Slowly, bit by bit, we've learned to maintain our swimming pool, about 20,000 gallons. What's unusual about our pool is that it's situated literally in the midst of a heavy backyard foilage including a few evergreen trees (including pine trees) and a redwood. Surprisingly, a 100 year old redwood in Ontario, Canada -- a lovely rare specimen in this part of the world. We have had the pool for four months now...
(not pictured is the tall pinetrees behind the hammock area, that has branches outside the photo frame, but overhanging 40 feet above the deep end of the pool!)
Debris in our pool is the biggest maintenance headache currently. We broke 2 vaccuum heads with green pine cones (while trying to remove them), until I learned not to lift my vaccuum head (to avoid accidentally sucking & jamming the hose) and just nudge the occasional pine cones to a corner where I'll dive in later to retrieve them. We have been successfully keeping the pool clear of debris, as most of the trees with overhanging branches over the pool are evergreen, but it does mean we have to spend about half an hour vaccuuming the pool everytime we want to swim. We've begun trimming select branches like the ones overhanging the pool, but with some lovely 100 year old fully grown trees (including a redwood). The pine tree branches are about 30-40 feet above the pool and pine cones are an unavoidable necessity unless we want to chop those down (not a chance).
Chlorinating routine (may be flawed?)
I haven't shocked before (after the initial visit from the pool-opening techs). Balancing is done by daily testing of standard 6-test strips and I've managed to hone my balancing skills to the point where I only use up about 20 dollars of chlorine a month, and sometimes the minimum setting (0.5 to 1) on my 0...10-scale chlorinator sometimes overchlorinates my pool, that occasionally I have had to turn off the chlorinator for 1 day (sometimes 2 or 3 days) to get it down from "toxic" levels (10) down to spa-levels (5) or OK levels (3). I left alkanity a bit low (a notch below the OK range) for a month or two, until I finally got the right buckets of chemicals. Sometimes I let the Ph get low (~6.8), but when it fell to 6.2 I finally went to fine-tune it. Then all the squares on my test strips fell to the middle of the "OK" ranges and chlorine consumption plummeted. So far, I've only had one accidental situation of algae bloom this year, but only because I accidentally left the chlorinator turned off one day too many (Was at 0 for a full day or two) and turning chlorinator to maximum cleared it up after two days using up only a few dollars of chlorine. I've never shocked my pool before (The chlorinator is easily able to clear the pool on its own accord) but when we moved in, we hired pool maintenance guys to "open up" the pool which includes shocking it. It's been 3 months since the pool was last shocked. I now read that I need to shock more often. Is it acceptable to avoid shocking for months on end, if I notice my chlorine is being used up slowly?
Pool pump routine
I just run 24/7, as it helps keep debris somewhat down; because of all the foilage. There is only one skimmer, though. I hear people sometimes run the pump only one hour a day, but I'm not sure if we want to run it that infrequently. We only turn off the pump when we have the solar blanket on, since when we turn off the pool heater, the pump actually cools down the pool. So we turn off the pool pump for the night, if the pool is heated up and we want to preserve the water temperature for the next day. An 85F heated pool is still 81F the next morning. A small surge of "black dust" (dead algae) occurs when we do that, even though we maintained spa-level chlorine (5) on the high-end of the OK range of the test strips. I presume appearance of more dead algae is normal because of higher temperatures & stagnant water during the times we turn off the pump? We just vaccuum that right up once we pull the solar cover off next day and turn the pump back on. Then it's sparkling blue clear. Other times (When the pool is not heated), we just keep the pump running 24/7.
It is natural gas. Not sure of its BTU. Usually to the mid-80s during a colder weekend. Two times this year, for parties, we ran "hot tub mode" to 90F and 96F respectively. During mid-September it took 36 hours of non-stop pool pump running, to raise temperature from 68F all the way to 96F (pool cover went off when the temp was 92F when the party started, and the temp still kept rising to 96F as we left the heater on for the duration of the party too). Costing me what I estimate to be approximately 40 dollars of natural gas (~18cent/m3), acceptable for special events. Is there a risk of pool damage if we heat the whole pool to hot-tub temperatures?
The pool was extremely popular, with lots people jumping in and we'd love to be able to occasionally heat that high. We are considering solar heating within 2 years, as we have a south-facing roof slant (20 degree slant) that's about ~3/4th the surface area of the pool. That will cut costs and be more environmentally friendly. But it's a very long pipe run as the pool pump is in an old brick shed (converted to poolhouse) at the rear of backyard. I'll probably post a thread when the time comes to upgrade.
But we want to be more prepared next year, with a more refined process. How do we keep the pool clear of debris? That's the biggest maintenance headache I have right now. I'm considering a robot, but what about pine cones and tree debris? There are two old pool robots stored away, both of them failed (rusted parts, maybe from less-than-stellar care from previous homeowners). During certain times of the year, there will often be 1 or 2 cones, sometimes 5, depending on how windy it was. That could be bad for a valuable robot, with the pump suddenly stopping working (and needing me to re-prime it) as soon as a pinecone jammed the hose inlet. Putting the cover on helps to an extent as I can sweep the cover, but during the hottest summer months when we're not using the heater, it seemed easier if I just left the cover off and simply vaccuumed the debris. We're considering ideas such as pop-up canvas/awning that covers 1/4 of the pool to guard against the pinetree debris falling from 40 feet directly above the pool (since that's the biggest hazard with its dastardly pinecones). Tips?
Anyway, that's my introduction for now.