Draining - Further Reading

Reasons behind draining a pool

There are several reasons a pool owner may wish to replace the pool water with fresh water. Elevated CYA, CH, high ammonia, a complete algal swamp, maintenance requirements, seasonal closing, etc.


Draining pools entails risk. Vinyl liner pools should not be drained below leaving 12-18” of water in the shallow end. The liner can shift and get destroyed. Fiberglass pools should not be drained unless significant precautions are taken as they can pop out of the ground. Gunite/plaster pools can also pop out of the ground if local water levels are high[1]. Also, plaster can fail if let to dry out in the hot sun.

Here is where a contractor drained a fiberglass pool before a rain storm and the pool popped out of the ground from hydrostatic pressure.

How do you drain a pool

There are multiple ways to drain existing pool water and refill with fresh water. Below are the most popular.

DE or Sand filters with MPV that drain to waste

  • Turn the pump OFF
  • Turn MPV to WASTE
  • Turn the pump ON
  • Monitor the pump and turn the pump OFF immediately if the water drops below the skimmers and the pump runs dry. Depending if you have an operational main drain your pump may continue to drain below the skimmer level
  • When water is at the desired level turn the pump OFF
  • Turn the MPV back to FILTER

Submersible Pump

Use a submersible utility pump connected to a hose.

Rent a Gas Powered Pump

You can rent a gas powered pump with a large hose to more rapidly drain the pool.

The old siphon method

  • "You know, like you used to use when you stole gas from your neighbor's car"...
  • Fill a garden hose with water and then put one end of a garden hose in the pool and the other end down hill somewhere.

No Drain Water Exchange

In general, it is safer to exchange water in a pool rather than drain. The process to exchange water depends on determining a few factors:

  • The temperature of your fill water versus the pool water temperature.
  • Does the pool water have salt in it above 2000 ppm or a Calcium Hardness of 800 ppm or more?
  • Essentially, is the pool water high in Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).

Where will the effluent be discharged?

Prior to exchanging the pool water to fresh, you need to determine where is the effluent (pool water you remove) going? Some municipalities have requirements. Be sure to research that. In most areas, it is easiest and best to drain to your sewer clean out at your home. If the water has salt in it, be wary of draining to your grass or plants. It may do them harm.

What pump to use?

You also will need a pump to remove the water from the pool. It is not advised to use your pool pump. It is a fairly expensive piece of equipment and if by chance it loses prime during the process you could damage it. A low power (1/3-1/2 hp) submersible utility pump is a good choice.

The rate at which it pumps is very dependent on what hose size and length you use to direct the effluent. If using a garden hose to a sewer cleanout, expect a flow rate of 6-9 gallons per minute.

Pump from the deep end or near the surface?

To determine whether you pump from the deep end of the pool or from near the surface of the pool, depends on your fill and pool water characteristic.

Adding water to the deep end while pumping from a top step or near the surface is recommended if your fill water is much colder (>20F) then the pool water.

Put the pump in the deep end and fill from the shallow end if your fill water is nearly the same temperature as the pool water, you have a saltwater pool, or have very high CH. Put the fill hose in the skimmer, if you have one, in the shallow end. If no skimmer, then use a bucket to put the water hose in and have the top of the bucket above the pool water surface. Be sure to secure the hose to the bucket.

Balance the water flow out and in

Be sure to balance the water out and water in so the pool level stays the same.

When you have the pump you will use, take the effluent hose and fill a 5 gallon bucket while timing it. Calculate your gallons per minute (gpm) from that. Then you can estimate how long to run the process.

It is suggested to exchange 5-10% more water than needed to reduce your CYA/CH/etc to account for errors.

Be sure your pool pump is disabled during this process.

Once started do not stop until complete

Once started do not stop until you have exchanged the amount of water you wish.

For more information

A very good thread on the subject of water exchange is Differential Water Exchange