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Winterizing Your Backyard Swimming Pool

Swimming Pools, Spas and Hot Tubs
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Unless you live in the Sun Belt, the end of summer means the time has come to close and winterize your backyard swimming pool. Not only will this protect it from damage due to freezing water, but it will keep it as clean as possible for the next swimming season. Properly winterizing your backyard swimming pool can save you considerable time and work when it comes time to reopen it next summer.

Make sure the water chemistry is balanced. Approximately a week before closing your backyard swimming pool, check your water balance and adjust it within the following ranges:

  • pH should be between 7.2 and 7.6
  • Alkalinity should be between 80 and 120 ppm (parts per million)
  • Calcium hardness should be between 180 and 220 ppm

Shock the pool, using either a chlorine or non-chlorine shock. Be sure to follow the directions on the label, but you will probably end up using 1 lb. per 10,000 gallons of water. Wait for the chlorine levels to fall below 3.0 ppm before adding any winter algaecide or covering the pool.

Remove all pool cleaners, wall fittings, solar blankets, ladders, and skimmer baskets from the pool. Store them in a safe location for the winter, and take care not to coil the pool cleaner hoses too tight.

Lower the pool’s water level, using the filter pump or a submersible pump. Just how much depends on the type of pool cover you’re using for the winter. For mesh covers, lower the water 12” to 18” below the skimmer. For solid, floating covers, lower the water 3” to 6” below the tile.

Drain all of the pumps, filters, heaters, and chlorinators. All of the water needs to be drained or blown out to prevent it from freezing and cracking. After draining, DE (diatomaceous earth) or cartridge filters should be removed and thoroughly cleaned. If the filter and pump are small enough, remove them and store them indoors. If not, use a shop vacuum or compressor to blow any remaining water out of the equipment.

Lubricate the pump lid o-rings. If you have a push-pull (or slide) valve, lubricate its o-rings as well. If you have a gas heater with cast iron plugs, either lubricate the threads after draining or leave the plugs in to prevent rusting.

Clean the pool thoroughly. Skim and vacuum the pool, and brush the walls and tile. Your backyard swimming pool should be as clear and clean as possible before you cover it.

Winterize the pool’s plumbing. If you have an inground pool, you need to blow out the lines with a shop vacuum or compressor, and then plug the lines at the pool with expansion plugs. If you can’t blow out the lines, add swimming pool antifreeze to prevent them from freezing. For above ground pools, all you need to do is disconnect the hoses to the pump and filter, and plug the wall outlets.

Add winterizing algaecide. Make sure the chlorine level has dropped below 3.0 ppm, otherwise the chlorine will break down the algaecide before it can work.

Cover the pool. Again, make sure the chlorine level is below 3.0 ppm, as high chlorine levels can be harsh on pool covers. The cover should fit tightly over the pool, and have no gaps or holes where leaves and debris might enter the pool.

If you do happen to live in an area that rarely gets below freezing, it may not be necessary to fully winterize your backyard swimming pool. You can simply reduce the amount of filtration time each day. You will also find that your pool requires less chemicals during the cooler months. Even if you don’t winterize, covering your backyard swimming pool will reduce the needs for chemicals, cleaning, and filtering even further.

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