Hi all. I'd appreciate some advice/discussion, but first an overview would be useful:
I have an Intex Sequoia Spirit above ground 16' round pool, vinyl liner. Saltwater generator/pump/filter is a combo all built into one platform (not really separable) that came with the pool. Pool holds roughly 5000 gallons. I live in a severely hot dry climate. Our water here tends to be pretty hard (calcium and magnesium mostly I believe)
My test kit: A simple Aqua Chem (drops w/two vials) that just tests PH, free Chlorine, and (after sitting 5 mins) combined Chlorine
Chemicals I already own: Aqua Chem PH Down, Aqua Chem Stabilizer, liquid chlorine 10%, Aqua Chem 50% algaecide, HTH Salt Pool care (preserves cells), Leslie's Chlor-Brite (99% sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione), Pool Time Shock Plus 4-in-1 Pool Shock (58% sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione)
Latest "professional" readings from Leslie's (took water sample): though kinda old now, taken on 8/2
Salt: 4200 (turns out this was right, my system was saying "high salt" too, so I drained 20% of the water as the Intex manual said and this fixed it.)
Cyanuric: 99 (exact # of their maximum high range)
Total Alkalinity:120 (again, exact # of their maximum high range) - Is this odd or is it just me? Seems too much of a coincidence
Phosphates:1000 (should be below 100 per them)
Qstn 1: Why would my salt level get high?? Is my amateur theory that the fact that "PH Down", and Chlor-Brite are sodium formulas (by their chemical name) why the sodium increased?
Qstn 2: I understand muriatic acid will lower PH but will it STAY low? I also read muriatic can bleach out (or is it really eating away the vinyl?) any color pattern in your vinyl liner.
Qstn 3: Best way to lower the alkalinity? I'd read the bisulfite (PH Down) also has a side effect of lowering Alkalinity, but it's not!
Qstn 4: Which chemicals to absolutely not use in a saltwater pool? Note- I only add shock when my test reading shows zero chlorine. If I run my sw generator 5 hours or more it usually does fine, but sometimes I'll try to run it less...3 or 4 hrs to save energy or cuz the pump feels so darn hot I'm afraid it'll burn up. And the chlorine will be too low so I'll add shock so we can swim soon after. It's a constant guessing game how many hours to run it too, cuz I think the blazing sun here just burns up the chlorine. I have Stabilizer (cyanuric) but why add it if Leslie's reading showed it at the max high end?? Also I'd read that the Chlor-Brite HAS cyanuric in it, which will sometimes increase your CYA levels TOO MUCH! Also, Leslie's was pushing their big bucket o' Chlorine tablets to me, telling me I should buy a floater and float 2 tablets, as well as I should shock it weekly.
Qstn 5: PH is constantly high. Literally every other day I have to add 3 oz of bisulfite. As soon as I put the drops in and shake it, the color shows as 7.6 (fine), but in one or 2 more minutes it will read as 7.8 color. I don't know if this is normal with these drop tests, or maybe my drops are old.(I've had them less than a year though.)
Qstn 6: Does a pool cover make the pool retain or lose chlorine? (Whether sitting overnight, or during the day in sun)
I did have an algae (green) bloom occur after my system died due to a lightning strike. I used the 50% algaecide and the next day there was just a gray sludge on the bottom of the pool, which I assume was the dead algae and I vac'd it up. I went to Leslie's after I vacuumed up the sludge, and told them of my algae episode. They sold me "Phos-Free", some outrageously (between $30-$40) expensive bottle of "rare earth-lanthanum". I put this stuff in (grayish liquid) per instructions, and noticed what looked like most of it blowing right back into the pool via the inlet. I did leave the filter alone for a day or 2 since the bottle says it's supposed to coat the filter and remove the phosphates from the pool, but then I had to spend several days vacuuming this fine silt off the pool floor. (I don't think it was more dead algae suddenly appearing) Anyhow, I don't think I'll use that stuff again.. The store employee also barked a question at me in an intimidating tone, asking if I'd bought my algaecide there. I told her no. She tried to make me believe my brands of chemicals were somehow lesser than theirs...luckily I read many complaints about them online beforehand and also am conscious enough to know when someone's trying to strongarm me. The filters I use are Intex B type, but they are the Dacron? synthetic fiber-type material, not the cheap obvious plain paper one that came with the pool. They do seem to catch alot of sludge, especially upon vacuuming.. I rinse them out really well and rotate it out for a cleaned one every few days. The problem is the pump I think is so weak it takes forever to fully circulate the water thru the filter to clean out the pool.
Yeah I do know my test kit is not a pro-kit. I read about the one recommended on here (the tftestkit one) but am on a very tight budget, so $68 is alot for me. Since summer's ending soon I think I'll wait and buy it right before spring when next season starts, so the chemicals don't become old sitting around. (although hopefully too by then I won't get shipped this years stock that's been sitting around which would make my plan backfire) All the tests look useful on that kit except the Calcium Hardness. (since my city water is hard anyhow there's nothing I could do about it) The FAS-DPD I think I read is useful if you get an algae attack and are fighting it...? Hopefully the color bars are more easily distinguishable than my cheap kit...I can hardly tell the difference between some of the chlorine color patterns. Also if I do buy this kit, are the drops used for testing in it standard in the industry? (same chemical, same %, where I could buy replacements at Walmart, etc. cheaper if I wanted)? (Or at Leslie's, in a jam, and pay more)