What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Mistakes that Destroy Pool Equipment

It’s the little things that can do the most damage to your swimming pool and your pool equipment. A simple, absent-minded mistake could lead to thousands of dollars in damages. A seemingly mundane habit could be accelerating your pool equipment’s early demise.

Perhaps a bad habit you didn’t take seriously has suddenly rendered your pump, cleaner or heater useless. It’s true, some warnings carry more weight than others, so we’re going to take a look at the most common pool mistakes that could be destroying your pool or pool equipment.

1. Exposing your Solar Cover to High Chlorine

solar-blanketHigh levels of pool chlorine and exposure to pool shock, even non-chlorine shock, is not something that you want exposed to your solar blanket. The fastest way to destroy your pool cover is to shock your pool, and then place the solar blanket over the water. The adverse effects that these chemicals have on the plastic of a solar cover is similar to the effects that it has on bacteria. Try not to use your solar cover for a few days after shocking your pool, or until chlorine levels are normal. Other overlooked factors that can destroy your solar cover are low pH and prolonged exposure to the sun while rolled up. Use a solar blanket Poly Tarp when you have it on the the reel to protect it from harmful UV rays.

2. Placing Chlorine Tabs Directly Into the Skimmer

3-inch-tabletsThis could very well be the most common mistake that pool owners make, or perhaps the most common mistake that just isn’t taken seriously enough. Chlorine tabs, especially In the Swim 3” Chlorine Tabs, are highly concentrated, acidic wonders of modern chemistry that are made to dissolve slowly throughout the pool. When left in your skimmer with the pump off, chlorine tabs continue to dissolve, filling the skimmer and pipe with chlorine. When the pump turns on again, it sucks several gallons of super concentrated chlorine directly into your pump, heater, and filter. What was once your ally has now become your nemesis, a singular corrosive force operating from within as it eats your pipes and pool equipment from the inside-out. Chlorine is strong; strong enough to sanitize 20 thousand gallons of water, and also strong enough to corrode plastics, rubber and metal.

3. Leaving your Robotic Pool Cleaner in the Pool All the Time

hayward-aquavac-500-robotic-pool-cleanerIf you own a robotic pool cleaner, odds are that you love the little guy. You might even have a name for yours. We call ours Roger, Roger the Tiger Shark. Odds are even higher that you paid a decent amount of money for your automatic pool cleaner. Protect your investment by removing your pool cleaner from the water when its cycle is complete. Prolonged exposure to the water alone can begin to deteriorate the softer parts of your cleaner, and aggressive water conditions can oxidize metals and plastics. Don’t shock your pool with your cleaner in the water, and try not to leave it in the water any longer than it needs to complete a cleaning cycle. And, be sure to store him (or her) in a safe place, out of the sun and weather, and protected from [other types of] harm.

4. Starting your Pump With a Dead Head

closed-multiport valveI don’t mean a Grateful Dead fan, a Dead Head is when the water has no where to go, because of a closed valve (or two), or because winter plugs are still in the wall. Your pump is creating powerful forces to pull and push water through the plumbing into the filter and and back to the pool. Starting the pump with closed valves or closing the return valves while the pump is running has a ‘water hammer’ effect. Make sure all valves are wide open because if a valve is closed, or a return line is plugged or blocked – the results can be destructive and also dangerous if you are standing next to the filter system. Perhaps this may seem obvious, but it does happen, be sure that all valves after the pump are wide open, and the return lines are clear all the way back to the pool.

5. Not Protecting your Pool Heater

pool-heater-coverYou probably don’t give much thought to your pool heater. It most likely works as it is supposed to and hardly ever has to be serviced. And then one late summer morning you jump into your pool like normal, only to emerge bug-eyed, startled, and very cold. Damage to pool heaters can be a subtle, gradual process that you are completely oblivious to. Acidic pH and Alkalinity levels feed on copper heat exchangers, stripping the copper and staining your pool. Exposure to the elements can also rust components of your heater especially if you live in a climate with harsh, snowy winters. It’s always best to use a Pool Heater Cover when your pool is closed. Covering your heater prevents insects and rodents from nesting inside, as well as protecting it from moisture.

6. Low Calcium Hardness

calcium-hardness-control-increaserPerhaps your pH and alkalinity, cyanuric and chlorine are perfectly aligned. You test daily and know just what to do at the slightest hint of disturbance in the force. All of your precise testing and measuring could be in vain if your calcium hardness gets too low. Aggressive water with a thirst for calcium can pull calcium from your pool’s plaster and tile grout. For vinyl pools, there are those that say it doesn’t matter, but to protect your vinyl liner and for good water balance, maintain a minimum calcium hardness level of at least 150 ppm. Plaster and pebble surfaces should keep calcium hardness closer to 200 ppm.

7. Not Brushing your Pool

pool brushesWe’ve been told to brush our teeth from a very young age, and perhaps this constant harping to “don’t forget to brush!” is the root of why so many pool owners fail to brush their pool regularly. Or maybe you have the best automatic pool cleaner money can buy (and store it in its own waterproof garage when its cleaning cycle is over) and don’t feel you should have to brush your pool. Not brushing your pool is a gateway for algae, and other nasty bio-films that build up layers to protect themselves from chlorine. Brushing may be the simplest warning on this list, and it’s not going to destroy your pool equipment if you don’t use a pool brush, but it can save wear and tear on your pool cleaner and pool surfaces.

8. Low Water Levels

This may seem obvious but there are several scenarios in which your water levels could fall below the skimmer line causing your pump to intake only air. This causes pool pumps to ‘lose prime’, which can lead to damaged pump and pipes. I’ve experienced this myself when vacuuming to waste, backwashing or draining the water level during winterization. Pool leaks can rapidly cause a loss of pump prime, as can air leaks in front of the pump (unrelated to water level). Any situation that causes your pump to lose prime, can cause your pump to overheat, which can warp pump baskets and melt shaft seals, or shrink the threads of the attached PVC fittings. In extreme cases of overheating, it can warp the pump housing itself.

These pool fails could end up costing you money in pool parts, replacement equipment or in time wasted on fixing the pool when you should be enjoying yourself! From the mundane to the extraordinary, these 8 pool mistakes are all easily avoided, yet often taken for granted.

Have a potential common pool mistake you think we should add to our list? We would love to hear from our pool community! Together we can pool our knowledge and make sure we spend more time enjoying our pools, not fixing them. Drop us a line, anytime.


Ryan Dornan
InTheSwim Staff Blogger




What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Mistakes that Destroy Pool Equipment — 2 Comments

  1. Hi Ryan, hope you are doing well. Please tell me if you know or have any idea why my pool only fills up to about 2 inch below the tile level. It should be about 2 inches above the tile or 4 inches total on my pool. I do not see any cracks. This causes the water to be below my skimmer intake so my pump occasional sucks air. I am thinking it is the drain, but it stabilizes for a long time at the level I mentioned so not sure. Thank you, John

    • Well that’s an easy one! Wherever the water stabilizes is where you’ll find the leak. And the most common pool leak is at the skimmer, or specifically the interface of the plastic skimmer to the concrete pool. If you hang your head over the edge with the pump off, you should see cracks around the bottom or sides, where the plaster meets the plastic. You may also see debris stuck in the there. This can be cleaned up, and patched with plaster mix, pool putty or silicone. If you aren’t sure if it’s leaking there, you can dye test it (pump off) with food coloring. The leak could also be in the tile line, at the same level, if you have any noticeable cracks in the tile, the crack may also extend behind the tile and thru the pool wall (hopefully not the case!).

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