Beginners Guide: How to Maintain a Salt Water Swimming Pool

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First let’s clarify: What is the difference between a salt water pool and a “normal” pool?

When you hear the term “salt water” relating to swimming pools, you might think of the ocean and sea water. You may even assume that a salt water pool does not contain chlorine at all. This is certainly not the case. The key difference between a salt water and traditional chlorine pool is in how the chlorine is added to the water. In a traditional chlorine pool, chlorine is added directly to the pool water in a concentrated form, whereas in salt water pools, the chlorine is produced by the electrolysis of salt (sodium chloride).

Salt water pools (or more specifically, the systems required to run them) are generally more expensive to purchase than chlorine pools, but tend to be cheaper and easier to run and maintain in the long term. That said, they are definitely not maintenance-free.

While most aspects of swimming pool maintenance will be the same for both types of pools, others will vary because of the differing chemical processes involved.

Swimming pool maintenance can be broadly broken down into 3 categories:

  1. Manual cleaning/vaccuming
  2. Pool water filtration
  3. Balancing chemical levels

Although this guide provides an excellent overview of the maintenance of salt water pools, it should not replace the instruction manuals for your pool pump and other accessories. If you’re really stuck, your local pool shop will usually be happy to assist, or at least to point you in the right direction.

A Well Maintained Pool Is Cheaper To Own In the Long Run

The most obvious maintenance aspect of any swimming pool is cleaning. Regular cleaning is essential to avoid excess build up of debris, which in turn makes cleaning more difficult. You should also regularly rinse and clean any equipment used to clean your pool, in order to prolong its usable life as much as possible.

Filtration: Run The Pool Filter Pump Every Day

The pool filter should be run every day, for at least a couple of hours, depending on the size of the pool and the capacity of the pump, and even if the pool is not being used. Every pool is different, but the following can be used as a rough guide for determining the length of time you should be running your pool pump throughout the year. Most modern pool pumps will include a timer setting, which can be easily adjusted.

Season/Use

Recommended Filtration Per Day

Very low use/no use

2 hours

Moderate/occassional use

4 hours

Daily/heavy use

8 hours

 

Other Cleaning and Essential Maintenance

Apart from filtration, the pool water should also be cleaned of debris at least a couple of times a week. The simplest method of cleaning is simply using a standard “leaf scoop” on a long pole to remove all visible and floating debris. If left unattended, floating debris will eventually rot and sink to the bottom of the pool.

Pool Vacuuming – Manual or Automatic?

The cheapest pool vacuuming implement is a suction or hand vacuum cleaner, which connects to the pool filter via a thick hose, and (controlled by a long rod which you hold) sucks up the debris as you manually push it around the bottom of the pool. Depending on the size of your backyard pool, it may take between one and two hours to thoroughly vacuum the entire pool.

Automatic systems are a lot more expensive but have the advantage of saving you time, compared to vacuuming the pool manually. Mechanical vacuum cleaners are often known as “Kreepy Kraulys” (after a popular brand of cleaner). These are the cheapest types of automatic cleaners. They shuffle themselves along the bottom and up the sides of the pool, vacuuming up dirt and debris as they go. Be aware that, just as with a household vacuum cleaner, there are limitations to what these little crawlers can pick up. Objects such as larger sticks or kids toys which you would easily spot (and hence avoid) during a manual vacuum, will quickly get stuck, blocking the intake and greatly reducing the effectiveness of your automatic pool vac.   

.. or you can hire a Professional

Of course there’s also a third option – pay a pool cleaning contractor to do the job for you. This is a good option for pool owners who simply don’t want to spend a single minute maintaining their pool. Get a couple of quotes (again, your local pool shop can be a good place to start) and compare the cost over a year, with an automated solution which will require minimum effort on your part. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover that an automated system can cost less than one years servicing by a professional. Do the math, and make a decision which meets your family’s needs and budget.

Tip: A pool cover or pool “blanket” can be a great way to reduce swimming pool maintenance time and costs, especially if your pool is surrounded by messy leaf-dropping trees. Pool covers will reduce water evaporation (which helps keep the concentration of chemicals stable) and can also help keep the water temperature a couple of degrees warmer during the colder months of the year.

Cleaning Filter and Other Essential Pool Maintenance Equipment

Regularly inspect and clean the pool filter basket, pump and skimmer. Check to ensure they are working properly and clean off any dirt or other debris with a hose or under running water. This should also be done once a week, or after any large storm or or other event (e.g. a pool party!) which could be the cause of more debris ending up in the pool.

Cleaning the Salt Water Chlorine Generator Cell

The salt water chlorine generator also requires cleaning and maintenance, as salt crystals tend to build up on it over time, causing it to clog up and not work properly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how frequently to do this. Some manufactures recommend doing it every 3 months, whereas others may state that once per year is sufficient. The salt build up on the generator cell can be washed off with a high pressure hose, and it’s also fine to gently scrape off any excess with a wooden or plastic tool. If the build-up is very hard to get off, or for a very thorough clean, soak the cell in an acid solution and then rinse it off with water.

Why Are Pool Chemical Levels Important?

Swimming pool water must also be kept free of bacteria and other microbes and contaminants that are a health hazard to humans. This is done by chlorine, which in salt water pools is generated by the electrolysis of salt, as mentioned earlier. Although this method tends to keep chlorine levels more stable than a traditional chlorine pool, the level of chlorine still needs to be checked.

Other things that need to be tested are pH, total alkalinity, salt and calcium. Your local pool shop will be happy to test and analyse your pool water sample, and sell you whatever chemicals you need to bring everything back into balance again. Many pool owners prefer to test the water themselves at home using disposable strips or a drop kit. These kits are inexpensive and can be bought from a pool supplies shop, your local hardware store, or online.

 

Salt Water Pool Chemicals: The Technical Stuff

How often should a pool be chemically tested?

Chlorine and pH should be tested at least once a week, and more often if the pool is used frequently, or in very hot weather. Free chlorine levels should be between 1 and 3 ppm (parts per million). This can be adjusted using the controls on the salt water chlorine generator – refer to the instruction manual for more details. Sunscreen, swimwear, sunshine and rain – all these and more effectively “kill” chlorine levels in any swimming pool, hence the need for regular topping up of salt.

Tip: Chlorine levels can also be increased quickly by way of a chlorine “shock” – we cover a bit more on that a bit further on in this article.

pH refers to the acidity or alkalinity of the water, with neutral being 7.0, acidic being less than 7 and alkaline greater than 7. pH is affected by rain, people swimming in the water, and other factors. The recommended pH of pool water is 7.0-7.8. A pH outside of this range can cause health problems such as itchy skin and red eyes. It can also reduce the effectiveness of chlorine. If pH is too high, you can lower it by adding pool acid. If it is too low, it can be increased using sodium bicarbonate or similar products. Again, check your pool instruction manual for specific levels and amounts to add.

Total Alkalinity, Salt and Calcium

Alkalinity, Salt and Calcium levels should in most case be tested at least once a month.

Total alkalinity (TA) refers to the amount of alkaline chemicals in the water. TA levels should be 60 to 200 ppm. If TA is too low, the pH of the water will be unstable – that is, it will change easily. Over time, a low TA may also cause damage to the concrete surfaces and paint in the pool, as well as corrosion of pool equipment.  If TA is too low, you can increase it by adding sodium bicarbonate, and if it is too high, you can add pool acid. As TA and pH are connected, changing one level may affect the other, so it is important to re-check both TA and pH if you have added either of these products to the water.

Salt is used by the salt water chlorine generator to generate chlorine, and salt levels will decrease over time. Recommended salt levels vary by manufacturer, but are generally in the range of 2700-4500 ppm. If the salt level is too low, simply add a few bags of pool salt to the water.

Calcium hardness in a salt water pool refers to the amount of calcium dissolved in the pool water. If calcium levels are too low, the pool surfaces and equipment will gradually degrade. However, high levels of calcium will cause the build-up of scale or “scum” on surfaces over time. Calcium can be manually added to the pool if the levels are too low. If the levels are too high, you can drain some of the water and replace with fresh water. This will lower the concentration of calcium in the water by dilution, but will of course affect other chemical levels also.

Shocking A Swimming Pool With Liquid Chlorine

“Shocking” a swimming pool refers to adding a large amount of chlorine to the water to greatly increase the level of free chlorine for a short time, thereby destroying contaminants such as bacteria. There are differing opinions on whether shocking is needed for salt water pools. However, it can be useful to do once a year for a thorough clean, or to prevent the water from becoming cloudy before or after many people using the pool.

When shocking the pool, there are a few important points to note. It should be done when all the other chemical levels are correct – it’s usually best to wait around an hour after adding the last of any other chemicals to the water. The pool filter should be run for 6-8 hours before shocking. Shocking should be done after sunset, as ultra-violet (UV) light from the sun will reduce the levels of free chlorine. This means that if you perform the shocking in daytime, you will need to more chlorine to have the same effect.

It is important to purchase chlorine that is appropriate to use in salt water pools, and to use the correct amount for your size pool. After adding liquid chlorine, run filter pump for a minimum of 6-8 hours. Make sure no-one swims in the water during this period as the chlorine levels will be very high.

After 8 hours or more, re-test the water’s level of chlorine. Although the recommended level is 1-3 ppm, it is considered safe to swim in pool water when the level has fallen below 5 ppm.

Safe Handling of Swimming Pool Chemicals

Great care must be taken when handling pool chemicals. Always read the label on the bottle or container, and follow manufacturers’ guideline regarding storage, as well as the use of personal protective equipment. Ensure that pool chemicals are stored high and dry, in a well ventilated area, away from other chemicals, and well out of reach of inquisitive children. This is intended to be a general guide only.

Health Benefits of Recreational Swimming

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Throughout history, swimming has had a place in society to a greater or lesser degree. There are many benefits associated with swimming, ranging from social and emotional to the more obvious physical benefits. Swimming is a relatively inexpensive activity that might simply involve heading down to the local pool or taking a trip to the nearest beach.

Swimming is a whole-body physical workout as nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming. It also exercises the body’s motor coordination. Over two thirds of the body’s system of muscles is engaged when we swim, including the upper and lower body. The trunk and head, and arms and legs are required to make a balanced effort.

Buoyancy of Water Results in Low-Impact Exercise

Swimming puts minimal stress on bones and joints. This is because water counteracts the force of gravity and provides a cushioning effect on the body. This means the swimmers can get their heart rate up without producing stress on the body. It also strengthens joints, improves posture and can be an excellent form of exercise for people with back problems.

Other Physical Health Benefits of Swimming

Swimming is a good form of resistance training without the need to use weights. As such it is not necessary to invest in a whole lot of equipment to get started. Swimming promotes breathing control and lung function and has shown to be beneficial also to people suffering from asthma. Regular swimming increases your lung capacity with time and also builds stamina, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness.

Social and Emotional Benefits Associated with Swimming

Social and emotional well-being is also an important part of a person’s overall health. Swimming is a great activity that you can do with family or friends. So while you are engaging in a physical workout in a social setting, some of your social needs are also being met.

A Backyard Pool Investment

Investing in a backyard swimming pool can help to entice householders to spend more time in the water than they would otherwise do. While it is a significant investment, many people are more likely to engage in recreational swimming more frequently if they have a pool at their fingertips. With a backyard pool comes new possibilities of home entertainment and spending time with family and friends.

Safety Considerations for Recreational Swimming at Home

While having a backyard pool certainly has many benefits, it also comes with a significant responsibility to keep young children safe from drowning. Children should have adequate active supervision whilst in the pool area and pool owners are required to ensure that the pool is surrounded by a pool fence. Laws vary from state to state and information is readily available on government websites. Pool fence prices vary depending on the fence material, quality and size.

Swimming is a great leisure activity for people of all ages. Recreational swimming can provide you with a low-impact workout and it’s a great way to relax and feel good.

Improving the Home with a Backyard Spa

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If there is one way to spruce up a backyard entertaining area it is the inclusion of a spa. There is definitely some maintenance involved but apart from the initial set up cost, they are not as expensive to run as you might think. Overall, they are a great asset and the perfect way to unwind after a long day at work or a busy weekend on the tools.

Using Economy Mode to Reduce Maintenance Costs

One of the major expenses associated with a backyard spa is heating the water. Thankfully spas don’t have to remain at operating temperature when not in use and most spas these days will have an economy mode of some sort which allows the spa to remain in ‘sleep mode’ when it isn’t needed. In this mode, the water is a lot cooler, but the jets will still operate at certain intervals throughout the day to prevent the water from stagnating and allowing it to circulate through the spa filters.

Chemical Expenses and Other Costs

Other expenses to consider are the requirement of different spa chemicals which need to be added to the water regularly to ensure adequate levels of chlorine etc. are always present. However, it is possible to buy these in bulk and its not necessary to maintain optimum water quality if there is a period of time where the spa will not be in use. Bear in mind that water and filters will need changing at intervals regardless of the frequency of use.

A good spa cover is also a must for a number of reasons, with the obvious one being that it is your first line of defence against leaves and insects as well as preventing the local bird population from taking up residence. A good spa cover will also enable the water to reach and maintain the desired temperature far more rapidly and efficiently than it would without a cover.

Spa Safety Laws and Regulations

As with any household water feature, be it a bathtub, fishpond, spa or pool – safety is paramount. Always ensure your spa meets local council laws and regulations and that your household has an awareness of the risks associated with that of an outdoor spa. Children need supervision, even more so with the presence of a spa in the backyard.

New South Wales regulations state that if your spa pool does not have a securely fastened, child-resistant structure (such as a door, lid, grille or mesh) preventing access to the spa when not in use, you have to install a fence to block access to the area. In this case, glass pool fence panels can be an attractive option, as opposed to rows of black metal bars.

Benefits of a Backyard Spa

Despite the maintenance costs that the ownership of a spa brings, and the need for a sound approach to the necessary safety requirements, spas are a lot of fun. They are the perfect way to enjoy a chilly winter’s evening with some friends over. They are also a great way to take the stress off a long working day mid-week. A spa has the potential to leave you more relaxed, put your mind at ease, and generally enhance your feeling of wellbeing.

Safety Considerations when Installing a Backyard Swimming Pool

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A Brief Background

The issue of pool drownings was raised as a huge problem around 60 years ago. It was around the same time that the pool fencing debate kicked off across Australia. Today, it would be nearly unimaginable to have a backyard pool without the mandatory fencing, complete with specifications related to minimum overall height, bar spacing, and construction type. But it hasn’t always been this way. It wasn’t until 1972 that pool safety fences, complete with self-closing and self-latching gates, were mandated around the entire state of South Australia.

Since those early beginnings in pool safety, all states and territories of Australia gradually introduced their own pool safety laws and regulations.

The Popularity of the Backyard Pool – Introducing Affordable Swimming Pools

Pools have grown enormously in popularity in recent decades. This is due to a couple of reasons. One, pools are getting cheaper. Back in the 1970s the introduction of preformed fibreglass pools suddenly saw the backyard swimming pool become accessible to more than just the rich and famous. Prior to this, many Australians simply didn’t have the means to spend their hard-earned wages on such a luxury. Even today is still viewed as something of a luxury, despite pools being a lot more common place. Remember Australia suffered greatly during the great depression, not to mention the hardships that were the result of World War II.

Dangers of Swimming Pools

The rise in popularity of swimming pools is of course understandable, considering that much of Australia has a climate that lends itself to outdoor swimming for many months of the year. But with the swimming pool also comes the ever-present risk of drowning. Groups of people have been campaigning for pool safety for decades now and Australia as a whole, including governments on local, state and federal levels.

Active Adult Supervision Around Swimming Pools

Even with the appropriate fencing in place and adult supervision of children in the pool, one must be ever vigilant. Children tend to run around pools and even non swimmers can feel invincible when they have a life vest fitted. Complacency is something we all need to be aware of. When children use the pool, day in and day out throughout the summer season, it is vital that we don’t drop our guard.

Pool cleaning equipment, toys, and towels are all things that can be carelessly left lying around and become a hazard. A fence is fantastic safety measure, but if a towel is recklessly flung onto the gate, for example, it may prevent it fully latching shut. In fact, pool gates can lose their self-closing ability for a number of reasons and should be checked regularly.

Supplying Frameless Glass Pool Fencing in Sydney

At A1 Glass Pool Fencing we are committed to providing safe swimming pool environments for young children and families with our specialised glass pool fence installation. We sell and install frameless glass pool fencing in Sydney, but aim to provide current and useful information through our blog that can help families all over Australia create safe backyard pool areas.

Pool Fencing in Australia from an Historical Perspective

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A Brief Background

The issue of pool drownings was raised as a huge problem around 60 years ago. It was around the same time that the pool fencing debate kicked off across Australia. Today, it would be nearly unimaginable to have a backyard pool without the mandatory fencing, complete with specifications related to minimum overall height, bar spacing, and construction type. But it hasn’t always been this way. It wasn’t until 1972 that pool safety fences, complete with self-closing and self-latching gates, were mandated around the entire state of South Australia.

Since those early beginnings in pool safety, all states and territories of Australia gradually introduced their own pool safety laws and regulations.

The Popularity of the Backyard Pool – Introducing Affordable Swimming Pools

Pools have grown enormously in popularity in recent decades. This is due to a couple of reasons. One, pools are getting cheaper. Back in the 1970s the introduction of preformed fibreglass pools suddenly saw the backyard swimming pool become accessible to more than just the rich and famous. Prior to this, many Australians simply didn’t have the means to spend their hard-earned wages on such a luxury. Even today is still viewed as something of a luxury, despite pools being a lot more common place. Remember Australia suffered greatly during the great depression, not to mention the hardships that were the result of World War II.

Dangers of Swimming Pools

The rise in popularity of swimming pools is of course understandable, considering that much of Australia has a climate that lends itself to outdoor swimming for many months of the year. But with the swimming pool also comes the ever-present risk of drowning. Groups of people have been campaigning for pool safety for decades now and Australia as a whole, including governments on local, state and federal levels.

Active Adult Supervision Around Swimming Pools

Even with the appropriate fencing in place and adult supervision of children in the pool, one must be ever vigilant. Children tend to run around pools and even non swimmers can feel invincible when they have a life vest fitted. Complacency is something we all need to be aware of. When children use the pool, day in and day out throughout the summer season, it is vital that we don’t drop our guard.

Pool cleaning equipment, toys, and towels are all things that can be carelessly left lying around and become a hazard. A fence is fantastic safety measure, but if a towel is recklessly flung onto the gate, for example, it may prevent it fully latching shut. In fact, pool gates can lose their self-closing ability for a number of reasons and should be checked regularly.

Supplying Frameless Glass Pool Fencing in Sydney

At A1 Glass Pool Fencing we are committed to providing safe swimming pool environments for young children and families with our specialised glass pool fence installation. We sell and install frameless glass pool fencing in Sydney, but aim to provide current and useful information through our blog that can help families all over Australia create safe backyard pool areas.