How to Open a Pool ... or how to get from
here to here
Rather than a just checklist, here are the details to get your swimming pool off to a successful start.
Starting or opening up a swimming pool is pretty simple. But it does require a bit of work and a couple of extra hands. Honestly, it’s best to start a week or two before you want to open it for not only best results, but also to take some of the “last minute” stress away.
No matter whether you have an above ground pool or an inground pool, the basic work is the same or similar. Follow these simple steps with details & tips
1. Remove all the leaves, dirt & debris from the winter cover before removing it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people let all of the winter mess just go right into the pool! Talk about extra work. I’ve seen really clean “winterized” water become black with the “leaf & twig tea” & other debris from the winter cover. It's well worth the effort to spend a couple of half-hours scooping the excess & accumulated leaves from the top of the cover. Remember, it’s not just last fall’s leaves; it’s the spring pollen, those tree “helicopters” & pine needles too.
2. Remove all winter & ice expansion plugs. (Gizzmos). You can’t start the pump & filter system if water isn’t flowing from pool to filter & back! Be sure to replace the respective directional returns (eyeballs), suction grates (usually used on lower suction fittings), Circulator fittings, etc. If you are using standard, stationary eyeballs, remember to point the flow of water DOWN toward the bottom of the pool to optimize the circulation. For even better circulation, consider replacing standard directional returns with “the Circulator”.
3. Bring the Water Level up to normal operating level. If the water on top of the cover is relatively clean & algae free, use that water to fill the pool. It’s free! It may be a little dirty, but that’s okay, it will be treated with the rest of the pool. At this time it’s a really good idea to add either an algaecide to the water or a natural pool enzyme such as Natural Chemistry Pool Magic Spring & Fall to start cleaning up the water and prepping it for the initial shock. If you are adding fresh tap water to top the pool off, add a good metal and mineral stain & scale control product such as Jack's Magic Blue Stuff or Pink Stuff to prevent sudden metal stains, especially iron or copper, when the pool is first shocked.
4. Carefully remove the winter cover. Clean it up, fold it up & store it away. When cleaning, use a good cleaner that is specifically made for cover material such as BioGuard Stow Away or Natural Chemistry Cover Cleaner. A good chemical cleaning of the winter cover will lengthen the life of the cover by removing the dirt & soil from the fabric. Not only will your cover get clean, but these products will also control the growth of mold & mildew – which shorten a cover’s life – while stored over the summer. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t put dirty clothes away in the closet for the next season would you?).
5. Hook up the filter system. Properly attach the correct hoses or pipes to the proper valves or fittings on the pump and filter. Even I’ve made this mistake: the right hose goes on the wrong filter fitting & 2 weeks later, the pool is still not clear! Here’s the easiest way to remember: basket to basket (skimmer basket to pump basket) and hole to hole (exit – “to pool” - hole on filter valve or tank body to return opening on pool wall). Be sure to properly lubricate all multiport or shut-off valve “O” rings with a good silicone lubricant. Not only will you give the gasket added life, you’ll help it seal more easily too. Don’t over-tighten clamps on above ground hoses; over-tightening will often “crimp” the hose allowing air leaks. REMEMBER: replace ALL of the drain plugs to the pump, filter tank & heater.
6. When starting the pump for the first time, be sure to “prime” the pump with water. Don’t start it dry, not only can harm be done to the pump, extra stress & strain is placed on the entire system. If your pump is below the water level, as on most above ground pools, priming probably isn’t necessary because the water is naturally “falling down” to the pump (we call that a gravity feed). If the pump & filter system is more than 3 ft above the water level, priming is an absolute must. Keep in mind that the system could take several minutes to “catch” and start in this situation.
SPECIAL NOTE: it is VERY normal for LOTS of bubbles to come out of the return fittings when first starting. Even for up to 24 – 36 hours, some bubbles will remain in the plumbing system while it returns to normal operation.
SPECIAL TIP: to make the filter start easier, open the “air bleeder” valve on the top of the filter tank when the filter starts. You will hear a big “whoosh” of air as it is pushed out of the filter. When water gushes out, replace or close that valve. If your filter does not have a manual air bleeder, temporarily remove the pressure gauge for the same results.
7. Clean & vacuum the pool of all dirt & debris. Get all of the excess stuff out of the pool before adding shock & start up algaecide, especially if the water is relatively clear & clean. The less stuff in the water, the more effective your initial shocking and chemical treatment will be. Be sure to vacuum & brush the side walls of the pool to remove any build-up of bio-films there as well. A Wall Whale makes brushing easy - just one hand & 10 minutes or less each week.
8. Clean the liner or tile line with a good quality pool surface cleaner like BioGuard Off the Wall Surface Cleaner. DO NOT use household cleaners as they can affect the pH and add phosphates to the water which will contribute to algae growth later on. This is where most of the winter’s scum has left its mark. Clean it off now while it is still “soft” & easy to remove rather than when it bakes in the sun and is more difficult to clean. Prevent this scum line (also known as a biofilm) from reforming with regular cleaning or by using AquaFinesse Pool Pucks
9. Add your initial doses of shock & algaecide. Now you can add the chemicals! When starting, don’t skimp. Do a good “heavy” shocking and proper dosing of algaecide at opening. In the long & short run, you’re going to save a lot more money by doing this the right way. Start-up doses are provided below.
10. Allow the opening or start up chemicals to circulate for 24 - 36 hours before doing any testing or water balancing. Why wait? There are 2 reasons:
1. Additions of Shock & algaecide will change the water chemistry and water balance. That little bit of time will allow the levels to settle back down for a more accurate reading.
2. Some of the chemicals already in the pool water from the prior season and winterizing will be settled toward the bottom of the pool. This is especially true of cyanuric acid typically known as pool conditioner or stabilizer. If the water is not allowed to circulate & stir up what’s on the bottom, you will end up adding stabilizer that, more than likely, doesn’t need any additions. This is a great way to save money. By the way, NEVER add conditioner or stabilizer unless the pool water needs it and only if the test shows a level of 20 ppm or less. Stabilizer or cyanuric acid levels should be no higher than 60 ppm. Higher levels are simply wasteful and provide nothing for the water balance
11. Install ladders & deck equipment. Be sure to securely tighten anchor bolts, diving board bolts & slide anchors (if equipped). Check to make sure the bolts and hardware are in good condition. Replace worn or corroded nuts & bolts for your safety.
12. Filter 24 hours before bringing in an Opening water sample for Testing & Analysis. Adjust pH, Total Alkalinity & Calcium Hardness as needed....
13. Chemically clean the filter with BioGuard Kleen It or Strip Kwik Filter Cleaner after 2 weeks to remove the filtered winter stuff. A more natural alternative is Natural Chemistry’s Filter Perfect which uses natural enzymes and acids which are not only great cleaners, but they are not harmful to area landscape and plantings. Chemically cleaning the filter about every 8 weeks lengthens the life of the filter media and promotes longer filter runs. Simple backwashing just rinses off excess dirt & debris but doesn't remove accumulated greases & oils (why you use detergent when washing clothes or dishes).
Here’s a very important note: NEVER DRAIN your pool. In vinyl liner pools, the liner will shrink, which will void the warranty and could further cause damage to your pool. In gunite, plaster, or even fiberglass pools removal of the water from the pool could result in the entire pool structure "floating" or “popping” causing serious damage to the structure. Always check with your local builder for specific instructions.
Now the chemicals:
These are the Start up chemical doses for chlorine, bromine, ionizer, and salt-chlorine pools. Shocking must be thorough in order to break up residual chloramines (known as combined chlorines or Ammonia) from the winterizing process. If chloramines are not dealt with now, a lingering chlorine demand (which is an inability to maintain a solid chlorine or bromine level) problem will develop. Curing chlorine demands can be costly, so do it the right way now.
Chlorine shock: use un-stabilized Cal-Hypo such as BioGuard Burn Out 3 or Lithium hypochlorite based Burn Out 35 as the preferred products on an initial spring shock. Burn Out 3 & Burn Out 35 get in, oxidizes, then gets out (gasses off). Use these products at a rate of 3 to 5 lbs per 5,000 gallons for best results. Do NOT use a non-chlorine shock with the initial start up. You need to have a good chlorine residual. Liquid chlorine bleach is OK, but is very weak (about 11%) when compared to Cal-Hypo (about 60%) or Lithium Hypochlorite (about 35%).
Initial Algaecide: don’t skimp with the algaecide! Always use an algaecide that has at least 30% active ingredients. BioGuard Back Up 2 or Algae All 60 contain 50% and 60% active ingredients respectively and are 2 of the best algaecides on the market that kill, prevent and control swimming pool algae. Be careful using algaecides with copper as an active ingredient; improper use of copper based algaecides may lead to staining of pool surfaces. Gallon jugs of algaecide typically contain less than 10% active ingredients and are a virtual waste of money. Follow the label directions for an INITIAL dose, typically 1 – 2 quarts of algaecide per 10,000 gallons.
After adding the initial shock and algaecide, be sure to run the filter for 48 to 72 hours continually. DO NOT backwash the filter during this time. Let the filter and the chemicals do the work.
Final & continuing steps: balance the water (pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness). Using additives such as borates, BioGuard Optimizer Plus, natural enzyme products like NaturCare, and the bio-film remover AquaFinesse Pool Pucks will significantly enhance any pool chemical care system you use by reducing chlorine use and consumption as well as better buffering the pool water making water balance all the more simple. Be sure to shock the pool and add algaecide about every 2 weeks to rid the pool of swimmer waste cannot be filtered out and to keep algae in check. Follow the 5 keys to pool care. It’s that easy. The 5 Pillars & 3 Foundations of Good Pool Care.
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