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Steps To Winterizing Swimming Pools

Swimming Pools, Spas and Hot Tubs
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No matter how long the warm weather lasts, eventually the summer comes to an end and the pools have to close. Winter weather can cause a lot of damage to outdoor pools. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps to follow that not only make it easy to winterize swimming pools, but also make it easy to reopen them when the weather warms up.

Check the chemical balance

The first step is to make sure the pool water is properly chemically balanced. A proper chemical balance will protect the pool liner from damage, deterioration and discoloration. A proper balance is a pH of 7.2 to 7.6, alkalinity of 80 to 120 parts per million, calcium hardness of 175 to 250 parts per million, and chlorine of 1 to 3 parts per million. Adding a winter chemical kit will ensure a proper balance; the kit's time-release chemicals will take care of it automatically. Don't use a floater kit with a high oxidizer, as it can stick to the walls and stain or bleach the liner, especially if you have a vinyl pool. Avoid chlorine or bromine tablets for the same reason; they'll sink and stain the bottom surface.

Keep the water out of the plumbing

Water expands when it freezes, making ice the biggest cause of damage to pools and their plumbing. The next step is to make sure there's no water in the lines while the pool is closed, and that it can't get in. Drain the pool water until it's lower than the mouths of the skimmers (but don't drain it completely). Next, use a shop vac to blow the water out of the plumbing lines and cap them once they're discharged. Threaded plugs are best, but rubber freeze plugs will work if your fittings don't have threads. You can insert a hollow tube that collapses if ice forms in the skimmer.

Drain the filters and cover the pool

Remove the plugs from your filter equipment and allow the water to drain out. Check the pump, the filter tank, and any other bit of equipment that holds water. Remove any chemical tablets from the feeder as well. Once the filter equipment has drained, don't put the plugs back in; if any water gets into the equipment, leaving the plugs out will allow it to drain back out. Instead, put the plugs in a safe place, like the feeder basket, to ensure you know where they are in the spring.

Finally, put a winter cover over the pool to keep leaves and debris out. If you have a solid cover, place a cover pump in the center to take care of any excess water from rain or snowfall.

While it's obvious that pools should be winterized in areas known for snow and ice, pool owners in the Sun Belt might be tempted to skip the process. Don't do it! Even southern California and Florida experience unexpected winter freezes every few years. It's much quicker cheaper to prepare a pool for the cold than to repair a damaged one.

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