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Your Pool Is A Giant Petrie Dish! (and other revelations to help you through hot weather…)

Bob Russell | June 1, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)


The purpose of your pool’s “sanitizer” is to keep your pool sanitary. Another way of putting this: Sterile. Void of microscopic life. Safe for swimmers; AND, pleasant to be in!

Yes, you can have it all!

Plant life OR animal life should NOT be able to live or multiply in a pool. An unsanitary pool is both unhealthy to be in and usually unpleasant to look at.

It amazes me how many times I am asked about “chlorine-free” pools or even “sanitizer-free…” I simply know of none. Your pool and spa are not like your local stream, pond or lake- these “ecosystems” have a natural balance.
Your pool or spa is more like a petrie dish- a sterile environment with available food. Add a life form to a petrie dish and we know what happens, and fast. Your sanitizer keeps things “sterile.”

What MOST pool owners are looking for when they speak of “chlorine-free” or “alternative sanitizer” is a swimming experience that is lovely to all their senses, safe for the children; and of course, okay for the family dog to drink from.
This is a pool that is both balanced AND sanitary.

If your eyes are irritated- your chemistry is NOT right. Don’t throw out the chlorine! Balance the pool properly! Oxidize the ammonia!

We will address this in more detail in a future blog.

Perhaps, you just need to find a service firm that knows how to provide water that is delightful to be in.

If you would like a better experience in the water, we’d be happy to help.

Snow And More Snow!

Bob Russell | March 8, 2013 in Equipment maintenance,Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool equipment,Pool renovations,Pool Service,Sanitizers,Uncategorized,Winterize | Comments (0)

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It’s been a snowy and rainy winter.

What can we expect when we open our pools in a couple months?

Here is a short list of general things to check out after a snowy/ rainy winter:

Check for winter cover damage. Heavy snow can pull out wall anchors; cause sharp coping to rip through cover; heavy snow on a winter cover can pull deck anchors and deck stones towards pool causing related masonry damage.

Check heaters for mouse damage- during periods of deep snow, mice move into heaters- more than usual.

Water chemistry- heavy snow and rains means your water chemistry has changed. Of primary concern is:

a) Sanitizer levels- these must be maintained to keep water clear and algae-free until opening day!

b) Calcium Hardness- rain water contains about 0 ppm calcium. After about 18″ – 36″ of rain between September and May, a pool’s Calcium Hardness has been diluted making the water “softer” and more aggressive towards plaster finish. Water left in this state for too long will cause finish problems.

For more details on these and related issues we recommend you consult with an experienced and licensed pool service professional.

If you are interested in our pool services, please contact us!

Meanwhile, Memorial Day Weekend is only 12 weeks away!

- Bob

Preparing For Sandy

Bob Russell | October 26, 2012 in Pool,Pool chemicals,Pool safety,Pool Service,Uncategorized,Winterize | Comments (0)

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Preparing For Sandy

Seems like only a short while ago we were preparing for and cleaning up after Irene.

As a Pool Owner, here are some things you should know in a short check list format:

1) Secure deck furniture.

2) Automatic pool covers- Sandy is being called a “Superstorm” because she is merging with a winter storm as she chugs up our coast. This means a LOT of rainfall and flooding over a few days.

If your pool is still open, we recommend opening automatic covers so heavy rain can fill the pool and not your closed cover which could become severely damaged.

We also recommend this because, should your area lose power, the cover will be “stuck” closed. A sump pump cannot keep up with this volume of rainfall- especially if power is out.

(If you have a Grando style automatic pool cover which drains off into pool, your decision to leave it open or closed should be based on the risk of wind-blown branches or debris which could damage your cover.)

Yes, your pool will get messy and filled with leaves. This is a preferrable outcome to a severely damaged auto cover. Leaves and branches can be scooped and picked out of the pool afterwards.

3) If you can winterize your pool before the storm arrives, do it!

4) Water table issues: Pools located in areas where ground water can surge should NOT be pumped too low. It is not the end of the world if your pool overflows! Consider the following:

An overflowing pool is preferrable to an opened hydrostatic relief valve (which requires a diver to re-set). Hydrostat valves can pop and become stuck open when water table surges up and above water level inside pool. It’s just not a good idea to remove large amounts of water to “make room” for the heavy rains. You are putting your pool at risk.

Normal levels of winter pool chemicals are diluted during heavy rains and will  NOT cause damage to grass or gardens this time of year. Chlorine dissipates rapidly on the ground. Don’t worry about your pool over flowing during heavy downpour.

There is a real risk of floating a swimming pool or buckling the shell if it is left empty or partially empty. Leave pool at normal winter water levels (between bottom of tile and no lower than 11″ below bottom of tile.)

5) Contact your pool service professional for special situations or if you are unclear what to do.

6) For downed trees and property damage- please feel free to contact us if you are in our area.

Our service team specializes in storm clean-up. Rest assured we will keep an eye on things.

If you have a significant amount of landscape soil wash into your pool- call us to assess the situation. It may be we can save the water. In some heavy wash-in situations we will need to drain and clean out the pool.

For those of you on the coast- just let your pool fill up as rains increase. Your pool structure is safest when full should a wave come ashore or there be severe high tides.

For now, we pray our customers are safe and their homes protected from trees, high winds and floods.

Call if you need anything!

Bob and the service team at Glen Gate Company


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)


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.


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

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.






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.

What To Expect After A Mild Winter

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


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,


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!


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!

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)

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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.



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)

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Preparing For a

Frequently Asked

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

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

(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