As spring turns to summer and the weather warms up, the swimming season is quickly approaching. That means it’s time to get your pool and water ready for a summer full of splashing, diving, raft floating… and maybe a cannonball or two.
Whether you’re new to pool ownership or want to replace your existing “pool guy” to save some cash, swimming pool maintenance can definitely be a DIY task for the average homeowner.
To point you in the right direction, here’s what you need to know about opening your pool for the season.
When Should I Open My Swimming Pool
Most pool owners decide to open their swimming pool during the first few weeks of May – before the unofficial start of pool season on Memorial Day Weekend. In general, you should wait to open your pool until the daytime temperatures consistently stay above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but don’t put it off too long. If you wait until temperatures get warmer, you may open your cover to find a pool full of green water caused by algae growth.
Steps for Opening Your Swimming Pool
Clean up. Before you begin the process of opening your pool, start by cleaning up any leaves or debris that have accumulated during the off-season. Spray down the deck area around your pool to wash away the dirt. Now is a good opportunity to clean up any outdoor furniture, too. Then, it’s time to address the pool cover.
Your pool cover is designed to protect your swimming pool from the elements and dirt, water and debris. After performing this task for months on end, your cover has likely created its own mini pool of standing water. To remove this water, use a pool cover pump. This small, submersible electric pump allows you to quickly and easily remove the water off the surface of the pool cover.
As you finish your spring cleaning, take note of any damage to your deck, ladder, fence or pool cover that may have occurred during the fall and winter months. Then, make your repairs before the first swim day.
Remove the cover. Now, it’s time to remove your pool’s winter cover. Every cover design is different, but most will be secured to the pool deck using a series of straps. Start by removing all the straps. Then, enlist the help of a partner to help you remove the cover. With one person on each side of the pool, grab a corner and slowly begin to pull back the cover. Once the cover is removed from the surface of the pool, give it a good cleaning.
While you can buy a dedicated pool cover cleaner, car wash soap will work just fine. Using the soap and a soft broom, scrub away all the dirt and grime from the surface of the cover. After the cover is clean, rinse it thoroughly and allow it to air dry. Once the cover is dry, fold it up and place it in a covered box or bin. Ideally, your winter cover should be stored indoors – away from the elements and pests like insects and rodents.
If your cover begins to crack or tear during the removal process, you can skip the cleaning. Just throw it away and buy a replacement for the next season.
Reconnect the filter system. With the cover removed, you can begin to remove all the winterizing plugs from your pool’s filtration system. This includes the lines to your pump, wall returns and surface skimmers. Reconnect all the lines and hoses. Check your filter and clean or replace it, if necessary. If any other parts appear to be worn, broken or leaking, replace them before moving any further in the pool opening process.
Add more water. It’s not uncommon for a swimming pool to lose a few inches of water during the off-season, so make sure it’s full before you start adding chemicals. This will help you avoid the need to balance your water chemistry twice.
If you’re filling your pool with a garden hose, use a hose filter to prevent water contamination. As you add water, it’s also a great time to visually inspect the swimming pool liner for any signs of damage.
Turn on the filter. Next, power up your pool filter to check for any leaks around the tubes, hoses and other connections. Pay particular attention to areas like plugs, gauges and your pump’s sight glass. Experts recommend letting your pool’s filter system run for at least 24 hours before you begin testing the water and adding chemicals. This allows the water to fully circulate for a more accurate reading.
Clean the pool water. Once your filter pump is up and running, use a manual pool vacuum to remove dirt, sediment and debris from the pool floor. If you have large debris in your pool, such as leaves, consider using a skimmer plate attachment. This will allow you to use the pool’s skimmer basket to collect the debris – which can help you avoid clogging your plumbing or filtration system. A skimmer net can be used to remove floating debris from the surface of the water.
Test your pool water. With your pool water free from dirt and debris, it’s time to fine-tune your water chemistry. First, take a water sample using a clean cup or bottle. To get an accurate reading, you want to avoid testing surface water. This can be accomplished by holding the sample container upside down, inserting it about a foot below the water surface, then flipping it over to fill the container with water.
You can test the water at home using paper test strips or a liquid test kit. Just follow the instructions and make sure the kit is not expired (they’re typically good for about three years). For more precise results, you can also take your water sample to a local pool store for a professional analysis.
Add chemicals. Based on the results of your water test, add chemicals to bring the water chemistry levels into the desired range. The pros at poolresearch.com recommend adding chemicals in the following order:
Alkalinity: Since alkalinity influences the pH balance of your pool, you’ll want to adjust these levels first. You can raise the alkalinity level by adding baking soda or lower it using muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate. The goal is to achieve an alkalinity level between 80-120 ppm (parts per million).
pH: Your water’s pH level refers to the degree of acid or base in the water. It’s measured on a scale from 0 to 14, with an ideal range of 7.2-7.6 ppm. The pH of pool water can be raised with soda ash and lowered with muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate.
Calcium: Calcium levels should be around 200-275 ppm for concrete or plaster pools and 175-225 ppm for fiberglass or vinyl pools. You can raise calcium levels with calcium chloride and lower them with a pool flocculant.
Chlorine: Chlorine is used to sanitize your pool water. The recommended amount of chlorine in pool water is about 3 ppm. You can raise the level by adding chlorine and lowering it using a chlorine neutralizer.
Shock your pool. After balancing the water chemistry, add “pool shock” to kill any bacteria or algae that may have started growing over the winter months. The goal of shocking your pool is to raise the free chlorine level to about 10 times the combined chlorine level. So follow the instructions on your pool shock to ensure you’re adding the right amount of chemicals. Leave the filter running and by the next day, your pool should be ready for the first swim of the season. If you’ve had problems with algae in the past, you may also want to consider using an algaecide as part of your ongoing pool maintenance.
Enjoy Your Pool Safely
Owning your own swimming pool can be a winning formula for family fun all summer long. But pool ownership also comes with a responsibility to put safety first – especially when young children are around.
To protect your friends and family from risks such as slips, falls and drowning, familiarize yourself with these pool safety tips. You may also want to consider adding some extra insurance protection – in the form of a personal umbrella insurance policy.
An umbrella policy from Erie Insurance offers you $1 million (and up to $10 million) in coverage for covered claims brought against you or your family – like if an injury or tragic accident were to happen in your swimming pool. This extra coverage costs less than you might think. For most people, an extra $1 million in coverage costs less than $250 annually. To learn more about umbrella insurance from ERIE, or to get a no-obligation quote, contact us today.
Get the Protection You Need
We know there can be a lot to consider when it comes to insurance. That’s why with ERIE, you get your own personal insurance agent to help.
1Umbrella Liability Insurance is not available in New York, where ERIE continues to offer Personal Catastrophe Liability Insurance. The policy contains the specific details of the terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions that apply. Talk to your Agent for details.
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The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of July 2022 and may be changed at any time.
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