by Rob Cox, January 8, 2010
Help! My filter - pump - heater is FROZEN!
We have had some Cold Temperatures all through the U.S. in the last week. Many of y'all in the south are not accustomed to winterizing your pool, or even to such cold winter temperatures. here's what to do if your pool equipment freezes or if you have had freeze damage to your pool equipment.
It's OK if the pool water surface freezes over just a little bit. If the ice sheet gets too thick, say over 1" thick, it may begin to put sufficient pressure on pool tiles or on weaker aboveground pool walls. Breaking it up periodically can prove to be a never ending task if it stays cold enough. Breaking the ice and inserting collapsable floating ice absorbers can help. Air Pillows are the most common, but I have seen strings of half empty milk cartons used. I have even seen wood logs and car tires (but these I don't recommend). Don't pour antifreeze into the pool, either! You will need way too much of it to be effective, and then it will "spoil" the pool water, foam badly and perhaps stain the surfaces of your pool.
If you have not noticed any cracked, leaking or broken pool equipment, congratulations. You must know that moving water does not freeze very easily. So, if your temperature at night (or during the day) approaches 32 degrees, make sure that you have all pumps running, all night long if necessary. Also make sure that all valves are open just a little bit, so that water is flowing through all pipes and equipment, or pipes that may normally be closed. Turn chlorinators up a little higher than normal to keep sufficient flow through them (you can use less chlorine inside to keep the level normal). If you have a pool heater, it need not be running, just keep a continuous flow of water cycling through it.
To check for freeze damage on your pool equipment, here's what to look for:
If you find your pool pump buzzing and straining, trying to start, the water inside may be frozen. Turn off the power to the pump. Open the pump lid to confirm ice. If you have an electric blanket, plug it in and drape the blanket over the equipment, pump, filter and all. If you don't have an electric blanket, get a thick regular blanket and make a tent over the equipment, and plug in a handheld electric hair dryer. Monitor it closely to be sure no problems occur. Space heaters can be used also, but also need close monitoring to keep the blanket from catching fire. That would really thaw it out quickly, and perhaps melt everything as well!
It may take a few hours to thaw everything out. Inspect the pipes and pipe fittings. Look for dripping water, and cracks in the plumbing. Inspect your pool filter and other pool equipment, looking for cracks and drips. Hopefully you find none, but if you do, you will need to replace the plumbing parts or equipment part before starting up the pump again. We ship pool parts fast if you can't find them locally. While you are waiting for parts, drain the rest of the water out of all the equipment. You don't want more damage to occur! Your pump, heater, filter, chlorinator...everything - has a drain plug near the bottom.
Pool Heaters are usually the first piece of pool equipment to crack from even just a little bit of water freezing in the front or rear header or manifold. This is usually fairly evident once your start the pump up. You will see water dripping or spraying from one side of the heater. To replace a heater header on most heaters involves a tear down from the top down. Newer heaters have more accessible headers that can be replaced without so much labor. Usually just remove a side plate and then remove several bolts to remove the header. If the front header has cracked, you will need to cut the pipes coming in and out of the heater. After replacing the header, you can use slip couplings to join the pipes back together again. Another place that heaters crack is in what's called the siphon loop. This is a copper tube that brings water to the pressure switch. If this splits, you can temporarily use electrican's tape or better yet, plumbing tape to repair while you wait for the heater parts to arrive.
Pool Pumps will hold freezing water for a time, but eventually the hair & lint pot or the volute will split as the ice expands. Both of these pump parts are replaceable and usually the motor and impeller are not harmed. Repairs to cracked pump parts are unsuccessful - you will need to replace the part. The volute or impeller housing is usually attached to the pump pot with a clamp band or several bolts. Easy to remove and replace, just remember to put all the parts back in, in the right order. If your pump pot or hair & lint pot (where the basket sits) has cracked, you may need to cut the pipe that comes into the pump, and after replacement, use a slip coupling or union to reconnect the pipe together.
Pool Filters also are very freeze resistant, due to their being a high pressure tank. On sand filters, ice expansion may pop the dome or the valve off. Try to resecure this to the filter tank, but pay close attention to the threads on the filter dome or multiport valve to make sure they have not stripped. Also check the female threads on the tank itself, as these may have ruptured when the dome or valve popped off. If the tank has cracked you will need a new one, there is almost no repair that can be made that will hold up to the pressure inside of a filter tank. And I have tried many times to repair, and ended up replacing instead. Filter tanks are not cheap, and it may be cheaper and faster in many cases to buy an entire new filter. You may need only one half of the filter tank, however most of these are not stocked around the country, especially this time of year, and would need to be special ordered from the manufacturer (10-14 days).
Usually the filter media is not harmed by the ice (sand, filter grids or filter cartridges) But to be sure, inspect them for a crushing type of damage. Also make sure to closely inspect a filter clamp band, to make sure it has not become damaged either in the clamp itself, or on the threaded bolt and nut that tightens the clamp band up. Whatever filter parts you need, we can get them for you!
Chlorinators are not very freeze resistant at all. If yours has cracked, replace with a new chlorinator. Just cut out the old and plumb in the new. I prefer the Rainbow chlorinator over Hayward Chlorinators, because there are less "lid hassles" and fewer chlorinator parts to replace. The King brand is a nice chlorinator also. But you may find it easier to replace like with like.
I hope you haven't had freeze damage this winter on your pool, but if you have, we have the pool parts and expertise to help you recover. Drop me an email if you have any specific questions about troubleshooting or fixing up your pool.