Many people hire a pool pro to close their pool for the season for a myriad of reasons, and the prominent reason is really fear of doing it wrong.
Burst pipes and cracked pumps, filters and heaters can all be easily avoided if you abide to a handful of simple steps.
I’ve found that closing the pool is much less time-consuming than opening a pool for the season. However, an easy, clear pool opening starts with closing your pool for the season like a pro.
All pool owners know the importance of having an inventory of pool chemicals on hand in order to be prepared for any curve balls that may come your way. A few weeks before you plan on closing your pool, it’s best to take stock of your pool closing accessories and pool closing chemicals.
You’ll want to have plenty of non-toxic anti-freeze, winter cover accessories, plugs for your returns, pH and Alkalinity, as well as an extra bottle of algaecide to add under the cover a month before opening the pool. It may seem far away now, but that extra bottle of algaecide will pay dividends with a much easier pool opening.
Several days before closing, balance the pH, Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness, and super-chlorinate the pool, turn up the chlorinator and add 1 lb of shock per 10000 gallons. Do you need a new pool cover this year?
POOL CLOSING DAY
On the day of your pool closing, once you’ve recovered from mourning the passing of summer, clean your pool as thoroughly as possible. Every leaf and twig will absorb your pool chemicals and make them less effective as well as throw-off your pH balance. As we learned in an earlier post, clean the pool deck too.
Test and balance the pool once more, to be sure your pH, alkalinity and calcium are correct. If your pH normally rises, reduce the pH level to 7.2. If your pH normally is low, boost it up to 7.6. Good chemistry will protect your pool surfaces and your winter pool chemicals, too. If you see any algae, an extra dose of algaecide is in order.
LOWERING THE WATER
Backwashing your filter is the best method for this as you not only lower your water line, you clean your filter. Once you’ve backwashed for about 15-20 minutes, switch a multiport valve from “backwash” to “drain to waste” and continue draining through the waste or backwash line.
If you have a separate main drain valve, close the skimmer valve or plug the skimmer, to continue pumping exclusively via the main drain. If you don’t have a an easy way to go below the skimmer (like me), use a submersible pump* to lower the water the rest of the way.
*I learned my lesson last year while waiting for the somewhat slow-moving pump to drain water – Cover the Pool while waiting on the water to lower. You can still close the pool with it loosely covered. It’s no fun cleaning your pool twice in one day!
STORING YOUR STUFF
Now, gather up all of your pool equipment and accessories that made your life easier over the summer so that they may continue to do so next summer. A cracked skimmer basket here, a rusty handrail there, warped pool cleaner hose, can all add up fast and leave you with less money for giant inflatable animals.
Proper storage of your pool equipment and accessories is a small detail that can have a big impact on your opening. Remove your pool ladders and handrails; skimmer baskets and return fittings. Store where they will not be exposed to the elements, and far away from chlorine, which can oxidize stainless steel parts. Check lids and caps on all pool chemicals and store safely separated and secure, out of reach of children.
Remove your pool cleaner if you haven’t already by this point, be sure to thoroughly drain all of the water from it, and store it mindfully. Remove the hose and store it in a big trash bag in large loops. Do not hang pool cleaner hose on a hook. Suction cleaners should have the hose segments disconnected and stored flat in a box or large trash bag. Store the main unit so that there is no pressure on any part of its components, and place in a safe location. I have a storage box I use for mine, and it hibernates peacefully for the winter.
If you own a DE or cartridge filter, open the air bleeder and remove the drain plug on the bottom, pull out the grids/cartridge and thoroughly clean them with a hose. Hose out the tanks, filter o-ring and replace the grids or cartridges. Reassemble the filter fully and firmly. A loose filter clamp could be dangerous when you fire up the system in the spring.
For sand filters (like me), just remove the drain plug and let the water run out on the ground. Be careful not to remove the entire drain assembly, so that sand falls out – just remove the drain plug only.
Now it’s time to remove the pump and heater drain plugs, most pumps and heaters have two drain plugs while filters typically have one. If you have a chlorinator that has a drain plug, remove the plug, and remove all tablets and tablet remnants. Replace the lid securely; store drain plug in the pump basket.
Salt cells should also be removed and stored for the winter after you blow the plumbing lines. Speaking of which…
BLOWING THE LINES
You drained the equipment and used your pump to remove as much water as it could. It’s time to blow the lines. I use a 1.5” PVC pipe, glued to a 1.5” threaded male fitting (or 2” if your skimmer holes are larger). The PVC pipe should be 2-3 ft. long, so it protrudes from the skimmer. If you have a second skimmer, make a second skimmer pipe, or use a hose adapter and connect your vacuum hose. Duct tape the big black wet/dry vacuum hose to the skimmer pipe. Wrap it up good; air tight.
With the valve at the pump closed, or a winter freeze plug tightened into the pump intake, blow air from one skimmer to the other. If you only have one skimmer, blow from the skimmer out to the main drain.
To blow a main drain, even a 5 hp wet/dry vac may not work; unless the water level is very low in the pool. Call in some reinforcements with the high volume, low pressure Cyclone blower. It’s designed to tackle bigger jobs like main drains or pipes buried deep in the ground.
After blowing the suction-side pipes, double check that the filter and pump lid and drain plugs are snug and let the air flow into the pump, and thru the filter. This will help drain any lingering water from the equipment. Unscrew the drain plugs while air is passing through, to let all the water spray out, loosely tighten the drain plugs again (pump, filter, heater), while the air continues to blow through all the way to the pool returns.
Once the pool returns are bubbling for about a minute, plug the returns. Plug the return that is blowing the strongest, first. Further away returns are plugged next, and a cleaner line is generally plugged last. Be sure to tighten the plug fully, no tiny air bubbles should be coming out.
If your pool returns are not vigorously bubbling, check for air loss between the skimmer and returns, or move the wet/dry vac to the pump. Open the pump lid and pull out the basket and insert the hose right into the volute, (may require a smaller section of hose to adapt). Hold the hose tightly over the impeller and turn on the blower/vac. When the returns start bubbling, have a helper plug them up tightly. Another tip is to set a filter multiport valve to Recirculate, to bypass the filter and reduce resistance. Oh, and be sure the return valve is open, and there is no air loss on the heater or chlorinator.
When plugging the lines use high quality rubber expansion plugs or Hayward return plugs. the threaded one with o-ring. Do not use old, dry-rotted plugs or threaded plugs that are missing the o-ring. Again, this is a minor detail that if overlooked could cause major damage to your plumbing. Winter pool plugs are inexpensive ways to avoid expensive problems.
Now, if you want to use non-toxic pool antifreeze in the pipes – if you’re not sure that all the water was blown out, or for insurance against failed plugs, pour some in before you plug the skimmer. It’s hard to get antifreeze into main drain pipes or return lines, but if you have a screwdriver and an old beer bong from college, you can usually figure a way to pour it in through a valve or other opening in the pipe.
You can also use Antifreeze on top of the skimmer plug, to keep the water inside the skimmer from freezing. Or, use the Skimmer Guard, combination skimmer plug and ice expansion absorption device!
COVERING THE POOL
If you covered your pool during the draining process you are already ahead of the class for the next step: Put the cover on! If it’s a windy day and leaves are blowing, place the cover on the pool before you blow the lines. To plug the lines, simply reach under the cover.
BEFORE you cover the pool, be sure to add the winterizing chemicals to the water. Disregard instructions that suggest adding the chemicals before lowering the water to “allow for circulation”. It’s a waste of chemicals and not the best move for the environment either, beside being a flat-out waste of inflatable swan bucks.
Add the chemicals after the water is lowered, but before it’s covered, so you can walk the chemicals around the pool edge to distribute them evenly. If the pool is covered already (to keep it clean), just pull it open on one side and add the winter pool chemicals, or your winter chemical kit.
Take the time to be sure your pool cover is tight and snug to keep debris from blowing underneath. If you use a solid cover, fold over excess material underneath the cover, so rain water can run off the edges, and the cover sits tight and relatively wrinkle-free on the surface. For safety pool covers, the springs should be about halfway compressed.
At this point it’s time to start planning your first pool party of 2016, saving up for that flock of inflatable duck floats you’ve had your eye on. Enjoy your winter with the peace of mind knowing you’ve closed the pool correctly.
InTheSwim Staff Blogger