Archive for the ‘Pool Service’ Category

Pools And Heat Waves

Bob Russell | July 9, 2012 in Equipment maintenance,Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool Service,Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Heat Waves:

Every pool owner should understand two basic concepts about their pool during a heat wave:

1) Chlorine demand (or which ever sanitizer you are using)

and…

2) The Petrie Dish 

Chlorine Demand is basically the understanding that it will take more chlorine to maintain a sanitary and clear pool under certain conditions. Chlorine demand increases during a heat wave because the things that “spend” chlorine tend to increase- these include: increased bather load; heavy thunder showers (including wash-ins); higher temperatures.

The second concept of the Petrie Dish helps the pool owner understand and visualize that without a sanitizing agent present in the water, algae or micro-organisms can grow very fast.

In the “perfect storm” of heavy bather load, thunder storm and high temperatures a pool can go from the ideal of 3.0 ppm chlorine to zero in a day. Generally a chlorine feeder cannot recover to 3.0 ppm by the time algae or micro-organisms have already started to multiply. Once plant and animal life has been established in a swimming pool, the chlorine demand can double or triple quickly. Unless you intervene, you will have a real problem and it all can happen in 24-36 hours.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. First, understand these two concepts. Awareness that something is happening before the pool is green, or someone gets an ear infection is best.
  2. Adjust chemical feeders to handle an increase in bathers.
  3. Careful with use of time clocks! I see this all the time- a pool owner trying to save $100. on their monthly electric bill winds up spending $500. to kill algae that has gotten out of hand. Chemical feeders are only adding sanitizer to pool while pump is running.
  4. Check pool water after a heavy storm or a pool party. This, more than anything, will help you understand chlorine demand and keep you aware when you need to do something between normal weekly service visits.

Enjoy!

For more information about pool and spa service, check out “Water Blog” on our website!: www.glengatecompany.com


What To Expect After A Mild Winter

Bob Russell | March 10, 2012 in Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool Service,Sanitizers,Summerize,Winterize | Comments (0)

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For pool owners in Fairfield, Connecticut and Westchester, New York the winter of 2011-2012 was one of the mildest on record

Here’s what you can expect for your pool (and what we are seeing in our pools):

  • Chances are your winter floaters are empty by March.  Under average winter conditions [chlorine] floaters last till mid-May.
  • Without an established layer of ice, pools will warm up much quicker.
  • Though winter was mild, we still had plenty of dilution- 2011 was described locally as, “the wettest year on record,” with plenty of rain falling after pools were closed and through much of the winter.

Between warm weather and dilution, the sanitizer level in your pool water is very likely running near or at zero right now. Sanitizers, such as chlorine, are critical for  preventing the emergence and growth of plant life (like algae) and bacterias in your pool.

Q: Under these conditions, what should a pool owner do?

A: Here’s what we do, and it’s not as hard as it might seem.

Over the next few weeks, we will visit our Client’s pools, peel back a portion of the winter cover and re-load the winter floaters. That should be enough to keep the water clear and algae-free until opening.

Q: What will happen if I don’t do this?

A: You’ll most likely have a green pool and be breeding mosquitoes when you pull the cover off in May. A green pool is not only more labor-intensive to open and get clear, but will cost you about 2-3X as much to open.

At your service,

B

p.s. Since I’m giving advice let me toss in two more things:

  • Spray for deer ticks. I pulled one off the other day and am being treated for lyme disease as I write this. According to our in-house experts, this is going to be a bad year.
  • Once you’ve treated tick habitat, put up the hammock and set out the Adirondack chairs. The folks at Agway told me today it will hit close to 70 this week (and as all experienced Hammockers will tell you- this outdoor “sport” is best enjoyed before the bugs are out in force and after the ticks are under control).  :-)

Pool Work In Winter

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

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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


Water and Ice Levels

Bob Russell | October 19, 2011 in Pool,Pool Service,Winterize | Comments (0)

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In the Northeast, the average swimming pool is covered and “winterized” for 6-7 months or approximately 31 weeks.

 

 

 

 

Here is a short list of service issues, relating to water and ice levels, that we focus on after pools are winterized and covered:

1) Maintain water levels in Fall: When a pool is closed and covered in September or October, we typically lower water levels between 13″ and 11″ (respectively) below the bottom of tile- Why? Because with average rainfall water levels will be back up and close to bottom of tile by early December; this is when we do our first round of pump downs. Average rainfall in Fall is about 1″ per week.

2) Maintain ice levels in Winter: During Winter months we modify our acceptable water level ranges to:  8″ below bottom of tile (maximum) and bottom of tile (minimum). The main reason for this is snow. A pool safety cover is engineered to sag and rest on top of water. By keeping water or ice levels in this range we protect the tile from ice damage and also the winter cover from snow damage.

A note about  water tables: In areas where water tables can rise dramaticvally during heavy Fall rain we do not remove as much water in September and October.

 

Look for my next post about pool care during months when pool is closed. Coming soon!


Hazy, Hot and Humid!

Bob Russell | June 1, 2011 in Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool Service,Sanitizers | Comments (0)

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Sanitization Basics:
You should know these two concepts:
1) Chlorine demand
2) The “Petri Dish”

Chlorine counts can drop dramatically during very heavy bather use.

Chlorine Demand:
When I teach new pool owners about sanitization, I look to make the complex simple. The chemistry behind sanitization is complex. Understanding a principle like “chlorine demand” is easier than trying to understand the science behind it (although understanding the science is helpful if you’re in the pool business).
Chlorine demand is self descriptive. How can you recognize chlorine demand increases? Here are a few things a pool owner should watch for:
1) Increased bather load (number of swimmers)- swimmers (and pets!)  introduce things like ammonia into a pool which complicates chlorination and increases chlorine demand..
2) Water Temperature- high temperatures increase chlorine demand.
3) Sunlight- UV causes established chlorine counts in a pool to deteriorate. To minimize the effects of sunlight on pool sanitizer, “Chlorine Stabilizer” is added (also known as Cyanuric Acid).
4) Wind and Rain- Both introduce contaminants into pool water. Whether wind-borne pollen and debris or waterborne pollutants, both interfere with chlorine effectiveness or just use it up.
This past weekend, many pool owners turned on their heaters, the weather was hot and humid, the pools were used- a LOT; and we had some storms. It was a weekend of very high chlorine demand.
This is why many pools get algae shortly after Memorial Day weekend- chlorine settings that could handle a chilly, unused pool were not adequate to handle a warm and well-used pool.
Think about chlorine demand and you’ll anticipate these things and save yourself a lot of problems.

Pools on the coast have unique chlorine demand challenges:

The Petri Dish:
High School Biology taught me this principle: Introduce animal or plant life into a sterile environment with food and you have exponential growth. This is how you should look at your pool. What prevents the growth of things like: plant life (e.g. algae), Bacteria (e.g. E-Coli) or Parasites (e.g. Cryptosporidium)?
A: Your sanitizer does.
Example: When chlorine levels are at zero, one algae spore can turn a pool green (what is called an “algae bloom”) in about 36 hours.
Using these two principles will help you anticipate changes and prevent problems.
Enjoy the pool!

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)

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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)

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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!


Safety First?Appliance Installations- Part 1- Heaters

Bob Russell | December 4, 2010 in Equipment maintenance,Pool safety,Pool Service | Comments (0)

 

Why do smart and successful people take risks and do dumb things?

I performed a pool inspection this past summer and came across a strange and dangerous situation. Unfortunately, I see a LOT of this sort of thing.

 In May 1995, a tennis star (Vitas Gerulaitas) took a nap in an apartment that also housed the pool equipment. He was 40 years old and making a spirited comeback. What he didn’t know was that the new high-tech pool  heater had been set up incorrectly plus the vent was positioned at the air condintioning intake. The apartment filled up with carbon monoxide. Vitas never woke up. The event made international news.

When I see problem installations I report them in no uncertain terms. Usually folks are responsible and will deal with a dangerous situation, but sometimes I hear:  “…well, we’ve been doing it this way for years and haven’t had a problem before (or yet)…”

When I hear this, I do my best to sound an appropriate (and ethically responsible) alarm; but often, I must leave the Owner with the information and my urging to make things right.

My point?

Look at this picture. It’s an example of some of the things I see doing pool inspections.  That’s a 400,000 btu heater installed beneath a shingled roof and propped up with a board. It’s a fire hazard. Making matters worse, the roof weighs about 150 pounds and has nails protruding below making this heater difficult and hazardous to service properly.

In my report I pointed this out as an “incorrect installation” and “a fire hazard.” The cartaker of this very nice property informed me: “… we’ve been doing it this way for a long time…” and “…our pool service person works on the heater…”

Maybe we’ll see the charred remains of this building in the papers someday. I hope and pray no one is hurt. Here’s an excerpt from the NY Times, 1995 May 23:

Today the pool mechanic, Bartholomew Torpey, and his employer, East End Pools and Courts, also known as Recreational Concepts of Sag Harbor, were arraigned in Suffolk County Court here on charges of criminally negligent homicide. Mr. Torpey and the company pleaded not guilty.

My point? Be sure your appliances are installed in accordance with local, state and national codes as well as the manufacturer’s specifications, and hire licensed and responsible service people.  End of story. Thanks for reading.


Pool Inspections

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

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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)

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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.

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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.