Above Ground Swimming Pools
This is the part most first time swimming pool owners dread. The pool is in the yard and it seems to be running, but what is what and how do I run this thing. Swimming pool maintenance can be divided into two areas. First are the chemicals and second is maintenance. Chemicals have to do with everything you add to the water in order to maintain water quality and proper sanitation. Maintenance is everything from vacuuming the pool, to keeping the pump clean. The first tip that we can give is that there are as many different ways of maintaining a pool as there are different pools. The instructions that follow are not the only way of doing things; it’s just the way Campbell Pools has found to work the best. Once you’ve had a pool for a while, you will find that some things work better for you than others.
Probably the most intimidating part of a swimming pool is the chemicals. It does seem rather complicated, but in reality it’s not that bad. Campbell Pools has always stressed a straightforward “Keep it simple” attitude when it comes to chemicals. If we suggest a product in a certain quantity, we’re not just trying to sell you chemicals but rather trying to get your water chemically balanced in order to minimize future chemical needs. Unless you’re using a salt system, what follows is a step-by-step chemical maintenance guide that is written in plain English. It doesn’t cover everything, but will get you started. With the pool, you may or may not have received certain chemicals (depending on what was purchased). Here is a list of what you will need on a regular basis:
The granular chlorine is used once a week to shock the pool or once a day as a daily dose of sanitizer. Shocking involves raising the level of chlorine in the water so high that it kills bacteria and neutralizes organic material. The amount you will need depends on the amount of water contained in your pool. You can read the instructions on your chemical container or talk to your dealer for more details. The reason we shock a pool once a week (regular shock) is to ensure the pool is properly sanitized throughout the year. A regular shock is what you’re going to be doing once a week. Most people do it on Sunday night when everybody is done swimming for the day. Shocking is done in the evening after the sun goes down, not during the day (the sun’s ultraviolet rays eat up chlorine). The way you apply granular chlorine to the pool is by using a large pail and fill it with hot water (the exact quantity of water doesn’t matter, just fill the pail). You then add the granular chlorine to the water in the pail (always chlorine in water, never water on chlorine). One the chlorine is dissolved by stirring with a wooden stir stick, slowly pour the liquid around the perimeter of the pool. Try to avoid splashing since the liquid chlorine is a very concentrated chlorine solution that will bleach clothing on contact. It is also very irritating to the skin, so gloves should be worn. Needless to say that getting dissolved chlorine in the eyes is not a good idea. Wear protective glasses if possible and, if a mishap does happen, immediately rinse the eyes with cool clean water (not pool water) and consult a physician immediately. There is also a newer form of granular chlorine available called “HTH Extra”. This form of granular chlorine is specially designed to dissolve on contact with water and as such does not require you to pre-dissolve it. This allows you to add it to the pool directly by sprinkling it on the surface. At the beginning of the year or when you’re starting your pool for the first time, you need to double the quantity in order to super-chlorinate the pool properly the first time. Having said that, you may now put a Double Shock as your first step with a new pool.
The reason for chlorine pucks is to reduce the amount of time you need to spend on maintaining your swimming pool. Chlorine is used to keep your pool sanitized and a certain amount (1 – 3 ppm) is required in your pool at all times. Chlorine pucks were developed to eliminate the need to chlorinate your pool manually every day. They slowly dissolve and create a slower chemical reaction than granular chlorine. With the automatic chlorinator, these pucks can be set to dissolve at a certain rate in order to maintain a constant amount of chlorine in the pool. However, it is important to remember that chlorine pucks and granular chlorine are NOT the same. Never add Granular Chlorine to Chlorinator. Using the pucks can be a little tricky in the beginning. Again, without getting too technical, it is important not to overuse pucks. Having pucks dissolve too quickly can cause long-term problems with water chemistry, and this, regardless of your pool size. Contact your dealer for more details. Since the automatic chlorinator depends on water pressure to dissolve the pucks and each installation has a slightly different operating pressure, the setting will be slightly different. The best way is to add the appropriate number of pucks and set the automatic chlorinator to about the middle of the dial. Every second day, check the pucks to see how much they have dissolved. Turn the dial down or up according to how fast they dissolved. After a few weeks you will get a very good feeling for what the dial setting should be. Something important to remember is that the pucks will only dissolve when the pump is running. This means that if the pump is on a timer system, the pucks will not be dissolving during the ‘off’ period. This should be taken into account when setting the automatic chlorinator. In some situations, if the pool is being used heavily during a very sunny period, you may find it nearly impossible to keep any chlorine in your pool. First thing to do is to test your chlorine in the morning since, by late afternoon in the summer you will almost never get a proper reading. If you find no chlorine in the morning, do not hesitate to use granular chlorine and give the pool a regular shock (again, remember in the evening). Another sign that your pool might require extra shock is a slimy feeling on the liner. If this occurs, brush the wall and the bottom of the pool and shock it that night since a slimy liner is the first sign of algae.
Algaecide is used to prevent algae from forming in the swimming pool water. Algae is a microscopic organism that grows in colonies and is often green in color. Algaecide should be used on a weekly basis and added to the pool right after your chlorine shock for convenience. It is possible to eliminate the need of algaecide if you maintain a high chlorine level. However, most people are sensitive to chlorine and would rather keep the normal level. If the chlorine is kept at the normal level, algaecide should be used.
Having said all this, the next step after putting the initial shock to the pool is to find out if your pool water is balanced. Without getting into all the technical stuff about swimming pool chemistry, balancing your pool water basically ensures that chlorine and algaecide you add actually work. To balance your water, bring 1.5 cup of water to one of our stores where we will perform a very detailed test. Once you follow the recommendations for balancing your water, you should be set for a good part of the season. We recommend having your water tested about once a month at a minimum to ensure the water remains balanced. Since all kind of things can upset the balance (rain, sunlight, people using the pool), your water will need periodic help to maintain it’s high quality. Never hesitate to bring a sample in, especially after a heavy rainfall. It is, however, important to wait at least 24 hours after it stopped raining before taking the sample, this will give the chance to the original water to be stirred up with the rain water. The result of your water test will then be more accurate.
Nature II system
Next we need to talk about the Nature II system. All new swimming pools sold come with an item called the Nature II Purifier. Again, trying to avoid complicated explanations, the Nature II system is a chemical reduction and water quality product. This means that, when using the Nature II system, you will need to keep a much lower level of chlorine in your pool. The system also helps to remove many of the dissolved solids that lead to “unfresh” water. The system includes two parts. First the purifier. This is the actual machine, which is part of the plumbing system. The purifier is included with all pools. If you do not wish to use the system now or in the future, it is just a matter of not adding the second part of the system. This second part is the cartridge. The cartridge is the heart of the system. In the purifier, water will flow into the cartridge, therefore releasing trace amounts of silver and copper into the water. These two metals will sanitize the water, letting you keep the chlorine level in the pool at a much lower level (0.6 PPM) With the Nature II system, it’s possible to reduce your regular shock and puck levels (consult our staff for the correct dosage for your pool) and also to eliminate algaecide completely.
Salt Water System
This item would replace the Automatic Chlorinator. It’s a device that uses salt to manufacture and deliver sanitizer to the pool automatically. With this system, NO Chlorine is necessary! The salt system would be used to eliminate the hassle of handling and storing sanitizer, for peace of mind, for easier maintenance and because salt feels better and is less irritating to the body than standard chlorinated water. It consists of a cell, where the sanitizer is produced, and a power pack that supplies power to the cell and control the functions. The mildly salted water passes through the electrolytic cell and sanitizer is produced. The sanitizer is released into the pool to kill bacteria and algae and then turns back into salt to be used over again. Through the season the salt will be lost only through splash out and backwashing. It is not lost through the process of making sanitizer or through evaporation. The salt water system virtually eliminates the need for regular shocking, as long as maintaining chemical balance and sanitizer levels. You may need to give the pool a boost of sanitizer after heavy use of the pool or after storms. This is done simply by pressing the Super-chlorinate button on the power pack. The feature automatically shuts off after 24 hours and then the sanitizer level returns to normal. It’s really easy to use! Before you start the system for the first time, you have to get your water chemistry balanced and add the recommended amount of salt to your pool and then choose your desired sanitizer level. With fewer fluctuations in chlorine levels, pH levels are more stable. As a result, the pool’s water is much easier to balance.
The next part of this guide concerns the maintenance of the pool, pump, filter and so on. The greatest confusion we see here is often the vocabulary. Let’s quickly review what makes up an above ground pool by starting with the basic plumbing.
Skimmer: This part is mounted on the wall of the swimming pool. This is where the water enters the filtration system. You will notice a basket in the skimmer. This is used to capture the largest debris that usually floats on the surface (leaves, small twigs, insects, and so on) that is too large for the pump to handle. Because of this, it’s obvious that this basket plays an important part and, as such, should be kept in the skimmer whenever the pump is running. From this we can see that the water level in the pool will affect the skimmer’s ability to do it’s job. If the water level is too low, no water will enter the system causing the pump to run dry and maybe damage it. If the water level is too high, the skimmer will not be able to remove debris floating on the surface. This is not as bad since no damage can occur. We recommend keeping the water level 1 inch from the top of the opening. Another function of the skimmer is vacuuming which we will discuss a little further on. The most important thing to remember about the skimmer is keeping it clean. If too much debris accumulates, it can block off the water supply, which of course can damage the pump.
Pump:The pump is what circulates the water through the filtration and chemical feeding systems. Above ground pool pumps are what we call gravity fed. This means that the pump needs to be below the water level of the pool. This is important since these pumps only push water. Inground pumps (more expensive) can also pull the water and then push it. A nice feature of above ground pumps is the electrical hook-up, plug right into a standard electrical outlet, something an inground pump does not do. While there is much more that can be said about swimming pool pumps, it would be outside the purpose of this guide. Talk to any of our staff if you have more questions.
Filter: The filter is that big round ball thing next to the pump. As the name implies, the filter is there to remove debris and impurities from the water. The filter does this by passing the water through silica sand that traps small particles. It is important not to underestimate the work the filter does. Many people believe that the water in the swimming pool is kept clean by the chemicals. In fact, the filter is responsible for some 80% of the water’s quality. Chemicals kill microorganisms in the water that can be dangerous to humans. Once they are dead though, it’s the filter that catches them and removes them from the water. This is one of the reasons we recommend having the pump run 24 hours a day. It’s true that the electrical cost involved in doing so can be a little more and that most people will want to use a timer of some kind. This is acceptable as long as the pump runs a minimum of 8 hours a day and full-time if the water quality begins to diminish.
Automatic Chlorinator: This is a great time saving device that is used to add a certain, controlled, amount of chlorine in the pool. In terms of maintaining the chlorinator, there’s not much to do. One reminder however, granular chlorine or other chemicals must never be used in an automatic chlorinator. After some years, the chlorinator will begin to show chemical damage. This is to be expected since the concentration of chlorine in the vessel is over 100 times higher than in the pool. This said caution must be used when adding pucks. Stay as far as possible from the chlorinator when opening it, since the vapours can be dangerous. The operation of the automatic chlorinator is covered in the chemical section of this guide.
Return:This item is closely associated with the skimmer since it is the point where the water returns from the filtration system. The return however plays an important role in the circulation of the water. You will notice that there is a movable part called the eyeball. This eyeball can be pointed in different directions depending on how we wish the water to circulate. In general we recommend pointing the eyeball downwards and away from the skimmer in order to get the best possible circulation. The above items are all part of the basic swimming pool circulation system. If you have more questions, do not hesitate to contact us. Always remember, there are no stupid questions except for the ones you didn’t ask. We will now move on to how to use items above.
Filter Operation: Most of the time, the filter will be set to Filter. This is the large handle on the top of the filter. When on filter, the water is being forced through the silica sand and is filtered. This will also be used to vacuum the pool (discussed later). Since this dirt is being accumulated in the filter tank, eventually it must be removed. How do we know it’s time to clean it? That’s where the pressure gauge comes into play. When you first start the filter system, take note of the pressure on this gauge. The number will be your clean pressure. This number is important because as dirt accumulates, the pressure tank will increase. When this pressure increases by 5 PSI, it’s time to clean the tank. This is done by backwashing. You will notice at the top of the filter that the backwash position is directly opposite to the Filter position.
One tip here, at any time you move anything or do any maintenance on the filtration system turn the pump off so that the system isn’t under pressure.
To clean the filter, turn the pump off, turn the top handle on the filter to the backwash position and restart the pump. Water will now be circulating in such a way to remove the accumulated dirt. This dirt and water will be flushed out through the backwash hose. It’s important to remember that you must always uncoil this backwash hose completely before restarting the pump or risk damage to the hose. We recommend to backwash for about 90 seconds. After this time, stop the pump, turn the filter handle to the rinse setting and restart the pump for about 10 – 15 seconds. This rinse is done to remove dirt that accumulates in the filter head. Again, turn the pump off and return the filter handle to the Filter position and restart the pump. Backwashing will be something you will do about once a week, depending on the pressure reading on the gauge. You probably noticed that we have not talked about the Drain, Winterize and whirlpool positions on the filter head. Winterize is only used when it comes time to close the pool in winter (winterizing is covered in other documentation we provide.) The Whirlpool function is not used very often. It basically does the same as Filter except that no filtration is done. Whirlpool will really only be used when you are required to use some type of chemicals. Drain on the other hand, will be used to remove water from the pool. It takes the water and simply diverts it to the backwash hose, but without filtering or cleaning the filter tank. Drain is also sometimes used to vacuum the pool. As with backwashing, always turn the pump off when turning the filter handle. Apart from backwashing, there is no other regular maintenance that is done to the filter tank itself.
Pump Operation: The pump is really the heart of your pool. Without the pump, it would be impossible to keep your swimming pool clean. When it comes to the pump, the first thing you need to do is ensure you have a proper electrical supply. Our above ground pumps all include 20’ of cord to plug them in. In some cases this might not be enough to reach the nearest electrical outlet. If this is your case, we recommend contacting an electrician to install an outlet closer to the pool. If the electrical supply is not adequate, it can damage the pump motor and greatly shorten it’s life. Therefore, the use of an extension cord voids the warranty of your pump. Again, if you don’t quite understand all this electrical stuff, contact an electrician to help you. When looking at the pump, you will notice a basket at the front of the pump. This is called the strainer basket. Its purpose is to stop ant debris large enough to damage the pump’s impeller. Since there is a basket in the skimmer, the pump’s basket should very rarely have any debris. But it does happen and it’s important to keep it clean. Since the cover is clear, it’s easy to check if the basket needs to be cleaned. In this case, it’s pretty obvious you need to have the pump turned off to open it up. Apart from keeping the basket clean, there isn’t much else in terms of maintenance to do on the pump. Just remember that the pool will only be as clean as the amount of time the pump runs. If you use a timer, allow at least a minimum of 8 hours a day and have it run continuously if the water becomes the slightest bit troubled.
Vacuuming:Vacuuming is something you will be faced with if you do not have a bottom drain or use an automatic cleaner. When vacuuming, it is important to understand what exactly is going on. The vacuum is drawing water from the end of your vacuum pole and bringing it to the skimmer. From this point on, the water is flowing through the filtration system as it would normally. The water is being forced through the filter sand and returning to the pool by the return. Almost every time you vacuum, you will notice that some dirt is returning back into the pool from the return. Don’t worry this is normal. While it may seem like the dirt is coming back, in reality, it’s only a small percentage of the total dirt being picked-up. Something else you will notice when vacuuming is how cloudy the water can get. In fact, it may get to the point you cannot even see the bottom of the pool anymore. This is because the movement of the vacuum on the bottom is stirring much of the dirt up. To reduce this, it’s important to slow down. If you move the vacuum slowly, the dirt will not be stirred up, but rather drawn into the vacuum and into the filter. As you can imagine, all this dirt you are picking up will quickly get the filter dirty; therefore the first step is to perform a backwash when you want to vacuum. After you backwash the filter, get all your equipment ready.
Bottom Drain Operations:The bottom drain might be an option you have with your pool. It’s quite simple to use, but is often intimidating to the first-time swimming pool owner. Let’s take a look. You will notice that the bottom drain is connected to the filtration system by a pipe coming out of the ground directly under the skimmer. The pipe is then connected to a large valve. This valve is the key to the bottom drain. The valve is connected to the skimmer at the top and the pump at the side. The handle of the valve has an arrow on it. Where the arrow is pointing to is the part of the plumbing that is turned off. This is the key. The valve controls where you want the water to go. If you want to draw the water by the skimmer only, you need to close the bottom drain. Since the part to which the arrow points is closed, we point the arrow at the bottom drain. Now the bottom drain is closed and water will flow from the skimmer into the pump. If you have a lot of dirt at the bottom of the pool and want the bottom drain to work harder, turn the skimmer off. Again, this is done by pointing the arrow towards the skimmer. An important part to remember: with the pump working, you don’t want to turn off its water supply (remember that the pump can be damaged if it’s running without water). Therefore, do not turn the arrow towards the pump. Since we normally want to keep the bottom of the pool clean and we also want to keep the surface clean, we need a way to close nothing and have water flowing from both the top and bottom pipes. To do this, turn the arrow towards the side that has no pipe. Since it’s pointed towards nothing, it closes nothing. Even with a bottom drain, it might become necessary to vacuum the pool manually. Those that have their pumps on timers normally find the bottom drain less efficient. This is because the bottom drain only works while the pump is running and that, once dirt falls to the bottom, it’s difficult for the bottom drain to pick-up. If you do need to vacuum manually, remember to turn off the bottom drain so that the skimmer is pulling all the water and, therefore creating more suction. There are important special procedures when it comes to getting a bottom drain ready for the winter. Make sure you pick up a copy of the winterizing instructions in the fall to properly close your pool and bottom drain for the year.
One final recommendation: In order to benefit from your new pool and to protect you from potential problems, we suggest you to follow these recommendations:
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