Winterizing Question - How low do you go?

IUsedToSail

Active member
Jul 22, 2020
25
Maryland
Hey guys, I could use some advice about winterizing my pool here in north central Maryland.

I've read several pool winterization techniques online and watched a few You Tube videos. This weekend I started the process by ensuring it was balanced and hitting it with non-chlorine shock. Then I began draining the pool down to about 4" below the skimmer and started to blow out the skimmer lines. I'm a little confused about whether or not I need to drain the water below the return jets. A few of the videos mention draining 6 inches below the returns. My pool has fairly tall tiles and the jets are easily 12" below the water line, 6" below the jets will probably remove at least 1/3 of the pool water. Is this normal? Also, the previous owner left behind a bag of plugs, but I'm confused why I need to plug the holes if I have to drain it that low. Lastly, I'm not excited about installing the plugs as they can't be reached without getting INTO the pool.

See pic below. Ignore the scale it was actually much worse when we bought the house back in June and I've been slowly working on the issues.

thanks
 

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Texas Splash

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
This is a very popular question this year for some reason. You're not alone though. Fellow northerners will confirm if I missed the mark, but how low you lower the water level depends much on how you cover the pool - if at all. If covered, rain, snow, and ice accumulations would require a suitable water shelf for the cover to be supported upon as well. So your closing techniques could easily vary from someone who's in Kentucky. For the return jets and plugs, I suspect many would just blow-out the lines then plug them up right away. Either use a solid winterizing plug once purged, or install a blow-through variety like Duck or Bungee. Then they can remain air-sealed below the waterline.

But hey, obviously I don't get into those details much in my area, so let's see what your counterparts up north have to say. :)
 

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
23,578
Northern NJ
Pool Size
35000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
What is critical is that the pool water level stay below the tile level all winter. If the water gets on the tiles and freeze it can crack the tiles or pop them off.

You need to account for rain and snow melt refilling the pool. I check the water level regularly and will drop a pump into the side of the cover to pump water out if we have a wet winter.

I have the pool level drained 2 to 3" below the tile line. But if you are not able to check the pool water level regularly you may want to drain further.

Always blow out the return and skimmer lines and plug them. Otherwise water can get into them during the winter.
 
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IUsedToSail

Active member
Jul 22, 2020
25
Maryland
What is critical is that the pool water level stay below the tile level all winter. If the water gets on the tiles and freeze it can crack the tiles or pop them off.

You need to account for rain and snow melt refilling the pool. I check the water level regularly and will drop a pump into the side of the cover to pump water out if we have a wet winter.

I have the pool level drained 2 to 3" below the tile line. But if you are not able to check the pool water level regularly you may want to drain further.

Always blow out the return and skimmer lines and plug them. Otherwise water can get into them during the winter.

AJW - Our climate here in the MD hills is similar to north Jersey. So you don't drop your water level below the return jets?

I'll definitely be monitoring the water level weekly.

thanks
 

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
23,578
Northern NJ
Pool Size
35000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
AJW - Our climate here in the MD hills is similar to north Jersey. So you don't drop your water level below the return jets?

No, even if I did it would not stay there for long.
 

skimmerswimmer

Well-known member
Jul 30, 2013
400
Long Island, NY
I bring the water to just below the returns...maybe 1/2". This is about 18" from the top of the coping. I blow everything out and put the mesh safety cover on. Over the winter, the water level will eventually come back up due to rain and snow and when it begins to touch the bottom of the skimmers I'll bring the water level back down a few inches below the skimmers using a submersible pump and a garden hose.
 

IUsedToSail

Active member
Jul 22, 2020
25
Maryland
I bring the water to just below the returns...maybe 1/2". This is about 18" from the top of the coping. I blow everything out and put the mesh safety cover on. Over the winter, the water level will eventually come back up due to rain and snow and when it begins to touch the bottom of the skimmers I'll bring the water level back down a few inches below the skimmers using a submersible pump and a garden hose.
Thanks! This helps a lot. So you drain it, blow it out, plug the returns and then let it rise again via precipitation but keep it below the tile and skimmers.
 
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ZcottD

Well-known member
Jun 23, 2017
167
Connecticut
I lower mine below the returns, blow the water out, raise it back up so that water reaches my top step, so it doesnt get stained by dirt getting in. I also don't have tile to worry about.
 
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Winger 03

Well-known member
Sep 7, 2009
312
Frederick County, MD
Good timing for this question. I am using a different company for closing this year, the builder I have does not come this far for service any longer. I had a new pump installed this year by a local company and they did a fine job so they get my closing business.

In the past water was only lowered a little below the skimmer, lines blown and plugged, a gizmo in the skimmer, and all unions loosened. This year, water lowered below the returns, lines blown and plugged, and no gizmo but a rubber plug with a wing nut and no unions loosened. I was a little uncomfortable with this new method, but these guys seemed to know what they were doing and have been around for along time.

What I did see was the white haze Pat speaks about so much - I'll try to address that next year. I thing I will loosen the unions a little as well. I think the water level is too low to be made up with rain / snow to support the cover, so I guess we will see.
 

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Winger 03

Well-known member
Sep 7, 2009
312
Frederick County, MD
@Winger 03 (Jim), with no Gizmo, just be sure to protect that skimmer. Not sure about the type plug they installed, but at the very least make sure to put some cut-up pool noodles in there to help protect the skimmer from freezing and ice expansion. Good luck!


So here is what they did.....

blow out skimmer - add antifreeze (about 1/2 gallon) then put the bottle of antifreeze - still with some left in it - into the skimmer. I thought about putting a noodle in there as well but it does seem like the bottle would be like the gizmo in absorbing the freeze / thaw.

Thoughts?
 

markayash

Gold Supporter
Mar 21, 2016
2,878
Atlanta Ga
I started putting a grocery bag around my skimmer covers to help keep the rain out. Be surprised how much water gets through those little holes on top
 

IUsedToSail

Active member
Jul 22, 2020
25
Maryland
Winger03 - I'm really close to you.

Just took a look at my cover and it appears to be mesh so I've decided to just drain it to the return eyelets. I'm definitely going to cover the top of my skimmers with mats, boards, or something to help keep the water out.
 

C4ST

Silver Supporter
Jun 24, 2018
11
S. Plainfield, NJ
If you have a mesh safety cover, as I do, then your pool will refill over the winter due to precipitation. So how often you will have to pump water out of the pool during winter months to keep the level below your skimmers & tiles will be a function of your average precipitation and how much you lower your water level in the fall. You can do a google search to determine average precipitation in your area--in norther NJ, average precipitation during November to end of April is about 23 inches. If you have components in your water chemistry that are too high and can only be lowered via dilution (e.g., CYA or Calcium Hardness), it might be worth pulling your water level down lower in the fall and letting the rain water do at least some of the diluting, as opposed to paying for city water. Just a thought...
 
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IUsedToSail

Active member
Jul 22, 2020
25
Maryland
If you have a mesh safety cover, as I do, then your pool will refill over the winter due to precipitation. So how often you will have to pump water out of the pool during winter months to keep the level below your skimmers & tiles will be a function of your average precipitation and how much you lower your water level in the fall. You can do a google search to determine average precipitation in your area--in norther NJ, average precipitation during November to end of April is about 23 inches. If you have components in your water chemistry that are too high and can only be lowered via dilution (e.g., CYA or Calcium Hardness), it might be worth pulling your water level down lower in the fall and letting the rain water do at least some of the diluting, as opposed to paying for city water. Just a thought...

As you can see from the pics, I inherited a calcium problem, the benefit of draining didn't occur to me. I'm glad that you mentioned it!

Our well water is hard in this part of Maryland so we will probably have water delivered in the Spring. Just spent $8k having the driveway repaved so I do have some concerns about the weight of a water truck.
 

wireform

Silver Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 15, 2017
1,929
Spring Valley, NY
I will add you can use a gizmo in the skimmer but I just plug them and keep a half gallon jug with RV antifreeze with some gravel in the bottom of the jug to keep it weighed down so as the water in the skimmer rises it'll stay put and not float. You can also take a pool noodle and bend it into a "U" shape so the two ends go through the opening of the skimmer towards the pool and U portion goes behind the jug where the jug sits in middle of the U. I have seen weir door damage from ice expansion and this method should absorb the ice pressure thereby not damaging the skimmer opening.
 

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