The biggest responsibility for pool and spa owners is maintaining the cleanliness and chemical balance of the water. Keeping your pool in top shape is not difficult, but does require some regular attention, along with a basic understanding of how pool filter systems operate.
For swimming pool and spa owners, the biggest and most important responsibility is simply keeping the darn thing clean! Dirty water is not only gross – it is unhealthy, potentially harboring infectious bacteria, viruses, and other irritants and pathogens responsible for a wide range of infection and disease. Whether covered or uncovered, used or unused, pools and spas are continuously accumulating chemicals and microorganisms that need to be filtered and removed in order to keep the water both safe and clear. Maintaining the proper level of sanitation in a home swimming pool year-round can seem like an overwhelming or impossible task, and for this reason it is often the deal-breaker for those who decide that having a pool would simply be too much work. The reality is that while the cleaning process is continuous and involves several parts, the pool itself does most of the actual work, with the owner acting as a sort of enlightened supervisor who consistently monitors the system – and who can easily call his pool technician if anything major breaks down.
The two integral components of a clean pool or spa are an effective filtration system and a consistently balanced level of chemical sanitation, both of which are dependent upon the other for success. Stagnant, unfiltered water, however clean, will not remain that way for long, and the recycling of dirty water without the addition of cleansing agents only brings the same dirty water right back into the pool. It is important for owners to be equally diligent in both of these aspects, which essentially means having an understanding of how the filtration system works, what chemicals should be added to the water, how to test for appropriate chemical levels, and just what those appropriate levels are. Though an owner may not always know exactly how to fix a particular problem (after all, that’s what pool technicians are for), he should always know when there is a problem, and have at least some idea of what that problem could be.
Standard pool filtration systems begin with a motorized pump, which is the powerhouse responsible for keeping all that water in constant circulation. The pump is connected to the filter itself, in which the water is passed through extremely fine sand (or a synthetic material with similar qualities), trapping microscopic debris. Paper cartridge filters are also popular, and many pools use more advanced techniques such as ionization and ultraviolet lamp systems in addition to standard filters, in order to catch even smaller rogue particles. From the filter, water reenters the pool, typically through eye-shaped underwater returns not unlike the massage jets in a spa. The final pieces of the system are the skimmers, which collect pool water and reroute it back towards the filter. The most common skimmers are the ubiquitous overflow channels, which skirt the inside edge of the pool, just above the waterline. Deck drains can also be used for water collection, but often need interior sieves or filters of their own in order to keep larger foreign objects from clogging the pipes.
As previously stated, the greatest filtration system in the world is wholly ineffective without a consistent level of chemical sanitization. This is typically achieved through the addition of chlorine-based compounds to the pool’s water supply on a regular basis, with sodium, calcium, and lithium hypochlorite being the most common choices. Bromine has proven to be a satisfactory alternative to the chlorites, serving the same basic role as an algaecide and ready oxidizer. Scheduled chemical overdose, or “chlorine shocking,” of both indoor and outdoor pools is generally recommended during periods of frequent use and at the beginning and end of seasons, in order to periodically “shock” any accumulated contaminants out of the pool, but this procedure should never be performed in excess.
The most important aspect of your pool’s chemical treatment plan is the regular check-ups that youperform, the most important of which is a regular pH test to gauge the water’s relative acidity. Levels between 7.2 and 7.8 are considered good. If the pH level in your pool is above an 8, chlorine compounds will not react as effectively; if the level falls below a 7, the acidity of the water can start to irritate the skin and eyes of those who swim. Regular tests for alkalinity and calcium hardness are also a good idea, as the more aware you are of the pool’s condition, the more effective you can be with your adjustments.
As always, if you are ever unsure about the quality of the water in your home pool or spa, the best option is to get in touch with your pool technician. While it is important to understand your equipment and the process for maintaining a clean and functional system, the experts are there for a reason, and are always more than happy to help.