your pump talk to your One Source pool professional. They will help you establish the proper amount of time required per the size of your pool in order to keep it running.  The rule of thumb is to keep your pump running for about 1 hour for every 10 degrees of temperature.  If your pump isn’t running, the water from the pool in is not getting circulated properly.  Running your pump and circulating the water is the most important way to prevent pool service problems.

Pool Maintenance Resource / Image Credit

Chlorinating Your Pool

Have you wondered what types of Chlorine are utilized by One Source in sanitizing a pool?

Liquid chlorine is a type which is created by bubbling the chlorine gas through a solution of caustic soda. The yellow liquid (stronger, but chemically identical to bleach) has 10 - 15% available chlorine, and has a very high pH, on the other end of the scale at 13.  Liquid Chlorine is called Sodium Hypochlorite (NaOCl), and because it is already in solution, sodium-hypo produces hypochlorous acid instantly when it contacts water. The liquid can be poured directly into the pool.  The use of liquid chlorine is more dominant in larger commercial pools which have it delivered into 55 gallon vats.  For most residential pools, the lower cost seems to be outweighed by its difficulty in use and the amount of acid required to counteract its pH of 13. Use care when handling as this chemical is corrosive to just about everything.

Tablets of Tri-chlor are tablet forms of chlorine and is short for Trichloro-s-triazinetrione, a stabilized form of chlorine that has achieved a great amount of use in the last ten years. "Stabilized" means that it has cyanuric acid pressed into the tablets.  Cyanuric, also called stabilizer or conditioner, is like sunscreen for the chlorine molecule - an extender. Tri-chlor is created by combining the salts of cyanuric acid and chlorine gas into a tablet or stick and is 90% available chlorine. The pH is somewhat low at 3, so the pH in your pool may gravitate downward. This form is slow dissolving so it works well in floaters or in-line erosion feeders. Using tablets in the skimmer is not recommended because of the corrosive nature of the chemical contacting metal pipes and equipment.  This becomes more of a problem when the filter pump is operated on a timer.  Tablets have been known to strip out the copper inside of a heater.  They are an effective, yet expensive, means of controlling algae. Tablets should also not be thrown directly into the pool, they can stain and etch plaster and bleach and deteriorate vinyl.

Granular chlorine. Another member of the chlorinated iso-cyanurate family is Di-chlor; Sodium Dichloro-s-triazinetrione. Di-chlor is made in roughly the same manner as tri-chlor; however, the product is much different. The pH is a very acceptable 7, and it is manufactured in the form of granules, so it dissolves rapidly and goes right to work on contaminants. Di-chlor has less chlorine, pound per pound, at only 62% available chlorine. Because it contains cyanuric acid, it lasts longer than other un-stabilized forms of granular chlorine. It can be used as a shock treatment oxidizer or for normal sanitation. Di-chlor's main drawback is it's cost per pound of available chlorine. It is perhaps the most expensive form of chlorine available.

There are two other types of granular chlorine used in pool service on the market - the hypo-chlorites. Lithium Hypochlorite, like di-chlor, is a very expensive product. At only 35% available, it takes almost 3 lbs of lithium to equal one lb of tri-chlor. Its pH of 11 will require additions of an acid to adjust the pool water. It's main advantages are that it is calcium free and so it won't contribute to hardness levels; it is also dust free and non-flammable. It dissolves extremely fast, before hitting the floor of the pool, so its use is safe in vinyl liner pools. Lithium Hypochlorite can be used for either shock treating or for regular chlorination.

Calcium Hypochlorite is commonly available in is granular form, but can also be purchased in tablet form. Cal-hypo is a commonly used pool cleaning shock treatment throughout the country.  Although not stabilized with cyanuric acid, it has a quick kill rate against algae and chloramines and has 65% available chlorine per pound.  Some other granular forms of chlorine are more powder like and thus dissolve more rapidly than the larger granules of cal-hypo.  It is a good idea to pre-dissolve cal-hypo into a bucket of water prior to adding it to a pool. It's popularity is due mainly to its availability and low price, despite a high pH value of nearly 12, and the calcium binders used which can contribute to higher hardness levels.  Cal-hypo is more dangerous and unstable than other forms in that it is very dusty and becomes contaminated easily by foreign substances which can cause combustion.  Mix this product with water only and don't breathe the dust.  Keep the lid tightly secured, clean and dry.  It is also imperative not to ever allow any other chemicals, even small bits of leaves or other debris contaminate your Cal Hypo. In the presence of foreign chemicals, Cal Hypo will ignite - rapidly and violently.

Chlorination Resource