New house with pool, lots of questions

Michael57

Member
Mar 30, 2020
5
Sacramento, CA
Hi, I just purchased a new home that has a built in pool and spa. I'm completely new to owning a pool and I hope to do the maintenance myself, but I think I need to learn a lot first.

I tested the water with a basic pool test kit and it showed the pH to be about 8 I think and the chlorine looked alright (I'll try to get specific numbers soon). It was maintained up until a week ago by a pool company, but I was surprised of the high PH?

The first thing I noticed on the plumbing/pump was that the pump container/lid doesn't fill all the way with water as it's running. You can see a solid stream coming out of the pipe, but it's probably only halfway? full. If I switch the valve to draw only from the spa, it immediately fills all the way and the pump becomes quieter (less cavitation?). The "pool guy" had told the previous owner that he sometimes "fiddles" with the valves to get the filter to work better. It seems to me it might not be able to draw enough from the pool side while the pump is running? It's a 3/4 HP pump.

The previous owner ran the pump for 10 hours a day, unfortunately I don't know how large the pool is in gallons, I was told it was 10 ft. at the deep end. Should I try to figure out the size first, or could I back that down to running for 7 hours/day or so? Does it matter what time of day to run the pump?
 

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Texas Splash

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Hello Michael from SAC, and welcome to TFP! :wave: Since you're getting good water flow and suction from the spa, it sounds as though you have a small suction side air leak, probably between the poolside skimmer and pump, which is causing the pump basket water level to fall. If it's true the previous owners fiddled with the vales and it helps, the 3-way valve controlling water suction flow from the pool may be a good place to start. You should be able to remove those screws, pull the valve handle/stem out, and inspect, There should be a seal or o-ring in there as well. It may be going bad, or you can try applying some silicone lube. Also see the link below for more ideas.

You'll want to get yourself a TF-100 (or Taylor K-2006C) test kit as soon as you can. Take no chances with water chemistry. It's easy to do at home with one of those proper kits. In your area, with potentially hard water, you'll always want to control the pH (keep under 7.8) and TA to avoid scale. CH may be tough depending on your fill water and lack of rain. I would recommend checking out and saving those Vital Links in my signature, and make sure to update your signature as well. It will help tremendously later. Let us know if you have any other questions.

 

Michael57

Member
Mar 30, 2020
5
Sacramento, CA
Thanks, I took apart the two valves on the suction side and they both look like they're in good condition. I also tried the water test on them and it didn't seem to affect it. I noticed that if I turn the valve on the right in that picture (the 3-way suction valve from the spa or the pool) so that it's halfway between being straight down and towards the pool side (favoring flow from the pool), the pump basket fills with water and has no air bubbles. Any further towards the pool side though the valve starts sounding like air going through it and the pump basket water level drops. Also with the spa side open even just about 1/3, it seems to be draining the spa water level quite quickly.

Do you think it's still air getting into it and not a water flow problem? Attached is a picture of the pump basket when it's only taking from the pool side (you can see the water flowing in from the pipe but the water level is low).

Thanks, I'll order one of those kits...
 

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redjeep

Member
Mar 31, 2020
7
Raleigh, NC
If you have the pump basket filled (full prime) and shut the pump off, does the water stay in the basket? You can also isolate just the skimmer or just the drain on the pool side to see if that changes the situation. Do you have enough water in your pool to run the skimmer? It should be completely submerged, no vortex or anything. My pool, the skimmer has some sort of floating door. One time that lifted up and was blocking the water flow.
 

Michael57

Member
Mar 30, 2020
5
Sacramento, CA
The water does stay in the basket when shut off, as long as it was full to begin with. I'm not sure if I can isolate the skimmer from the pool drain? I seem to only have one pipe coming from "pool". It looks like the water is about halfway up the skimmer door, and it's full with plenty of water inside, no air, and it's clean.

One thing I was able to try today was switch the source from "pool" (skimmer and drain?) to the "cleaner" port. It runs great using that as the source for the pump, the pump basket is full with no air. So it seems to be coming from the "pool" source, which I'm not sure if it's a lack of flow or air still... Could it be a clogged line?
 

Texas Splash

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
So it seems to be coming from the "pool" source, which I'm not sure if it's a lack of flow or air still... Could it be a clogged line?
That's seems to be the million dollar question now. Underground cracks happen, just not as common as we think, and we try to avoid that thought until as a last resort. All that manipulation of the 3-way valve making suction better or worse has me still curious about that valve either being bad or having a bad seal. I wonder if you can interchange a couple of those handles between valves at the pad? As an experiment you know? To see if it makes a difference. You might be able to validate a bad valve that way. If you still have doubts above a partial clog, you could try a pressure bladder from both directions (skimmer to pump and pump to skimmer) to see if something got jammed in there. Some people get a Drain King bladder or something like this one I saw locally:

 

redjeep

Member
Mar 31, 2020
7
Raleigh, NC
One thing I was able to try today was switch the source from "pool" (skimmer and drain?) to the "cleaner" port. It runs great using that as the source for the pump, the pump basket is full with no air. So it seems to be coming from the "pool" source, which I'm not sure if it's a lack of flow or air still... Could it be a clogged line?

Do you have a separate 'cleaner' port in your pool other than the skimmer and the drain? On my pool, I just have the skimmer and drain. Perhaps 'cleaner' means 'skimmer' in your case.

I'm a pool novice here, but my thinking is if one pipe was clogged, water would be pulled from the other sources and you wouldn't be starving your pump causing the water level to drop in the basket. This is demonstrated by the fact you can isolate to sucking just from the spa and the basket is filled fine.

I'm thinking 'pool' is main drain. If you have a leak in the pipe below the water line somewhere that is sucking in air while the pump is running, then there's a good chance you have a water leak in that line while the pump is off. You might be able to do a dye test around the returns.

Another possibility is you're not getting any air at all in the system. If you're sucking in air from somewhere, your pool returns will sputter and spit out air bubbles. If the filter is clogged or something in your return line is clogged, the pump can't push water, thus it's not going to pull water. Why this would happen only when one line is in the equation, I couldn't guess. My opinion is any clogged or otherwise funky line is going to be the same as having a partially closed valve, and as long as the pump is getting adequate supply from elsewhere, there will simply be less suction on that line.