by Rob Cox, October 10, 2011
Swimming Pool Leaf Removal
I have always thought that trees have no business being planted around a swimming pool. Deciduous trees specifically, those that lose their leaves annually. Evergreen trees, even Pine trees are preferable.
No trees around the pool makes for a stark landscape however, and little privacy. Trees also provide nice shade on a hot summer day, and a place for birds to perch and sing.
If you have large trees around the pool, you likely share my view regarding trees around the pool. Pretty to look at, but a bit of a chore.
Keeping the Leaves out of the Pool
1. Trimming the trees. A little pruning spring and fall will reduce your workload considerably. And occasionally, you may need to call out a tree service to make larger cuts. If the branches are within 10 feet of power lines, you may be able to call in your electric utility to do the job for you. Using a pole pruner, attached to your pool pole, can help reach branches that are higher up. For less than $100, you can buy a small electric chainsaw on an 8 ft pole that can handle branches up to 4" in diameter. Pruning the trees around your pool can also help shape your trees, and prevent branches from becoming so heavy that they break suddenly.
2. Pool Covers. A mesh safety cover, stretched tight across the pool can really keep a pool clean. Some folks I know put on their winter cover early, attaching it at the corners only, to help keep the pool clean. When they want to use the pool, they simply fold it on one side of the deck. Automatic pool covers definately keep the pool clean, but like solar blankets, require that you clean the cover as you open or remove it. Not much less work than cleaning the pool. Using a Leaf Net, not a Leaf Rake, or skimmer net, but a loose mesh cover stretched tightly over the pool - catches leaves as they fall. Leaf Nets are typically used on top of solid winter pool covers, but can be used by themselves. If you have a mesh cover, a Leaf Net can be held in place tightly by attaching the edges to existing brass cover anchors in the deck.
3. Leaf blocks. Small raised walls, or fences or hedges, positioned strategically around the pool, can be very effective in stopping the wind blown leaves from blowing in the pool. Ornamental and useful, decorative walls, bushes or low fencing can add a layer of protection to the pool in addition to blocking the leaves from being swept into the pool during a wind gust.
Skimming the Leaves from the surface quickly
1. Increase skimmer suction. If you have a separate main drain line, reducing the suction from the drain, by closing the valve partially or fully, will increase suction to the skimmer(s). If you don't have a separate main drain valve in front of the pump, you probably have a combination skimmer. Beneath the basket, you can make an adjustment to the diverter to reduce the (bottom up) main drain suction and increase the (top down) skimmer suction. Also make sure that your skimmer weirs (that flapper door thingy) is in place and moving freely. Skimmer weirs increase the flow into the skimmer, and when the pump shuts off, help to prevent leaves from floating out of the skimmer. Vinyl liner pools can use a product called Skim-It! - a long arm that attaches to your skimmer faceplate and helps direct leaves into the skimmer basket.
2. Create a Circular Flow Pattern. Adjust your return fittings so that they both point in the same direction - clockwise or counter-clockwise. This not only helps overall circulation, but will keep floating leaves moving around the pool. If you notice an area of the pool where leaves are getting stuck, an adjustment of your return fittings, or eyeballs, will likely solve the problem. Aiming the eyeball fittings at the surface, just enough to create a small ripple - is best practice to keep the leaves moving, so that they pass in front of the skimmer frequently. Too much of a ripple, and the leaves may blow right by the skimmer. When the return jets are too close to the skimmer, point the eyeballs in the opposite direction.
3. Maintain the water level mid-tile. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. When the water level is too high, leaves just butt up against the top of the skimmer and don't enter the skimmer very well. With spring and fall rains, it may be necessary to lower the water level once in a while. If you have problems with skimmer baskets becoming so full that the skimmer baskets break, consider the Skim-Pro skimmer baskets. This type of skimmer basket has a tower in the middle which keeps the water flowing to the pump, even when the basket is full. The tower also acts as a nice handle to remove the basket, without reaching into the unknown of your full skimmer basket.
Removing leaves from the floor of the pool
1. Leaf Rake. The bag type of skimmer net, as opposed to the flat type of net, is a valuable tool to scoop leaves off of the floor. Moving slowly across the floor so as to not disturb the leaves too much, and perfecting a flip and pull-back when you reach the other side of the pool will make quick work of deep layers of leaves on the pool floor. Vacuuming a deep carpet of leaves just cannot be done quickly, leaf rakes become necessary to get most of the volume, before vacuuming the pool.
2. Leaf Master. This device, connected to a garden hose and your pool pole, can handle large volumes of leaves in a short time. The better your garden hose flow, the better a leaf master will perform. If you have a pressure side pool cleaner, like a polaris, you can attach your garden hose to the pool cleaner line for some really powerful water flow, and make quick work of leaves with your leaf master. Leaf master type vacuums are also effective on pools which have small pumps and filters; not powerful enough to handle large leaf volumes.
3. In Line Leaf Trap. Who has time to stop vacuuming every 5 minutes to empty the pump basket? Attaching a large debris trap to your vacuum hose, and then connecting the leaf trap hose into your skimmer can be a real time saver. Most leaf traps are clear, so you can see when it is becoming full. Another option for vacuuming leaves can be a skim-vac plate. Most skimmer manufacturers offer this plate, and Hayward makes quite a few sizes. Instead of removing the skimmer basket and attaching your vacuum hose directly to the skimmer pipe at the bottom of the skimmer, a vac plate allows you to vacuum into the skimmer basket. The Skim vac plate seals snug to the top of the skimmer basket, and you connect your vac hose to the plate. Since skimmer baskets are usually larger than pump baskets, this means you can vacuum more leaves for a longer period of time, without stopping to empty the basket.
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