An easy guide to achieving perfectly clean and clear pool water

A swimming pool and its equipment are designed to work with perfect water chemistry and in order to maximize the life of your pool, it is extremely important that the water chemistry be maintained on an ongoing basis! Once you neglect your water chemistry, you will start to experience problems with your pool and equipment which will be very costly to repair. Also, swimmers in the pool will not be comfortable if the water is not balanced and they will experience irritations with their skin and eyes along with potential bacterial infections.

In order to achieve perfect water chemistry, you need to pay close attention to following three categories, which make up the formula to achieve perfect water balance:

Water Disinfection such as Chlorine/Bromine & Stabilizer (Test daily) – Chlorine or Bromine destroys bacteria and algae so that your pool is safe for swimmers. Stabilizer protects the chlorine from getting eaten up by the sun.
Water Balance includes the following: PH, Total Alkalinity & Calcium Hardness (Test at the very least, once a week. If you can test 2 or 3 times in a week, that is ideal) – These chemicals do the following: Protects the pools finished surfaces such as the liner in a vinyl pool or the marbelite or paint finish in a concrete pool, protects the equipment, maintains bather comfort and increases the effectiveness of chlorine so that it can destroy bacteria in your pool.
Proper Filtration and Circulation so that the chemicals are distributed throughout the pool and the pool water is able to pass through the filter

Before we start to talk about each of these categories, you will need to make sure that you have a test kit in order to test the chemical levels in your pool. If you visit your local pool store, you can purchase test strips. All you need to do is take the test strip, dip it in the pool water and within seconds, the strip will turn a certain colour and you would compare that colour to the chart provided in order to determine the chemical level. There are other forms of testing available in the market such as liquid testing kits and digital readers, however, for the average homeowner, test strips are recommended as its cheaper, quick and accurate.

Now, let’s get into each category in more detail!

Water Disinfection

Chlorine or Bromine

When it comes to water disinfectants, the most commonly used disinfectant for pools is chlorine, however, there are pool owners who use bromine to disinfect their pool water instead. The role of both is to destroy any bacteria and algae that are in your pool so that your pool water is healthy for swimmers and should be maintained between 1.5 – 2 ppm. If your chlorine gets too high, it can fade or wrinkle vinyl liners and also, the water will become uncomfortable for bathers. If the chlorine is too low, the water will turn green and cloudy and will become unsafe for swimmers.

The most common forms of Chlorine/Bromine are:

• Pucks – This is chlorine that comes in the form of a puck that is put into an automatic chlorinator and the puck is slowly dissolved into your pool. Chlorine that comes in a puck form has stabilizer in it as well. Stabilizer protects the chlorine from getting eaten up by the sun so your chlorine will last longer. If you are using pucks with stabilizer in it, keep an eye on the stabilizer level at the same time as stabilizer needs to be within 35-60 ppm. Bromine comes in a puck form as well, however, there is no stabilizer for Bromine to protect it from getting eaten up by the sun. More detail on this point below under the stabilizer section.
• Liquid – Liquid chlorine needs to be poured into the pool. Liquid chlorine does not have stabilizer in it so it will get eaten up by the sun quicker than pucks. If you are using liquid chlorine, you will need to add stabilizer separately to your pool so that the stabilizer protects the chlorine from the sun. Also, when pouring liquid chlorine, pour it all around the pool and do not dump all of the liquid chlorine in one spot to avoid staining your pool. As for Bromine, it is not used in its liquid form in pools.
• Granular – Chlorine also comes in a powder form and you can get it with or without stabilizer in it. Make sure to read the instructions at the back of the pouch or bucket as most granular forms of chlorine need to be mixed with water before you add it to the pool. Bromine also comes in granular form.

Stabilizer

Stabilizer is important as it protects chlorine from getting eaten up by the sun. If you do not use stabilizer, you will go through a lot of chlorine. If you are using chlorine pucks that have stabilizer in it, you won’t need to add stabilizer separately. The exception to this is if you just filled your pool with fresh water or during the initial start-up at opening time. In these cases, if you are using pucks, you’ll need to add stabilizer separately at the start-up only so that there is stabilizer in the pool to protect the chlorine from the sun.

If you are using liquid chlorine, you’ll need to add stabilizer separately. The range for stabilizer is 35 – 60 ppm. If your stabilizer gets too high, chlorine won’t be as effective and the only way to fix it is by draining water out of the pool until your stabilizer levels are in balance.

If you are using bromine as your sanitizer, one of the downsides with bromine is that stabilizer does not protect bromine from getting eaten up by the sun. This is one of the key differences between chlorine and bromine. If you have an outdoor pool that gets a lot of sun, you will burn through a lot of bromine in a summer which will impact your wallet as bromine is more expensive than chlorine!

Salt level

This only applies to those customers who have a salt water chlorine generator installed. If you have a salt water chlorine generator, in order for your salt system to generate chlorine, you will need to add salt to your pool and the range depends on the type of salt water chorine generator that you have. For example, we sell the Hayward Aquarite chlorine generator and in order for the Aquarite system to generate chlorine, the salt level in the pool needs to be between 2700 – 3400 ppm. If the salt level gets too high, your salt water chlorine generator will not generate chlorine and in order to rectify this, you have to drain water out of your pool until your salt level is within range.

Shocking your pool

The reason why we shock the pool is when certain events occur that add a lot of contaminants to the pool, the free chlorine (remember, you need to keep your chlorine between 1.5 – 2ppm) in the pool is not enough to fight it off. Shocking means adding a lot of chlorine to your pool at once in order to destroy any bacteria, organics, dirt, etc that has accumulated after a heavy rainfall or a party. When we destroy these contaminants, the pool filter will remove them from your pool. Here are a few examples of when you would shock your pool:

• Pool party – If you had a pool party and a lot of people in your pool, your pool water will be contaminated with sweat, oils, body creams, deodorant, etc and you need to shock your pool to destroy these contaminants so that they can be filtered out
• Heavy rainfall – After a heavy rainfall, you will have dirt, leaves and debris in your pool that need to be destroyed.
• Algae – If your pool is infected with green algae, you will need to shock it in order to kill all of the algae. Once the algae are killed and settles on the floor, you will need to vacuum it to waste.

It’s good practice to shock your pool once a week as part of your normal maintenance routine. This will breakdown any organics (sweat, oils, perfume, body creams, sunscreen, etc) that have accumulated in your pool over time allowing it to be filtered out. Pool shock comes in either powder form or you can use liquid chlorine.

Water Balance

PH

PH is a measure of how acidic your water is. The target range for PH is 7.4 -7.6. If your water goes below 7.4, it will become corrosive and this is when vinyl liners start to wrinkle, concrete surfaces will deteriorate, metals in the pool will rust and heat exchangers will start to leak. The pool water will also become very uncomfortable for bathers. If your water goes higher than 7.6, you will see these white calcium deposits called scale starting to form in your pool, your water will be cloudy and also, chlorine is not effective with a high PH which means you will have an unsafe pool for swimmers. If your PH is out of balance, fix your Total Alkalinity level first and the PH will usually adjust itself once your TA is balanced but if you need to correct your PH level, make sure your TA is in balance first than correct PH if necessary.

Total Alkalinity (TA)

Think of TA as a bodyguard for pH. It protects the PH from bouncing around and keeps the PH in check. TA should be kept between 80 – 120 PPM and as long as you keep your TA within this range, your PH should also stay in balance. If your TA is low, your PH will bounce around a lot and if your TA is high, your PH will be high and your chlorine will not be effective with a high PH. A low TA will also cause your water to become corrosive and a high TA will cause your water to develop scale and the water will be cloudy.

Calcium Hardness

Calcium Hardness measures the amount of calcium that is present in your pool water. The recommended range is 200 – 300 ppm. If your pool water does not have calcium, it’s going to start looking for it as water needs minerals. If your calcium is low, your water will be corrosive and hungry and if you have a concrete pool, it will deteriorate or if you have a vinyl pool, your liner will wrinkle. If your calcium is high, you will start to see white calcium deposits (scale) appear in your pool. If your calcium is high, the only way to lower it is by draining water from your pool until the calcium levels are in balance.

Proper Filtration & Circulation

Perfect water balance cannot be achieved by focusing on disinfecting and balancing the water alone. You need to make sure that your pump and filter are working properly so that the chemicals are being distributed throughout the pool and also, your pool water is being filtered so that the contaminants are being removed from your pool.

Here are a few tips that you can follow to ensure that your water is circulating and filtering:

• Make sure to backwash your sand filter when the pressure reading on your filter gauge gets too high or if you have a cartridge filter, making sure the cartridges are not clogged with debris. In a cartridge filter, if the cartridges are clogged with debris, you will need to remove them and give them a thorough wash.
• Empty pump and skimmer baskets regularly so that the water flow is not restricted
• A lot of customers like to turn their pump off during the day/night in order to save on electricity. In order to achieve clean and clear water, you will need to make sure that you run your pump long enough in order to achieve at least 2 turnovers per day. Turnover means the amount of time it takes for all of your pool water to travel through the filter so that the filter can remove any contaminants from the water.
• Ensure the water level in the pool is at the middle of the skimmer
• Clean the surface, walls and floor of the pool of any debris that might have accumulated
• Adjust the jets in the pool so that they are facing downwards to allow all of the pool water to circulate

DISINFECTION + BALANCE + PROPER FILTRATION/CIRCULATION = CLEAN & CLEAR WATER

To summarize once again, here are the ranges that you need to keep your chemical levels within:

Chlorine or Bromine: 1.5-2 ppm
Total Alkalinity: 80 – 120 ppm
PH: 7.4 -7.6
Calcium: 200 – 300 ppm
Stabilizer: 35 – 60 ppm
Salt level: (Applies only if you have a salt water pool): Depends on which salt water chlorine generator you are using to generate chlorine as each system operates at different levels.

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About Bremner Pool & Spa
Established in 1981, Bremner Pool & Spa is one of the premiere swimming pool service companies in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Durham Region. We operate 16 state-of-the art vehicles and offer a variety of high quality and eco-friendly products & services including swimming pool renovations, openings, partial swimming pool openings, swimming pool closings, weekly pool and spa service, pool leak detection & repair, heaters, liners, pumps, filters and more. As well, Bremner Pool & Spa complies with all City of Toronto By Laws for Pools, Hot Tubs and Spas.

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