by Sean Griffin, June 30, 2009
Swimming pool equipment can present a handful of dangers that, in most cases, can be prevented with a little attention to detail. There are several possible dangers lurking around your equipment pad from chemical explosions to pump motor electrocutions. Several elements come together at your equipment including water, gas, electricity, and potentially hazardous chemicals.
The equipment pad is designed to help keep all pool equipment level, up out of the wet ground, and prevent any flammable or combustible items from causing damage. Any equipment installed on the ground should be moved to a solid concrete pad or similar pad designed to withstand heat and vibration given off by pool appliances. Your equipment pad is designed to prevent electrocutions from motors becoming partially submerged as well as fire caused by hot surfaces from your pool heater. Make sure equipment pad has the proper drainage and keep overgrown weeds and shrubbery at bay. Landscapers like to mulch around the pumps - this is a bad idea. Do not block any vents on pumps and heaters.
Pool filters are designed to hold pressure but an excess of pressure can turn your filter into a make shift bomb. Holding pressure greater than that of a car tire a build-up of pressure can send parts of your fiberglass filter flying in every direction. Your filter is not the only piece of equipment subject to pressure build up. Anything effluent to your pump including valves, chlorinators, plumbing, and heaters can be a potential bomb. Chlorinators can also build up pressure due to off-gassing. Make sure to use only recommended chemicals in chemical feeders and read all manufacturers instructions.
All electrical components are designed to stay dry. Faulty and cracked conduits can allow “Hot” wires to get wet and cause potential electrocutions. Always replace broken or cracked conduits. Rusty or old electric wiring should always be replaced. Time-clocks are designed with safety covers to prevent any exposed contacts. Make sure safety cover is present and no exposed wires are visible inside time-clock.
Heaters that have improper ventilation are prone to “heater roll-out” especially when first lighting for the season. A build up of gas can suddenly ignite causing a wave of flames to exit through the front of heater. It is helpful to clean your heat exchange and remove any debris as maintenance. Allow for proper ventilation for gases to escape and always stay clear when lighting. Pool heaters produce carbon monoxide and can be fatal if placed in a room, or near a window without properly installed and maintained venting.
Let me share an experience I had personally so you can avoid making the same mistake I made. I was sent to a job to replace the internal parts for a push-pull valve that had gone bad. I wasn’t the original technician who diagnosed the problem and we had a failure to communicate. I replaced the push-pull valve as indicated in my work order. The valve had no problem and everything “appeared” to be back to normal. The problem did not occur until the following week when I came to backwash the system. When the original technician diagnosed the problem he put a winterization plug in the hard plumbed backwash line so the system could continue to run with damaged valve and that plug was never removed. When I attempted to backwash the filter pressure went through the roof. I turned the pump off and decided to inspect the valve for a problem. As soon as I loosened securing pin the replacement valve insert shot 30 to 40 feet into the air missing my head by a a couple of inches…close call! What did I learn from this “near-death” experience? One always communicates with other individuals that perform repairs on equipment and two, always make sure any pressure gauge is functional. It helps to be prepared to cut power to pump if pressure rises rapidly and becomes dangerous. Always keep your eyes on the pressure gauge when starting the pump.
In another instance, a Jandy valve was "dead-headed" or closed off after the filter. The Sta-Rite DE filter broke loose the belly band under the pressure and shot the lid straight up 50 feet. On it's way up, it managed to shatter our technician's arm in 3 places, and take off part of the eave of the house.
Hayward has recently discontinued all clamps and hardware on all DE filters prior to 2008. The bands keep getting bigger and stronger, but if they aren't put on properly, the tank lid can blow off, with possible catastrophic affect. Read up on the Hayward Clamp Band issue.
So, there you have it, around the equipment pad, use caution. A pressurized pool system can erupt, and electricity, gas appliances and chemical vapors can all be dangerous if care is not taken.