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Thread: TFPC for Beginners

  1. #1
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    TFPC for Beginners

    TFPC for Beginners

    TFPC stands for Trouble Free Pool Care. The TFPC method of taking care of your pool focuses on using simple techniques that don't cost too much and work reliably in nearly all situations. Using TFPC, you avoid putting anything in your water that you don't need and which may cause problems. This allows you to save money and spend your time swimming, instead of driving to the pool store to buy yet another expensive solution to a problem you didn't need to have in the first place.

    TFPC was inspired by The BBB Method of pool care. Many of the central ideas of the BBB method were originally popularized by Ben Powell at his web site and the full BBB Method was subsequently developed by members of his forum, The PoolForum.

    The keys to a beautiful pool are consistency, testing, and chlorine. You need to be consistent. Spending just a couple of minutes every single day can save you hours and hours of work latter on. You need to test the water so you know what is going on and can figure out what to do to keep everything in balance. And you need to use chlorine.

    None of the alternatives to chlorine works reliably and consistently in outdoor pools. Almost every problem people have with chlorine comes from pools that are not properly maintained. If you keep a chlorine pool the right way, people will ask you what you are using instead of chlorine. Almost all of the problems people associate with chlorine are actually problems that come from bad pool maintenance.

    The best investment you can make in your pool is a top quality water test kit. Accurate water test results will save you time and money again and again. The TF Test Kits TF100, Taylor K-2006, and Leslie's Chlorine FAS-DPD Service Test Kit are the current stand-out choices on the market. All three include the FAS-DPD chlorine test, and are based on Taylor chemistry.


    Testing and Adjusting

    Every day you should measure your chlorine and PH, and adjust each as needed, based on your test results. Get into a routine of testing and adjusting the water at the same time every day. The best time to test and adjust is in the evening, but if another time works better for you, go ahead and do that. Once you get used to this simple routine, it will only take a couple of minutes a day.

    Once every week or two you should test and adjust total alkalinity (TA) and, if you don't have a vinyl pool, calcium hardness (CH).

    At the start of the season, and any time there has been significant water replacement, you should measure and adjust cyanuric acid (CYA). If you are using salt or borates in your pool, you should measure them at this time as well.

    To adjust a level, measure your current level and enter it into the Now column of The Pool Calculator. Enter your desired level into the Goal column. Assuming your pool volume has been entered correctly, The Pool Calculator will then show you how much chemical to add to adjust the level. In several cases, The Pool Calculator will offer more than one possible chemical. In those cases, follow the advice below under the individual water test factors for which chemical to use.

    When adjusting levels, it is usually best to work your way up towards your goal, instead of making the change all at once. First add perhaps 2/3rds of the amount indicated, allow that to mix into the water with the pump running for an hour for liquids, two to four hours for most powders, and a week for CYA. Then test the water again and continue adjusting from there. Chlorine is an exception to this rule: go ahead and add the full amount of chlorine all at once.


    Chlorine (FC and TC)

    Chlorine sanitizes your pool, killing bacteria, germs, and algae. Chlorine is used up in the process of keeping your pool safe, and is also consumed by sunlight. You need to add new chlorine regularly to maintain appropriate levels.

    Chlorine can be measured as free chlorine (FC) or total chlorine (TC). TC counts both FC and combined chlorine (CC). You always want CC to be zero, and usually it is, so normally the TC test can be used to measure FC. But when something goes wrong, CC can often be greater than zero, and then it becomes important to measure FC and CC separately.

    The FC level you are aiming for depends on your cyanuric acid (CYA) level. You can use The Pool Calculator to find the appropriate chlorine level to aim for, based on your current CYA level. Enter your CYA level in the Now column and then look at the blue Suggested FC Levels section towards the bottom for the normal range. Or, you can use Chem Geek's Chlorine/CYA Chart for the min and target numbers, or Ben's Best Guess chart. Each of those gives you a range of chlorine levels that may be appropriate for your pool. You never want the chlorine level to go below the lower number.

    Add chlorine to the pool with standard household bleach. Pour the bleach slowly into the water in front of a return jet. Look for unscented or "original scent" and note the percentage. Bleach is commonly sold at 6% strength but some discount brands are lower, occasionally much lower. Bleach is sodium hypochlorite, the exact same chemical that many commercial pools use to sanitize their pools.

    It is also fine to use a salt water chlorine generator (SWG) to add chlorine to the pool instead of using bleach. All of the other possible sources of chlorine have problems, they add things to the water that you don't usually want, simply cost too much to be practical, or are too dangerous to work with. Dichlor and trichlor add CYA. Cal-hypo adds CH. Chlorine gas is hazardous to work with. And lithium-hypo tends to be very expensive. There are cases where you want to add CYA or CH to the water and so use of dichlor, trichlor, or cal-hypo may be justified for a limited time, but this is rare.


    PH

    PH is a measure of how acidic or basic the water is. PH below 7.0 can damage the pool surface and many pool heaters as well as causing eye and skin irritation. PH above 8.0 can lead to metal stains, plaster scaling, as well as eye and skin irritation. PH should always be maintained between 7.2 and 7.8, ideally between 7.5 and 7.8.

    PH can be raised by adding borax. Pour the borax slowly into a skimmer or pre-mix it with water and pour that in front of a return. Borax is available at most grocery stores and places like WalMart and Target. Look for 20 Mule Team Borax, sold as a laundry booster, in a green box in the laundry aisle.

    PH can be lowered with muriatic acid. Pour the muriatic acid slowly into the water in front of a return jet. Muriatic acid is sold at places like Home Depot, Lowes, and local hardware stores. It is often out near the pool supplies but sometimes is in the paint section. It is also possible to use dry acid to lower the PH. Dry acid is easier to work with than muriatic acid but costs more and should not be used with a SWG. Dry acid is sold by pool stores as PH Down, Lo-n-Slo, and PH Reducer.


    Total Alkalinity (TA)

    TA is a buffer that helps you maintain your current PH. The higher your TA is, the more difficult it will be to change the PH. However, higher TA levels combined with aeration will tend to raise the PH. The ideal TA level depends on your source of chlorine, and in many cases doesn't need to be at all exact. The usual range is between 60 and 90, though slightly lower and noticeably higher numbers are acceptable in some situations.

    TA is raised with baking soda. Pour baking soda slowly into a skimmer. Look for Arm and Hammer baking soda, sold in grocery stores in the baking aisle. To lower TA, you bring the PH down to between 7.0 and 7.2 with acid and then aerate the pool to raise the PH back up. Aeration can come from from a waterfall, fountain, spa jets, kids splashing, SWG, rain, air compressor, or by pointing a return up to the surface so it breaks the surface. That cycle, acid and aeration, is then repeated as many times as is needed to lower TA to where you want it.


    Calcium Hardness (CH)

    CH is added to the water so that the water will not dissolve calcium out of your plaster or grout. CH can also help prevent foaming in spas. If you have plaster, pebble, stone, or tile in the water, CH should be kept around 200 to 400. Fiberglass pools and vinyl pools with a spa should keep CH around 220. Vinyl pools without a spa should keep CH anywhere under 300, which usually means you don't need to worry about it much at all.

    CH is increased with calcium chloride or calcium chloride dihydrate. Distribute either form across the surface of the deep end of the pool. Calcium chloride is sold as an ice melter. Calcium chloride dihydrate is sold at pool stores as calcium increaser, Hardness Plus, and various similar names. To lower CH, you need to replace water, or if replacement water is extrememly expensive use a reverse osmosis water treatment.


    Cyanuric Acid (CYA)

    CYA protects chlorine from the effects of sunlight. The more CYA you have the less chlorine you will lose to sunlight each day. CYA also reduces the effective strength of the chlorine. At higher CYA levels you need more chlorine to maintain the same active chlorine level. If you have a SWG or get extreme amounts of direct sunlight on the pool, adjust CYA to between 60 and 80. Otherwise adjust CYA to between 30 and 50.

    CYA can be increased by adding cyanuric acid, often sold as stabilizer or conditioner. CYA is just about the only chemical you need to go to a pool store to get. Check the label to be sure you are getting cyanuric acid since there are other products that use the words stabilizer and conditioner in their names. To lower CYA you must replace water, or if replacement water is extrememly expensive use a reverse osmosis water treatment.


    Salt

    Salt is required by a SWG and can also be used without a SWG to improve the feel of the water. Salt can be dumped directly into the pool as long as you brush it around into a thin layer and leave the pump running for several hours. Use solar salt, sold for water softeners, to raise the salt level. Water softener salt is sold by places like Home Depot and Lowes. Look for salt crystals in the blue bags. Avoid iron fighter, rust remover, or any similar additives. You can use potassium chloride but it costs more to begin with and you need to use 17% more to get the same salt level.


    Borates

    Borates can optionally be added to the pool to help control algae, reduce chlorine usage, buffer PH, and improve the look and feel of the water. The process of adding borates to your pool is beyond the scope of this article.


    Everything Else

    There are many other pool chemicals sold: clarifier, flock, phosphate removers, enzyme treatments, metal sequestrant, non-chlorine shock, and many others. Most of these do have some use in very specific situations, but none of them are required in most pools. You should not use any of these chemicals unless you know that you are in a situation where they are required.


    Conclusion

    The leading cause of pool problems is simply ignoring the pool. Your pool is like a pet: it requires constant attention. The number two cause of problems is adding chemicals you didn't need and don't want. Not only do these extra chemicals tend to cost a lot but they can also cause problems.

    Follow the TFPC method, spend just a couple of minutes a day taking care of your pool, and you can have a truly trouble free pool.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    TFP Admin. Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  2. #2
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    The keys to a beautiful pool are consistency, testing, and chlorine.
    Jason,

    That's a great sentence from a very good article.
    Dave S.
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  3. #3
    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Glad to see you emphasize testing. I never use borax or baking soda, so if I had a SWCG, I'd never use any of the Bs, but IMO it's the knowledge that is the key to the method. Knowledge that comes from education and a decent test kit.
    TFP Moderator
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    Excellent article, that'll be a great link to give to people whenever they ask the "what should I be testing on my new pool" question Great idea on profiling users too, it's always neat to put a face and background to the online "voice"!
    Our pool adventure... click here

  5. #5
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    I just can't say thanks enough for being so specific and detailed - I'm a newbie and you just answered all my "where to put chemicals" and "how long to wait" questions. You saved me a lot of time and clicking. I hope everyone will just add this link in their signatures, and suggest it for newbie reading. Awesome job!
    10,600 gallons (15X30X54") above ground (installed 8-6-08)
    22" sand filter 1.5 hp 2 speed pump
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    God bless America!

  6. #6
    Senior Member h2ctpdjl's Avatar
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    Thanks so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I did the "switch" and found the article to be GREAT! Have aslo forwarded to my friends contemplating making the "switch". Its easy reading and is in plain english that we can all understand.
    18,000 gal, 18x32 IGP, vinyl liner, 3 to 5.5ft depth. One inlet/skimmer (Aqua Genie), one main drain. Hayward Pro Series Sand Filter w/filtration rate of 20 GPM/FT, Two-Speed Pentair Whisperflo 1 HP pump, Natural Gas Hayward H200 pool heater, Aquabot T2 (200 Series) Robotic Pool Cleaner (my best friend), Automatic Electric Pool Cover (2nd best friend).

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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    Why are the rec. free chlorine levels higher in the BBB method?

    Noob
    10K gal, Colored Plaster, 2 HP Pentair Whisperflo pump, Pentair Quad DE filter, Paramount in-floor cleaning system w/2HP Pentair Whisperflo pump.

  8. #8
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    We have recommended FC levels that will be trouble free.

    Typical pool store FC levels assume very low CYA levels and make up for the problems people frequently experience at those levels by having you shock the pool frequently, typically once a week. That approach doesn't keep the water safe all week long and occasionally leads to major problems.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    TFP Admin. Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  9. #9
    Member riverheightsnancy's Avatar
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    One small question: Most of the recommendations for BBB state guidelines for plaster, vinyl, gunite, fiberglass, etc... However, I never see the recommendation for concrete pools. I can't be the only person in the entire Northern Hemisphere with one of these well-made, old guys. My pool is rubber based paint over concrete, no plaster. What guide should I follow?

    Also would that change if I get a LQ? I am particularly interested in the PH/ALK because we get consistent iron staining, even though the vitamin C works wonders, I can't keep the staining away for a long period of time or even the entire season.

    I also imagine that the recommendation would change if we change the pool surface? A rubber based paint to water based latex? we are considering a remodel of plaster over the concrete as well. Any links to this process or thoughts would be appreciated. We don't want to go from bad to worse if you know what I mean.
    1960s Original Sylvan Pool
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  10. #10
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    Paint is non-reactive and therefore is treated the same way as vinyl. The Liquidator does not change any of the recommendations. It is simply a different way of adding bleach.

    For the rest of your questions, you should start new topics in the appropriate areas.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    TFP Admin. Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  11. #11
    Member riverheightsnancy's Avatar
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    Ok...so, I should follow the guidelines for vinyl? Not sure I would agree with that especially in the area of CH. I have read in other threads the discussion about switching to the SWG chart when one goes with an LQ? Just curious. I guess it doesn't matter if you shoot for the middle. I wil say that I do have bits of exposed concrete in the pool. (chipping). Not sure if that would change anything. (not trying to argue either, . I am trying to become more of an expert on what really works for my pool, because it always seems a bit cloudy. Just a slight tad)
    1960s Original Sylvan Pool
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    @ 30,000 Gallons
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    2 HP Hayward Pump
    BBB believer!

  12. #12
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    There are a few examples of trying to use the SWG chart with a Liquidator not working. There hasn't been enough experience with it to say for sure, but so far it looks like it doesn't have the same lower FC level advantage that a SWG does.

    If you have exposed concrete, you should follow the plaster recommendations.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    TFP Admin. Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    OMG I am so glad I found this info!!! thank you so much for posting, I only wish I would have found it this year when I opened my pool for the first time. I knew it should be able to be done this way. I am a first time pool owner this was my first season with my pool, we opened it and I have just been looking for advice everywhere. There were left over tablets from the previous owner of our house so we have been using the tabs this year and getting advice from anywhere we could. We have been testing with strips but I am going to buy the tf-100 for next year and start the season with the BBB method. It seems soooo much easier than what I have been doing. Like going to the pool store if I have a question getting told I need something unrelated buying it putting it in and then finding out I have to buy something else to fix there fix!
    25,000 capacity, IG vinyl, .94 HP pump, sand filter (Tagelus Deluxe TA-50D), 50GPM Design Flow Rate filter

  14. #14
    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    Welcome to TFP.

    We've all been pool stored sometime. Spend the winter reading and absorbing everything you can here. Then next spring you'll be ready to have a Trouble Free Pool experience.
    Dave J. TFP Moderator
    24' x 52" Round AGP. 1.5hp Dynamo pump. 24" Pentair Sand Dollar Filter. 45MHP2(3GPD) Stenner Peristaltic Pump
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    You can stop SLAMing your pool when you pass the OCLT (You lose 1ppm or less FC overnight, & You have .5ppm CC's or less) & your water is clear.

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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    Boy am I glad I found this website! As a new pool owner viable information is a plus. Thanx

  16. #16
    Senior Member phipsi1237's Avatar
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    BBB for Beginners

    Welcome!!
    14.5K gal Plaster IGP, Intelliflo VS, EasyTouch 8, SWG, IntellipH, Clear and Clean 420 Cartridge Filter, Attached Spa, H400IDL2 NG Heater

  17. #17
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    New pool owner here. I've been going to PAP and am trying to learn how to do the testing myself. I have been so indoctrinated into shocking weekly, I have to ask to make sure I'm understanding correctly... if using the BBB method, there is no need to shock the pool?
    Ripley2
    6500 gallon IG/pebble, Hayward C900, 1hp motor

  18. #18
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    Welcome to TFP!

    There is no need to shock the pool under normal conditions. The only times you shock the pool are when there is visible algae, CC is higher than 0.5, there is some other kind of obvious organic contamination, or when you are losing chlorine overnight.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    TFP Admin. Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  19. #19
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    just getting started, but the the specs for the 12% bleach i just bought says that the pH of the bleach is about 12 or so. Won't this affect the pH of the pool?

  20. #20
    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: BBB for Beginners

    Quote Originally Posted by wam525
    just getting started, but the the specs for the 12% bleach i just bought says that the pH of the bleach is about 12 or so. Won't this affect the pH of the pool?
    The short answer is no.

    The process the bleach goes through while being used in the pool renders bleach essentially pH nuetral in its effect on the water.
    TFP Moderator
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