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Thread: Need To Interview Pool Owner For Article On DIY Maintenance

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    Need To Interview Pool Owner For Article On DIY Maintenance

    Hello. My name is Erik Martin and I'm working on a new story for The Costco Connection (the consumer magazine for members of Costco stores) on the following topic:

    DIVING IN (WITHOUT TAKING A BATH): How to save money on maintaining and closing your pool this season: tips on the best supplies to switch to, routine care and upkeep practices that can prevent costly repairs, and why pool owners should learn to close a pool themselves, and how to do it, to save hundreds of dollars a year.

    For this story, I’m looking to interview homeowners who own and maintain their own pools. I can either conduct a phone or email interview (with the latter, you can type up responses to my questions below and email them to me if you prefer). My deadline to complete all interviews is Thursday, April 4 at 4 p.m. central time. Please contact me via this forum or at to arrange an interview. To check my credentials, feel free to visit

    1 Why should owners learn to do it themselves? What are the benefits to opening/closing/maintaining your own pool? In addition to saving money, are there any other advantages?
    2 What will owners need to learn, purchase and do to be able to open their own pool at the start of next season? What’s the best way to learn the proper techniques for opening/closing: hire a pro one time who can train you? Read a book? Surf the Internet/YouTube?
    3 What will owners need to learn, purchase and do to be able to close their own pool (e.g., air compressor, antifreeze, winter cover, etc.)? How much will these items cost?
    4 How much money can homeowners save a year by handling pool maintenance duties themselves (opening/closing/cleaning/maintaining) instead of hiring a professional service? Give an estimate for an average in-ground and an average above-ground pool.
    What are at least some of these duties that any homeowner can and should learn to do themselves? Why?
    5 Do you have any tips on the best way to save money on regular supplies (chlorinator, shock, algaecide, etc.) without sacrificing quality? Is it best to buy in large bulk quantities? Are tablets more economical than granulated chlorine?
    6 Does brand not really matter when it comes to supplies? What does matter? What are the preferred ingredients and minimum available chlorine you recommend in these supplies, so that owners know what to look for?
    7 Are there any circumstances/situations where owners should be prepared to enlist a professional for help?
    8 What is the key to having a clean, well-maintained and properly functioning pool all season long if you’re doing to do it yourself? Any other tips here?
    9 What are some good preventive maintenance recommendations you can offer pool owners so they can avoid costly repairs and ensure a long lifespan for their equipment?
    10 If you’re a pool owner, how long have you owned your pool? What kind is it (inground/above ground; what kind of liner, filter, pump/motor; dimensions/volume; etc.)? Do you hire a service (for what? How much does it cost?) or do you do it yourself (for how long? Why do you do it yourself?)? Why should pool owners consider doing their own maintenance/upkeep in your opinion? Are you a Costco member (if so, for how long?) What is your full name? What city/state do you live in?
    11 If you’re a pool maintenance professional, what are the pros/cons of pool owners performing their own maintenance? Do you recommend it in any way? Why/why not? What should owners except if they attempt to do it themselves? What are some other ways they can save money on their pool during the season—any tips? Are you a Costco member (if so, how long)? What is your full name? What city/state is your business in, and what is the full name of your business?
    12 Any other thoughts, comments, or tips you wanted to offer on this topic?


    Erik J. Martin
    46,000 gallon in ground, 60 cubic foot DE filter, freshwater.

  2. Back To Top    #2
    JasonLion's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Silver Spring, MD

    Re: Need To Interview Pool Owner For Article On DIY Maintena

    I will also e-mail this.

    1) Costs less, better water quality, fewer problems, and I have a lot of fun doing the small amount of work required.

    2) Opening and closing are easy to learn, but they are physically demanding and it helps a great deal to have special equipment. I have opened and closed the pool, but these days I hire a service. I learned what needs to be done by surfing the Internet.

    3) You have to have a cover even if you buy it from a pool service. The only equipment I needed to buy was a large shopvac, around $70. Each year I also need a $20 bottle of algaecide and $20 of RV/pool antifreeze.

    4) Prices are high where I am, around $80/week and $300 each for opening and closing. When I did everything myself I saved around $1000. Since I now have a service open and close, I am saving about $400/year.

    I think everyone should be able to test and balance their water, clean the filter, and do the other routine cleaning tasks (vacuum, leaves out of the skimmer, etc).

    5) Internet prices are often less that local store prices, especially where I am. In regions with a very high number of pools it is sometimes the other way around, but still worth checking Internet pricing.

    Bleach/liquid chlorine, salt water systems, trichlor tablets, and cal-hypo on a good sale all cost about the same in the long run if you do careful shopping. There is far more variation from store to store than there is in which kind you use. More importantly, different forms of chlorine have other pros/cons which should influence your choice far more than price.

    6) Brand doesn't matter for the basic supplies. All the brands purchase from the same handful of chemical supply companies. For some of the occasional/specialty items it makes a little more of a difference, but even then there are generics that are just as good as the brand names if you shop carefully (and also others that aren't very good).

    7) Minimum available chlorine has nothing to do with it. Compare prices based on available chlorine, but no reason to avoid high or low available chlorine if it is a good deal. Look for products without any additives or special features, that contain 98+% of the chemical you are looking for. For example cyanuric acid is sold as 99+% pure and also as 50% pure (with filler). The 50% product costs nearly as much as the 99% product and is a terrible deal. Trichlor tablets are often sold with significant percentages of other things (like copper, clarifier, etc) and generally cost the same as the 98+% products, making the versions with additives a worse deal.

    8) The keys are to get a good test kit and to look at the pool every day to see what it needs. It doesn't need to take much time each day, I average less then 5 minutes. Catching problems early makes a huge difference in both the effort and cost to resolve whatever it it.

    9) Deal with anything that comes up right away. A small leak today, that is easy to fix, if ignored for a few weeks can become a large leak that is difficult to repair.

    10) Bought the house 6 years with pool already in place. 18x36, inground, vinyl liner, cartridge filter, 1/2 HP single speed pump, gas heater. These days we use a service for opening/closing and non-trivial repairs, but I have done everything (including major repair) myself in the past.

    Jason T. Linhart, Silver Spring MD. There hasn't been a Costco close enough to consider, but a new one is opening a mile away this week and I plan to check it out.

    11) Not a pro.

    12) There are some great people in the pool industry, but there are also a lot of people who know far less about how to take care of a pool than you will after a couple of hours of reading. Averaged across many pool stores the quality of advice is ridiculously low, far worse than you can find on TFP, or other Internet sources. You really can do better yourself with only a couple of minutes a day, lower costs, better water quality, and fewer problems.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

  3. Back To Top    #3
    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    SouthWest Alabama

    Re: Need To Interview Pool Owner For Article On DIY Maintena

    Martin, all the answers can be found right here on the forum. The biggest issue you'll have is the deadline you placed.
    Following is a very brief comment on each of the questions.

    1) Cost saving is a big one, but learning what chemicals to use and what happens when you add them is just as big. Also what the real proper levels of chems are.

    2) Besides the chem balance owners need to have a basic understanding of the equipment and what it's function is. The best way to learn that and other things is on this forum.

    3) Pool closing procedures are very dependent on location and owner personality. I don't think you can write one article that will cover all there is to know about the different pool closings.

    4) The average savings around here probably range from $100 to several thousands of dollars per year. It again depends on the owner and location.

    5) The best way to save money on supplies is to know the ingredients you need and shop for the best price product that contains that ingredient. Chlorine for example. Some places 12.5% sodium hypochlorite is cheaper than 6% and some places the lower percentage is cheaper.

    6) Brand does not matter so long as the ingredient and strength is known. The preferred ingredients here are sodium hypochlorite (bleach) for FC, Muriatic acid or borax for pH, Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) for TA, and Cyanuric Acid for stabilizer. There are also other ways to chlorinate a pool and a lot of people like swcg's (salt water chlorine grnerators).

    7) Like any DIY there are certainly times to "write a check". Leak detection beyond something simple is usually a good candidate for calling a professional, as is electrical issues that are beyond the owners comfort.

    8) The key is maintaining the Proper FC to your CYA ratio. Almost as important is the filtering of the water.

    9) The best thing you can do is learn the personality of your equipment and regularly inspect the equipment. That way you'll be able to notice when something changes and can repair or have it reapired before it becomes a bigger issue.

    10) The pool I have now I've owned about 5 years, but I've owned and helped friends maintain pools for many years. I do all my maintenance and repairs. I do it myself because exactly what was done and how it was done. I am a Costco member but prefer not to give out personal info.

    11) does not apply to me.

    12) Spend a good deal of time reading and practicing the teachings on this site if you really want a clean, clear, trouble free pool.
    Dave J. TFP Moderator
    24' x 52" Round AGP. 2hp/¼hp SPL Power-Flo 2-speed pump. 200sqft Waterway Cartridge Filter. 45MHP2(3GPD) Stenner Peristaltic Pump
    Pool School ----- Pool Math ----- TF-Test Kit

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Tucson, AZ

    Re: Need To Interview Pool Owner For Article On DIY Maintena

    I agree with what the others have written, but will add my thoughts. Really this forum is about the best source of information you will find for homeowners to learn to maintain their own pools.

    1) While cost savings is often a factor as others mentioned, the reason I started maintaining my own pool was for improved water balance. I had been paying a company who would only come weekly and then switched to bi-weekly ... this resulted in wild swings in the chemistry over this period. Often very high chlorine levels after they came and very low levels before the next visit. The only thing they seemed to want to insure was that the water was clear ... this did NOT necessarily mean that the water was safe and sanitary. Occasional rashes resulted and when the water did turn green, they would come out and dose the chlorine even higher, meaning we lost use of the pool ... and of course so no reduction in the amount of $ we paid them.

    2) Your question focuses on opening/closing. Well, for much of the US where the weather never maintains freezing temperatures, we never close/open our pools. We can greatly reduce our pump run time, but still maintain adequate chlorine in the pool to prevent algae from starting. When the water is cold, the chlorine consumption is greatly reduced meaning the maintenance over the winter is easier.

    3) Again, this does not apply to many who just maintain the same chemistry over the winter.

    4) The money savings likely varies greatly around the country. The cost of pool company that I perviously had to "maintain" the chemistry was actually quite comparable to doing it myself, however the water quality that I now KNOW I have far surpasses the minor cost difference.

    5) Reading in Pool School on this forum you can learn the ingredients of the required chemicals for maintaining you pool. You will quickly realize that the ingredients found in the pool store's chemicals are identical to those found in grocery stores. The easiest way to same money is to not pay extra for the fancy packaging for "specialty" pool chemicals. Generally liquid chlorine / bleach is often the most economical as it does not have the side-effects that any of the solid forms of chlorine have that can lead to larger problems in the future.

    6) Brand does not matter, the ingredients matter.

    7) Any time the owner is not comfortable with something, they should seek advice either online or from a local professional. This is especially true if electricity or gas is involved.

    8) The key to a trouble free pool all season long is understanding the water's chemistry and, through accurate testing, only adding the chemicals that the pool needs. This will ultimately lead to saving money and a clearer, safer pool.

    9) Proper water chemistry is the most important thing as far as prolonging the life of the pool and equipment. If problems develop, fix them quickly. One example, if you see water on the ground around your pump motor, likely the shaft seal is leaking. This can be fixed pretty cheaply (< $50), but left alone, it can ruin the motor bearing and required the purchase of a new motor for hundreds of dollars.

    10) Owned current house with a pool for almost 4 years (see my signature for details). Previous house had a smaller in ground plaster, SWG pool for 7 years. I have address most of the other questions above. I have been a Costco member for 5+ years.

    11) Not a professional, just a homeowner who enjoys helping others learn to maintain their pool on the TFP forum.

    12) The best thing any homeowner can do is learn about the chemistry and their pool. A little knowledge will help you weed out the bad information that is everywhere regarding pool maintenance. Many pool stores offer "free" water testing ... since when has anything been free? We see countless stories here about how inaccurate this free testing really is ... some have even taken know samples into stores for the free testing and reported results which are just not even possible. You have to ask yourself, how unbiased are the employees at this pool store or are they just there to sell you something that may or may not help in the long run? Or for that matter, what are the qualification of the teenager working their summer job at the store ... do they even have a pool? A little knowledge can go a long way to making pool maintenance cheaper and easier.
    Jason, TFP Moderator
    18k IG pebblesheen pool, Hayward ProLogic P4 w/ T-15 SWG, Pentair 1HP 2-speed Superflo, Hayward 6020 DE filter
    500 sqft Heliocol solar panels, ThePoolCleaner, TF-100 test kit w/ SpeedStir
    Pool School + Test Kit + PoolMath = A TROUBLE FREE POOL
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    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Atlanta, GA

    Re: Need To Interview Pool Owner For Article On DIY Maintena

    1 Obviously to save money but it's also good to know you're not getting ripped off when you need help. You obviously need time to do things but when you don't have time, the invest provides a great way to judge professionals knowledge.
    2 There is a fantastic how-to on this site that got me started. It covered everything and if you have a strange issue, you can search and look it up here. Most purchases would be for chlorine and if necessary, salt for SWG and perhaps specific products for your pool if you have issues.
    3 The first question should be, do you want to close it? You can sometimes save money by keeping it open year round. The pump is run less due to less daylight and you can add chlorine and monitor the water. To close the pool though, for inground pools, you generally want a cover, I prefer a safety cover and it's a lot less hassle than a traditional vinyl winter cover with bags.
    4) Only can say for inground, I save $1,000s a year on the pool. From chemicals to maintenance it really adds up, furthermore if something goes wrong, it's more money from a professional. Once I maintained my pool's chemistry, I had to do little else but make slight adjustments. With a pool service I was spending 200 a month for them just to come out and 300 for chemicals. I now spend 0 for them to come out and probably 50/month on chemicals
    4a) Homeowner needs to learn to check the pool chemistry. At the least, this shows them what state their pool is in. Honestly, you don't even need a kit, just take some water to Leslie's and they'll do it for you, you just have to not let them talk you into chemicals you don't need. You need to know this because there are a lot of good and a lot of slimy people in the pool business. There are so many choices and most people who need help just want to not worry about it.
    5 That's easy! Buy bleach! That is what originally made me come to this site. I would NEVER buy chlorine except when I shock. You do need CYA though and if you just use trichlor or dichlor you'll eventually have to adjust the CYA anyway. Bleach is chlorine and water, no clue why people think pool chlorine is better than bleach. The same goes for salt, it's just salt!
    6 The quantity and percentage of concentration are all that matter. I also look to make sure the container isn't flawed. I don't want bleach or hydrochloric acid leaking out somewhere! The brand doesn't matter at ALL for me with chemicals. The ingredients always do though.
    7 Absolutely, when they feel they are in over their head or don't have the time to do this. You may need a pro for part of the time or even to start up the pool and show you the ropes. Most are happy to help. You'll also want them for any big jobs.
    8 Aside from the pool chemistry, you want to maintain your filter. If you have a cartiridge filter, that's easy. A sand is a bit tough. But for me, a DE filter must be taken apart and cleaned. Chances are if you have one, it's never been done. Take some before and after pictures because you'll be shocked at how gross they get. This is something the pool guys rarely do and I often hardly backwash, instead I just clean the filter usually 3 times a season and my pool is crystal clear.
    9 Filter Maintenance and perfect pool chemistry, especially the pH. When you work on your pool you notice other things too, such as bubbles in the pipes or weird sounds.
    10 3 years, I'm not the original owner, the pool is 10 years old at least. It's inground, vinyl, Pentair whisper 2 speed, 20x40'/24k gallons. No service hired, i've done it myself for 2 1/2 years.
    I am a Costco member, been so for 2 years. Thomas Gamull, Atlanta/GA.
    11 not one
    12 It would be great for Costco to support this site, this site has saved me 1000s of dollars!
    40x20 Vinyl Inground (27,000 gal). SWG with Pentair 48 DE Filter.
    Also have a broken Polaris pump with no polaris and a broken AquaCal Heat Pump...inherited from last owner.

  6. Back To Top    #6
    Isaac-1's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    SW Louisiana

    Re: Need To Interview Pool Owner For Article On DIY Maintena

    I just wanted to follow up on the point that pool closing means different things depending on the climate where a person lives. In North Dakota it may mean emptying and covering pools with substantial structures, filling plumbing lines with anti-freeze, disconnecting pumps and filters to be stored indoors, etc. In the central U.S. closing may mean simply covering the pool and draining the pipes, then there are places like where I live in the south where many people never formally close their pools, they just go through a too cold to swim dormant season with lower levels of maintenance (algae does not tend to grow in cold water as much...)
    Indoor 20x40 35,000 gallon vinyl pool with 1.5 HP 2 speed Jandy FloPro pump, Hayward EC75 Perflex DE filter, 11 4x12 Techno-Solis solar panels w/ Aquasolar controller, Aquabot Turbo T Robot Cleaner. Also LMI metering chlorine dispenser pump and HotSpring Jetsetter
    I use and endorse TFtestKits TF-100 from
    ~Remember TFP counts on your donations to keep this site ad free~

  7. Back To Top    #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    New Jersey

    Re: Need To Interview Pool Owner For Article On DIY Maintena

    One suggestion: Avoid selling products that list 'proprietary ingredients' where the manufacturer refuses to specify what they are--as in the exchange described below that I had recently with the maker of the tabs currently featured by CostCo.
    Current: 28,000G 18'x36' I/G AnthonySylvan Plaster; Waterway 60 sq.ft. DE Filter; 1.0hp x 1.65 SF Two-Speed (B2982) WhisperFlo; 2004-Present
    Previous: 40,000G 20'x40' I/G Koven unlined WWII salvage 5/8" marine steel; Lomart Stainless Sand Filter; 3/4hp Hayward SuperPump; 1946-2003 (managed by me from about 1964)
    Ancient Taylor K-2000, upgraded with Taylor CH, TA, and FAS-DPD, and TFT CYA tests.

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