Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Quick Pool Audit For The Owner

Bob Russell | June 12, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

It’s June, most pools and spas are opened and running.

Pool Owners generally trust their service providers, but there is also a trend towards a more “hands on” approach. 

Here are some quick observations you as a pool owner can make. It takes about 3-5 minutes if you know what to look for. These are general areas of health, safety and efficiency that can be observed by taking a lap around pool and equipment: 

1. Safety: Are your suction outlet covers secured by stainless steel screws? This picture was taken through water, while standing on deck with pumps turned off. Note: this is NOT an approved cover. The important point being made here is to ensure covers are secure!

 

 

 

 

  

2. Security: Is the pool secured? Awareness is the thing. Walk around and look at your pool the way an adventurous 4-year-old might. Look at gates and anything that can be climbed to gain access.

Consider hiring a certified lifeguard from your local Y for your next party.





3. Reliability: Is the filter system and other equipment operating correctly?

A quick check 2 or 3 days before the guests arrive is a good idea. Mechanical systems sometimes fail.

Make sure your service provider has a reputation for speedy response time and a 24/7 “on-call” service. Because STUFF happens!



4. Efficiency: Is your pump, filter and heater efficient? New technology has brought these a long way in just the past 5 years. For more information I suggest you consult with your service provider first before going with Google. Avoid the confusion and ask the expert.





 

 

 

 

 

5. Sanitization: Look at your pool as a giant Petri Dish and bathers, rain storms and warm water as chlorine demand. When a pool drops to zero chlorine (or bromine) plant and animal life can multiply rapidly. In other wirds, it will take more sanitizer to get the job done under cetrain circumstances than others. It is far easier to prevent algae than to kill it. It is critical to the health of bathers to maintain a sanitary environment. When in doubt- dipstrip test your pool or spa. It’s a 5-second test.



 



 

 

 

 *Summary:

Safety: Be sure your suction outlet covers are secured.

Security: Be aware of any breaches in pool area barrier.

Reliability: Test equipment 2-3 days before an important event.

Efficiency: Consider updating older equipment.

Sanitization: Recognize that sanitizer levels are impacted by demand place on them.

Enjoy your pool!

Call if you need anything!

 

*Summary: This summary is NOT intended to be exhaustive or complete – it is intended to facilitate a higher level of awareness and enjoyment of pool ownership.


Pool Work In Winter

Bob Russell | December 25, 2011 in Pool,Pool equipment,Pool renovations,Pool Service,Uncategorized,Winterize | Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

Equipment enhancements and plumbing projects.

November and December can be tricky times of year to do such work, but if the weather is cooperating, I say, “…go for it!”

Generally the ground is well-frozen in January and this frost layer can be as deep as 18″ or more.

Still, If you can get such projects out of the way now, during the “off season,” there are some big benefits including these:

1) Most service companies are happy to do the work now when pools are closed. They actually prefer to do these sort of projects, while things are a bit quieter. Also, you may find a service company more willing to negotiate on costs this time of year.

2) The risk of a delayed spring opening is reduced. Things get very busy very fast for pool companies in Spring, especially if the winter is prolonged by March snowfall and colder weather.

3) Landscape repairs over trenches get an early jump in Spring. Anything dug up in December will be well settled by Spring. Lawn repairs will not be delayed.

So, if you can, I recommend doing the project or installation now. Not everyone thinks this far ahead, but for those who do, these and other benefits can be realized by May the following season.

May you and your family enjoy a wonderful holiday season and prosperous new year!

Bob


Post Irene Clean-Up For Swimming Pools

Bob Russell | September 1, 2011 in Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool cleaning,Pool equipment,Pool safety,Sanitizers,Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Cleaning Up After The Storm

In my previous post I wrote out some tips for preparing for storms with heavy rain and strong winds. I hope you found them helpful.

In this post, I’ll lay out some post-storm clean-up  advice in some detail, using the FAQs format.

Q: What about wash-ins?

A: This week I have done a lot of “triage” work- deciding which pools have water that can be saved and which need to be drained and refilled with new water. We can clean up some pools that look “too far gone” while other pools that seem in pretty good shape, we decide to drain re-fill.

The key factors in my decision to save water or drain and re-fill include:

  1. Amount of silt and organic material in pool- Less than an inch of silt and mulch on a pool’s floor is generally easy to vacuum out. Silt that is in suspension (i.e. brown murky water) can be dropped to floor by “flocking” the water with an agent that drops suspended fine particles to floor.
  2. City Water vs. Well Water- If a pool Owner is on a well, or has city water but is in a hurry, I often advise that pool water be replaced. It’s just quicker. If you are on a well and must truck in water- this will add to clean-up expense and will be one of your deciding factors.
  3. Phosphates and Nitrates- This is an important decision-maker for pool professionals.  Often a wash-in will bring with it fertilizers or worse (e.g. in cases where septic systems in area are full with rain water and  overflowing). Phosphates and Nitrates can be detected with a good test kit in the field. The issue is this: Phosphates and Nitrates encourage plant growth AND interfere significantly with chlorination, this will make clearing the pool more difficult, and sometimes near impossible. So, this is a major determining factor for me when making the decision to save or change pool water.

Q: What about power failures?:

A: When power is knocked out and it is unclear when it will be restored, it is critical to protect the pool water – you have about 3 days to do this:

  1. Open up your winterize supplies and locate your chlorine floaters. By adding chlorine floaters to your pool- you can hold the water for weeks.
  2. Remove heavy debris like piles of leaves, branches and other organic matter as this will cloud pool and use up chlorine.
  3. Maintain a 3.0 ppm chlorine level.
  4. Other benefits include: Prevents mosquitoes from breeding in water. Prevents spread of algae- making clean-up much quicker when power is restored. Keeps water potable, or at least suitable for flushing toilets if necessary.

Remember the Health issues in Florida with all those foreclosed homes with pools? It is critical to protect the water and to do so early in a prolonged power outage.

Q: What if sea water got into my pool?

A: Salt water- especially if diluted- is generally NOT going to hurt your pool finish or equipment. However, if salt levels exceed about 4,000 ppm, you should consult with your pool service professional.

Q: My equipment is in a pit or basement that flooded, is it ruined?

A: A gas heater should NOT be activated until a professional, licensed service technician has inspected it. Gas valves that have been immersed under water should be considered unsafe for use. Your pump motor should be inspected as well; sometimes a pump motor can be dried out, reconditioned and saved.  Generally electronic equipment cannot be saved if immersed for a prolonged period of time. Your service professional will need to determine this.

This pool was hit by salt water from the Long Island Sound. We were able to drop sediment to the bottom, vacuum it out and save the water. Not everyone was as fortunate.

 

Summary:

As of 9/1/11 there are still may pool Owners without power- (2) things to focus on in such cases:

1) Minimize organic matter in pool as possible- remove leaves, twigs and branches by hand or with a leaf net.

2) Maintain a chlorine count of around 3 ppm. This can be done using chlorine floaters. If you do not have floaters on hand, you can make your own from plastic jugs or other creative means. Be careful not to allow chlorine tabs to come into direct contact with pool finish as a permanent “chemical burn” mark may result.

I hope you are finding these posts to be timely and helpful. Happy Labor Day!


Preparing For Hurricane Irene

Bob Russell | August 26, 2011 in Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool equipment,Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

Preparing For a
Hurricane-

Frequently Asked
Questions.

If you are a pool owner, there are some things you can do to
prepare for strong storms.  Here are some questions we are typically asked and our answers:

Q: What about deck
furniture?

A: Secure umbrellas and pool deck furniture, especially anything with glass. Severe storms can carry gusts of wind that
will pick objects up, turning them into projectiles. Anything that can sail
will (e.g. a glass covered bistro table). Stack or store such such objects in a
protected area if there is time. If you do not have the time or muscle to store
all furniture before the storm hits, try to at least remove the glass table tops and store in a safe place.
If no indoor storeage is available, chairs and tables can be massed together and tucked into an area protected from direct wind- perhaps close to a wall of the house.

 

Q: What about deck and yard drainage?

A: Check yard drains to be sure they are clear. Drains
can clog during a storm causing water to mass in areas- if you are able and if
it is safe, you should monitor critical
storm drains and keep them clear
during the heavy rains so water can get
away from area unimpeded. Please exercise great caution.

 

Q: What should I do with my automatic pool cover?

A: If your pool is equipped with an automatic cover:

Open the cover and leave
open during heavy downpour
. If you leave it closed it will collect
water on top. The water on top of cover will displace the water below it
pushing it up and out of the pool. The heavy weight on top of the cover will
damage the cover track system.

A: Open the cover early -
don’t wait till storm is in full swing as water removal during a storm is very
difficult and even dangerous. Also, if you experience a power failure, your
pool cover will not operate.

 

Q: Should I leave my
pool filter pump running?

A: Yes. In most
cases you should leave pump running.

I do recommend turning off the heater.

 

Q: What if my pool
overflows? Will water hurt the lawn?

A: Many pools
have a high water overflow OR they leak above the tile line and will settle
there. The “first response”
for a pool that’s been through heavy rains is to lower water levels, remove
debris, clean baskets and filter, etc.

A: Regarding gardens and lawns- generally a pool’s sanitizer (Chlorine or
Bromine) is much diluted after heavy rains and will not have an adverse effect
on lawns or gardens around the pool
.

Usually the larger problem is when soil,
mulch and fertilizer from the lawn and garden get into the pool.

Fertilizer contains Phosphates and Nitrates- both generally interfere with
sanitization and promote algae growth- this will make clearing pool a real challenge
after the rain.

 

Q: I have a stream beside my pool that floods. What should I do?

A: Monitor the level of the river and turn off power to pool equipment if water reaches that
area.

(Consider calling us about flood control measures that can
be built into your landscape after storm.)

 

Summary Check List:

  • Secure objects like furniture that can become projectiles.
  • Keep drain grates clear
  • Keep automatic pool covers open during heavy rains
  • Leave filter pump running unless advised otherwise.
  • Turn off heater.
  • Call your professional service people if you have concerns or questions.
  • Don’t worry about the grass if pool overflows.

If you would like to experience a higher level of service, please contact us!

Be safe out there!

———————————————————-

“Every little thing’s gonna be alright!”

-Martin Smith

 

 


Opening A Crystal Clear Pool- Part 2

Bob Russell | April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

In the 70′s folks often allowed their pools to turn green- not bothering to prepare them or protect from algae growth. They would look like this when opened, or worse. Such pools were typically drained, acid washed and re-filled.

In the 1980′s, we learned to conserve water. Throwing away 35,000 gallons of water every Spring became unthinkable! …and during the drought of 2002, it was illegal!

 

The pool industry has come a long way! What is the secret to opening a clear pool and conserving water?

Before answering this question, I should mention that [unfortunately] there are still pool owners and service firms that haven’t quite learned how to do this, or worse, they don’t think it’s important. The above picture was taken in early April this year.  This was not a foreclosure home and the landscapers did not get fertilizer in the pool.

Opening a pool quickly and getting the water to this condition should typically take 3-5 days (or less) if the pool was prepared properly for closing.

Point: The art and science of opening a crystal clear pool begins with closing the pool properly.

Easy Steps:

1) Balance the water before closing. 2) Close the pool CLEAN 3) Use a stain and scale preventer. 4) Float slow-dissolving sanitizer in the pool- use enough, and anchor them in the center.

There are some other important details, but that’s basically it.

Point: Cutting corners on the pool closing does not just produce stains, finish degredation and a frustrating and lengthy pool opening. It can lead to a massive waste of clear, clean water- a precious resource.

More to come! Stay tuned.


Spring Is Here! How To Start Up Your Pool Fast! Part 1

Bob Russell | April 27, 2011 in Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool finishes,Pool Service,Uncategorized,Winterize | Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , ,

It was a winter of heavy snowfall, a Spring of heavy rainfall…

 

Heavy rains filled our rivers and pools this past few months...

 

Question: What Impact Do Harsh Winters Have On Your Pool Finish?

Answer: It means precipitation has changed your water chemistry and diluted your pool water. This year you will find that your pool water is more corrosive than usual. (e.g. calcium hardness is very low) These things must be corrected at your pool opening; but what is the effect on the pool before it is opened?

A [plaster] pool finish has a high calcium content. Pool water is “hardened” with calcium chloride in order to protect a pool’s finish. This is an important part of the overall balancing required to maintain pool water that is neither corrosive or scaling but water that is just right.

A pool finish can get pretty “beat up” when water is soft (as far as calcium goes). To make matters a bit worse, we are also finding (THIS year) that our pools have a generally low pH and Total Alkalinity. Taken together these factors make for more-than-normal corrosive water. This is one of the primary factors that lead to degredation of finishes while pools are closed.

This year, pools in our area have had about 2-3 feet of new water added from snow and rainfall! Water from snow and rain is not quite like your city or well water. Rain water is very soft and what is in the atmosphere often winds up in your pool.

Key Point: Swimming Pool water will tend to be very soft and corrosive this Spring- more than normal .

Next up: Other pool challenges brought on by dilution from rain water, and how to protect your investment.

 B


Winter Pool Dreams

Bob Russell | January 11, 2011 in Pool Service,Uncategorized,Winterize | Comments (0)

Tags: , , , ,

This is a picture of a pool on the New England coast. I took this almost exactly a year ago today, January. 2010.

Looks great doesn’t it? What do you think, is this pool okay? 

Today, it’s under a foot of snow and we have a lot more coming. So, why be concerned at all about a swimming pool in the winter? Just cover it and forget it till Spring… right?

Let’s take a look under this pool cover for a moment. Same pool. Same time. Here’s the picture:

Fortunately, this Client had signed up for a “winter watch and pump down service.” During a routine check, our service technician found that the water level in this pool had dropped suddenly and substantially.

Had we NOT caught this, a Nor’ Easter (like the one coming up the coast as I write this) could drop a foot or so of heavy wet snow on this cover. With the pool water this low, even a new and strong safety cover would have been damaged or ruined.

Point: Make sure you keep track of your pool’s water levels throughout the off season.

I saw another pool last winter where water and ice levels were not kept below tile and coping. This pool easily sustained about $20-$30,000. in damage as ice lifted the beautiful granite coping and broke tile. Ouch! The pool Owner didn’t even know this had happened because the damage was hidden by a snow-covered pool cover.

I didn’t make a service agreement sale that day but their existing service company had some explaining to do along with some warranty work in the Spring!

Ice is perhaps the most powerful natural force on earth.

Your beautiful pool safety cover does a nice job covering up the pool for the winter months: Besides looking nice, it keeps leaves out and gives you peace of mind. That said, in the Northeastern United States, pool service is a 12 month thing.

This is just a friendly reminder. Don’t forget the pool! “Out of sight, out of mind” is not a good approach as a pool owner in this part of the country. If you cannot keep an eye on it yourself- and we understand, people are busy and pumping down an ice-covered pool is hard work! For peace of mind, consider hiring a professional service company to keep an eye on your pool this winter for you.

Do I have a service company in mind?

Yes, yes I do.

Enjoy your winter!


The Perfect Winter Cover Up

Bob Russell | November 3, 2010 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Tags: , ,

A custom fit winter pool cover is the best and most beautiful way to protect your investment.

Pools in New England are usually closed between  6-8 months. I look for the following things in a winter cover:

1) Safety.

2) Keeps debris out.

3) Minimal effect on grass, deck masonry and does not detract from beauty of landscape.

4) Beauty. That’s right, beauty. If I have to look at it 6 to 8 months, it better look nice!

Fits like a glove!

 

Installation: Things I look for:

Custom fit ensures debris stays out!

A great anchoring system includes planting areas and grass. This anchor is set in 14" conduit and screws down below toes and mower blades for the summer.

Brass escutcheons give brass anchors a finished look and protect deck material from installation tools.

Make sure your winter cover is custom installed by a professional. It is well worth the investment!


Pool Inspections

Bob Russell | November 2, 2010 in Pool,Pool renovations,Pool Service,Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Tags: , , ,

Concrete Pool Inspections  

 

Yes, have the pool inspected! 

When buying a home it is considered normal to first have it inspected . When buying a home with a swimming pool or spa, most Buyers are also ordering a pool inspection. This is a wise decision! 

 A quick word about selecting a pool/ spa Inspector: 

A pool inspection should provide objective, factual and informative information about the pool. Your Real Estate Agent or Home Inspector will usually be able to refer you to a solid and reliable company. 

I cannot possibly cover everything about pool inspections in a short article, but here are some of the main things I look for during a ["gunite"] pool inspection: 

Safety:  

Again, space does not allow for a full discussion of this issue; but this is the number one reason you should have a professional inspect the pool or spa. 

  • I look for GFCI circuits and make sure they are in good working order.
  • I look at safety code compliance especially regarding pool or spa suction outlets.

This topic is covered more extensively in other blogs. 

Pool Masonry and Structural Issues:  

I “sound out” coping, tile and other pool stone work by taping with an instrument (like a 3 iron golf club). I am listening for hollow sounds- when I hear them, I examine these areas to see how extensive it is and why it is happening. 

Loose or hollow coping and tile are often indicators of other problems like: inadequate or missing expansion joints, or drainage around the pool site. Coping and tile problems can be expensive; an expert’s opinion is valuable here. Below is a picture I took of a typical coping problem. One thing I’d like to point out about this particular issue, “…you can’t see it by just walking around the pool.” 

Note the bluestone coping setting bed has broken bond in this picture.

 “Expansion Joints”: A bit of a catch-all term, I am referring to the joint between coping and pool deck. 

If the deck base is concrete, there must be a gap  between pool deck and pool coping (typically 1/4″ to 1/2″ ). This joint is often filled with a flexible material.

This is a very important joint, here’s why: The deck expands sideways in the sun; it may also rise and fall slightly with freeze/thaw cycles- if there is not an adequate gap, the pressure caused by such movements will damage the coping- even pushing it off it’s cement setting bed.

Note- Even pools that appear to have an expansion joint can have this problem if deck and coping is touching below the caulk. 

Cantilevered decks- are decks that lay on top of the pool beam (or pool wall); the point where the deck and pool beam interface must have a  “bond breaker” to prevent movement damage. 

Is It A Structural Problem? Or just superficial? An experienced pool inspector can usually tell the difference and advise you. 

 
 
Equipment Brief:
 
Heaters:

Is that a legal stack? Is it safe?

 Is the heater older or newer? Is it running? Well-maintained? 

 Filters, Pumps, Remote Controls, Valves: 

Does it all work as it should? Has it all been maintained well? What are my expected maintenance costs?

Is everything working as it should?

  

Automatic Covers: 

Automatic covers should be inspected for smooth operation; winter covers should be checked for age and wear as well as condition of anchoring system. 

 

Finally, I strongly recommend calling for a pool or spa inspection. I have found some problems that even the previous homeowner was not aware of. Pools are important investments and some larger repairs can run into the tens of thousands.


“…Is my pool/spa safe?”

Bob Russell | June 30, 2010 in Equipment maintenance,Pool equipment,Pool renovations,Pool safety,Pool Service,Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Is my pool/spa safe?

I enjoy writing about the joy and recreational benefits of owning a pool or spa. When it comes to safety, things get very sober and serious for pool and spa Owners and those in the business.

In the last decade there have been several changes to standards and codes in the pool and spa industry.  The question I am asked most frequently is: “Is my pool or spa safe?”

Today’s safety codes are complex. Pools and spas are also complex. Most pool and spa Owners are bombarded with media hype, marketing gimmicks and general misinformation. I’d like to help. Here are the basic things I look for while inspecting a pool or spa. 

 1) Suction Outlet Covers: Floor and wall drain covers should be in place and secured by stainless steel screws. Residential pools and spas built since 2003-2004 are required to have two suction outlets that are spaced 3 feet apart.

Spa above with a single suction outlet- built before 2003.

2) Anti-entrapment Covers- In December of 2008, all [existing] commercial pools were required to install specially designed “anti-entrapment” suction outlet covers. Residential pools were to have existing covers replaced when they failed, or at the discretion of the homeowner. Note: The new covers are designed to prevent an object (such as a human body) from creating a seal over a suction outlet; they are also designed to prevent hair entanglement. As expected, these new covers are much more expensive than the old style; they are also made of extraordinarily strong material- unlike the older covers which are relatively easy to break.

Should you replace your spa or pool floor suction covers now?

That’s a good question to ask your service professional!

Some floor suction outlets (e.g. such as the single suction outlet pictured above) are more of a risk than others- it depends on how the pool or spa is plumbed.

The first and most important “layer of safety” is the most obvious: make sure the suction outlet covers are in place and secured.

Spa pictured above is fitted with an approved anti-entrapment cover.

3) SVRS Or, Vacuum Release System- A vacuum release system is an additional layer of safety that became law in 2005  for new residential swimming pools or spas

Vacuum release units (SVRS) vary in shape and size but are all designed to do the same basic thing: release an object that has made a seal over a suction outlet. 

Some ask, “…how can people get stuck on a main drain?” The answer requires a discussion of physics but in short, there can be tremendous force at a suction port that has been sealed. A one horsepower pump (for instance) has enough force to trap a grown man and hold him fast. Some drowning accidents have in fact happened in this way.

Pictured above is a common mechanical SVRS installed on suction-side of pump.

Is your pool or spa equipped with an SVRS?

Is it operational?

These are questions to ask your service professional!

 

Summary:

When inspecting your pool or spa, look for the following  “layers of protection”:

1)      Secured and approved anti-entrapment suction outlet covers. This is the most important layer of safety!

2)      Dual suction outlets - pools built after 2003-2004. (A second outlet can be added to existing pools.)

3)      SVRS system (vacuum release) - required in pools built after April 2005. SVRS systems can be added onto any pool for an additional layer of [anti-entrapment] protection.

___________________

If you have concerns or questions about your pool or spa after reading this post, you should contact your pool professional and get your questioned answered! Safety is nothing to guess at.