It's going to be a long read, but I hope I can stir some memories for the experts, and instill a bit of "Hey, that sounds just like me!!" from new visitors....
My wife and I bought a new house just about two years ago that had a huge above ground pool. We would probably never have put in a pool, but we loved the house and decided to take on the challenge that came with the backyard recreation mecca.
The previous owner left all kinds of chemicals, equipment, etc., and after we closed on the house, he offered to help me open it in the spring. I politely thanked him, but figured I could unravel the puzzle by myself. After a few weeks of living in the house (this was the middle of winter) I determined that his DIY projects in the house were not up to my standards, so his pool knowledge probably wasn't either....I'll do it on my own.
Fast forward 6 months. It's a busy spring because of a new job and the demands of the family, so I don't get around to opening the pool until the middle of June. The water is clear, but there's a fuzz along the entire bottom. I figure I'll brush it up and let the filters do the work. I puzzle my way through the pumps, the filters, and all the PVC piping (what the **** is a pool frog, anyways?). One pump doesn't work, and a ball valve is cracked. Good times. I take the pump apart and replace the impeller, and I re-plumb the hookup with a new valve. Switches are flipped, and everything is humming away. Cloudy pool, but it'll clear up, right? Sweet, time to go to the pool store (ha!).
I ask the kid behind the counter what to do, and his response is something along the lines of "How big is your pool?....Ok, I guess I'd shock it a bunch, and that'll work. Here, buy this..." Mind you, no testing before I get these instructions. I take it home, and I dump it in the pool.
I have to digress a second....I'm the kinda guy that likes to get involved. I am very trainable, and I follow directions very well, but part of the reason I follow directions well is that I understand WHY I'm doing what I'm doing. I never once got a good answer from the pool store for why I was doing what I was doing (does that sound familiar?). Oh well, I'll do what you tell me....
Two weeks and a couple hundred dollars later, the pool was clear and swimmable. I used the strips (ha!) and followed the pool store's instructions, and had no problems for the rest of the summer. Closed up the pool in the fall, and hoped the next spring would be easier.
Fast forward to July of 2011. Another busy spring with the job, plus a very cool summer in the midwest means the pool wasn't opened until very late. This year I opened it up with much less hassle, and the water was very clear. Learned from last year and got the water tested before I dumped chemicals in blindly. The lady at the pool store was surprised that the results came back as "good" as they did (luck, skill, don't know). Pool was ready to swim in a day and a half.
So this summer, (I thought) I had a better handle on it. Clear, clean water, with no problems all summer long. But I'm still spending a ton of money on chemicals every couple of weeks. I started thinking to myself "There's got to be an easier way to control the balance without spending the money and relying on the pool store." Oh well, not sure how to do that...
Last week, the weather finally got cold, and closed it up for the year. During the closing, I noticed one of my pumps was making some noise. After I was finished, I was searching online for a DIY fix when I stumbled across TFP. I had one of those "Ah Ha!!" moments, and I'm so frustrated that I didn't discover this site six months ago. I've gone through PoolSchool twice already (and plan on more), and I've learned more by scouring the forums in the last five days that I've gotten in the last 2 seasons of operating my pool. Thank you to everybody, and thank you in advance, for all of your help.
My plan is to spend the winter absorbing the theory, and when I open my pool in the spring, I'm never going to a pool store again.