It's about time for your swimming pool to close up shop for the winter. From water care to pool covers, soak up these winter pool preparations.
Labor Day is (sadly) behind us, and the leaves have already started to change color. If you're a homeowner with a pool, now's the time to prep your personal swimming hole for the colder months ahead.
We spoke to swimming pool pro Michael, service manager and lead technician at Midwest Pool & Spa,
to find out what you need to do to close your pool for the season. He notes, "The cleaner you put the pool to bed, the cleaner you'll wake it up." With Michael's expert tips, you can save money by doing it yourself -- and forget about it till next summer.
Dive right in to these winterizing tips for both in-ground and above-ground pools.
IN-GROUND WINTER POOL MAINTENANCE
1. Blow water out of the pipelines and filter, and blow antifreeze into them to prep them for freezing temperatures.
It's important to get the pipelines (and filter) as clear and dry as you can. The pipelines are the mechanism that allows water to flow from the pool to the equipment and back. (Generally the contractor builds the pool with a trench where the pipes are hidden underneath grass and decking. Pipelines average about 50 to 75 feet of plumbing each way.) This is important because of the freeze zone, or the depth that the ground will freeze (which varies by region.)
You can simply buy a leaf blower or a 5.5 power shop vac and do this yourself. It's definitely a doable job for a competent DIYer. Here's how to clear your pool's pipelines:
-- Attach the leaf blower or shop vac to the bottom of the skimmer via the blockstick.
The skimmer boxes are the units that skim the water, where the bugs collect at top; the skimmer has holes on the bottom of it to receive the blowstick. The blowstick is a 3-foot-long piece of PVC pipe. You can't buy a blowstick commercially; people usually make their own. To make a blowstick: you need PVC pipe in whatever desired length, a male pipe thread adapter, glue and primer or PVC cleaner. You can use PVC cleaner or primer, which is typically purple in color. It allows the glue to form a weld with the PVC. It softens the glue on either side and allows it to permeate. And you need duct tape to attach blower to the pipe.
-- First blow the lines dry.
When you're blowing, the jets will blow in a particular order. You'll want to cap the first jet to blow. Then move to the next jet, and wait for it to blow. The order that the jets blow is the same order in which you should blow in
-- Disconnect the blower.
Pour the antifreeze into the blowstick.
-- Reattach the blower and turn it on.
Uncap the lines, blow antifreeze
into them, recap, and move to the next jet, following the order of jets from above. You'll need about 1 gallon of antifreeze for every 10 feet of pipe.
2. Remove drain plugs from the pump.
Locate the water circulation pump; there's usually two plugs to each pump. One plug is for the catch basket and the other plug is on the main pump body. There are 3 parts to every pump: motor, the wet-end which has the discharge of water, and a strainer basket. There's a drain plug on the strainer basket. There are usually 2 or 3. Put those plugs in the pump basket so you know where to find them in the springtime.
3. Skim off debris from your pool using a skimmer net
The flatter skimmer nets can skim debris off the surface. Skim rakes are wider and the netting is deeper, like a fishing net, so you can catch debris off the floor of your pool. Then there's the easy-to-use automatic pool cleaner (APC). If you're in the market for one, Polaris is a respectable brand.
4. Cover your pool.
You have a couple options for pool covers:
-- Tube and tarp:
It's a big tarp, and then there are tubes, or pieces of vinyl that have been molded to hold several gallons of water. You fill the tubes with water using your garden hose. Lay the tubes around the perimeter of the pool as weights. (Some people don't use tubes and improvise with cinder blocks to weight down the tarp. There's a risk there as if too much water accumulates on your cover, the cover could get pulled into the pull and the cinder blocks along with it.) Buy the best pool cover you can afford; you get what you pay for. Cheap pool covers will likely only last one year. A quality pool cover
can last three times as long.
-- Safety cover:
Safety pool covers can be either automatic or installed at the time you closedown your pool. An automatic cover comes out with the turn of the key. Non-automatic safety covers have anchors that pop out of the deck. You hook a spring or rubber strap to the anchor. The material for safety covers is tougher than tarps. It's a heavy-duty mesh. Michael prefers a light-blocking mesh pool cover. With a light-blocking mesh cover, the algae can't grow. So when you uncover your pool in the spring, you won't see green water.
6. Shock and treat pool.
You need to shock the pool 8 to 24 hours before it's closed down for the season. Shocking is super chlorination; it's basically a dose of oxidizer into the pool. Shocking removes contaminants and clears up haziness. You need to shock treat your pool to make it a clean environment to sit dormant for 4 to 8 months.
is a powdered chlorine, of which there are a number of different types. You want to have a bucket of it on hand. The discount stores sell shock that uses Epsom salts, which work to reduce the intensity of a fire if there was a big fire. But Epsom salts turn into fertilizer when they're in the pool, so you're basically feeding the algae. Your local pool store will sell a full-strength version of shock. Be sure to use some common sense precautions in working with shock; you don't want to open a bucket of chlorine indoors. Move outside where you can have safe ventilation. Add the shock to the pool and use a brush to stir up the chemicals.
7. Add algicide
This chemical is available at pool stores. Use one quart of algicide for every 20,000 gallons of water, to keep algae from growing in the pool.
8. Make sure your water is balanced
Check to see if there are metals in the water. (It's actually copper, not
chlorine, that makes your hair turn green!) You should have a pool technician check the balance of the water a few times a year. In between, you can check to see if you're far off by testing the pool with a pool test strip.
ABOVE-GROUND WINTER POOL MAINTENANCE
1. You don't need to blow the lines as you do with an in-ground pool.
There's usually just 6 to 12 feet of plumbing leading to the filter.
2. Drain the pool to the level of the jet.
When you disconnect the hoses from the equipment, gravity will do the work of draining the pool pump and filter for you. Drain the pump and filter. It's a cinch to drain out the pool. At the top of the pool, there's a skimmer box to the hair and lint pot, there's a hose from top of the pump to the filter valve, and then a hose from the filter valve to the pool jet. Disconnect the two hoses between the pool and equipment, one from the front of the pump and the other at the filter valve (also called multi-port valve.) You disconnect those hoses and lay them down. Water will naturally drain down to the level of the jet by gravity. After disconnecting the baskets is good time to remove the plugs. Water has drained down and the equipment is draining, give the filter two to three hours up to week (before freezes) disconnect the hose from the top of the pump but leave attached to filter. Pull it up chest high, and with filter valve still set on filter, pour antifreeze down. It will go down pipe. Tilt the pump forward to drain out any water still in pump and then you can take the pump to shed. The filter is set for spring. Remove the plugs and put in the pump basket. Take the pump to a shed or garage for the winter. The filter needs to stay put and drain out for a few days.
3. Once the pump has been drained, pour in a gallon of antifreeze.
The antifreeze mixes with the water in the bottom of the tank, so nothing freezes or bursts during the winter.
4. You'll also need to shock treat the pool.
(See above, In-Ground Pool Winter Maintenance, for directions.)
5. Add a quart of algicide.
Make sure your water is balanced.
6. Cover your pool
You'll generally want to use a tarp-style cover that has cables that cinches around the outside of the pool.
There are lots of special pool cleaning devices on the market - some are good and some are more gimmicks. Michael uses Dryco dry cover
on his pool. It's a drain that mounts on the pool cover and allows water accumulation - water or ice - drain off the pool. It takes care of siphoning off the water so you don't have to do the work. There are also some accessories to hold onto the pool cover better. The cover wrap
works like shrink wrap to cover your pool. A cover wrap keeps your cover in place, so it doesn't flap around in the wind. Wind damage is actually the biggest problem with pool covers.
During the winter, make sure water isn't accumulating in excess over the cover. A little water is ok; it actually helps hold the cover down. Too much water strains the cover. Some pool covers are taut, like a trampoline. Other pool covers are more slack, and those tend to accumulate more water. Michael suggest the taut pool covers - and they have a nicer appearance.