A pool is an impressive feature of a home, but it can also be the most difficult and expensive to maintain.
When it comes time to decide between DIY pool care and using a professional pool cleaning service, consider such tasks as maintaining the filter, surface skimming and chemical testing.
What can you do yourself, and what should you leave to the pros?
Weekly Pool Maintenance
Generally, professional pool maintenance will run you between $100-$500 per month, depending on your location and the size of your pool, but mostly your location. In Florida you can get weekly service for $100 per month, but in Virginia, it’s $100 per week. Supply and Demand, I suppose.
Pool care may involve skimming the surface, vacuuming and brushing, emptying skimmer baskets and automatic cleaner bags. After cleaning, water balance is tested and balancing chemicals may be added.
Sanitizer levels are checked and other water treatment chemicals applied. The filter, pump, heater and chlorinator or other equipment is checked and cleaned.
Though pool professionals have the experience and tools for greater efficiency than the average owner, many pool maintenance tasks can be accomplished on your own for less money.
Pool Filter Maintenance
The filter pressure gauge; check it every few days. When it rises 5 lbs or more, the water flow rate slows down, making filtration inefficient. Pool filters need to be cleaned every 2-6 weeks, depending on their size, age, and the dirt load. But, wait until the pressure gauge has risen 5-10 lbs to tell you when to clean the cartridges, or backwash the [sand or DE] pool filter.
When the pressure gauge is Lower than Normal, it could be that the pump basket or skimmer baskets are full, and are restricting the water flow. Most pump baskets have a see thru lid to tell when it needs cleaning.
To empty the pump basket, shut off the pump, remove the lid and pull out the basket. Some baskets have a twist lock, but most just lift straight out. Bang it out or hose it out and then re-insert the basket fully. Replace the pump lid very tightly, and turn on the pump.
Other pool filter maintenance items include annual lubrication of O-rings, or replacement of filter media [sand, grids, cartridges] every 5 years or so; which can be DIY friendly. Pumps and heaters can go for 10 years without mechanical problems or replacement.
Pool skimming can be difficult after storms, but with the right process and equipment, you can do it like a pro. First clean off the deck, with a leaf blower, broom or water – so you don’t slip, and so more leaves or debris wont blow into the pool.
Attach your Leaf Rake to your Pool Pole. Extend the inner pole about 4 ft and lock it in place, for a comfortable counter-balance. Walk briskly around the entire edge of the pool, with the edge of the Leaf Rake touching the edge of the pool at the water line. Then push the Leaf Rake back and forth across the surface. Leaf Rakes are also useful to scoop piles of leaves from the floor and steps of the pool.
Pool vacuums, however, make this job a lot easier for the DIY pool owner. You can buy a nice manual pool vacuum for under $100, and vacuum the pool through the skimmer. A Skim-Vac plate makes the job faster. Be sure to invest in a good pool brush, too. Regular pool brushing is not only good exercise, but also water quality and clarity.
Water powered or robotic vacuums can roam the pool, eating up dirt, bacteria, algae and sand. Automatic pool cleaners can cost half-a-paycheck, but free up half-a-week’s worth of time within the first season. Before you buy, do the research on the best pool cleaner for you and your pool.
Pool Chemical Management
Pools require frequent chemical testing and adjustments. Altering the pH levels consists of adding acid to lower pH or adding a base to raise it. The hardness, alkalinity and cyanuric acid levels should also be checked weekly.
Chemical treatments also involve adding consistent and continuous chlorine to regulate algae and bacteria growth. Shocking the pool with granular chlorine clears the water by removing contaminants and chloramines.
Your pool may also benefit from other chemicals such as:
- Stain & Scale to control metals and minerals.
- Clarifiers to help an overworked pool filter.
- Enzymes to control oils and organics.
- Algaecides to control algae growth.
Many pool owners are not comfortable with their chemistry skills, and actually drive a water sample to the pool store several times per season!
Escape from pool store water testing with the pool test kit that the pool stores use! With the included booklet, you’ll know exactly how to test, analyze and calculate proper adjustment dosages. And, you can always trust the results!
When deciding to DIY or Go Pro with pool maintenance, it is important to weigh all the factors. How much time are you willing to spend on your pool? Do you enjoy working on [cleaning] the pool? Are you comfortable taking care of the pool equipment? Is pool chemistry at least somewhat interesting?
The answers to these questions should lead you to the best decision for you and your pool.
InTheSwim Staff Blogger