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.
Above are the two most popular options for heating a spa. On the left you have a gas heater, either natural gas, or propane, and on the right is an electric heater. For heating a spa, which is typically 1000 gallons or less, you will often see 150,000 BTU - 250,000 BTU gas heaters and 5K - 11k electric heaters. Since there is often such a small difference in price between the smaller and larger sizes, I like to recommend the larger of the two, because they bring the water temperature up in less time. The electric heaters may end up costing you less over time to heat a spa. The price of gas can be expensive compared to the cost of electricity and depending on how often the spa is used and what time of year it is used, the cost of heating the water can differ greatly. An 11k electric heater is roughly 37,000 BTU's, which means it will take a lot longer to heat your spa than a 250,000 BTU gas heater. Though an electric heater can be cheaper to buy and cheaper to run [I have even heard some say it provides a more uniform heat] it simply cannot heat up the water as fast as the gas heaters, which is why I don't personally recommend them.
You should know that if you have a propane system, your propane tanks are never filled all the way. Propane tanks are filled to 80% capacity. This is called the 80% rule. Leaving some air in the tank is a preventative safety measure against the fluctuations that happen inside a tank. Propane, like water, will expand when it heats up. However, propane, increases in volume nearly 17 times greater than water with the same increase in temperature. Here in Phoenix, the outside temperature can be as low as 32 degrees at night in January and as high as 103 degrees during the day in July. Considering the temperature differences through out the year and from day to night, space in the tank is necessary. If you have a 25 gallon tank, that does not mean you have 25 gallons of fuel to burn.
The temperature matters
Typically, it takes 75 minutes to raise the temperature of 1000 gallons of water 30 degrees with a 250,000 BTU gas heater. The amount of gas you use will depend on the temperature of the water to start with and how warm you want to make it. The colder the water is, the more time and fuel it will take to raise the temperature to 100+ degrees. Lets say for example you have a 1000 gallon spa and a 250,000 BTU gas heater. During the month of January, the water temperature is often 65 degrees here in the valley. When I use a spa, I like to heat the water to 103 degrees. This is an increase in temperature of 38 degrees, which will take about an hour and a half. Now on the other hand, if it were July and the starting water temperature is 80 degrees, it would only take about 45 minutes to go up 23 degrees, requiring a lot less fuel.
An 11K electric heater will raise the temperature approximately 5 degrees an hour in a 1000 gallon spa. Under the same conditions mentioned above, it will take about 8 hours to bring the 65 degree water to 103 degrees and 4.5 hours to raise the temperature from 80 degrees to 103 degrees.
Fuel and energy consumption
With a 250,000 BTU gas heater, you can expect to use approximately 3 gallons of propane per hour and approximately 3 therms of natural gas per hour. The electric heaters use the kilowatts listed per hour. I have been using the Raypak 11K heater in my examples, so that is 11 kilowatts per hour of energy used.
I cannot stress this enough...if you have a heater, you must pay attention to the water chemistry weekly through out the year. You want to make sure you are keeping your pH between 7.2 and 7.6. Scaling will form on the heat exchangers when the pH is allowed to get high, over 7.6. When the pH is left to drop below 7.2, the water is more acidic, which can also damage heat exchangers as a result of corrosion. Corrosion can also happen through oxidization, so you want to avoid putting chlorine tabs in the skimmer when you own a heater. Damaged heat exchangers due to poorly maintained water, or neglect, will void the manufactures warranty on new products.
Inside of your skimmer, there is a plastic gate called the weir. The weir is a very small part that makes a very big difference in how clean your pool looks through out the week. Its amazing how often I see the skimmer missing its weir gate and how many people, including pool technicians who clean pools every week, that don't know what it is, or what it does.
The weir gate is simply a way to keep the debris that is sucked into the skimmer, from getting back out into the pool. While the pump is on, the weir gate will be pulled back as water comes into the skimmer and just like the name describes, the water skims over the top of the weir. Styrofoam makes the weir gate buoyant, so when the pump shuts off and there is no longer water pulling across the top of the weir, it stays upright in the skimmer trapping the leaves inside.
Here is a great example of the weir gate doing its job. This last week it has been breezy. Many trees in Arizona are flowering, or dropping leaves this time of year which can litter the surrounding yards for weeks at a time. What you see in the basket would have been floating on the surface of the water had the weir gate not held it back. Not only did the weir gate keep the pool looking cleaner during a breezy week and shedding trees, but the amount of time netting the pool has been reduced by a lot.
Weir gates can break when they become old and brittle, or from a lot of splashing when kids are swimming. If the weir gate is broken, or missing, it should be replaced. You will have a cleaner pool and reduce the time required to net each week as long as the weir is functional.
Today, I installed a Hayward, top mount sand filter. This filter replaced an undersized, single cartridge filter that the home owner had to clean each week during the summer to keep his cleaner running and the pool from turning green. This sand filter can be back washed unlike their old cartridge filter, making ongoing maintenance easier for the homeowners. The concrete pad under the old filter and pump, was cracked. I replaced the old single concrete pad, with two smaller pads. I like to do this on many installs, because it allows me to center a pump and filter on their own pad. In this case, the placement of two separate pads provided a place to stand when accessing the time clock. Before, that area was always wet from the drip system feeding plants on the other side of the wall and the customers had to step in mud to check the strainer basket and access the timer.
Pool repair - Installation of new A&A floor head valves both for pool and spa, Hayward TriStar variable pump and a new Hayward cartridge filter in Tempe
Here is a before and after picture. The equipment closest in the image above is the spa equipment. The swimming pool equipment is in the back. The spa used to have an old, single cartridge filter and the floor heads did not work. The spa pump had sprung a leak, the return side valves and the heater bypass valves were the old rotary style handles, which were binding up.
I installed a new, larger Hayward cartridge filter to replace the old single cartridge bullet style filter. The old filter was undersized to the pump. The equipment is over 30' from the spa and including the run through the heater, it is a total of 50' that the water must travel. Because a high head pump is required in this application, I matched the filter based upon its flow rate to the pump. I replaced the old pump with a new Hayward, Super II and put down a new concrete pad for the DE filter to sit on, so the pump and filter were no longer crowded on a single pad. The A & A floor head valves were also replaced for the swimming pool and the spa. New Jandy valves were put in in the return lines, to replace the rotary style valves. Jandy valves can be rebuilt and the O-rings can be replaced if they leak.
This was a big job, but it was worth the effort. Replacing the floor head valves and all the floor heads at the same time, gives this customer a lifetime warranty on the floor heads and the gears in the valves. She simply needs to go to A & A's will call pick up in Phoenix and replace those parts for free as long as she owns the house.
DE filters and cartridge filters must be taken apart and cleaned as part of routine maintenance. DE filters once a year, and cartridge filters once every 6 months, or whenever the filter pressure goes up 10 pounds. Depending on the amount of dirt, debris or the bather load, etc, it may be necessary to clean a cartridge filter 3-4 times a year. You can backwash a DE filter, but residual build up of dirt, DE and debris, gets compacted between the grids and that can easily damage the grids. Opening the filter and cleaning and inspecting the grids must happen in addition to back washing throughout the year. Doing this maintenance can save you from unwanted problems and help save you money. Manifolds, air breather screens, cartridges and grids will last longer if they are kept clean and not allowed to get 'caked up' with debris.
Anytime you have a filter apart, you should be inspecting the filter components for damage. Shown below, are some worst case scenarios. More than likely, if there are cracks, or tears to the degree shown in the images below, you may already have a green pool, or a dirty pool. Dirt and water would be bypassing the filter and blowing back into the pool. The idea of routine cleanings and inspections, is to discover potential problems early. What you will be looking for is hairline cracks in the manifold, or the cartridge filters rubber, or tiny tears in the DE filter grid material. If you see any kind of wear, or damage in the early stages, this is the time to replace the damaged parts before it becomes a bigger problem.
If you are one of many who own an older pool built without a floor head system, or a dedicated vacuum line, you probably know how frustrating it can be having a dirty pool. With out a cleaner, or floor heads, there is nothing to suck up dirt, or move dirt toward the drain. For most people, this means removing the dirt with a vacuum and cleaner hose. Not only is this cumbersome and time consuming, the pool will look dirty between each spot vacuuming.
Adding a cleaner by plugging the hose directly into the skimmer will work, but this eliminates the function of the skimmer and forces all the water through the cleaner. This restricts water flow by forcing everything through the cleaners intake, which is usually a 3/4" hole. If the water pressure is too high at the cleaner, it will wear out the parts faster, causing the cleaner to fail prematurely, raising the cost of its maintenance. Manufactures that make cleaners, offer a solution to stop this from happening. One example is the Zodiac Flow keeper valve pictured above. It has a spring loaded flap that increases water flow to the system, by letting water pass, but takes some pressure off the cleaner. This is an improvement, but there is still a matter of not having a skimmer.
The Vac Mate is a device that is designed to sit in the skimmer. Its a great solution for an old pool with out a cleaner port, because it provides a basket and a cleaner hose port and skimmer functionality. The Vac Mate has a valve, allowing you to easily adjust the amount of suction between the cleaner and the skimmer. The Vac Mate does require some ongoing maintenance, as the gaskets get stretched out, or torn periodically. Because it does not perfectly fit every skimmer type out there, it may not always seat properly and the suction will stretch out gaskets, or tear them. The suction over time can also crack the plastic, causing a loss of suction to the cleaner. With all of its faults, the cost of replacing gaskets occasionally through out the year, or possibly replacing the unit itself from time to time if necessary, the benefits of having a working cleaner and skimmer, outweigh the cost.
For some reason, each year around the time we start to see triple digit temperatures, I see algae starting to grow. Even though the water chemistry is perfect and chlorinated, there it is. I am usually able to kill it off with a phosphate treatment and an ammonium chloride algaecide. But often it recurs.
Poolvergnuegen [pool-fair-gnyoo-gen] is by far the best suction cleaner in its price range. Made in the USA, it has out performed all other cleaners I have used in recent years. Poolvergnuegen is available in both a 2-wheel version for small, odd shaped pools and a 4-wheel version, for larger pools and diving pools.
Both the 2-wheel cleaner and the 4-wheel cleaner have internal programmed steering systems, that cause the left wheel to periodically reverse, allowing the cleaner to spin itself away from obstacles and to move in another direction.
For the 2-wheel cleaner, there are five different programmed turns ranging from 90 to 450 degrees. This makes the small cleaner ideal for small pools, especially with an odd shape. The 4-wheel cleaner has three different programmed turns, ranging from 90 to 540 degrees. The 4-wheel cleaner has an extra set of drive wheels, which is desirable in diving pools. The extra set of wheels helps the cleaner power up the steep slope from the deep end of the pool. The 4-wheel cleaner also travels in a straight line longer than the two wheel cleaner making it more suitable for larger pools with more surface area to cover.
Dont let this happen to you! Check your pool equipment each week and look for any wetness under, or around the pump. Catching things like this early and staying on top of small repairs will save you time and money in the long run, allowing you and your family more time in the pool enjoying your investment.
Arizona has very hard water and calcium build up is unfortunately a common site around the valley. It is very important to keep the pH between 7.2 and 7.8 consistently. Copper elements in pool heaters can become crusted with scale buildup when the water is too hard, restricting water flow and ruining the heater. Hard water scale build up will increase on tile with a high pH and build up on salt cells, restricting water flow and reducing the life if the cell. Chlorine is more effective as a sanitizer if the pH is kept balanced. In hind site to having a high pH, if the pH is too low, the water is acidic. When the water is acidic, it will leach calcium from the plaster and the grout between tiles, eventually ruining the pool surface and loosening tile. Acidic water can damage copper heating elements in heaters too.
Bottom line? It's important to keep checking on your pools equipment and the water chemistry consistently through out the year. Reduce unwanted problems and damage to the pool and pool equipment, by dedicating 15-30 minutes each week. It is never a good idea to neglect your investment over the winter months simply because its too cold to swim.
What is Pool School?
Why do you sometimes come at a different time, or the next day?
What is CPO? [Certified Pool Operator]
Why don't you include all chemicals with your fee?
Why is there not a flat rate for weekly pool service?
Do you offer temporary cleaning services?
Who is Virginia Graeme Baker? The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (P&SS Act) takes its name from Virginia Graeme Baker. A twin and the youngest of five, 7-year-old Virginia, was the daughter of Nancy and James Baker IV, the son of former Secretary of State James Baker III. In June 2002, Graeme became stuck to a hot tub drain and was unable to pull herself free. Efforts by her mother to pull Virginia from the drain proved unsuccessful. Two men who eventually freed Virginia Graeme from the spa, pulled so hard, that the drain cover broke from the force. Virginia died from drowning, but the real cause of her death was entrapment from the suction, due to a faulty drain cover.
After her tragic death, her mother, Nancy Baker, worked tirelessly to advocate for pool and spa safety. Virginia's family and Safe Kids Worldwide actively lobbied Congress to support a law, to require anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices for pools and spas. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida sponsored the statute, which was signed into law by the President in December 2007.
State Requirements for replacing drain covers in swimming pools and spas
A pool contractor should verify that the pool and / or spa is in compliance with the federally mandated Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, which took effect December 19, 2008. If the pool is not in compliance, the necessary steps should be taken to comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act.
The definition of un-blockable drain in the Pool and Spa Safety Act is:
“A drain sump of any size, or shape, that a human body cannot sufficiently block to create a suction entrapment issue.”
I use the Paramount, SDX High Flow Safety Drain Cover. This universal cover can be used on any style drain and comes in two colors - grey and white.
NEW! Swimming pool pumps added to the Appliances and Equipment energy standard of Arizona.
What is Title 44?
Arizona Legislature recently passed Title 44 and included it into the Appliance and Equipment Energy-Efficiency Standards of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Within Title 44, there are new efficiency standards for residential pool pumps, pool pump motors and portable electric spas, which went into effect on January 1, 2012. The law applies to pump/motors that circulate and filter water for the swimming pool. Stand alone water feature pumps and stand alone pumps running floor head cleaning systems are exempt.
What does this mean for pool owners? While it does not affect any pump currently installed on an in-ground residential pool, any newly installed pump that is 1 horsepower or greater must have at least a two speed motor, or a variable speed motor. In the case of a motor replacement by itself, if the existing pump is still in good shape, there are options for two speed motors available, which will save you money by not having to replace the whole pump. If the motor has its own digital controller, which the one I install does, you would not need to purchase a new time clock that can control a second speed. The majority of multi-speed motors are made the conventional way, and only offer a high and low speed.
Many companies now offer a pump with a two speed motor, which requires a new digital time clock to be installed, that can control two speeds. However, the savings really come when you upgrade to a variable speed motor [available with variable speed pumps]. The variable speed motors are brushless motors, that use magnetism to spin the shaft and can be set to run at speeds between 600 RPM and 3450 RPM. Variable speed settings give you the flexibility to choose a high and low speed that is appropriate specifically for your size pool, and the type of cleaning system that you have, maximizing energy savings.
Two speed motors and pumps are the minimum standard to be in compliance with the Title 44 law, but for the greatest efficiency and a longer warranty [3 years on a variable speed pump], it is highly recommend that you upgrade to a variable-speed pump. Variable speed pumps are much quieter and give pool owners greater flexibility, all while using up to 80% less energy than a conventional single-speed pump when properly calibrated. The payback time is usually less than two years for the difference you pay up front, between the variable speed pumps and the two speed pumps with a new two speed time clock installed.
How can I save money and energy by upgrading my pool pump? Variable-speed pool pumps have the ability to operate at a variety of speeds. I will determine the volume of water in your pool and the amount of water that must be filtered each day. The pump can be set to run at very low speeds, appropriate for your pool specifically, which in turn will conserve energy. Higher speeds can be used for shorter periods of time to run floor heads and bottom cleaners. By filtering the water slowly, over a longer period of time per day, you can save well over 30% on your current monthly pool electricity cost.
Hayward's easy to use Energy Solutions Calculator can help you determine your estimated savings.
Why does slowing down the water save on pumping costs? When using the low-speed mode of a variable-speed pump, the water moves slower and thereby reduces the friction in the system. Reduced friction decreases the back pressure and as a result, the pumps motor does not work as hard, which means less energy is used. With less friction and back pressure, it takes only a small amount of energy to keep the water moving through the pipes after the pump has been started.
What is the benefit of brush-less motor technology on the new variable speed pumps and multi-speed motors? Brushless motors are more efficient and require less power to run them. Magnetic motors run much quieter, as there is little to no electrical noise. The new magnetic motors have no brushes to wear out over time, or create excessive heat from friction. As a result, variable speed pumps last longer and run much cooler.