Pool Startup Questions and Confusion

Apr 19, 2018
10
Phoenix
#1
Hello all,

I'm somewhat new to owning a pool. This upcoming summer will be my second with my pool. I bought the house in late 2016 and the previous owner told me the only thing he ever put in the pool was chlorine tabs, and it was always perfectly clean. This worked well for me for several months. However, towards the end of last summer, I bought new chlorine tabs and I guess I made the mistake of buying tabs with CYA in them, because I hadn't really done any research yet. After using these for a while, the pool started growing algae no matter how much chlorine I dumped in. To make a long story short, I drained the pool this past weekend and refilled it. It was pretty swampy so I washed the entire inside with bleach. I've done a lot more research on this forum and elsewhere since then.

After filling the pool, I got to work on balancing it, following advice from online as well as what's on all of my pool chemical packaging. My Alkalinity was around 40, so I added baking soda to raise that. My pH was a little on the high end, around 7.8 so I used Sodium Bisulfate to lower it to around 7.4. My TA is now around 80-120 (using test strips so it's a little hard to tell exactly) and pH is still about 7.4-7.6. I was pretty happy with these numbers so I took some water to Leslie's Pool Supply to have them test it to make sure my measurements were right. This is where my confusion/frustration begins.

First I'd like to say that every trip I've had to Leslie's has been frustrating. I am told something completely different by literally every employee I talk to, and once even had two employees argue in front of me about which chemicals were the best.

The guy working today tested my water for me. The first thing he did was accuse me of adding acid to lower the pH. I said I did, because it was high. He showed me on his test kit that it was around 7.4-7.6 (am I wrong to believe that's acceptable?). He told me my TDS was around 500 (my test strips show my hardness around 500 - I'm not 100% sure of the relationship between the two). He told me to never add acid because it ruins the water. He then told me I should never shock my pool, and that all the other "idiots" working at Leslie's (his words, not mine) tell everyone to shock their pools weekly, which increases TDS and ruins your water.

I asked about alkalinity and he told me not to worry about that or pH because if I keep my chlorine levels controlled, the pH and TA will "follow" and stay correct. I'm no chemist, but this sounds like BS to me. He also mentioned to me (about three different times) that the water in his pool was 20 years old and his TDS was 500 because he never adds chemicals to it. I don't think he even bothered measuring the TA for me. I then explained to him that I had had an algae problem and had just refilled the pool, so he said I SHOULD add shock, but only twice over the next week. He repeated many times that shocking your pool ruins the water, though.

First he said I should use (Leslie's brand) shock which is 99% sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione dihydrate. Anything else, he said, is junk and I should NEVER use calcium hypochlorite because it adds calcium to the water. He said after 3 weeks of using that shock and keeping my chlorine levels steady, I should switch to their other "chlorine-free" shock which is 38% potassium peroxymonosulfate. He suggested using that once a month during the summer and once every other month during the winter.

I apologize for the long post, but I felt like 90% of what this guy told me is not true and conflicts with everything I've read online and in directions on my pool chemical packaging. Can anyone address some of his claims? Is there any basis to everything he told me? Or should I completely ignore him? Should I stop going to Leslie's altogether?

Finally, what should I be doing during my pool startup? I have the TA and pH balanced to where I think they should be and just started up my pump/filter tonight. I have some chlorine tabs in my chlorine floaters. My pool is about 15,000 gallons, chlorine, with a Pentair Triton II sand filter, and I'm located in the Phoenix area.
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
4,377
Central California
#2
Hi, welcome to TFP. I'm a bit worn out, so if it's OK, I'll get right to it.

STOP GOING TO LESLIE'S. (I'm shouting!) You're instincts about them are 100% accurate. I'm not even going to address their advice. It's pointless.

TFP is going to get you going. I'm bumping your post so that a TFP expert might spot you sooner than later. (I'm just a fellow member.)

The foundation of this site, the TFP method (TFPC), is to test your own water with a high-quality test kit, and use the results to add only the bare minimum of common store-bought chemicals to your pool. The method is relatively easy to learn, and incredibly simple to do. It's been time-tested by thousand of pool owners, just like you, and it works. You'll be most successful if you take a leap of faith, don't listen to any other resource, buy a test kit, test your water, post your results, and a TFP expert will guide you and teach you exactly what to do. That's all there is to it. If you put in some effort, you can get 90% there in just a few days.

If you're still up, and up for this, go order your test kit right now, please. The sooner it arrives the better off you and your pool will be.

TFP only recommends two kits, this one, or the Taylor 2006C.

They also ask that you fill in your signature with everything you know about your pool and equipment, similar to mine. So that they can better help you with advice specific to your pool. Click "Settings" above, then find the "Edit Signature" button on the left of that page.

Someone will be along tomorrow to get you going. Have a good night.
 
Apr 19, 2018
10
Phoenix
#3
After some further reading... it sounds like using any of the trichlor tabs (whether or not they say they contain stabilizer) will increase my CYA. If so, why would the guy at Leslie's tell me to only use those? He told me to never use liquid chlorine - his reasoning for this is that it's only 10% chlorine and therefore the other 90% must be garbage. But the pucks they sell say 99% on the ingredients label. The more I research, the more I'm convinced this guy was full of it. I guess my next question is: How often do you normally add liquid chlorine, and how often should I test?

Also, thanks for the quick reply, Dirk!

EDIT: One last question before I go to bed: When should I be able to start swimming in my pool? Right now the water is too cold for me anyway, but what do I need to watch out for to know that it's safe to swim in? Tomorrow I'll go out and try to get an accurate gallon calculation, as well as list all my filtration equipment. I don't know what the finish in the pool is called, but it's like large sand or very small pebbles.
 

PoolGate

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 7, 2017
2,496
Damascus, MD
#4
Good Morning!

1st off - great advice from Dirk to stop going to Leslies or any pool store. They have a vested interest in selling you stuff.

First thing is to get a proper test kit one of the 2 mentioned and linked above. This is critical and the foundation for a spectacularly clean and clear pool that is safe to swim in.

For your question about chlorine: You will be adding liquid chlorine most likely every couple of days during the season. You should be testing for chlorine and maybe pH every day or 2 at the most. I check mine daily for at least chlorine and do a full battery of tests every 1-2 weeks.

Post back here your test results asap! And fill out your signature with your pool specs. Also include some pics of the pool and equipment pad!
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
4,377
Central California
#5
After some further reading... it sounds like using any of the trichlor tabs (whether or not they say they contain stabilizer) will increase my CYA. If so, why would the guy at Leslie's tell me to only use those? He told me to never use liquid chlorine - his reasoning for this is that it's only 10% chlorine and therefore the other 90% must be garbage. But the pucks they sell say 99% on the ingredients label. The more I research, the more I'm convinced this guy was full of it. I guess my next question is: How often do you normally add liquid chlorine, and how often should I test?

Also, thanks for the quick reply, Dirk!

EDIT: One last question before I go to bed: When should I be able to start swimming in my pool? Right now the water is too cold for me anyway, but what do I need to watch out for to know that it's safe to swim in? Tomorrow I'll go out and try to get an accurate gallon calculation, as well as list all my filtration equipment. I don't know what the finish in the pool is called, but it's like large sand or very small pebbles.
Not to sound like a commission-based salesman for testing equipment, but... the vast majority of questions you'll ask about your pool and water can't properly, accurately or safely be answered without knowing first what's going on with your pool. It'd be like a doctor prescribing drugs before your blood test came back from the lab. It's just not done. So proper test results, and knowing your pool's type and equipment are virtually mandatory here. And that includes advising you about when it's OK to get in.

What often happens, new folks come here looking for answers, and they're all told the same thing: "testing kit! fill in your profile signature" and then go peek at the tests. $70!?! $90??! Which sounds like a lot (and it is), so they stall a bit, or try to post test results from Leslies, or their little $10 test kit. Then over the course of a few days they keep getting the same answer from virtually everyone that posts here "kit, signature," "kit, signature," "kit, signature," until they get it, and by then their pool is x amount of days worse off. Or they go back to the pool store 'cause that's "free." The money you spend on your kit will pay off big time, and will be very quickly recouped because you're going to quickly amass a huge chuck of extra cash by staying out of the pool store, not buying their very expensive and mostly unnecessary voodoo, and instead buy the chemicals you'll learn to use here elsewhere (like a hardware or grocery store).

Sorry, I know how this sounds, too good to be true, right? I'm being much less polite about it than the TFP Guides will be (they're actually an amazing group of people, friendly, knowledgeable, generous), but I watch this scenario over and over. It's OK, at this point we're all just a bunch of internet strangers, and it's wise to be cautious about internet advice. That's what I meant by a "leap of faith."

I'll look forward to watching your progress if you decide that TFP is for you...
 

Melnic

Silver Supporter
Jun 7, 2017
207
Maryland
#6
Kit, Signature, Pool School, Pool Math. Pool Math app. :)

If you are looking for quick solutions before the test kit comes in, I THINK so long as you can test Chlorine and Ph, use Pool Math to determine Bleach if you want something to keep pool going until Test kit comes in and you get further advice.
Once you get the kit, you can test and post results for suggestions. From all I have read, generic liquid bleach w/o any additives is the least likely way to increase FC without affecting other stuff that you may or may not know is good/bad until you get the kit.

If the rest of the liquid bleach is not chlorine, what was he expecting you to buy? 100% chlorine?

I have only one pool store I go to right now when I can't just walk in and buy stuff at Home Depot/Ace/Lowes. The long time owner is there and I've only had her test my water once and she was pretty darn close with the Salt , ph, FC, CYA (My TF100 test kit came in next day). Unfortunatly, I did not see how she tested my water as I had a work phone call to take outside. I had to tell the Pool service company not to touch my water w/o telling me after they tossed in pucks on opening.
 
Mar 24, 2014
2,091
Greenville, SC
#7
...

This is where my confusion/frustration begins.

First I'd like to say that every trip I've had to Leslie's has been frustrating. I am told something completely different by literally every employee I talk to, and once even had two employees argue in front of me about which chemicals were the best.

The guy working today tested my water for me. The first thing he did was accuse me of adding acid to lower the pH. I said I did, because it was high. He showed me on his test kit that it was around 7.4-7.6 (am I wrong to believe that's acceptable?). He told me my TDS was around 500 (my test strips show my hardness around 500 - I'm not 100% sure of the relationship between the two). He told me to never add acid because it ruins the water. He then told me I should never shock my pool, and that all the other "idiots" working at Leslie's (his words, not mine) tell everyone to shock their pools weekly, which increases TDS and ruins your water.

I asked about alkalinity and he told me not to worry about that or pH because if I keep my chlorine levels controlled, the pH and TA will "follow" and stay correct. I'm no chemist, but this sounds like BS to me. He also mentioned to me (about three different times) that the water in his pool was 20 years old and his TDS was 500 because he never adds chemicals to it. I don't think he even bothered measuring the TA for me. I then explained to him that I had had an algae problem and had just refilled the pool, so he said I SHOULD add shock, but only twice over the next week. He repeated many times that shocking your pool ruins the water, though.

First he said I should use (Leslie's brand) shock which is 99% sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione dihydrate. Anything else, he said, is junk and I should NEVER use calcium hypochlorite because it adds calcium to the water. He said after 3 weeks of using that shock and keeping my chlorine levels steady, I should switch to their other "chlorine-free" shock which is 38% potassium peroxymonosulfate. He suggested using that once a month during the summer and once every other month during the winter.
That is some hall-of-fame level ridiculousness right there. I literally laughed out and I'm not an easy laugh.

I apologize for the long post, but I felt like 90% of what this guy told me is not true and conflicts with everything I've read online and in directions on my pool chemical packaging. Can anyone address some of his claims? Is there any basis to everything he told me? Or should I completely ignore him? Should I stop going to Leslie's altogether?
I know pool stores are terrible, but that takes the cake. I hope you get a test kit and stay around. You'll be glad you did.
 
Apr 19, 2018
10
Phoenix
#8
That is some hall-of-fame level ridiculousness right there. I literally laughed out and I'm not an easy laugh.


I know pool stores are terrible, but that takes the cake. I hope you get a test kit and stay around. You'll be glad you did.
I would have laughed too if I hadn't been so irritated with the guy at the time. He really came across like a used car salesman. I knew what he was saying was contrary to everything I had read but I was puzzled because he wasn't even trying to foist their products on me, like they have the other two occasions I've set foot in their store.

Anyway, I appreciate the advice you guys have provided so far and I do intend to stick around here. I ordered the Taylor K2006c last night and it will arrive tomorrow. I'll get pictures tonight and fill out my signature when I get home.

Two questions I have in the mean time:
1) what should I do while I wait for the test kit to arrive? I have the pump running on medium speed all day today with trichlor tabs in the floater to raise my CYA (I don't have any CYA).
2) when I first turn on the pump, I get clouds of gray stuff coming from the returns. My guess is that it's dead algae. It stops after 30 seconds. Why is it happening every time I turn it on? There's no filter sand coming out in the pool.

Thanks!
 
Apr 19, 2018
10
Phoenix
#10
I'm back with pictures of the pool and equipment. I'm not sure how to determine the exact volume of my pool due to the shape, but I think it's under 15k gallons. Probably closer to 12k. It's about 29' long, and 13-14' wide all the way across. Around 4' deep at either end and 5.5' in the middle.

In the picture of the equipment, you'll see three pumps. One is original to the pool and is broken/not used. I have no idea why they didn't remove it.

I included a photo of the pool surface too. I don't know what that finish is called.

Edit: The upload killed my photo quality. That equipment photo should say, in order from top to bottom: unused, current pump, aerator pump. I have a waterfall style aerator.
 

Attachments

Apr 19, 2018
10
Phoenix
#11
Alright, I got my Taylor test kit in tonight. Here are my numbers:
FC: 3.2 ppm
CC: 0.4 ppm
pH: 7.4
TA: 180-190 ppm
CH: 250
CYA: Virtually 0

According to the little slide rule included with the kit, this makes my saturation index somewhere between 0.1-0.2. That seems pretty good to me. I know my TA is a little high, though.
 
Apr 19, 2018
10
Phoenix
#12
How can I safely lower my TA without dropping my pH too much?
Also, what's the best way to reduce my CC?

Today my pH was about the same, maybe 7.3. My FC is around 1 ppm (hot and sunny today) and my CC is still 0.4 ppm. I'd like to get my TA and CC in better shape before I start using the pool. Any suggestions?
 
Apr 19, 2018
10
Phoenix
#14
Youre going to have a time of maintaining FC without any CYA.
I know, I have trichlor tabs in my floaters right now. I figure I might as well use those to get my CYA level up and keep my FC steady since I have a bunch of them left over. Once I get to my target CYA level I'll switch completely to liquid chlorine.

My water was 75 today so I stepped in on the top step. That's a little too cold for me still, apparently.

The water is looking good except for some dust or dead algae that keeps settling on the bottom. The vacuum seems to have trouble getting it all. Any advice how to get rid of that? If I brush the bottom the water gets a bit cloudy.
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
4,377
Central California
#15
I shouldn’t be another cook in this kitchen. A TFP Guide or Expert will lead the way. I just wanted to give you a head start with the links. My water finally hit 82 today, so I had my first decent swim since my new pebble went in. Yay!
 

jseyfert3

Well-known member
Oct 20, 2017
222
Roscoe, IL
#16
After some further reading... it sounds like using any of the trichlor tabs (whether or not they say they contain stabilizer) will increase my CYA. If so, why would the guy at Leslie's tell me to only use those? He told me to never use liquid chlorine - his reasoning for this is that it's only 10% chlorine and therefore the other 90% must be garbage. But the pucks they sell say 99% on the ingredients label. The more I research, the more I'm convinced this guy was full of it.
Sounds like you figured it out, but the other 90% is just water. That's why it's not listed, because they only list active ingredients. Sure, dichlor may be 99% active but that's cause half is CYA, which you don't want to add forever.

Any form of chlorine adds TDS to the pool (TDS is not hardness). Your options for what tags along is sodium (bleach), CYA (dichlor/trichlor), calcium (cal-hypo), or lithium (lithium-hypo).