After reading all of this -- yes, all 15 pages -- it sounds like I am game. I have switched to BBB having put Borax in for the first time today for the purpose of raising my pH and I stumbled across this thread in making sure that it was "safe" and that I wasn't going to screw anything else up.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I am gathering that adding borates is primarily to serve as a pH stabilizer - specifically to slow the pH drop so that less acid is needed and therefore less money, and secondarily as all the other things that may or may not be noticed by individuals depending on the current status of their water, location, etc. Those other things vary from looking extra sparkly, feeling better on the skin, helping with rings around the pool water line, to helping lessen the need for chlorine (if I recall correctly).
In my case, I just bought a house and in addition to being a first time homebuyer, I am a first time pool owner. I am not even sure how big my pool is although the best guess is around 20-24k. A buddy of mine keeps reminding me how the pool supply place just want to sell me something and keep me buying all kinds of stuff. In comes the internet to educate me and I have learned alot from chem geek's posts (other's as well, but his were the first ones I saw when considering the switch to bleach since I do not have an SWG). My switch to bleach has been great, and I have stopped using the tri-chlor tabs except when I go on vacation (which incidentally drove my pH down for the second time - the first time from ignorance, the second time from forgetting that I set my pump to run longer which counter-acted me closing the flow controls on the floaters). I bought a bucket of soda ash the first time and this time I used Borax which lead me here as previously stated.
I have a 46 lb. boxer that I trained as a pup to love the water. Although she will lap up some water after swimming for a while, and obviously some gets in her mouth, I do not think I need to be concerned about her health.
Based on Jason's posts, I can keep the borate level around 50ppm and if I screw up and drop the pH again, it will be fine to dump in some borax to raise it back up since a higher ppm of borates will not hurt the pool. I do not plan on doing that again, but who knows (it dropped below 7.0 this last time but I am not sure how far below since it was beyond the range of my $16 basic 5 agent tester).
Getting to the point, the day I moved in an algae bloom started thanks to it being a foreclosure and them simply not caring once they had my offer. I did not know squat but spent a couple of hours researching and just shocked the crude out of it with powder and some 3" tri-chlor pucks, scrubbed it, opened the filter to see what was in there (my buddy walked me through the basics on the phone) and it had no DE in it. After hitting Lowe's for some basics, I loaded it up with DE, the pressure shot up 10 PSI overnight, but the pool looked much better. I backwashed it and loaded it back up and shocked again. Since then I only had the beginning signs of one bloom and that was because the chlorine was all gone (oops - still getting to know it).
I used some PhosFree to get rid of the phosphates that were in it although I still did not know much and was a little scared that it had bloomed again after just 2 weeks. Other than that I have just been giving it about 1 jug of Walmart bleach (182oz) a week. As per the local pool supply testing of my water, at move in I was at...
0 Free chlorine
0 Total available chlorine
To the following a month later after the second algae bloom but before I dumped the soad ash in...
5 Free chlorine
5 Total available chlorine
17 Base Demand ???
I am about to have the local pool supply test my water again to see where I am at on everything. Should I trust their test? And should I be safe presuming that there are no borates in the water currently since I have not added any or should I test that as well? I am going to research why my TA would have dropped (unless they are just horrible at testing it).
I guess getting to the point, should I research everything a bit more and get a little more comfortable with the pool, or should I go ahead and take the plunge? I have decided to do it, it is just a question of when. Also, since I have never had to add acid (due to the tri-chlor), should I look into something that will stabilize a pH drop so that next time I go on vacation I haven't taken it so far out of whack? Or should I just trust the borates to be the backup insurance in the event that the bleach does all burn up in the hot Texas (Houston) sun while I am gone.
Thanks in advance.... and sorry for such a long first post.
P.S. Thanks to all the people who have clearly invested a significant amount of time in sharing their knowledge and their hobby/passion. It has made life a lot easier for a noob like me, and almost gives me the cajones to tell the pool people that they have no idea what they are talking about. For now, I will just think it in my head though. Seriously though, thanks for the expertise and to Al Gore for inventing the internet.