Sanitizing an all season pool With Tablets without spiking CYA?

mikemass

Well-known member
Jul 10, 2013
490
Northern Howell, NJ
This is going to be a long post. So for the TLDR crew, here it is in a nut shell:

How do you guys in the south, who:
1. Still sanitize with "pucks" and
2. Don't close their pool for the winter
manage to not send their CYA levels to absurd levels?

Now for the detailed version:
A buddy of mine who lives in South FL just bought a home with a pool. He has absolutely zero experience with a pool, so he turned to me for advice, being a multiple pool owner for my entire adult life as well as growing up with one. He closed on the house and three days later his pool turned into what you see in attached Pics below.

I said get in the car RIGHT NOW and buy some bleach and get it in that pool. I sent him to WalMart to get the good 10% stuff in the pool section. I told him to buy as many as he could fit in his trunk. Also had him buy a 12 bag pack of Cal-Hypo Shock. Get home and put 2 gallons and 2 bags in.
I instructed him to run the filter 24/7.

Once that was done I started asking a ton of questions he could not answer:
  • How is the pool sanitized? SWG? Chlorine feeder? Tablets in the skimmer?
  • What kind of Filter?
  • What's the surface of the pool?
  • How many gallons?
He literally knew nothing. Just said, the owners left nothing behind.

I asked him to send me as many pictures and videos that he could of the pool equipment. Model numbers on anything he could find. Then I sent him shopping:
  • Links to the Taylor K-2005 as well as the stand alone FAS/DPD test (I didn't have him get the K-2006 because I wanted him have the simple DPD test for ease of daily testing).
  • A pool pole, brush, skimming net and bag attachments
  • A Dolphin Robot
While we were waiting for the test kits to arrive, I was flying blind. So I told him continue adding 2 gallons bleach + 1 bag bag Cal-Hypo 3 x's a day, morning, noon and night. All the while running pump 24/7 and brushing as often as possible.
I had determined at this point (from pics and videos) he has a Pebble Tech surface pool, about 12,500 gallons. A Hayward cartridge filter, a 1-1/4 HP pump, No inline chlorine feeder, no SWG system, an old school dial timer with the set screws to set the on/off schedule. Basically a very old outdated system.

I taught him how to open up his filter and clean the cartridge. (Aside from being filthy and green, once rinsed off the cartridge was in good condition).

His plumbing (if you can believe) has no way to divert to waste. The "waste" line (which is really a "drain" line is on the return side of the filter, not the suction side (SMH at this installer). As a result, I told him don't bother buying a vacuum hose and vacuum head for now. Instead I called around for him and found a Dolphin Robot at a local shop near him. I sent him there with the warning: "Walk in, buy the Dolphin, and leave. Don't have him test you water. Don't have him try and sell you anything. Don't even talk to him. Just buy the Robot"

This all took place within 24 hours of me seeing the pics of the brown pool for the first time.
So I had him add Chlorine as per my instrux 3 x's a day, run Dolphin as much as your time allows, brush, and clean filter daily. And we wait for those test kits to arrive.....

3 days later, the kit(s) showed up. My "blind SLAM" was already working as the pool went from Brown to a teal green. But still murky.
I gave him very detailed instructions on performing the tests along with videos of me doing it myself from my home in the North East.
Not to my surprise at all his pH and TA was through the roof. His CYA was NIL - unreadable on the Taylor test - (dot never disappeared)
However to my surprise he had less than 1 ppm FC. I had him skip the "noon does" that day because we knew the kit was arriving later that day, and I didn't want the test to "bleach out" which, as y'all know can happen with insanely high FC levels... To make sure it didn't bleach out we repeated the test with the dilution test. Nope - It really was less than 1 ppm.
Full results:
FC - 1.0
TC - 1.0
CC - 0.0
pH - > 8 - Off the comparator readable scale.
TA - 170
CH - 140
CYA < 30 - I actually broke down, had him take to a pool store - They confirmed it was 5.0 (and their other readings were similar to above)

So now I sent him shopping again. Muriatic Acid for pH and TA; Calcium for his CH - That was easy enough as per my clacualtions he got his pH down and nailed the CH in one shot...... But for purposes of this post, I only want to discuss the Chlorine and CYA.

I know he has no intention of installing a SWG anytime soon. So for now I loaded him up with "Stabilized" Products:
A bucket of TriChlor "Pucks"
A twelve pack of TriChlor bags of shock.

With the arsenal of a test kit in hand now, I had him perform a proper SLAM (we were well underway from the enormous "shock treatments" I had him doing up to this point). But instead of using just straight bleach during the SLAM - I had him supplement with 4 pucks in a floaty dispenser, two in the skimmer, two in the pump basket (running 24/7), as well as one bag TriChlor Shock morning, noon, night, it addition to enough bleach to "M" in the SLAM.

Within a few more days he was clear, blue, CC=0 still and a passed OCLT - So A LOT of TriChlor was added during this time - about 6 bags shock, and at least 12 dissolved tablets.
So I cut all the aggressive adding of TriChlor and no more bleach for now. Just told him to maintain a few in the Floater, and ONE in the skimmer and cut the run time on the pump to 10 hours during daylight hours.
It took 3 more days for the FC to drop below 10! I knew he finally was holding onto his FC. So as of last night:
FC - 7.5
TC - 7.5
CC - 0.0
pH - 7.2
TA - 120
CH - 320
CYA - 45-50 ish

Now back to the ORIGINAL Question:

What's the plan of attack going forward? Long term he will convert to a SWG. But for now he has to manually chlorinate. He does not want the hassle of adding bleach every day to maintain a proper FC. My gut feel and experience tells me he will "maintain" proper FC levels with 2 tabs in the floater (slowly dissolving) and just One in the skimmer if he is not running the pump more than 8 - 10 hours.
At this rate we will certainly slow down the increase in CYA - But some day will come that it will get very high. What do you southern folks do?
 

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ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
21,125
Northern NJ
Pool Size
35000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Use the pucks and drain the pool as necessary to keep CYA manageable.

There is no “no maintenance “ pool care system.

Spend a bit of time every day to add liquid chlorine. Or spend more time every month or two to drain some water to lower CYA. His choice.
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
7,665
Central California
Pool Size
12300
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
What do you southern folks do?
Sorry, had to skip the middle of that post for this morning, will revisit. So forgive if this isn't even close to an answer.

I believe I have come as close as possible to a maintenance-free pool, as that was my goal, so I put some time and money into it. As Allen points out, there is no such thing, but this is what I use to pretend:

- Automation controller (runs everything and controllable remotely)
- SWG (for FC, without CYA accumulation)
- Acid injector (for pH)
- Suction-side vac (can go a year without attention)
- Solar heater (virtually attention-, maintenance-, and cost-free)
- Water softener for fill water (eliminates CH accumulation)
- PoolMiser auto-filler (governs water level 100%, contributes to eliminating salt and CH accumulation)
- Video surveillance (for monitoring/confirming all of the above)

Not only are my daily and weekly chores cut down to a bare minimum, but the monthly and annual chores as well. I'm on track to never needing to exchange water for reasons of chemical accumulation. I can go a week or two without doing anything pool-related at all.

This is all contingent, of course, on nothing going wrong or breaking. The reality is, if you own a pool, in requires daily attention, even if it's just a look. I use cameras for that while away, but every minute you are not staring at a pool and its equipment is a minute it could stop working. How many minutes in between looks increases the risk that something will go wrong. The amount of risk tolerated is a personal decision.

The use-of-pucks model of pool care is not sustainable without draining the pool regularly. And draining a pool regularly has its own potential set of risks (to the structure and finish of the pool), so, for me, it is not a viable solution. I believe automation is the key, not only because I have it working, but because it cost me so much money I have to believe that! ;)
 
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poolnoobgrandma

Gold Supporter
Sep 15, 2018
502
Seminole, FL
How often is he willing to pour chlorine into the pool? Every other day? Is it possible (this is a question for the experts here) to chlorinate to the high end of the desired range, and then have it drift down over a day or more to the lower end, and then repeat? Right now, with shorter and cloudier days, that might work, and give him some time to decide to put in the SWCG, which is the REAL solution to low-effort chlorination for me.
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
7,665
Central California
Pool Size
12300
Surface
Plaster
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SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
Is it possible to chlorinate to the high end of the desired range, and then have it drift down over a day or more to the lower end, and then repeat?
Yes. And his pool can confirm that. Dose to high end of target range. Test 48 hours later. (Or 72, or a week, whatever.) If FC is above low end of target range, then he'll know what he can get away with. I wouldn't play around like that with Minimum FC, that's just asking for trouble. He could try going above Max FC to stretch the days between dosing, but the more he goes over, the faster it'll burn off, so there is a point of diminishing returns.

Also, he doesn't need to test each time. If his pool chems are stable, he can get a "feel" for the typical FC loss per day. As long as there is no anomaly (hot weather or dead animal or increased swimmer load), then he could test less often and just pour in the same amount each day (a manual SWG of sorts). I test once a week (shhhh!!). If I didn't have an SWG, I'd just pour in LC once a day, or every other day, and make sure I was dosing enough by the next test result. The less testing and dosing done, the riskier it gets, but again, his pool will tell him what he can get away with.

This is not exactly what we teach here, but I bet if pressed, all the non-swg-havin' experts would own up to some variation of what I just described. We all strike a balance like this eventually, based on our experience with our pools. We can't teach it, because every pool Is different and every pool owner must discover for themselves what maintenance regime works for them and their pool.
 
Last edited:

Katodude

Silver Supporter
Aug 22, 2017
1,206
West Palm Beach/Florida
So first a few questions. Why put a tab in the skimmer, why not all just in the floater? How south in south Florida, and does the pool get sun all day?

In the summer he “might“ get away with pucks. Between the heat of the water (hence the previous questions) and the constant rain, pucks supplemented with some LC additions just might work. He will eventually have to do a water exchange. This will not work in the winter, but he will not have to add as much LC since the water will be cooler and not as much sun.

People get away with it, but they also have frequent algae outbreaks. There is a reason that our methodology is fairly strict, it works.

Or invest in full automation like Dirk has.

You just need to decide what kind of pool owner and what kind of pool you want.
 

Dirk

Gold Supporter
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Nov 12, 2017
7,665
Central California
Pool Size
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People get away with it, but they also have frequent algae outbreaks.
Pools are subject to a kind of "pool physics." (And some of that is based on actual physics!) Pools require x amount of maintenance. They require y amount of effort. They require z amount of money. Folks who try to cheat the xyz formula will find it backfires somehow, with: unsafe water, algae, plaster/finish failure, equipment failures, etc and ultimately an unhappy owner. It's one of those "Pay me now, or pay me later." type deals.
 

mikemass

Well-known member
Jul 10, 2013
490
Northern Howell, NJ
Thanks for the replies and discussion. I don't recall asking about a "maintenance-free" or "no-maintenance" solution in my original post. Nor would I ever expect that. But hey, people interpret questions different.
Nonetheless, good suggestions. I like the idea of LC every other day or even every third day. I think that can work well in his situation.
He is still holding his FC unbelievably well. Last night he was still at 7.5 and we eliminated the skimmer tab(s) completely 3 days ago.

So first a few questions. Why put a tab in the skimmer, why not all just in the floater?
My methodology was this:
Coming off the SLAM, I didn't want his FC to once again crash, not knowing at that point how much "sunscreen" the CYA provided with all the TriChlor additions during the SLAM. So I decided to wean him off one chlorinating method at a time all the while checking for rate of FC drop:
After the SLAM, I had him stop the tabs in the pump basket and leave floater filled, put 2 in skimmer and drop pump run time to 10 hours/day.
Day 2 after SLAM still holding 10 + ppm, I had him add just one in skimmer (other 2 dissolved) and leave what's left in floater for now (about 1/2 dissolved)
Day 3 - Still Holding 10 ppm - I told him let remaining fragment in skimmer dissolve away and only replenish TWO more in floater as the rest were breaking down.
Day 4 he finally dropped to 7.5 ppm. Add nothing. Let the ones in the Floater do it's thing.
Day 5 he was still holding 7.5 ppm. At which point I told him to test CYA again. This is where he got a 45-50ppm reading. So I told him, as the tabs dissolve in the floater, only replenish ONE at a time as the others in there break down. (none were needed - so added nothing again)
Day 6 (yesterday) - Still 7.5 ppm. Add nothing as the floater has about 2 in there partially broken down and fragments of older ones.

He understands the goal here is to get to and maintain around 5.0 ppm FC and now knows how to tweak accordingly.

I never expected the floater to put out enough Chlorine by itself. They just dissolve so Dang slow in that thing (like a full week). That said, my experience is in Jersey. Not FL. And my current pool is almost 40k Gallons. So I am erring on the side of slow and steady with him to bring down his FC. I also haven't personally used pucks in my pools for over 20 years. And when I did, the only way I dispensed was in the skimmer back then. Then tech improved and I got a fancy inline chlorinator when they were all the rage in the 80's! Ugh. Terrible!

How south in south Florida, and does the pool get sun all day?
South enough - Not quite Miami. But he is South - (East coast side, not the gulf.) - Full day sun. No obstructions.

RE Dirk:
He has certainly the x & y ambition. He hasn't balked at a single amount of work I've thrown his way. Nor question it, nor complained. z is never unlimited, but he has the means. And everytime I sent him shopping he came back with what I told him, plus.

Here's my game plan for him. At this rate I have a hunch he will settle into 5.0 ppm pretty soon. I think he will prob go through 1-1/2 -2 pucks a week and be able to maintain healthy FC levels. At this slow of a rate, it will take quite some time for his CYA to get out of hand. But I want him to at least get some of his money's worth of all this TriChlor garbage I had him buy. When he hits a 60 CYA reading, I will tell him he has a choice: Switch over to LC or continue with the tabs, knowing you will have to do a partial drain soon.
At that point I believe he will be comfortable enough and ready to invest some coin into a more modern system. He does eventually want to convert to a SWG system. Until then I think this plan will work.
 

Dirk

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Good plan. I've never used pucks but I think I remember that putting them in the skimmer or pump basket is not encouraged. Certainly not without the pump running the entire time they're in there. The dissolving pucks would not be kind to the plumbing and/or pump is the reason, if I'm remembering that correctly... And if you were running the pump the whole time, then just a reminder that your guy needs to understand this so he doesn't go back to using the baskets when you're not supervising. Feeders are always installed last in line on the pad, with a check valve just before them so their stew does not float backwards when the pump is off. Pucks in either basket is like putting a feeder first in the line of equipment. Something like that.

Yah, I got off on a tangent there about the no-maintenance stuff. I thought part of your challenge was what your guy was willing to do on a daily basis, so I was pointing out various ways to lessen the day-to-day: either skip days or automate.

Very good of you, by the way, to take this all on...
 

mikemass

Well-known member
Jul 10, 2013
490
Northern Howell, NJ
You are remembering that 100% correct. Dissolving tablets in standing water for a prolonged period of time is disastrous. It won't happen overnight, but over years it will. I know from experience. When I was growing up, this was the only way we knew how to chlorinate. After many years, the flex line (another horrible product) that was installed to the bottom of the simmer, completely degenerated, became brittle and cracked. Solution was to tear up the surrounding patio around the skimmer, dig up skimmer body and rebuild the connection.
You know how above I said we eventually switched to the "fancy Hayward chlorinators" in the mid 80's? This was the reason!
 
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BowserB

Silver Supporter
Jul 29, 2018
373
Katy, Texas
I'm in the south. Southeast Texas, Houston metro area. I've had only two full seasons, but one thing I've discovered is that CYA does go away to some extent. I test chlorine and pH pretty much every day. The rest with the TF100 about once a week. I shoot for about 40 for CYA. We don't need to "close" our pool. While we don't swim in 65 degree water, we do heat the spa from time to time in the winter. I maintain chemistry all year. What I've found in spring twice now, is reduced CYA--down to 20 give or take. I put pucks in a floater in the spa which spills over into the pool (I put it in the spa so it won't drift over to a skimmer.) I use that to chlorinate, supplementing with liquid chlorine, until CYA gets back to 40. Then I've found that a couple times during the summer, due to high UV or rain or some mystery force, the CYA drops again below 30, and I use the floater again for a week or so to get the CYA back up. My pool has a tab feeder, but I don't use it for a couple reasons. The floater is easy to control and store, and mostly easy to stop.
 
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mikemass

Well-known member
Jul 10, 2013
490
Northern Howell, NJ
........ but one thing I've discovered is that CYA does go away to some extent. .......
My experience is quite the same in Jersey. Every Spring I open my pool from winteriztion to find a CYA near 0. I raise it rapidly to 60-70 using pure stabilizer. (I have a SWG). By the time I close my pool in Oct I have dropped down to about 50 for whatever reason. Splash out, water loss when cleaning filter, etc and the subsequant top off.
Then the closing comes. I only drop level about 3" below tile line. If we have a harsh winter I have 0 CYA come spring. Last 2 winters here have been mild and I've noticed I didn't quite lose all, but still below the readable 30.
I have been told by the so called experts that you don't loose CYA due to freezing temps or anything else the winter throws at you. "The only way to loose CYA is by dilution (draining and filling)". My anecdotal experience tells me otherwise.