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by Sean Griffin, November 4, 2011
Swimming Pool Closing: A last minute checklist for your pool
Here it is November and if you haven't already winterized your swimming pool and reside above the freeze line your pool closing is probably right around the corner. We have experienced low temperatures throughout the country and even had snowfall in areas like Virginia where it hasn’t snowed before October 31st since 1979. With the possibility of below average temperatures and above average snow fall this winter, you want to make sure your pool is protected and winterized properly.
Over the past couple of winters, pool owners that did not typically experience freezing temperatures did so. Parts of Texas, Georgia, and California were blindsided with irregular cold temperatures that led to pool equipment damage and put the swimming pool structure at risk. If you are unsure what to expect from Mother Nature, pay attention to local weather and frost depth charts for your location. It’s always best to be on the safe side when it comes to guarding your pool from damage. You can access a frost depth chart at the NOAA website to help gauge whether you might consider a pool closing.
Pool winterizations and closings are done for several reasons. Overall it is to prevent the pool water from freezing, expanding, and causing problems. Pool Equipment, pool plumbing, and even the structure is at risk during those freezing months if the pool is not properly closed for the winter. Some DIY pool owners are able to close their own pool using an air blower or air compressor and a little know how and understanding of the pool plumbing and the equipment. As a suggestion, if you are interested in learning how to blow air through your plumbing lines and how to properly winterize all equipment and ensure the pool structure will remain sound over the winter, I recommend doing your homework. Every pool is different and the possibilities for making errors are great. I usually tell all my customers to schedule a pool closing with a company that will allow you to follow the pool technician around and take notes. The indoctrination to closing your pool will help in the future and will also give you a better idea of what a pool winterization entails. I also suggest getting any literature available to reference when attempting to shut down your own pool.
Lowering the pool water level will prevent freezing around the tile line and prevent ice from expanding within the skimmer throats. It also will assist when blowing and plugging all plumbing lines in the pool. An overfilled pool that freezes can even pop coping off of the bonding beam that runs the perimeter of the swimming pool. The amount of water removed from your swimming pool will depend on geographic location and what style of swimming pool cover you are going to be using. You will want to estimate the amount of rain and snow accumulation you will receive to ensure the water level is appropriate when freezing occurs and also when spring rolls around. Certain safety covers will require the water level be maintained at a certain distance below the decking as the safety cover with a large weight load is designed to rest on the water level. Certain covers will have mesh drains or may be constructed entirely of mesh which will allow water to refill the pool. Other entirely solid covers will be accompanied by an automatic pool cover pump which will remove any accumulation. Take your time in deciding which swimming pool cover is right for you.
Once your water is lowered to the appropriate level you will blow the plumbing lines. There are several methods that can be used to force air through the pool plumbing and equipment and then plug to prevent water from rising and getting back into the plumbing. Air rigs are available to use a common air compressor which can be tapped into any exposed pipe or threaded into a pool pump drain plug and blower boxes are available to connect directly. I prefer to use the Cyclone blower. Which can adapt to the skimmer plumbing or back at the equipment, (usually the multi-port waste line). Wherever you connect and whatever equipment you use to blow out the lines your goal is to remove water from all the lines and ensure that any low points have been completely drained. Pool equipment manufacturers will have drain plugs at the low point of all components. If you are unsure of where the drain plugs are you will want to access the equipment information. Some drain plugs are hidden and can be difficult to access. Headers on a pool heater manifold often have a drain plug on both sides of the heater exchanger and are often overlooked causing a costly repair.
With air running through the plumbing loop you will methodically close off the openings ensuring you are forcing water out as you go. You will typically plug skimmers and returns with pool closing winterization plugs. You can also use a Gizmos as a plug in your skimmer and also serve as a freeze expansion device if water is present in skimmer during a freeze. Most main drains will require an airlock using a valve at the equipment.
After you have successfully lowered water and blown air through all the plumbing lines and equipment you still want to attend to some finishing touches.
A Quick Pool Winterization Checklist:
Make sure all gas and power sources have been turned off. I typically shut off all breakers at the subpanel to make sure that no timing device turns on and triggers the equipment to run. I remove all timer dawgs on mechanical timers and leave any automated system in Service Mode.
Remove all drain plugs and store. I tend to keep all the winter/drain plugs from the equipment in the pump basket. This has become a very common practice in the pool industry. If you cleaned any filter grids or filter cartridges and are planning on keeping them outdoors in the filter body I recommend leaving the drain plug partially in (3/4’s of a turn) to prevent animals or rodents from crawling inside while still allowing any water to drain out.
Further protect your equipment. Although your pool heater is designed to withstand the weather it will prolong the life of the heater to cover and use a rodent deterrent as well. Weather out pool heater covers and Mouse Away pouches are a highly recommended investment for your swimming pool heater. Diving Board covers can also be used to prevent staining and damage to the finish of the board.
Attend to the pool water’s chemistry. Before you close the cover on your swimming pool make sure the correct chemistry adjustments have been made. Pool Winterization Kits will have the needed additives to correctly help your pool when it is dormant for the winter and ensure that when you peel back the cover next spring, the water is still of good quality. Algaecide along with Stain and Scale preventatives can save you money on costly chemicals and stain treatments.
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