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Owner's Corner

SAVE YOURSELF A SERVICE CALL


The single most important piece of hot tub OWNER maintenance is filter cleaning. The filter (s) must be cleaned a minimum of every six weeks with a chemical filter cleaner. This cleaner removes the oils which build up in the hot tub filter. These oils come from skin lotion, deodorant, perfume, cologne, among others. These rinse off in the hot tub water and are captured by the filter (s). Just rinsing the filters with a garden hose will not remove these organic contaminants. When these contaminants build in the filter, they result in lower water flow to the circulation pump and heater. This in turn causes the heater to trip off as it is not receiving the volume of water necessary to function properly. By chemically cleaning your filter (s) regularly, you may save yourself a service call!

 

SALT WATER POOL MAINTAINCE

 

Weekly Salt Water Pool Maintenance

Your weekly salt water pool maintenance routine will depend on a number of variables including pool usage, pool sanitation and environmental factors.  In addition to spot cleaning with a skimmer net or pool vacuum the most common thing you'll need to do is balance the water chemistry.   

1.  Salt Concentration or Salinity  2500 - 4500 ppm

A salt water chlorine generator will operate most efficiently and effectively when the salinity is within the range specified by the manufacturer.  This desired range can vary slightly with different models so it's important to know what your system requires.  If your generator does not have a built in salinity monitor or automatic chemical feeder we recommend testing weekly with a test kit that can include strips, droppers or digital meters. 

In extreme cases you can cause damage to the salt cell and other pool hardware if the salt concentration is outside the recommended range for your unit.  It could also lead to an unsanitary swimming environment if levels are low because there won't be enough chlorine produced which can lead to pool algae.  If your salt levels are low you will need to add the appropriate amount of salt and you should be careful to never add too much because the only way to lower the salinity is to add fresh water.  

2.  pH  7.2 - 7.8 (7.5 Optimal)

A proper pH is important for allowing chlorine to effectively remove germs, bacteria and create a safe swimming environment.  If you are using a salt water chlorine generator you may find that your pH rises slowly over time and if that is the case you will need to add an acid occasionally to keep it down.  It's important to add the acid or alkali slowly and in small increments, allowing the water to circulate for at least a 4 - 6 hour period before testing and repeating if necessary.  

3.  Free Available Chlorine  1 - 3 ppm (2 ppm optimal)

The free available chlorine levels should be monitored and tested every 2 - 4 weeks or more frequently if your other levels have been fluctuating.  The combined chlorine and total chlorine can be ignored for purposes of testing and balancing.  If you are testing at home be sure to purchase a quality pool test kit that tests for Free Chlorine (FC). 

If your free available chlorine levels are low you should make sure your salinity levels are sufficient so your chlorine generator can convert adequate levels.  Low levels of free chlorine can also be caused by calcium build up on the salt cell, an expired cell or inadequate pool circulation.  It may also be necessary to shock your pool at the start of the season, during heavy usage or at the start of the pool season to get chlorine levels up.  

  • Lower Free Chlorine by reducing the output setting on your chlorine generator, run your pool circulation system for less time or run your pump on a lower speed. 
  • Raise Free Chlorine by increasing chlorine production, pump run-times or using a pool shock. 

 Monthly Salt Water Pool Maintenance

As a general rule you should ensure that the following levels are checked at least once a month.  It's common for them to fluctuate during times of high usage or extreme weather so you should keep that in mind throughout the year.  You may find that these levels don't fluctuate throughout an entire year while other pool owners will notice significant changes.  

It's always difficult to determine the extent of your overall maintenance until you get to know your pool because of the many variables. 

4.  Total Alkalinity  80 - 120 ppm

Alkalinity is important for keeping pH stabilized and preventing it from fluctuating out of control.  If you have low alkalinity it could lead to corrosion, staining or green water while high alkalinity can cause cloudy pool water and other problems.  If you are adjusting alkalinity in your pool it's important to do it slowly and in small increments, waiting 2 - 3 days before testing and adjusting again if necessary. 

5.  Stabilizer or Cyanuric Acid  50 - 80 ppm

The stabilizer levels are important to prevent the chlorine in your salt water pool from being lost due to UV rays and residual processes from the sun.  A pool without stabilizer could lose up to 90% of it's produced chlorine on a sunny day leaving your pool unsafe and unsanitary.  The lower the stabilizer level the quicker chlorine reacts to eliminate organic compounds. 

A salt water pool requires slightly higher levels of stabilizer than a regular pool and should be kept in the range of 70 - 80 ppm.  If you have an indoor salt water pool that doesn't get a lot of sunlight you should keep levels in the 0 - 30 ppm range.  It's important to understand that chlorine and stabilizer work interchangeably and when one rises, the other should also. 

  • Lower Stabilizer levels by diluting your pool water either by draining and adding fresh water or correct over time. 

6.  Calcium  Hardness 200 - 350 ppm

If calcium levels get too low the water will become corrosive and can leach calcium from plaster, stone and concrete surfaces in contact with the pool water.  High levels of calcium can result in scale formation or a clogged filter and pipes resulting in poor filtration and circulation that can lead to cloudy water and irritation to swimmers.

We recommend contacting a pool professional if your levels are above 350 ppm because this could lead to build up and stains that are very difficult to remove. 

  • Lower Calcium levels is very difficult and is remedied by draining water from your pool and replacing it with fresh clean water. 

7.  Total Dissolved Solids  3000 - 6000 ppm 

The total dissolved solids for a salt water pool will be higher than a regular pool because salt registers as a dissolved solid.  This means that your TDS should be exactly the same as your salinity in a pool that has no dissolved solids.  If your TDS reading is 1500 ppm or higher than your salinity you may need to clean your filters or backwash more often. 

A TDS of over 1500 ppm (excluding salt) can reduce the effectiveness of the chlorine and other added chemicals and could result in cloudy water.  These levels are influenced by chemicals that have been added and organic compounds from anyone that uses your pool.  In pools with extremely high TDS readings you will have to drain some pool water and replace with fresh water.

8.  Copper, Iron and Manganese

It's also an important part of your overall salt water pool maintenance checklist to test for Metals such as copper, iron and manganese to ensure they aren't present.

Yearly Salt Water Pool Maintenance

If you have kept on top of your weekly and monthly salt water pool maintenance you should only need to do a few checks at the end or start of the pool season.  

 

9.  Clean Salt Cell

Most cells should only need to be cleaned once a year to avoid calcium buildup which can cause decreased chlorine production across the plates.  The average life span of a cell is roughly 4 - 6 years with average use and proper chemistry maintenance.   

The salt cell should be inspected every 2-3 months during the pool season.  If you see white calcium deposits or other debris built up you should clean the cell to ensure it is working at it's peak efficiency.

 

10.  Zinc Anode

A lot of salt water pool owners decide to use a Zinc Anode as part of their pool system to assure the health of stainless steel hardware and components.  A sacrificial anode is arguably the most important device you can purchase for added protection against possible corrosion and fading of some pool surfaces.  It's a good idea to check it once a year to ensure it hasn't degraded fully. 

At the end of the season a thorough pool closing is an essential step in your overall salt water pool maintenance.  A good pool closing kit will keep everything running smoothly in the springtime especially if you experience temperatures below freezing in the US or Canada. 

 

11.  Adding Salt 

Adding salt is necessary when you first convert your pool from a regular chlorine pool and on rare occasions you may need to add small amounts of salt to your salt water pool if there is significant splash out.

Most chlorine generators have sensors built in that will monitor and display the salinity reading based on the conductivity of the pool water.  Cooler water temperatures often found in Canada will decrease conductivity and the generator could show a low salt reading.  It's important to take this into consideration before adding salt so you don't add too much.

 

We hope this guide to salt water pool maintenance helps you spend more time enjoying your pool and less time looking after it!

 

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR POOL LINER

 

Vinyl pool liners are protected by special additives and coatings that can withstand extremes of sun, temperature and constant exposure to chemically treated water. However, even the highest quality vinyl liner is subject to staining, wrinkling, shrinking or discoloration if the pool water is not balanced and treated correctly.

This type of damage to the liner is often associated with common missteps in maintenance. Here, we look at the signs and solutions to four different problem areas in maintaining vinyl liners.

Staining

The addition of a single chemical can damage a pool liner if the substance is not circulated sufficiently. Chemicals such as chlorine can settle in the deep end of the pool and bleach the liner if they are not allowed to circulate for several hours before a pool is closed for the season.

Spot bleaching of vinyl liners can also occur if undissolved particles of calcium hypochlorite or other slow-dissolving sanitizers are allowed to settle on the bottom of the pool. This can be prevented by pre-dissolving sanitizers in a bucket of pool water and adding the solution by pouring it through a sieve.

Using large, single doses of hydrochloric (muriatic) acid to adjust pH or total alkalinity levels can also damage liners. The acid then can chemically attack the liner’s printed pattern, since it is not sufficiently blended with pool water.

When a pool is closed for the season, professionals should install a winter cover that tightly seals around the perimeter. This will prevent the accumulation of leaves and insects during the winter months. This organic debris left on vinyl surfaces can cause staining and bleaching, and fungi that produces a pink stain on the vinyl.

Bleaching

Printed vinyl liners with base colors such as white, turquoise, light blue, grey and dark royal blue have excellent resistance to chlorine bleaching. Medium blue vinyl liners are, however, more susceptible to bleaching or loss of color if exposed to high concentrations of trichloroisocyanurate stabilized chlorine. This can happen in a period as short as 6 to 24 hours.

The immediate effects of other types of chlorine such as dichloroisocyanurate, calcium hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite (liquid chlorine) are not as rapid or severe, as long as they are not mixed with other chemicals during or shortly after being added to the pool. Solutions of these types of chlorines can be applied directly to the liner for several hours to bleach out stains without adversely affecting the vinyl. If the concentrations of these types of chlorine are allowed to remain higher than the recommended levels of 5 ppm for superchlorination or 10 ppm for shocking for long periods of time, gradual bleaching of most blue liners will occur.

Be aware that certain combinations of pool chemicals at high concentrations can cause bleaching of vinyl liners.

Pool tar

Sticky substances, often referred to as “pool tar” or “pool goo,” can adhere and coat part of vinyl pool liners. This is sometimes caused by the interaction of quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) used in some algaecides and decaying organic material such as leaves, grass and insects.

Even chlorine can interact with quats to form a sticky material if both the chlorine and algaecide exceed the recommended levels. Quats can easily come into contact with high chlorine levels in automatic chlorinators, resulting in a gummy material being gradually fed into the pool, where it eventually precipitates on the liner.

Gummy material from the chlorinator can form when organic materials from cosmetics or tanning lotions are oxidized by high chlorine concentrations, resulting in a beige waxy substance.

Although it is not harmful to swimmers, sometimes a light coating of vinyl plasticizer material, which turns dark when contaminated with dirt, may rise to the surface of newly installed liners during the first idle period of winterization. This phenomenon is attributed to a lack of circulation, as it has never been observed in a pool that has been circulated over the winter. The material will almost always reabsorb in two to three weeks if the water is allowed to warm up (to over 21° C / 70°F) and circulate before being shocked with chlorine (at 6.0 ppm to 8.0 ppm) every other day.

Wrinkling and stretching

Vinyl increases dimensionally as it absorbs water, and wrinkles can develop even in properly-sized liners. The cause of this excessive water absorption is believed to be high levels of chlorine or bromine. If the sanitizer level is allowed to remain high, as much as five times the normal amount of water can be absorbed, which makes controlling water chemistry essential to maintaining the integrity of the liner.

Immersion testing of liner samples on chlorinated and brominated water in the 20 ppm to 50 ppm range shows that weight gains continue to climb indefinitely without leveling off, causing the size of the liner to increase by 1- to 3 percent.

To avoid stretching and wrinkling in vinyl liners, chlorine levels should not be allowed to remain higher than 3 ppm for an extended period, while bromine levels should not be allowed to exceed a maximum of 4 ppm.

Although peak chlorine levels of 5 ppm to 10 ppm are required for superchlorination, they should be allowed to return to the 2-3 ppm range by natural dissipation.

Controlling pH levels is also important in preventing wrinkling because pH affects sanitizer activity. A low pH of less than 7.0, for example, can cause a vinyl liner to discolor, wrinkle, stretch, lose tensile strength and increase in weight. A high pH level above 7.6 can lead to scaling or staining of the liner.

The information in this article is based on the strength of high quality, 100 percent virgin vinyl sheeting. Installers should always be aware of the quality of the vinyl being used in the pool liners they purchase, install and service.