In our fourth and final installment of a series related to buying and selling homes with pools, today we provide a guide for realtors and property managers on how to maintain pools.
This guide is not intended to make you a pool expert, but is a quick reference on basic pool checks and tasks you can perform, in between professional service visits. Also useful for any non-pool owner, who finds themselves somehow responsible for a pool.
BASIC POOL MAINTENANCE TASKS
Check Water Level: The pool water level should be mid-tile at all times. It can be a little low or high, but if it gets too high the skimmer stops skimming, and if too low, the pump can suck-in air, lose prime and stop pumping. First step when you arrive is to eyeball the pool water level, and if needed, set a hose on the edge of the pool (so you can hear it and see it splashing). Putting your car keys on the hose spigot is another good way to remember to shut off the water before you leave!
Check Filter Pressure: Every pool filter has a pressure gauge located near the top of the filter tank, which indicates system pressure. Some run low, under 10 psi, and some systems run higher, over 20 psi. When pressure gets too high, the water moves more slowly through the filter, and the pump often becomes louder. When the gauge reads 7 to 9 psi above the clean, starting pressure, it’s time to backwash the filter or remove and clean the filter cartridge. Marking the gauge dial with a Sharpie is a good way to remember the clean pressure reading.
Check Pool Cleaner: An automatic pool cleaner can save a lot of manual cleaning of dirt and debris, but they do require regular attention. Robotic cleaners and Polaris cleaners have attached debris bags that are emptied every few days. Suction cleaners attach to the skimmer and bring debris into the pump basket, and as such need to monitored closely so it won’t hinder pool filtration. Pool cleaners can also be found clogged, stuck behind ladders, coiled-up or otherwise in crisis. Look over the entire unit for any pool cleaner parts that are in need of replacement.
Check Chlorinator: Most pools use chlorine tablets to maintain a consistent and constant chlorine level. Tablets or sticks (but never granular) are added to chlorine feeders or chlorine floaters. The average pool uses about 4 to 6 tablets per week, and once these are nearly dissolved, refill the feeder to maintain critical chlorine levels. Shut off the pool pump when filling chlorinators, and hold your breath as you open the bucket, to avoid breathing chlorine fumes. Be sure to close the lid tightly after filling the floater or tablet feeder. Bonus Tip: Chlorine fumes will tarnish silver jewelry.
Skim the Pool: If you are up for a quick workout to shoulders, arms, abs and obliques – put the skim net on the pool pole, and go to town! Leaf Rake type skim nets are much more effective than the flat ‘Dip ‘n Flip’ type of skimmer nets. Use the skimmer net to clean leaves or debris from the surface in advance of a home showing or open house. Skim nets will also come in handy to remove items from the pool floor, including small wildlife casualties. You can also empty the skimmer baskets too.
Pool Safety Checks: Whenever you enter a pool, be mindful of the gates and doors that lead to the pool. Do the Gates Self-Close and Self-Latch? Are the doors from the house that lead to the pool have door alarms installed? Are there any trip and fall hazards? Are there piles of sketchy pool chemicals lying around? Does the pool smell strongly of chlorine, or rotten eggs? Do you smell gas near the pool heater? What about electrical hazards, does the pool pump and timer wiring look safe? Buyers want to know!
ADVANCED POOL MAINTENANCE TASKS
Backwash Pool Filter: As mentioned above, when the pool filter pressure gauge rises 7 to 9 psi above the clean, starting pressure – water flow is sufficiently reduced to require a filter cleaning. Backwashing is a process of reversing the water flow through the filter media, to flush out trapped dirt, and is used with sand filters and DE filters only (cartridge filters are cleaned with a garden hose). To backwash a pool filter, shut off the pump and move the filter valve to the Backwash position. Roll out any attached discharge hose, and turn the pump back on. Run the pump for 2-3 minutes, then shut off again and move the valve handle back to the Filter position. For DE filters, add new DE powder to the pool skimmer immediately after backwashing. Backwashing lowers the pool water level, so you may need to add water to the pool afterwards.
Test Pool Chemistry: Now if you want to really Geek-Out on pool chemistry be my guest, Dr. Pool would definitely approve. However, for most realtors or property managers, keeping a tube of 7-way Test Strips in the car is a good way to monitor water chemistry without having to be a chemist. Just dip the test strip in the pool water and compare it to the color chart printed on the bottle. You can quickly see if levels are too high or too low, for chlorine, pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness and stabilizer levels. Then you can either add chemicals yourself, or can alert your pool service person to your water test results.
Check Pool Timers: Oh boy, now we are getting really advanced! Pool filter pumps and pool cleaner booster pumps, and waterfall pumps too – are all controlled by timers, as the most basic option, or with controller systems for high end pools. They can lose time with power outages, and may need timely adjustments to increase or decrease filter or cleaning time, as seasons and water temperature changes. Pool time clocks are also where you can shut off the pump. To turn off the pump, push the silver lever (located at 4 o’clock on the dial) to the left. To reset an Intermatic timer to current time, pull out on the yellow dial and align the current time on the dial with the downward arrow, located at 6 o’clock. You can also move the On and Off timer trippers to new locations on the dial. For pool controller systems, use the wall panel, remote or app menu to select Filter mode, and make adjustments to daily program run times.
Add Pool Chemicals: As described above, it’s not unusual for a realtor or property manager to be called upon to add chlorine tablets from time to time. But other chemicals are also added regularly to help control algae (algaecides), or as a filter aid (clarifiers), or water balancers to adjust ph, Alkalinity & Calcium Hardness levels. If chlorine level is found near zero, bring it up fast with pool shock. Read and follow dosage directions, which usually require that you know the approximate size of the pool, in gallons.
Vacuum the Pool: Is this really why you got your real estate license? 😉 You may find it relaxing if you are ever called upon to vacuum a pool. The process requires 3 things; a vacuum hose, a vacuum head and a pool pole (and a working pump/filter system). Connect the vac head to the pole, then connect the swivel end of the vac hose to the vac head. Place it in the pool, and lean the pole against the pool edge. Place the other end of the vacuum hose over the pool return and let the water pressure force all the air out of the hose. Open the skimmer lid, remove the basket and place the vacuum hose into the hole in the bottom of the skimmer. Now you’re vacuuming, until the pump basket fills full and begins to slow down the suction. Shut off the pump to empty the basket, and you can keep going!
Ten (or eleven) pool maintenance tasks, used by realtors and property managers in the know, or anyone who wants to help keep pool pump and filter systems operating, water chemistry in check, and make sure the pool is clean, clear and beautiful!
This is the fourth, and final, edition in a four-part In The Swim blog series with the focus of providing valuable information and ideas to home owners, home buyers and real estate agents regarding swimming pools.
See you next time;
InTheSwim Staff Blogger