As spring turns to summer, it’s time to get your swimming pool ready for weekends filled with lounging, laughing and laps.
Before you grab your towel and sunscreen, there are few things you’ll want to check — aside from the pool temperature, of course. Pool service can be costly, so some people choose to take care of swimming pool maintenance on their own. You can buy the supplies needed at many local pool supply or general stores, then spend a few hours every weekend tending to your shimmering retreat. This can save you hundreds of dollars — which is money you can use to host a fabulous pool party for your friends and family.
For those of you with the time and do-it-yourself spirit, here are four important things you should do to your pool before diving in.
Most people turn their pool’s filtration equipment off during the winter. You’ll want to make sure that everything is in working order and repair any minor issues before the season gets into full swing. Check your equipment for leaks while it’s on by searching the ground below it for any wet spots or puddles. Listen for any noises that sound out of the ordinary. It pays to take care of small problems before they become big ones.
If you have a saltwater pool, you’ll want to remove and clean the chlorine generator cell every few months. Use a hose to remove any mineral buildup and scrub off any residue with a cleaning brush.
If you live in an area with hard water, mineral buildup in your pool can prevent pool chemicals from doing their job. To check your pool water’s total dissolved solids (TDS), you can purchase a kit at a pool supply store or online. Pool water with high levels of TDS will look cloudy, cause corrosion, alter the pool’s pH balance and lessen the effectiveness of pool chemicals.
There is no way to lower the TDS levels of your pool without draining some or all of the water. TDS levels should be between 1000 and 1500 parts per million (ppm), according to the CDC. Pools with too-high TDS levels will need to be partially or fully drained and refilled.
If you don’t need to drain your pool, check the pH balance, chlorine and salt levels in the water. According to the CDC, your pool’s pH level should be between 7.2 and 7.8, and the chlorine level should be between 1 and 3 ppm. If you have a saltwater pool with a chlorine generator, check that your salt levels are in line with the specifications in the manual.
On average, pools need to be drained every three to five years. You can either hire a company to drain your pool, or rent a submersible water pump and do it yourself. Get started early in the day so that your pool is empty before you go to bed. Note that in some cities, it may be against the law to drain your pool into the streets, alleyways or any other city property. Be sure to check your local laws before you empty your pool.
Once your pool is completely drained, use this time to wash the pool surface and clean out any in-floor pop-up mechanisms or drains. This is also a great time to scrub the mineral ring that can build up around the edges of the pool near the water’s surface.
If needed, consider replacing and maintaining pool lights while your pool is drained. It is possible to maintain lights while your pool is filled, but it’s much easier and safer to do this while it’s drained. Consider switching your pool lights from standard bulbs to an LED fixture. LED lights last a lot longer and are more energy efficient than standard bulbs.
If you drained your pool, you can refill it by using your own garden hose, or you can use a service to refill your pool. You may want to check local water rates against the cost of a pool refill service to determine which method is best for you.
Now that your pool water is ready for a swim, you’ll want to make sure you keep your family and friends safe. If you have a fence around your pool, check that all latches and locks are functioning properly. This will help keep small children from accidentally entering the pool area without adult supervision.
You’ll also need to install anti-entrapment covers in your pool to meet with the federal requirements in the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
Keep your pool safety equipment in an easily accessible area. Standard pool safety equipment includes a pool rescue hook, lifesaver ring or flotation device, and a first aid kit with scissors.
Once the hard work is behind you, feel free to reward yourself with an ice-cold drink, your favorite pool float and a nap in the warm sun. Just remember to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from those rays.