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Thread: First time pool owners / first 3 month experience

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    Join Date
    Sep 2014
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    Hamilton, Canada
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    70

    First time pool owners / first 3 month experience

    Hello,

    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...

    foilage.jpg
    (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!)

    Foilage
    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.

    Pool heater
    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?

    Solar
    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.

    Next year
    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.
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.
    20,000 gallon concrete/vinyl, 32'x16' size, Raypak Digital 266 Heater, Hayward Tristar VS pump

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    Oct 2013
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    Re: First time pool owners / first 3 month experience

    Get yourself a quality leaf rake to get all that stuff off the bottom of your pool.
    Pool size: 24000gal inground Vinyl-Taylor k-2006 and k-1766 test kits and-speed stir
    Intermatic P1353ME digital timer w/freeze sensor
    CircuPool Si-45 SWCG System
    Polaris 280 vacuum/Polaris PB4-60 boost pump
    Pentair IntelliFlo VS 3hp Pump--Pentair sand filter

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Tucson, AZ
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    Re: First time pool owners / first 3 month experience

    Welcome to TFP!!!

    If you truly want to be in control of your pool, you need to toss the worthless test strips and invest in one of the Recommended Test Kits.

    From your descriptions, it kind of sounds like your chemical maintenance leave a bit to be desired if the FC levels are wildly swinging.

    BTW, we generally NEVER "shock" our pools. We follow the ShockLevelAndMAINTAIN Process only if a problem develops ... which does not happen if you maintain adequate FC levels which are a function of your CYA levels according to the FC/CYA Chart.

    How much Pool School have you read? Start with these:
    ABCs of Water Chemistry
    Recommended Pool Chemicals
    How to Chlorinate Your Pool
    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
    If you found TFP helpful and we saved you money ... Become a TFP Supporter!

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    Jun 2014
    Location
    Burlington, Ontario
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    Re: First time pool owners / first 3 month experience

    We're just around the corner in Aldershot. I'm surprised to hear about the redwood but our house has an 80 year old (or so) sycamore on the front lawn and I thought they were more common in warmer zones as well...

    We have a big old red pine overlooking our pool and we use a robot to keep it clean. Ours is a Hayward Evac pro and is entirely self contained so it will never clog the pump or anything. It is kind of like a roomba for a pool but with an electrical cord. If it jams, it will shut down. Run it for three hours and the pool is clean. Our pine cones are small but it deals with them OK. It would probably just push around bigger ones.

    For chlorination, we use a stenner pump. Our pool only seems to need about 500-750ml of liquid chlorine per day and you can get 10L jugs of 12% locally for $6. So that's about $10 per month.

    With a solar cover, it was pretty easy to maintain 83f all summer and you know how crappy the weather was. Only ran the heater a few times.

    I also recommend the tf100 test kit but you'll have to find an American friend to get it for you. They can't ship to Canada.
    16' wide ~20,000gal IG vinyl lazy L shape pool circa 2002, 1hp Hayward Super Pump, Hayward S244T sand filter, Hayward H250ED2 gas heater, Hayward eVac Pro robot, Stenner pump for chlorine, TF-100 test kit
    2008 Gulf Coast 864 LEi hot tub

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    Hamilton, Canada
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    Re: First time pool owners / first 3 month experience

    Quote Originally Posted by timerguy View Post
    Get yourself a quality leaf rake to get all that stuff off the bottom of your pool.
    Researching, those might be useful when small branches break in a nasty windstorm and a bunch of small branches/pinecones at the bottom of pool. But 95% of the time, it's all vaccuumable debris except the pinecones I nudge into the corner for a dive-n-retrieve. For a month in the summer, it was only yew tree needles - spruce-sized needles. It goes completely through a leaf rake, but is very easy to vaccuum. Now after a windy night, it was a huge bunch of dead pine tree needles. Most float rather than sink, so it's either a 20 minute solar cover sweeping job or 20 minute skim-net job (I find work somewhat of a wash whether I keep the pool cover on or off). All my tree debris is easily vaccuumable except for the "dastardly" pine cones that broke two manual vaccuum heads when I tried to remove them clogged ino the outlet. Until I got the hang of a very quick skim and vaccuum (usually 30 minutes depending on amount of debris). As you can see in the photograph, the trees are absolutely beautiful and we're not chopping them despite the extra pool debris cleanup required.
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.
    20,000 gallon concrete/vinyl, 32'x16' size, Raypak Digital 266 Heater, Hayward Tristar VS pump

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    Re: First time pool owners / first 3 month experience

    Quote Originally Posted by jblizzle View Post
    Welcome to TFP!!!
    THANK YOU!
    Yes, I read some of this, even though I have had crystal blue waters 95% of the days, with only a fogginess/cloudiness (no color tint) 5% of the time (from low-chlorine moments) centering around the time I accidentally let chlorine get to 0.

    Trying to get a TF100 now (hard to do so in Canada) so I may get a different kit, but I must say that the strips aren't 100% useless because I successfully kept the water crystal blue clear and usually (80% of the time) within the OK ranges - even if the chems weren't perfect. Good lighting & eyesight, so albiet imprecise. If I overchlorinated, I learned to let the chlorine fall to the OK range "on time for the weekends" then turn the chlorinator back on to a 0.5-1.0 setting. My bigger problem is with the chlorinator than the test strips because I clearly see the chlorine trends when taking regular readings (2-3 readings a day) going up too fast or too slow as a sequential trend over four consecutive tests over two days.

    The algae boom accident (no discoloration -- just a cloudiness of water to about 50% less visibility of bottom) actually was preceded by several low-chlorine readings on the test strips, but I didn't realize the chlorinator was empty until it was already too late (it actually was a time when chlorine was being eaten up much faster than usual). So the test strips did give me a warning signal that I didn't follow correctly, so chlorine was accidentally 0 (no indication of chlorine on test strips for 2 days in a row, until I figured out chlorine was used up more quickly in the chlorinator). Once I gotten used to doublechecking the chlorinator for chlorine consumption -- now for the last four weeks, chlorine is being eaten up slowly at a predictable pace, with all the indicators in the "OK" range of a 6-section test strip, and the pool looking healthy. So I think I got an adequate hang of a swimmable pool, not as good as a user with TF100, but certainly swimmable. I'm sure that the chems aren't perfect, but the compliments, the faint chlorine smell (comparable to good swimming pools I've been to, not nonexistent, but not strong), and the appealing crystal blue clear look even at deep end, seem to show that I've at least tried my best to follow the unreliable test strips, and successfully figured out how to solve a few problems, and tricks such as letting the chlorine level "coast" to a swimmable range for the weekend if overchlorinated midweek by the touchy-adjustment chlorinator. Strip-to-strip and spot-to-spot readings tend to not to fluctuate too much with what looks like consecutive gradual trends of strengthening or weakening color (e.g. chlorine rises and falls over readings taken every approx 8 hours as a reliable reaction to my adjustment of chlorinator setting). I've aimed the jets to circulate the pool in a circle for better mixing, and dip 15cm below the surface (Though I haven't tested for depth variance).

    Totally agree that the TF100 would blow the socks off the test strips. I'd like a much more accurate measurement of my CYA especially. Still trying to obtain the kit, I'll probably hit eBay for one of the alternate "recommended" kits I can access in Canada.

    P.S. Relocated my two unanswered questions to other topic areas:
    Heated a pool to hot tub temperatures for an annual party (96F), as well as
    Pump usually running 24/7 due to surface debris -- determining how much to cut back.
    Became homeowners/poolowners in 2014 -- Now Resident Experts In Cheaply Hot-Tubbing (95F) A Large 20,000 Gallon Pool.
    20,000 gallon concrete/vinyl, 32'x16' size, Raypak Digital 266 Heater, Hayward Tristar VS pump

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    Aug 2014
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    Ottawa, Ontario
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    Re: First time pool owners / first 3 month experience

    I was able to find a test kit (the K-2006) on Amazon.com for $50; had to pay $10 import fee but that was still the best I could find. I'm in Ottawa.
    Pool size: 25000gal inground Vinyl
    Hayward eVAC pro
    Pentair Intellifow VS
    Jacuzzi Laser250 sand filter

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    Mar 2007
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    San Rafael, CA USA
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    Re: First time pool owners / first 3 month experience

    Technically, they aren't supposed to ship the Taylor kit from the U.S. to Canada (but don't tell them that). Taylor has an exclusive with one distributor in Canada (Lowry & Associates) and the high price is due at least in part to the higher duties that may be higher than the $10 import fee due to the nature of some of the chemicals (some may be considered to be "hazardous" by some Canadian standards so require a surcharge).
    16,000 gallon outdoor in-ground 16'x32' plaster pool; Pentair Intelliflo VF pump; Pentair IntelliTouch i9+3s control system; Jandy CL-340 square foot cartridge filter
    12 Fafco solar panels; Purex Triton PowerMax 250 natural gas heater (200,000 BTU/hr output); automatic electric pool safety cover; 4-wheel pressure-side "The Pool Cleaner"

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