So I have three questions regarding pool testing.
First, a little background: I am not colorblind. If anything, I can see colors above and below the normal spectrum. Specifically, I have the most trouble reading the alk test because you add drops to *remove* color and there is no comparison chart. I continue to see blue, it seems, even when it's removed.
My test results 2-3 weeks ago using Ace brand 4-way drop kit (these are the first useful readings, just after beginning borax, before adding baking soda. I have been aerating successfully all summer to keep the pH up but it dropped after turning the pump off for a week during vacation):
FC - 3+ *
CC (little or no change in color)
pH - 7.4
TA - 60 *
CH - (untested)
CYA - (untested)
Pool Store's (electronic) results:
FC - 1.8 *
CC - .13
TC - 1.31
pH - 7.4
TA - 25 *
CH - 182
CYA - 46
(Borate- 10 ppm)
--> I adjusted. pH is now 7.4, alk I read at 120, maintaining for +2 weeks. FC still reading at 3+ I'm afraid to ask the pool store to test it again, but I guess I should. The net result of using borax and baking soda is that the adjustment went perfectly, is buffering well, and @2+ days after adding borax the milky look the water always has went away completely (for a while, but I think it's my fault that it's back, so I'm not going to add that to my question list). Judging from the water quality, I did it exactly right and my pool thanked me. That suggests my numbers are right, too.
I can't imagine I would be more than 2 drops off on the alk test or at nearly half the FC I read at home. I purchased replacement drops, thinking maybe freshness counted and maybe mine were "off" their date. The repeat test gave me precisely the same results.
All my questions have to do with reading these tests.
1.) Which is more likely: that this pool store's machine is out of calibration or my readings are wrong? They have the only gig in town, so I can't double check their numbers with another pool store. I'm concerned by their chlorine reading (1.8 when the drop test gave me +3) because if I raise my chemicals to 3 on the assumption that they are right, I might endanger my children's health. If I rely on my reading, then I'm keeping the chemicals too low, again unhealthy sanitation-wise.
2.) Is there an alk drop test that matches colors, like the chlorine and pH drop test does? Or an accurate test strip? Removing the color is what throws me off. I cannot rely on my eyes when a small shadow on the background paper casts a blue tint to the water. I have been filling the chlorine side with straight water to compare and this is helping, but the differing sizes of tubes plus the different placement against the background skews the shadows and throws off my reading, still. I look like a contortionist, moving about the yard and turning upside down to compare at every angle and light source haha.
--> My chlorine reader actually only goes up to 3. Sort of pointless. Yes, I want to maintain at around 3, but I can't read exactly how far above it is going. If I drop below 2, the water gets cloudy. I have shopped around (looked at the Taylor and T tests) and they only go up to 5, so even if I get one of these, how am I to know if I am super-chlorinating sufficiently when I "shock" for algae? (We have a lot of trees, and I do have to "shock" about every 3 weeks.)
3.) Is there a chlorine drop test that goes above 5 ppm, and if so, is it one I can manage with color-comparison without using drops to remove color? I found the how-to-use video and the three-bottle drops for chlorine checks is confusing. Or was that only to test for combined chlorine?
At the moment, my water is somewhat cloudy again for about a week. I generally vacuum 2X per week but the children were gone and the pool was unused, so I skipped a week and only brushed it. Brushing didn't stir up any significant algae blooms but upon vacuuming I noticed a mustard algae stuck to the bottom around the ladders that I originally mistook for sand. I scrubbed that with the broom and treated with 3 oz. of 15% polyquat 75% whatever algicide per bottle's instructions. (I know, 15% is insufficient but it's what I bought before I got to that section of the forum.) The next day, brushing stirred up a blackish dust from the bottom (dead algae?) so I vacuumed again. Will probably repeat again today, to make certain all the sub-particles I can get at are cleaned up. I do not maintain borax levels high enough to be a real deterrent to algae, since that would raise my pH too high. I do notice a green stain on my filter and the skimmer door's foam, but otherwise no green algae blooms elsewhere. I remove and spray-clean my filter at least every other day, and clean the skimmer basket at least once/daily (especially now the leaves are falling).
I think it's time to shock again. My CC isn't bad, but I guess it's the only way to kill the goop before it turns into Algaepocalypse. I assume it's okay to use bleach to super-chlorinate a pool that's using tri-chlor tabs @ +3ppm for sanitation.
((Sorry. That wasn't short or painless as promised :P ))