The pump on this old Tempe pool had finally failed. I had to replace the pump with a two speed, or variable speed pump that has a digital controller. The way the equipment was originally installed, there was no clearance for a new, larger pump with a digital controller. The filter was also very old so the decision was made to replace the equipment. I decided to move the intake over 4', so I could position the new pump and the filter in a way that was easier to access for both function, and maintenance.
My longtime customers are retiring and selling their house. After the home inspection was done, they had to fix some issues with the pool plumbing. The broken ball valve that controlled the in deck chlorinator and the seized ball valve that controlled the water feature needed to be replaced. I decided to replace the ball valves with Jandy Never-lube two port valves. These new valves will move effortlessly (unlike large ball valves). O rings can be replaced and the valve parts can be replaced, so the 2 port valves will perform like new for many years. I raised the whole return bank up higher, to save the in-floor cleaning system’s check valve, and to stagger the two port valves, so there were no clearance issues.
The previous plumber installed two, 2 port valves together at the same height, and as a result, the handles had to be cut short so the valve handles had free range of motion. The irony is, one of those two valves wasn’t even necessary, because the water feature already had a valve to control the flow of water.
I was recently called out to Ahwatukee to replace an equipment pad. The pad was cracked, and lower than the stone patio. This caused water to collect below the electric motor during storms.
I dug down about 18” and cut out all of the repair couplers of the past 20 years. I re-routed the return line and put in a new variable speed pump. Relocating the return line allowed me to change configuration of the return side plumbing, to make the salt cell easier for the home owner to access when cleaning is required. A tall pre-form pad raised the equipment 3” to keep it away from rain water, and I filled the area in front of the pad with all purpose sand, covered with pea gravel, to help water drain around the pad.
I was called out to Ahwatukee, because this customers pump was losing prime due to a suction leak. I pulled out the equipment, put down a new equipment pad to replace the cracked pad that was there. I filled in the holes and leveled the ground in the equipment area. I raised the pad 3" to keep water from pooling up around the motor when it rained, or the filter is drained for cleaning.
All the PVC pipe and valves were replaced, and the pipe painted to protect against UV damage.
Used Hayward taupe paint on this install and love the way it looks!
Filter repair - Mesa - replaced cartridge filter (replumbed return side and ran new flex line to Polaris cleaner booster pump)
The backwash valve assembly had cracked on this customers DE filter and I suggested replacing the DE filter with a cartridge. DE filters must be recharged with DE powder after each backwash and the DE powder residue left behind in the back yard is carcinogenic. Not only is it unsightly, it is not good to breath in either. I service pools in Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe and Chandler and they all have landscaped yards; there really is no good place to send waste water. With a cartridge filter, you simply take the cartridges to an appropriate place in the yard to clean them. Cartridge filters dont have a side mounted backwash valve, so the install was much cleaner. Cartridge filters have the flow rates that are able to handle the water movement from the new and powerful variable speed pumps. The cartridges can easily be removed and taken to an appropriate place in the yard for cleaning, unlike the DE filter that was leaving dirt and DE powder all over his stone patio on the side of the house when ever he needed to backwash the filter.
With the additional space I gained from not having a backwash valve, I was able to rotate the filter 90 degrees. This made the drain plug more accessible for the customer when it is time to maintenance the filter, and changed how I could run the plumbing to the pool returns. This customer has a Polaris 380 pressure side cleaner, which is powered by a booster pump. The booster runs off the water flow going back to the pool and delivers a constant and correct flow of water to the cleaner. Polaris has a new flex line quick connect kit that I installed to get rid of the PVC and unions for a cleaner look.
Pump repair - Chandler - replaced pump and sand filter (replumbed return side and moved aerator next to pool return line)
Recently, one of my customers pump motors shorted out and was tripping the breaker. I ran into a problem putting in the new pump, with the way the original equipment was plumbed in. The original installers placed both the filter and the pump on one pad, one in front of the other, leaving only a couple of inches clearance for the pool return pipe over the motor.
Since title 44 had passed, requiring all new motors/pumps to be two speed, or variable speed with digital controllers, there was no way to put the new pump on the pad. The new pumps digital controller would not fit with the way the return pipe was plumbed. Also, the aerator line was on one side of the pump and the return side on another. This is highly irregular. Usually, all the return lines are on a bank together.
To correct the clearance issues and the need to plumb the return lines to different locations, I used two small pads, one for each piece of equipment and re-routed the aerator line close to the pool return so they were together like they should be. I never cut corners and I take my time to make sure my lines are straight and I am doing the best job I can. I don't have an "in and out" mentality.
My customers equipment was getting very old and decided to replace everything with new. The old equipment was on a slope and the home owner did a fantastic job putting in treated wood as a base. I got rid of the old wagon wheel style valves, went with Jandy valves (which can be rebuilt) and replaced all of the pipe above ground.
TDS stands for Total Dissolved Solids. This is the measurement of everything that has ever dissolved in your pool water. Chemicals, algaecides, sweat, hairspray, deodorant, body oils, dead skin, hair, dirt, leaves etc. A swimming pool is a closed system and as the level of TDS rises over time, it can cause problems, reducing chlorine efficacy, giving water a dull appearance and increasing the odds that algae will bloom more easily. Also contained in high levels of TDS are often high levels of phosphates and/or nitrates, which can increase the chlorine demand and provide nutrients to algae.
The TDS level should be under 2000 ppm. When it gets higher than this it can cause skin and eye irritation and metal corrosion of your pool equipment like ladders or hand rails. Cloudy water and scaly deposits also occur more easily when the TDS levels are high. Just like TDS, Calcium hardness is another measurement I like to test once a year, to make sure it does not exceed 1000 ppm. In other states, calcium hardness is considered high at 400 ppm, but in Arizona, water is very hard out of the tap and can be over 300 on a newly filled pool. I personally let it go to 1000 here before I contact a customer about it. Like TDS, high calcium hardness can cause issues with your pool. Cloudy water, calcification of filter cartridges (calcium build up) reducing water flow, and scale build up on tile or metal parts like ladders or hand rails.
When one, or both of these measure high, it is time to change the pool water. It is ideal to swap out the pool water every 3-5 years, but I do test for TDS and calcium hardness every fall.
Vacuum breakers like this one are what feeds the pools auto fill of the pool. It is a one way valve, that is designed to prevent water from being siphoned back into the public drinking water system. Without it, in the event the city's water pressure drops, the drinking water could become contaminated. The blue valve handle that controls water flow is open, allowing water to pass to the pool deck, when inline with the pipe. It cuts the water off to the pool deck when it's turned 90 degrees and not in line with the pipe. I usually see 3/4" PVC pipe coming off of a vacuum breaker, but in the image above, it is a copper pipe.
The water from the vacuum breaker valve goes to the pool deck, to a float valve like in the picture above. As the water level in the pool drops, so does the valve. This opens the valve, allowing water to pass and thats what fills the pool. This is necessary to stave off evaporation.
Inside the vacuum breaker, there is moving parts. There's a spring, and the other parts are made of plastic and rubber. When the water in the valve body freezes, it damages those parts and the valve will leak. Rebuild kits are available at sprinkler supply stores, but often, the plastic cap cracks, and you will have to buy the whole valve complete to get the cap. In that case you use the guts of the new valve, to rebuild your existing valve.
Covering your vacuum breaker with towels can insulate it and help it from freezing. Rebuilding a valve can save you about $50-$70 for new parts, possibly as much as $140 to $160 if you pay someone to fix it for you. Its worth it if you know there's going to be freezing temperatures.
The best way to prepare the vacuum break for a hard freeze, or if you live in a state that has a hard winter, is to cover all of the exposed pipe with Polyethylene pipe insulation. Shut off the water to the vacuum breaker. Next, loosen the screws on both test ports on the side of the breaker. Allow the water in the vacuum breaker to drain out. This will keep it from freezing, expanding and ruining the internal parts.
The Poolvergnuegen [pronounced POOL-VERG-NEW-JEN] Pool Cleaners tend to run longer, with out needing internal parts than other cleaners I have worked with. Hayward has recently purchased Poolvergnuegen and sells the product as the Aquanaut and the Phoenix. Both cleaners are identical, except for the cosmetics, and are both available in 2 and 4 wheel models. The Aquanaut is sold through retail channels while the Poolvergnuegen is sold through service channels. Hayward has made some engineering advancements to the cleaner since acquiring the company, adding bearings to the wheels, a fixed shaft to stop the wheels from egging out from wear and increasing the warranty to two years, rather than the original one year. The The new cleaners with a two year warranty, will be labeled on the cleaner as 'New Generation' with plastic clips covering the wheel bearings/holding the wheel on. [Tires and skirts are not covered under the two year warranty]
As good as these cleaners are, parts do wear out. Cleaners run under pressure, 6-10 hours a day, each and every day. They are work horses and parts will wear out over time. After 1 year on the older Poolvergnuegen cleaners, and two years on the new generation cleaners, expect to start needing to replace some of the parts. Parts are available if needed separately, however, Hayward now offers a lower propulsion kit in both the 2 wheel and 4 wheel versions for a fraction of the price of a new cleaner, or replacing the parts purchased separately. The lower propulsion kits come complete with everything except the skirts, tires, turbine cover and top body cover. In the picture above, you see a lower propulsion kit for a 4 wheel cleaner. I like these cleaners.
Tires are the most common part to be replaced on these cleaners with in the first two years. Tires must be replaced once they reach the wear markers. The wear markers are raised bumps as shown above in the screen shot from the owners manual. The tires can wear faster in pools with a rougher surface like 3M Quartz and Pebble Tech, but will wear down to the markers with-in a year. Allowing the tires to wear down past the markers too far, will put extra stress on the internal parts and causes bearings, drive shafts and gears/teeth to wear out prematurely. I check the tires every 6 months. Excessive wear of internal parts with in the warranty period as a result of negligence [not replacing the tires] will void the warranty.
This pool has an in-ground cleaning system with floor heads. I replaced a 48 square foot DE filter, because the tank cracked and it was leaking water under pressure. I believe this happened because the filter was undersized. A pool with a suction side cleaner runs a lower pressure, about 10-13 pounds usually. A pool with an in-ground cleaning system will run between 20-25 pounds of pressure. Its important to match the pool equipment to the system, not based on price. Depending on the size of the pool, the distance the equipment is away from the pool, whether it has a spa, a heater, the type of cleaning system it has, the diameter of the pipe, if there are water features etc, all determine what size pump is used, how much water the pump is supposed to move and what size filter is required to handle the flow rate.
This 60 square foot filter was installed to lower the pressure at the filter. The old, 48 square foot DE filter was running a high pressure, 30-35 pounds per square inch. The 60 square foot DE filter is running at 20-25 pounds per square inch. 10 pounds per square inch is a lot. This filter will last longer with proper maintenance than the last, because the lower pressure puts less stress on the collection manifold and grids...not to mention the tank.
The old pump failed, so it was a good time to update to something more energy efficient. Intakes on the variable speed pumps are lower than the old pumps, a design change that increases performance. Since the intake valve is located very close to the ground in this system, it became an issue with the new pump having an intake that was 2" lower than the last pump. This would have put the valve partially underground if I glued it on after cutting out the old valve.
I raised the pad with paving stones 4.5". This was just enough to make up for the 3" I cut off when the old valve was removed and keep the valve above ground level. The old pump was plumbed in with out any straight pipe. There was no place to make a cut, making this install much more difficult. I like to add straight pipe in the event anything may need to be replaced in the future. With many places to cut, it is easy to add a union, or a coupler to make a repair if necessary. Unions on the pump, filter, return line and discharge pipe, also make it easy to remove sections of pipe. This allows easy access to the filter and pump when service is required.
I've run into a handful of pools recently with a small amount of mustard algae growing on the wall, or steps. Its called mustard algae, because of its greenish/yellow color. Unfortunately it's common to see algae growing in pools this time of year. With warmer temperatures and the fresh feeling of spring, it starts to get windy, or even breezy for days at a time. Flower pollen covers the surface of the water and the dying leaves are falling from the trees as summer approaches. All of these factors all contribute to algae growth. In pebble tech pools, black algae will start to grow on the wall, along the water line, where the pollen is clinging to the pebble tech. Or mustard algae on the wall where dirt had recently been blown into the pool.
Im often surprised to see that algae can survive in the winter, in chlorinated water with a good pH and alkalinity reading, even in temperatures below 55 degrees fahrenheit. Sometimes it's just necessary to add a phosphate remover, to kill off the algae's food source, then I add an algaecide to make the water even less hospitable to the organism. I like an ammonia based algaecide, because copper based products often stain plaster and cleaner hoses purple, requiring an acid wash by a good pool guy to remove the stains. If the algae growth keeps reoccurring, I have been using a mineral rod called Pool Rx. That goes in the pump basket and charges the water with minerals. Water flow thru the basket recharges the water for up to 6 months. I had good luck with that last year when algae kept coming back.
This past week has been breezy and that reminds me that the monsoons are right around the corner. This is a perfect time to trim the bushes back and clean up all the dead leaves, fallen bark and fruit. Debris around the yard easily makes its way into your pool when its windy. Keeping your yard clean will reduce the stress on your cleaning system, help to maintain your water quality and keep the pool looking good all week long.
Today, I installed a new Hayward, Tri-Star variable speed pump because this old Pentair Dura-glass had sprung a leak. This pumps intake lines were pushed out, away from the pump, to make room for it. I'm assuming the original pump was a small, brass impeller pump and when the Dura-glass pump was installed, it didn't quite fit the way the old one did.
What I didn't like about the way its plumbed, is that the pipe was hanging above the ground about 5 inches. A brick was used to prop up the pipe to support it, so it would not flex to far and snap.
To install the new pump properly, I wanted to fix this problem. I dug down about 8" and moved the pipe out under ground, to eliminate the flexing and the need for the brick.
Here is the new pump installed and plumbed properly.
This was a complete installation of a Hayward 250,000 BTU propane heater, a C4030 cartridge filter and a Tri-Star Variable speed pump. I had a challenge routing the intake line to the pump over about 12" to make everything fit. The old pump and filter were literally touching each other and there was no room. Everything now is spaced nicely and with the unions, the pipe can be easily removed to access the filter for cleanings.
Algae growing in the pool when it's green can actually stain the plaster. In this illustration, on the left you can see the staining left behind after the I used chlorine to disinfect the pool. On the right, at this point, acid washed half the pool. You can clearly see the difference between the left and the right side. I use an additive to help pull out metal and other stains from the plaster.
When I do a filter media change for a sand filter, I replace the sand with Zeolite. Zeolite, or commonly known as Zeosand, is a silica sand substitute for pool filters. Zeolite is 100x more porous than silica sand. With so much more surface area, Zeolite filter media traps more dirt and smaller particles of dirt.
The porous nature and large amount of surface area of Zeolite offers additional benefits besides great filtration. More surface area, trapping more dirt in the Zeolite itself, means there is better water flow thru the filter. Zeo traps particles as small as a DE filter without the need to add DE powder, a known carcinogen that is expelled into the yard when a backwash is done and turns to loose white dust once dry. An important and additional benefit is the reduction of chloramines. Chloramines come from the combination of the chlorine disinfectant (chlorine produced by a salt system, or chlorine tabs, or chlorine shock) and the perspiration, body oils and urine from swimmers. Chloramines then off gas into the air just above the water. Zeo traps ammonia molecules that reduces the chloramine gas.
The Zeolite's high dirt loading ability also means fewer backwashes, saving you money on water costs throughout the year. Zeolite is a great product and one I highly recommend for your next sand change.
The text and images in this blog post are credited to onBalance and www.poolhelp.com. Many people over the years have asked me where calcium nodules come from? High water hardness and high pH will cause a uniform layer of calcium scale throughout a pool surface, not isolated and individual spots (bumps) on the floor of the pool, or a vein on the wall. Pool owners or pool professionals servicing the pool are are not the cause. Balanced water will not prevent nodules from forming, but actually facilitates the visible growth that exposes the underlying problem.
What are calcium nodules?
In swimming pools and spas, they are small mounds, bumps, deposits, or “slag” piles of calcium carbonate which are formed from material that has been released from the plaster. The small calcium nodules are rough to the touch, hard, are generally gritty and can cut your feet if you walk on them. Nodules may form singularly (far apart or sporadically), or many and close together along a crack in the plaster surface.
The most common type of nodule is the “delamination” nodule. These nodules grow because of a void (usually a bond separation) between plaster and its substrate. Here is the sequence:
Some pools were never built with an auto leveller, to keep the water level full as the water evaporates. I can make levellers out of 3/4" PVC pipe that hang over the edge of the deck to keep the water level up. This is important. If the water level drops too low as a result of evaporation, the skimmer will draw in air, the pump will loose prime and can overheat.
When pumps run hot, the strainer basket can warp from the heat. Steam is generated in the pump when it runs dry and gets hot. If not realized soon enough, it can cause other problems like a warped shaft, a leak at the shaft seal, the electric motor can overheat and fail, the seal plate can warp, the steam can break down the joint stick that seals the threads on the pumps intake and return nipple, and the steam can debond the PVC glue on fittings near the pump causing leaks. Keeping the water level up is important and will save you money on costly repairs. With a set up like this, the hose used to connect the auto leveller to the spigot should be inspected often and replaced every year. When the hose is under pressure for long periods of time, it can fail at its joints and they do dry out from being in the sun. Hoses are not expensive in a 5/8" diameter and are often on sale.
I like to use a single hose faucet timer on a set up like this. This is simply a safety feature. The timer is a valve that takes pressure off the hose. It can be set to run up to 2 hours continuously, every 12 hours, supplying water to the float valve to top off the pool water each day. In case of an accident, the water cannot run any longer than 4 hours each day, minimizing flooding if the hose were to burst, or the hose connector fails. This is very helpful when my customers live out of state most of the year and I am the only one at the property once a week for months at a time, or if they will be out of town for a vacation and are simply not there to monitor the water top off during the week.