by Sean Griffin, October 30, 2018
The Dormant Swimming Pool: A Winter Checklist
The goal of every pool owner is to limit - if not eliminate - the maintenance involved in running and caring for a pool while still enjoying the benefits. Unfortunately, even when your pool is closed for the winter, maintenance may still be necessary to prevent structural damage and expensive repairs. Especially for those living farther north, it is important to take a moment and go through a brief winter checklist before Mother Nature turns your leisurely swimming pool into a makeshift hockey rink.
CHECK WATER LEVELS
The water level is dropped when winterizing a swimming pool. The appropriate level depends on the type of pool structure and the type of winterizing cover used. For example, with safety covers, you can sometimes void a warranty by lowering the water more than 18 inches from the top ledge. Although the covers are securely strapped in place, most covers are still designed to be supported by the pool water beneath. Before a deep freeze sets in, peel back a corner of your cover and check that the water level has not dropped or risen too much. A small pump or a siphon can assist you in re-lowering the water below any skimmer mouth or tile line. Also take into account water displacement. A large mound of snow on the cover will raise the surrounding water level. After adjusting the water level you should take the opportunity to add more algaecide or refill your winter chemical floater to help maintain good water chemistry.
PREVENT SKIMMER & EQUIPMENT DAMAGE
The majority of pool skimmers have lids that are not water-tight, and they will accumulate rainwater and runoff. Once you’ve lowered the water in the pool, make sure all the skimmers are plugged and have an expansion device present, which will alleviate any outward expansion pressure from freezing water. Gizzmos are the most common, which serve as both a skimmer plug and expansion device all in one. You can also use a quart or gallon bottle partially filled with pebbles or antifreeze.
Properly winterized pool equipment requires virtually no maintenance, but it doesn’t hurt to do a quick walk-through. Look for warning signs that freeze damage may occur or that it has already occured. Check to make sure there is no moisture at the equipment pad - this will tell you that the lines are properly capped off and all equipment has been properly drained. Freezing is not the only thing to monitor at the equipment pad, however. When the temperature begins to drop, many small rodents and other creatures sometimes make a home out of you filter or heater. I’ve seen filter grids turn into a rats nest and heater firebrick turned into an insulated dwelling for field mice. Not only are these animals a nuisance, but they also tend to chew through wiring and expensive components. If you do not already have a heater cover, I recommend using one in conjunction with rodent repellent, which is designed to ward off unwanted visitors. Usually when I winterize and drain a filter, I only insert the drain plug a quarter turn so that trapped moisture can still escape, but no pesky critters can enter.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR POOL COVER
Now that you’ve done a quick walk-through to check the water level and the equipment pad, make sure to tend to whatever pool cover you are using over the winter season. If you use an automatic cover pump, test it periodically to make sure it's still working. Most on the market are automatic, but make sure they are receiving power and haven't tripped a breaker. Also ensure the pump impeller has not become clogged and it still has the ability to pump out standing water.
For those who using a solid, tarp-style winter cover, make sure the cover does not become damaged. With holes in a pool cover, you may end up pumping out some pool water with your cover pump - not good! If your cover does have holes, try to patch them or position them closer to the pool edge, and place your cover pump on the opposite side of the pool cover.
Regardless of which type of cover you use, make sure to keep all standing debris off of it. A clean and dry pool cover will last much longer. Clean it carefully with your pool brush and leaf rake, or use a soft push broom. Be careful that sticks on the cover don't snag and puncture it while you're cleaning. Ice on the pool cover should be allowed to melt on its own. Never try to remove ice from your pool cover or thaw it using some wacky method. If a crust of ice is on top, you can carefully poke through to set a pump or siphon, but be careful not to quickly pump out too much water from beneath an ice sheet - it can slip or fall and damage an old or thin pool cover.
Solid Winter Cover w/ Cable and Winch (Above Ground Pool):
Solid Winter Cover w/ Water Bags (Inground Pool):
Mesh Pool Cover (Inground or Above Ground Pool):
Solid Safety Cover w/ Mesh Drain Panels (Inground Pool):
Solid Safety Cover (Inground Pool):