I got the 6 way drop test kit and I likeed it up until I realized I couldnt test my CC (combined Chlorine)
Its good for a starter but you should be looking at getting the TF-100 test kitor the taylor K-2006 they are both great kits.
Edit: Also CC is what you need to test to figure out when
your pool needs shocking.
I'm sure many people on here will disagree with me, and I'm novice enough (in second year) that I might still come to different conclusions in the future -- however, my current thinking is that the HTH 6-way kit is not worth it. As I recall, it cost about 25 bucks. The only tests I think most Intex users need are pH, Chlorine, and CYA. While the HTH kit does include all of those, I still think the much better investment is in the TF100 kit. The TF100 kit will allow you to run a full battery of tests that these forum folks like to see, but even if you don't do all those tests very often, you will still get a huge bang for you buck in terms of pH, Chlorine, and CYA testing ability.
The HTH kit tests for Total Chlorine (TC), which is the sum of Free Chlorine (FC) and Combined Chlorine (CC). The HTH kit, also known as an OTO test for Chlorine, has you put pool water in a "tube," then put five drops of reagent in the tube. If there is either FC or CC present, the water will change to some shade of yellow. You will then interpret, on a color chart provided next to the tube, which color yellow it is, and your TC is the corresponding number on the comparison chart. If you just need to be sure there is chlorine in the pool, this test works. If you need to distinguish between 3 and 5, all I can say is good luck! I cannot.
In contrast, the FAS-DPD test, found in the TF100, has you test separately for FC (which is chlorine that is available to sanitize) and CC (which is "bad" chlorine that does not sanitize). It is simple to interpret and quick to perform. You put water in a vial, then spoon in a small bit of powder. If there is chlorine (FC, I think) in the pool, the powder will turn the water pink. Then drop in reagent one drop at a time (swirling between) and count the drops it takes the pink water to turn clear. Very easy to see when it goes from pale pink to clear. No guessing. If it took 8 drops to get clear, your FC is 4. Then to test for CC, add 5 drops of another reagent and if it turns any shade of pink, add in another solution one drop at a time to get it clear again. Count the drops to get it clear, divide by two, and that is your CC. Knowing your FC and CC with precision is very empowering, as it tells you when you have sanitary water and when you need to shock or otherwise address issues relating to low chlorine. I do my FC, CC, and pH testing, start to finish, in less than 10 minutes.
I can't recall the number of CYA tests you'll get out of the TF100, but I think it is 6 or 7. You get 2, maybe 3 from the HTH kit. For me, because I have a lot of splash out from my small Intex, I tend to want to test CYA once every three or four weeks to be sure I know my correct FC minimum and maximum. Again, I know I can't clear an algae outbreak like pool owners who have powerful pumps and filters so it is very important to be proactive and not assume I can react if algae breaks out. Keep in mind, dumping and refilling is not a great option for me but it might be more palatable to others, in which case the HTH might be enough since they are more willing to gamble with their original pool water.
As far as I know the pH test is roughly the same between the HTH and the TF100. I still use my HTH for pH.
In my opinion, the key to an Intex is making sure nothing ever starts to go bad. Thus, I always felt like if my minimum FC should be 4, for example, I better not mess up and interpret my OTO test as being the subtle shade of yellow assigned to 4 when in fact it was a 3. Seemed to me like I was gambling with my kids' ability to enjoy the pool on a sunny day, so I use the FAS-DPD everyday.
In short, the HTH kit certainly works for some people but in my opinion if you can afford the FAS-DPD, it is money extremely well spent. For that matter, I also love the magnetic stirrer thing that TF Test Kits also sells, for about $34. An Intex, plus $120 or so the first year ($68 original TF100 +$ + shipping) and less in years to come (refilling the reagents is much less $) seems to me to be a sound investment to have the best chance of keeping the pool sparkly all year.
By way of full disclosure, let me tell you I don't have a TF100, but that is because last year it seemed more cost efficient to me to separately buy the FAS-DPD kit ($25ish) and the CYA kit ($17ish I think) since I already had a 6-way kit including a pH test from HTH. So I bought the individual kits from duraleigh, who sells the TF100. THIS year, however, the TF100 kit has double the reagents from last year, so for $68 you can get what I bought as the FAS-DPD individual kit, about 1/2 the CYA individual kit, plus all the other testing stuff including pH and all the vials, blocks, and reagents and powders. (note, duraleigh or someone might have a more precise comparison in terms of the TF100 versus his individual kits, but this is the way I eye-balled it). If you become a TFP Lifetime Member before you order your kit, you can get that huge kit for only $48 the first time. Awesome deal!!
The HTH 6-way is a great thing to have when you are waiting to take delivery of your TF-100 or your Taylor K-2006. It offers a CYA test and this is ever so helpful when trying to tackle a green pool. I recommend it from time to time here on the forum because in an emergency, they can be found locally, they are accurate, and they can get you started on things when you are in a tough spot. They are not a substitute for a service level kit though.
I use the HTH kit for daily testing, once I have the pool in a stable condition. I test with the Taylor kit 1-2 times a week for a more thorough look at my pool chemistry. Saves those expensive reagents.
Is the kit worth it? That's a value judgement. If you're experimenting with a small temporary pool, the HTH kit is a fine choice. I've experimented with (non-pool) things where I invested a couple hundred bucks and came out with total failures; knowing I could have figured that out for a lot less money is pretty galling. If you're not sure whether this pool thing is for you, the HTH kit is about ideal.
If you're committed to pool ownership, or got through your experimental phase successfully, then it's time to upgrade to FAS-DPD and a full-bore kit.
I am going to go against a lot of the things people preach here by saying this, but I think it is perfectly possible to manage a seasonal pool (typical Memorial Day to Labor Day summer season or so) with just a basic OTO or DPD Chlorine plus pH test. Too many people have done it for too many years, and with good understanding of what is going on it is even more likely to be successful. It is really fairly simple:
Fill with fresh water in the spring
Dose with an initial calculated dose of CYA stabilizer, say around 30 ppm
Stay away from tri-chlor most of the time (maybe have a small bucket for vacation use)
test daily for TC or FC and add bleach assuming no or little CC
Shock weekly, don't let anyone back into the pool until you get down to a readable chlorine level the next day
Dump water in the fall
It is a wasteful system, keeps the pool out of use about 1 day per week, but it works, and with a small pool may be cheaper than the cost of a good test kit. Being able to test TA and CYA are a nice bonus (CH is a moot point with these vinyl pools)
I don't disagree with you Isaac, I think one can manage a small seasonal pool (less than 5,500 gallons) with the HTH test kit.
I don't think shocking weekly is necessary in any pool, provided one maintains the proper FC/CYA relationship.
I think our seasonal pool guide was written in a way to explain things step by step - and assumes the owner has the 6way kit at the very least.
We suggest draining if a problem develops, because if a problem develops - the chlorine portion of the kit just isn't sufficient.
The problem with saying "shock weekly" as a blanket statement is there are several varieties of powder shock that Intex owners seem to tend to migrate too, as opposed to liquid chlorine. They can end up with calcium clouding, they can end up with an overstabilized pool from using Dichlor, etc.
FPM, I agree it is not ideal, but it does work even with just a basic kit that can not test for CYA or even CC and yes I should have said shock weekly with bleach. While I fully believe in testing and balancing all details of water in a pool under my control, I think all of us here need to be aware that BBB is not right for everyone, and we need a fall back position for those friends, relatives, co-workers, etc. that ask our advice on managing their backyard seasonal pools. Some people just don't want to spend that much time testing and thinking about what is going on in their pools, if we give them a simple OTO or DPD test and tell them to keep the chlorine up to here and pH down to there using only these 2 or 3 chemicals, and shock every Wednesday night after dinner, they might do it. If we tried forcing BBB down these same peoples throats, they would give up on it after a couple of days and just start blindly dumping bleach or adding pucks.
Shocking weekly for the sake of shocking a pool wastes time and money. The only reason to shock a pool is if it is dirty.
I think that you are correct in that BBB is not for everyone. Some people just want a way to get wet and don't mind spending lots of time and money trying to fix something to make their water "better" even though they don't know what could be causing the problem to begin with because they won't test or follow directions. BBB is absolutely not for these types of folks.
Now, for those who actually do care how their water looks and how clean it is and they are willing to test, treat their pool with a certain chemical two based on the results of those tests, and follow up again later, then BBB is for you. BBB is understanding what works (chlorine targeted to a specific CYA) and what doesn't work (nonsensical recommendations to shock weekly just because that's what you do).
People can get as basic a kit as they want to get. Up to them. And those with basic kits still show up here by the thousands every spring wondering why their basic kit is showing everything as "A-OK" in their green pool and that although the pool store sold them lots of expensive bags of stuff, they are still having problems. And if they don't want to spend all that time testing (I test once a week...takes 5 minutes), then just what amount of testing time would you consider to worthwhile?
I'm not particularly concerned about "forcing BBB down anyone's throat" either. Who's forcing anything? They're doing the asking. If they want answers to their problems, then they will listen. If it's too much trouble for them to be bothered with, suits me fine too. It's their pool in the end.
I am not familiar with all the other test kits out there and how they compare the the TF100 but I do know that I have been very happy with my TF-100. I suspect that it has already paid for itself. I like the clorine test in particular do to the fact that when your water changes from pink to clear all you have to do is divide the drops by 2 for your clorine reading. The shades of yellow and the wide clorine ranges associated with some of the other test were to subjective for me.
.257 Weatherby, I think we are mostly in agreeance here (note I do not shock weekly and love my TF-100 kit, and strongly encourage people to get one).
I am just saying for a small seasonal pool that is drained and put away at the end of the season that testing with a cheap $10 test kit and blindly shocking once per week while wasteful will work for most people, and given the cost of a good test kit it may even be cheaper. I have not ran the numbers on this, yet, so lets do that now:
For this example Lets compare the cost of owning the small TF-50 kit which does not include a pH test assuming people aleady have a cheap test kit. This kit sells for $45 plus shipping, for round number sake lets call it $50 with shipping, it may be a couple of dollars more in reality, cost of the "cheap" kit is moot since the TF-50 assumes you have one. I count 14 weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, lets go ahead and extend that a couple of weeks at each end calling for 16 weeks swim season closely fitting the tradtional time kids are out of school for summer.
Therefore without getting into detailed complexity if the cost of blindly shocking each week is less than the $50 cost of the good test kit, it can be argued that it is cheaper and provide a safe swimming environment to blindly shock.
Assuming a somewhat typical 8,000 gallon 18 foot ABG pool, I get the following numbers, assuming a CYA level of 40 which gives a suggested FC level of 4.5 which is testable on an OTO kit. Reaching a targeted shock level of 16 FC (assuming preventative and no excess chlorine demand) should take about 1.75 gallons of 5.25% bleach, lets go on and round up to 2 gallons of excess bleach use due to poorer test conditions:
So 2 extra gallons of 5.25% bleach at $1.50 per gallon = $3 per week x 14 weeks (no need to shock at first or last week) = $42 which is less than the $50 price of the good kit, but not by much (savings would be a bit more on a smaller pool, less on a larger one)
If you have a 1,200 gallon pool, then I wouldn't bother with the better test kit, just drain and refill when there is a problem. But by the time you get up to 8,000 gallons I think the better test kit is well worth it. The better test kit will pay for it's self the very first time you get algae, if it doesn't pay for it's self any other way.
Bama, speak for yourself, I am already wondering if my standard size TF-100 is going to last me through the swim season, thinking I will go ahead and invest in the XL when it comes time to order reagents. (I have been doing a lot of precise chlorine testing trying to dial in my metering pump) I also did not look closely at how much is included in the TF-50, running the same math with the price of a standard TF-100 at its higher price and the assumption of 2 years out of the testing supplies, is still going to put things into the roughly even pricing ballpark.
Jason, I tend to think 8,000 gal is pushing the upper limits of practicality on not having a good test kit, I picked the size before running the numbers as it is a common size seasonal pool, I also know my numbers were a bit rough, but I think they are in the right ballpark. While I think a algae bloom is possible using the weekly blind shocking method, I feel that as long as CYA is held down to a reasonable ballpark level that the chances are low. At no point do I think this should be the preferred method, I am just trying to point out that this is a workable solution for people that ask our advice and think the full BBB method is too complex.
My wife bought me the HTH 6-way strips yesterday. I had told her I need a way to test for either fc OR cc. sHE DID ORDER ME THE tf-100 FOR MY b-DAY so im not to bothered about the strips, plus I have the HTH drop test kit .
Well I figured what the hay I will try these strips out.
I took 3 strips and followed the directions, Dipped them quick and held them for 15 seconds.
Well I figured by using 3 at a time I could use the 2 results that matched lol who was I kidding none of the strips had the same reading, Well except for the FC but even that was botched I couldnt match the color to any color on there chart.
So to anybody thinking of getting the strips to hold you over till your drop test kit arrives. Dont bother its a waste of money.
I went thru 15 strips yesterday trying to figure out my FC, I still have no clue what my FC is.
Naturally, I have read every word in this thread. It is VERY interesting to me as you would expect.
I think the "tipping point" where it makes sense to get a good kit is pretty hard to determine. I am a staunch proponent that seasonal pools don't need anything but the OTO chlorine and pH test but I can't get any warm fuzzies as to when an owner should step up and truly manage his pool........there's just so many factors involved that have all been discussed.
My daughter has a toddler and a 4-year old so purchased a little 1k pool for them to play in in their yard. I suggested the pH and OTO approach plus 1/4 cup Clorox each day.
Worked great for about a week and the pool became so dirty (not unsanitary...dirty) that they had to throw out the water and refill. Next time the water had to be thrown out in 3 days....then 3 days again. She quit using it.
The point (and we haven't discussed it much) is that filtration was the achilles heel in what I thought would work great for here. The kids going in and out constantly simply got the pool too dirty to be very useful.
I bring it up because it really brought home to me how inadequate most of the filtration systems are on the seasonal pools......the smaller the pool, it seems the less capable they are.
I've had my TF100 since 2008. I've refilled CYA and the FAS-DPD test supplies, mainly because I take my kit to friends/family pools to test for them on occasion. The other main components of my kit are on their third summer and about 1/2 gone.
When they sold me the pool, and gave me the OTO/pH tester, they told me that's all I needed, then I bought the HTH kit at Walmart on sale for about $6, it seemed to be worth it at the time all the extra tests. Then when I stumbled across Ben's site and ultimately to this one, y'all sold me on the TF-100, got it this spring, and I'll never go back. Except for the fact that it's missing the DPD test, it ain't a bad kit to use during the learning curve or if it's all you can get at the time. I still have it as a backup. An interesting comparison would be the HTH kit and separate purchase of the FAS-DPD test from elsewhere, and getting more reagent for the CYA test since it only comes with enough for two. Everything else is there. Actually, the color change for the TA test is just a bit better in the HTH than the TF-100. The HTH color change is more apparent then the TF. The pool guys sold me on pucks and dichlor until you folks sold me on BBB. Thanks for the education.