Swimming Pool Blog
by Rob Cox, October 13, 2012
Leaves in the Pool: How to Deal
Plant deciduous trees around a pool, those that lose their leaves annually, and you'll spend some time getting the leaves out of the pool. Leaves and other debris in your pool affects water balance, consumes chemicals and can stain your pool surfaces.
Having no trees around the pool also has drawbacks like reducing your pool privacy. Trees also provide nice shade on a hot summer day, and a place for birds to perch and sing.
Here's some ways to keep leaves out of the pool, how to skim leaves from the surface quickly and effectively, and how to remove leaves from the pool floor.
How to Keep Leaves out of the Pool
Leaf Nets are normally used over top of a solid winter cover, and are removed easily, after all of the leaves have fallen - but they also make great fall and spring covers for pools in warmer regions or for pools that are kept open late into autumn. Leaf Nets are laid over the pool, loosely or tightly. For spring and fall use, leaf nets can be secured with a few bungie cords or twine connected to the grommets, or weights like planters or cover water bags.Click the swatch to see a close up view of the Leaf Net mesh material.
Pool leaf nets are very lightweight and easy to work with. One person can install or remove a leaf net from an average pool. Leaf nets are perfect for the southern pool that doesn't winterize, because it keeps the pool clean and reduces the amount of sunlight that reaches the pool water.
Landscaping is either part of the solution, or - part of the problem. A substantial trimming to your surrounding trees every few years, in addition to pruning the dead branches every fall, will keep your work load down. Trimming back the length of very long and heavy branches, may prevent an unexpected break due to it's size, especially in heavy wind or ice storms.
Pool friendly plants and trees around the pool will reduce your workload. A good choice are small-medium size trees, (15-30 ft mature height), large leafed, tropical, non-fruiting and non-flowering. Some trees like the sycamore have invasive root systems that may harm the shell of your pool, and some, like eucalyptus will shed leaves and bark all year long.
You may have the wrong type of trees planted around the pool, or too many trees. Younger trees tend to be more manageable, but as they mature, the amount of litter can become overwhelming to your skimmers and pool cleaner. Good trees around the pool would include magnolia trees, myrtle, dogwood and most evergreen trees. Bad trees to have around the pool include pines, cottonwood, oaks, elms, and my personal nemesis - the Tulip Poplar.
Pool Covers are an obvious solution to your leaf problem. In addition to the Leaf Net mesh cover mentioned above, Automatic pool covers will keep your pool clean while also conserving heat energy in the pool. Cleaning the auto cover is a bit of a trade-off, but is easier than cleaning the pool. To clean an automatic cover, pump most water off, and use a leaf blower or garden hose to clean the cover as it rolls up. When you are left with only 5-6 ft of cover still over the pool, use a leaf rake on a pole to scoop the leaves up.
Mesh safety covers can also keep a pool clean during fall. I know some people who put their mesh pool cover on the pool in September and keep the filter running a few hours daily during October. When they want to use the pool, they just remove 2/3 of the springs, and fold the cover on top of itself, on one side. They use a blower beforehand to blow all of the leaves off of the cover and from the pool deck.
Solar blankets will keep the pool cleaner, but if you've ever had to clean one full of leaves, you may put it away earlier next year. Solar blankets don't usually come over the edge of the pool, and with rain or pool water on top, become hard to clean. If you use a solar reel however, the Cover Catch accessory makes it easy to catch the leaves falling off a solar blanket as you roll it up. Cover Catch is a floating net, approximately 2'x4', that slides under the edge of your solar blanket. As you roll up the blanket, use the hose to spray the cover clean, then spray the leaves to one end where the Cover Catch will catch 'em!
Leaf Blocks - hedges and bushes, low fences, storage boxes and retaining walls - set up to block the prevailing wind across the pool, can help keep leaves out of the pool. If trees are shedding a lot of litter around your pool, bushes, ground covers and decorative fences can help keep the leaves up against a barrier and away from the pool.
How to Skim Leaves in the Pool
Adjust the Flow. By reducing the suction from the main drain of the pool, you will increase the flow to your skimmers. Close your main drain valve halfway to improve your skimmer draw. If you don't have a separate main drain valve, rotate your skimmer diverter, under the skimmer basket, to full skimmer action.
If you have two skimmers, you can also adjust the valves to equalize the suction from each. For example, open the far skimmer fully, while opening the near skimmer only 75%, to adjust for the closeness to the pool pump. Optimizing your skimmer flow to draw more leaves in faster, will keep the leaves from sinking to the floor.
Skimmer weirs - is yours in place - that flapper door thingy? Skimmer weirs speed up the water flowing into the skimmer, creating a waterfall into the basket. When the pump shuts off, the skimmer weir floats to a vertical position, which traps the leaves inside the skimmer, and prevents them from floating out back over the pool.
Skimmer Extension - If you have a vinyl pool, using a skimmer diverter arm, also known as a skimmer extension, will help direct leaves into the skimmer basket. These are very popular with inground vinyl and aboveground pool owners, especially those with only one skimmer in the pool. Clips on easily to your skimmer faceplate, and keeps leaves from just blowing by the skimmer.
Circular flow patterns are best to keep sending the leaves in front of the skimmer. Aim your return fittings so that there is a slight ripple on the surface, to keep the leaves moving. Sync your eyeball return fittings so that they are both pointing in the same direction, creating a slight ripple that continues around the pool. The surface disruption should fade as you get closer to the skimmer, or else the leaves will blow right past the skimmer.
Water level - Keep your water level in the middle of the tile so that the skimmer can do its job. If the water level is too high, the leaves will just but up against the top of the skimmer, and not be skimmed. Of course if the water is too low, the skimmer sucks air, and you may lose prime or even damage the pool pump.
Last year, we replaced the skimmer baskets at my cousin's pool. He had a continuous problem over the years with his skimmer baskets getting packed so full of leaves that it would split out the sides of the basket. We tried several basket brands and they all broke the first year.
Finally, we tried the Skimpro pool basket. This basket, which is made for only the 3 most common types of inground pool skimmers, has a central tower which allows pump suction to continue, even when the basket becomes full. This "tower" also makes a nice handle to pull the basket out. It's now survived two seasons without splitting the sides. Great skimmer basket for pools with heavy leaf problems.
How to Remove Leaves in the Pool
Removing leaves from the floor of the pool, especially when there are deep layers of leaves in the pool, can be challenging, but not impossible. Here's some of my favorite tools for removing piles of leaves in the pool.
Leaf Rakes are my favorite tool for removing leaves from the pool. Leaf Rakes have a bag or a deep pocket. This allows it to be used as a "drag bag" pulling it behind you, or you can push it across the surface for faster cleaning than is possible from the flat, dip & flip type of skimmer nets.
Scooping leaves off the floor is where a leaf rake is really effective. After some practice with a leaf rake, you can become very skilled in its use. Even pools filled with a foot deep layer of leaves can be cleaned in about an hour with a good leaf rake.
How to Use a Leaf Rake: The technique is to feel the bottom with the leading edge of the leaf rake, slowly pushing forward across the floor. Bounce the net just slightly to create a very small current in front of the net. Extend your pole and work across the pool in rows. As you reach the other side of the pool, make a quick flip-over of the net with a short and sharp pull backwards (towards you) to create a counter current.
Be gentle, you can make too much current as you scoop, which sends leaves to the surface, but not enough current and the leaves will come out of the bag. Similarly, as you pull a full bag up to the surface, do so quickly, to keep the leaves in the bag. Keep a trash can on pool deck to dump the leaves into, or use the technique of flipping the net over the fence.
In Line leaf trap. If your pump is large enough to vacuum manually, but you're tired of stopping every 5 minutes to clean out the pump basket, an in-line leaf strainer can be the answer. Attach your vacuum hose to the incoming port, and a short 3 ft piece of vac hose that attaches into the skimmer or vacuum port. Some in-line leaf traps are very large, and can be a large time saver. They can also be used with suction side automatic pool cleaners.
Swivel Skim - If lower back strength is not your strong point, the Swivel Skim has mounted two rope floats on a swiveling axis inside the supersized net. Used on commercial pools or large pools with a lot of area to cover, the Swivel Skim relieves you from holding the leaf rake level with the surface - and, also no spine twisting quick-flip needed when you reach the other side. Just push and pull the Swivel Skim. Unfortunately only effective on surface leaves, you can't use the swivel skim to dredge leaves from the floor of the pool. The floats keep this skimmer net floating on the surface.
Leaf Bagger - connects to a garden hose and to your telescopic pool pole. It has a very large mesh bag attached to the top, and the pressure from a garden hose sprays a dozen water jets upward into the bag. This creates a venturi effect, and as you roll the Leaf Bagger over leaves, they are sucked up into the bag. The more hose pressure you have, the faster it will vacuum.
Indispensable tool in any leaf removal arsenal, the Leaf Bagger, (also known as the Leaf Master, or Leaf Eater, in some areas) can be used on aboveground pools with small systems, not powerful enough to vacuum with a standard hose and vacuum head.