How To Prepare Your Pool For An Australian Winter
Winter is coming which means it's time to winterise your pool. Although the White Walkers have been defeated (couldn’t help the Game of Thrones reference), the battle against pool algae, pH and stains continues. Unfortunately "Winter" isn't Latin for "Pull on the pool cover, put up the pool closed sign and forget about your pool maintenance until Spring". Winterising your pool doesn't take long, will extend your equipment life and might save you a lot of money. You also won't be swimming down the bottom of your pool to remove a stain in the middle of August......Brrrrrr......
Neglecting your pool maintenance and/or continuously leaving your pool blanket on during colder months could result in:
- Unbalanced pH levels - which can deteriorate your pool equipment and cause the loss of manufacture warranties
- Leaves, metals and organic matter breaking down on your pool floor – which can stain your pool surface
- Chlorine gas build up – which can bleach your pool around the waterline and damage your pool blanket
- Bacteria and algae growth – which makes your pool water green and requires strong chemicals to re-balance your pool water
- Hundreds of dollars in cost and plenty of time – to return your pool chemistry back to balanced levels and remove stains
Here are a few tips on how to properly prepare your pool and keep it healthy during the winter.Give Your Pool and Equipment a Deep Clean at The Start of Winter
Like your regular pool maintenance routine, remove any dirt, leaves and metal objects (hair pins etc) from the pool floor, skimmer box and lint pot (that’s the little basket in your pool pump). Leaves and organic matter can leach tannins (and other stain creating stuff) which can leave a stain on your pool surface. To learn more about this, click here to read our blog on what causes stains and how to remove them
Give the floor and walls of the pool a good scrub with your broom. Then fire up your manual vacuum (or let your suction cleaner or robot do it for you, while you drag out the warm clothes).
Deep clean your filter – all filter types (sand, glass or cartridge) slowly build up with body fats, skin oils, sunburn cream and grime that your usual cleaning doesn’t remove. Thoroughly backwash your filter or cartridge element. Head to your pool shop, get a bottle of filter cleaner and degreaser and follow the instructions. Aside from a healthier pool needing less chemicals, you will extend the life of your sand or glass media or cartridge filter element.
Lastly, inspect the salt cell on your chlorinator for scale and calcium build up – cleaning this off will improve the efficiency of the cell and extend its life. Check your chlorinator manual for the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning procedure. “Wait a minute. I have a self-cleaning salt cell so nothing for me to do” you say! Self-cleaning salt cells are low maintenance, not no maintenance so you still need inspect them and give it a clean if needed.
Temporarily super chlorinate your pool – this kills any pesky bacteria and algae spores that might be in residence after the swimming season. Ask your local pool shop for a bottle of pool shock (concentrated chlorine) and follow the directions on the label. Alternatively, you can increase the output of your chlorinator to 100% and run the pump for at least 8 hours to ensure the chlorine is fully distributed throughout the pool. Following this, immediately turn your chlorinator output to well below your swimming season setting as you need less chlorine in winter. Make sure to remove your pool cover while super-chlorinating and only replace it once your chlorine levels have returned to the normal range.Test and Balance Your Pool Chemistry
A week after super-chlorinating your pool, take a sample of your pool water down to your local pool shop for testing (most pool shops in Australia will test your water for free). Ask for the test to also check for phosphates (they kill the chlorine in your pool). Or, if you have a water quality monitor like Blue Connect Plus, you be able to see your current water chemistry through the Blue Connect App.
Balance your pH levels – Check your pH levels are in the optimal range (between 7.2 and 7.6) and add pH up or pH down as needed.
Add algaecide and phosphate remover - a good quality long life copper-based algaecide will help prevent algae from growing in your pool water for up to 3 months. Use a good quality phosphate remover if your pool water test shows there are phosphates present.Adjust Your Pool Equipment Settings
Because your pool doesn’t have humans swimming in it and algae and bacteria find it harder to grow in colder weather, your pool will generally require less chlorine to maintain a safe level of sanitisation.
During the winter months you can significantly reduce your chlorinator output and reduce your pump runtime to 4 hours per day. Usually, 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon is enough. If using a pool blanket, you can reduce the output even further. Talk to your pool shop about the right setting for your pool.
If you have a sand or glass filled filter, leave your filter on the "filter" setting as you would during the swimming season. If you see "winterise" as an option, this isn't for us Australians. It is for Europe and North America where the water in pool and the filtration system literally freezes in winter.
Check Your Pool Regularly (Every 2 Weeks)
As mentioned, winterising is not Latin for “pool cover on, walk away and come back in spring!” After preparing your pool for winter, is important to check your pool at least every two weeks.
Follow this fortnightly checklist and you should be golden:
Do a visual inspection of the pool – check for any signs of algae growth and adjust the chlorine setting if needed.
Clean off any debris – scoop up any debris floating on the top of your pool and vacuum up anything on the pool floor to prevent staining. If you’re using a pool blanket, make sure you look under the blanket to check the bottom of your pool.
Check your skimmer box – clean out any debris caught in the skimmer box and check the water level. The water level should be about three quarters the way up the skimmer box, to ensure the pump can maintain proper suction. If the water level is lower than three quarters, throw in the hose and top up the pool. If the water level is near the top of the pool, your skimmer box won't drawn in leaves.
Check all equipment is working – check your pump and chlorinator are still running and that your filter pressure gauge is within the normal range. You still need to backwash or hose of your filter element when your pool is not being used.
Test your water – test your water at least once per month to make sure your water chemistry is spot on. If there is a lot of rain, your water chemistry will be diluted by the extra water going into your pool which will throw out your water balance and sanitisation effectiveness.
Let the pool breathe – some of the chlorine in your pool will be converted into a chlorine gas, which can leave a bleach line around your pool if left trapped under your pool blanket for too long. If you are using a pool blanket, pull back at least a third of the blanket and let your pool breathe for a few hours to release any trapped chlorine gas.
It can seem like a pain to have to maintain your pool in the winter when you use it the least. However, if you follow these tips and put in a little effort in the winter, you won’t be treating algae blooms or having to replace your pump, filter and chlorinator years earlier than you should. As Einstein’s famous formula says A (a little time) x B (a little effort) = C (hundreds of dollars saved). Ok, we made that formula up and borrowed Albert's name.
About The Author
My wife and I grew up playing in swimming pools. Our daughters learnt to swim in our backyard fibreglass swimming pool. There is nothing quite like hearing kids splashing about and giggling. As pools do, our pool became a social magnet for friends, family and neighbours which we loved. Helping customers to have their own pool and saving customers thousands on their pool and equipment is the best job in the world.