As the seasons shift, swimming pool owners need to take special precautions to ensure their pool is in optimal shape. Caring for your pool is not as simple as putting the cover on for the winter and not thinking about it again until summer.
To keep your pool in pristine condition year-round—whether you’re using it or not—requires regular upkeep, regardless of the season.
“An ounce of prevention is worth the weeks of filter cleaning that comes in the spring if you don’t maintain your pool over the winter,” says Aly Goudy, manager at Goudy Pools based in Arnold, MD.
Here’s what you need to know about caring for your swimming pool throughout the year and the steps you need to take each season.
Bring out the sad violins: Pool time is fast fading in many parts of the country. But the good news is that, depending on where you live, you should still have quite a few swimming days left. Make sure your pool is up to the task.
Fall means trees will be shedding their leaves like crazy. During this time, Goudy recommends checking your skimmer basket frequently.
“Your skimmer baskets can clog very quickly and stop the flow of water and damage your pump if the water stops moving,” she says.
If you have an automatic pool cleaner, Goudy recommends emptying the bag more frequently to ensure it doesn’t become too full and break.
If you don’t have an automatic pool cleaner, use a skimmer net to keep the leaves out.
Unless you have an enormous problem with leaves or other debris getting in your pool—or you live in an area where the temperatures plunge to 32 degrees Fahrenheit—experts don’t advise keeping the pool covered all winter. It needs to aerate. If it’s covered for an extended period of time, the chemicals can build up and the chlorine smell can become overpowering.
If you prefer to keep your pool covered, Eric Stanton, owner of Stanton Pools in Westlake Village, CA, recommends airing it out at least once a week. If your pool remains open during the winter, it’s still important to keep it serviced weekly to ensure the plaster and the calcium don’t peel, among other problems.
If you live in a freezing climate, you should close your pool for the winter.
“Winterizing your pumping and equipment is very important to protect them from freeze damage,” says Goudy.
Have this service done before temperatures fall below freezing. Winterizing your pool includes adjusting the water levels, checking and fixing the water chemistry, draining and blowing out the equipment to prevent water from freezing inside, and placing a safety cover over the pool.
Goudy recommends cleaning your pool before closing it. If you close it when it’s dirty or the chemistry levels are off, it will cost more and take longer to bring it back up to speed.
Photo by Charleston Home + Design Mag
To ensure your pool is ready to open in the summer, you’ll want to take several measures during the spring. The first thing you should do is clean the filter, according to Stanton.
After that, check the level of cyanuric acid, or “conditioner,” to ensure it’s in the appropriate range. This acid protects the chlorine from breaking up due to the sun’s powerful UV rays. The amount you add will depend on the size of your pool and the acid level that’s already present. If your pool isn’t serviced by a pro, take a water sample to your local pool store so the staff can check the chemical levels and tell you how much to add.
Make sure the heater’s working, too. If you need to fix it, have it taken care of before you throw a pool party.
If you closed your pool for the winter, Goudy suggests treating the pool once in March if you plan to open it in April or May. She recommends pulling back the cover and circulating algaecide to kill off any algae that might have bloomed. She also recommends adding a free and clear product to make your water clear.
Use a phosphate remover. Phosphate makes chlorine less effective and kills off algae.
If you have plenty of pollen on your pool cover, Goudy advises using a leaf blower to blow off the pollen. If pollen gets wet, it can stain your cover.
During the summer, when your pool is open and in full use, Goudy advises weekly water testing to ensure the chemicals are all balanced.
Add algaecide at opening, depending on how long ago you treated it. Add a stain and scale prevention product to protect your plaster.
Goudy advises checking filter pressure, too. Follow the manufacturer’s suggested guidelines here. If you notice that your water is cloudy or has a green tint to it, it might mean the water is not pumping through the filter.
As for chlorinating your pool during the summer, Stanton recommends using chlorine tablets in a floating dispenser to keep your water clean. They should be replaced at least once a week during the warmer months.
Chlorine should also be tested and adjusted at least once a week and ideally two to three times a week, according to Stanton.
You should also “shock” the pool after a pool party, severe rainstorm, or other periods of heavy use. Shocking the pool means adding a large amount of chlorine and other chemicals to destroy the buildup of contaminants. You can add liquid chlorine, called sodium hypochlorite, which is basically bleach. The most common method is to pour it into the pool. Other methods include a granular type of chlorine, a salt system, and chlorine tablets, like the ones that sit in the floating dispenser.
If your area is prone to summer storms, check and clear out your pool skimmer basket to ensure debris doesn’t build up.