Pool Covers - Further Reading

Pool Covers

Covering the pool in the winter can protect it from the weather and make for an easier opening with clear water. The type of cover that is best for you depends on the weather you get in your region of the country. Does the cover need to handle the weight of a few feet of snow? Do you get high winds?

Pool covers can also provide safety that no people, children or animals fall into the pool. To be a safety cover it must have strong material and anchors to support the weight of being walked on.

In-Ground Pool Covers

Pool cover material can be either mesh or solid or solid with a mesh panel down the middle.

Mesh covers let any rain, snow, ice and debris fall into the pool, solid covers don’t. Mesh covers are lighter and easier to handle then solid covers. Some covers claim to be 99% UV Block Mesh.[1]

With a solid cover you have to keep a pump on top of it to drain away the standing water that accumulates. Solid covers tend to keep the pool water cleaner over the winter with less debris falling into it. Solid also blocks sunlight so algae cant grow.

If you live in a wooded area and a lot of leaves will be falling on your cover, you may want to go solid. Decomposing leaves on a mesh cover can create a tea bag effect into your water.

In-ground pool covers are secured by Pool Cover Anchors on the deck or grass.

Custom Covers

Meyco, Looploc, GLI, Merlin are all major brands for custom in-ground pool covers. Pool Covers Direct is an online source for custom made pool covers.

Standard Pool Covers

Safety covers come in standard shapes that include:

  • Rectangle
  • Rectangle Left Step
  • Rectangle Roght step
  • Rectangle Center Step
  • Grecian Shapes

If your pool fits one of the available shapes and sizes you may find a premade cover at a good price.

If you have a raised spa or a pool with different levels you will probably need a custom made cover.

Automatic Pool Covers

An automatic cover prevents children and pets from getting into your pool when you can't be there and it minimizes evaporation and retains heat in the pool water.

Automatic covers open and close at the turn of a switch. You need to have the right shape and size pool for an automatic cover to fit, usually rectangle. Freeform shaped pools cannot have an automatic cover.

An automatic pool cover typically has a vault at one end of the pool, either sunken in ground or on the deck, where the motor is and the cover rolls into. Tracks on the side of the pool guide the covers movement. The tracks can be built into the sides of the coping or placed on the deck along the sides of the pool. A sunken box should have a good drain so water does not accumulate in it.

CoverReel motor.jpg

An automatic pool cover typically has a hydraulic motor setup. The main part that gives it the ability to freewheel one direction and pull the other direction is called "double dog brake" and is used in almost all automatic pool covers. [2]

Automatic covers are not designed to support the weight of snow. In areas where a pool with an automatic cover is winterized the automatic cover will be replaced by an in-ground pool cover anchored to the ground.

Stay away from dark colors that get hot from the sun and hold heat which seems to cause them to age faster. Consider light gray, tan and the lightest blue, that seem to last the best.[3]

Automatic cover manufacturers include:

  • Lantham Pool Products manufacturers the Coverstar[4] automatic pool cover.
  • Aquamatic Cover Systems.[5]
  • Cover-Pools[6]

The autocover controls can be connected to the Jandy Aqualink and it will lower the SWG output when it senses the autocover is closed. Otherwise if you have an SWG the FC will increase while the cover is closed and then decrease when it's open due to being exposed to the sun's UV rays.

Installation is a very exacting process. If the installer is not an expert, the cover will never work correctly. If the installer knows what they're doing, the cover will work well.

Servicing Automatic Pool Covers gives good information about maintaining an automatic pool cover.

Autocover Maintenance

Maintenance items on an autocover include:

  • replacing ropes when they break.
  • undermount tracks pulling away from the coping
  • motor failures

It's a tough pill to swallow, but then again, an autocover is a luxury item with repair bills to match.[7]

Autocover Cleaning

Rinsing down with fresh water is adequate as long as it is done frequently enough so that dirt, mold, algae, oil etc don't have a chance to become embedded and bonded to the vinyl. The cover should be kept clean and excess water should not be allowed to accumulate.[8]

Note that anything left on top of the cover (such as soap etc.) can be transferred to the underside of the cover when the cover is rolled up on the reel. Then what is on the bottom of the cover can be transferred to the pool water when the pool cover is closed. Therefore, the cover should be as clean as possible when opening.

Do not use a powerwasher to clean the cover. You separate the thread from the coating.

Natural chemistry has a cover cleaner that you can use also. Make sure to keep water off the cover.

The Aquamatic manual (http://www.aquamatic.com/New_homeowners_manual.pdf) says to clean with mild dishwashing soap bi-annually. One way to do that is to wet down the cover while closed, add some dishwashing liquid, use a nylon pool brush to gently scrub, then use the cover pump to get all the soap off before opening. Probably rinse a couple times and repeat to get all the soap off.

Coverpool recommends:[9]

  • Cleaning - Rinse: Regularly rinse the cover off with a pump in place to remove water and contaminants. Even if the cover does not appear dirty, harmful chemical deposits can accumulate on top of the fabric and can cause premature fabric failure if the fabric is not rinsed regularly.
  • Stains: For stains, use a soft bristle brush and scrub the cover with fresh, clean water.
  • Oils and Stubborn Stains: For oils, such as suntan lotion, or stubborn stains that cannot be removed by scrubbing, use a small amount of non-detergent cleanser. Never use detergents on the vinyl. One of the most available non-detergent cleaners is Ivory® bar soap (not dish-washing liquid). Use the bar soap on a wet cloth and scrub the soiled area. Rinse well with fresh water.
  • Algae: For algae stains, especially black algae, use a mixture of water and Clorox® bleach. Use one (1) part Clorox to nine (9) parts water. Make sure you use Clorox, not the pool’s chlorine. You can apply this solution directly on the algae. Some algicides contain detergent and may damage the cover.

Above Ground Pool Covers

Above ground pools have different cover requirements then in-ground pools. You don't have to worry about the cover being walked on, but the methods of anchoring down a cover in an above ground pool can be challenging. Especially if you are in a high wind area.

Often a tarp is thrown over the pool and tied down.

A solid cover on an above ground pool has to be able to be anchored well so that it is taunt and will not sink in from the water weight on top of it. A pump is often put on a solid cover to drain the water off so it doesn't sink in. However if the cover gets pinholes the pump can be draining pool water that comes through the holes.

To determine the proper size cover for a round above ground pool you need to measure the pool including the top rails. Don't simply use the specified pool size as some pools have wide top rails. Take into account how much the cover will sag down to the lowered water level or if you will use pillows under the cover. Then add at least 4 feet for sufficient overhang. Consider getting the next size up cover.

When you receive your cover carefully remove it from the box to confirm it is the correct size. Errors do happen and you would rather find the problem in the middle of the season then when winter is setting in. Contact the dealer you purchased the cover from if there are problems.

Pool air pillows are used to prevent the cover from sagging into the gap between the top of the pool and the lowered water level. Air pillows often don't stay inflated for the season and found deflated at the opening.

The cover should touch the water and be supported by air pillows or water. If you are in an area with heavy snow loads an above-ground cover can pull the sides inward if not properly supported.

Securing an above ground pool cover is often a challenge. What works best depends on the shape and size of your pool, what is around the pool to anchor the cover to, and the weather conditions it needs to endure - rain, wind, snow. Anchoring techniques include:

AGP Cover with jugs and shrink wrap.jpg
  • use plastic wrap around the pool to seal the edge of the tarp from the wind
  • 2 inch spring clamps from home depot
  • a big square air cushion suspended in the center along with a winter cover secured by cable[10] and tightened with a winch[11]
  • water bags if the cover reaches the ground or deck
  • hanging bleach jugs over the pool edge
  • dog tie out stakes in the ground around the pool

An example is the covered pool on the right that uses 2 air pillows, tying mason string to keep them about 12-16 inches apart.[12] Then tie each pillow onto the solar cover reel bases that stay on the top edge (rail) on opposite sides of the pool. That keeps the pillows from shifting. Winch the cover tight as you go around...pulling and easing it until it's as good as it's going to get. Then fill and use eight gallon suize chlorine jugs filled with pool water that you saved, tie a 28"-30" piece of mason string to the jug handle and then leave enough to tie thru a grommet in the winter cover AND the cable...(important) and double knot it, then lay jug up and over onto the cover along that pitched angle of cover - suspended on cover, not down to water line. Then use that shrink wrap looking stuff in a 500' roll and run that around the perimeter until it's gone, trying to get as much coverage over the lip of the pool and the cover and underneath the edge to block wind from creeping under and disturbing it all.

Solar Pool Covers

Solar covers reduce evaporation and keep the heat in the water. The do not add much heat to the water but they help retain heat when the air temperature is below the water temperature. Solar covers in most regions will retain 5-7 degrees over average air temperature.

Buy the cheapest solar cover you can find on Amazon. They all only last 2 to 3 seasons at best and thicker mil covers get real heavy and don't provide much advantage over thinner covers. Don't let the solar cover sit on the deck in the sun if you want it to last more then a year or two.[13]

You can buy a reel to make it easier to remove a solar cover, but a good one can be more than double the cost of the cover, and have its own struggles to it.

The cover won't help keep debris out much. The covers get dirt and pollen on them in addition to other stuff and when you drag the cover off it just dumps it off the cover into the water. Also when you put the cover on the ground it gets debris on the underside that gets put back in the pool when you put he cover on. If you have a reel then as you wind it up the dirt on top sticks to the underside. [14]

Pool Cover Tips

Should Pool Covers be Cleaned Before Stored?

Many pool owners just let the cover be washed in the pool water when pulled off, folded into the mesh bag, and then let the bag drip dry in the driveway before being moved to the garage.

You can spread the cover out on the driveway and mop it with a solution of dishwashing detergent and hose it off. A squirt a dab of Dawn with bleach in a bucket of hot water and take a broom and scrub the cover with a pushbroom or deck brush, soft bristles only, and then spray it off and let it dry.

Natural Chemistry Spray-On Cover Cleaner[15] has been used.

Some folks have used a pressure washer with a fan tip at a low pressure. Start at the lowest setting and keep turning it up slowly until it cleans the cover. Start in the middle and work your way to the perimeter unless you can lay it out on a hill, then start from the top and work your way down. Be careful as that can seperate the thread from the coating and create holes in the cover.[16]

Be sure the cover is dry before you stuff it in a box or it will mildew.

Should Snow Be Shoveled Off Safety Covers?

You do not need to shovel snow off a safety cover. Expect the “sag and bounce back” with snow loads. if it didn’t “sag” it would burst.[17] This applies to safety covers that are solidly anchored to the ground with straps and springs.

Keep the pool level at or above cover manufacturers demanded level. Keep a higher water level (for liner pools) so the pool ice takes snow load off the cover.

Note that autocovers are not designed to hold snow loads. Autocovers should be opened before snow in the winter and many people open the autocover and install a safety cover for the winter to hold the snow.