by Rob Cox December 27, 2013
Looking over your pool equipment pad, scan the pump, filter, heater for anything out of the ordinary. Cracked pipes, pumps, filter tanks. If there is dirt, mulch or leaves surrounding your pump, now may be a good time to clean up. Trapped dirt and mulch holds acidic water which creates a moist, acidic micro climate around your pump motor. Clean out any fallen branches as well.
Look Up above your equipment pad and behind it. If there is overgrowth that shades the equipment too much, it cuts off airflow and evaporation, making a moist environment that is not good for metal and electrical items on your equipment pad. If necessary, trim back any over grown areas around the equipment pad.
Have you ever cleaned your equipment? Most people don't - but if you wanted to, all you need is gloves, a few gallons of water in a bucket with a teaspoon of dish soap, and a good scrub brush. You can scrub the filter and valves, pumps and pipes, and then hose it off clean. Just don't spray directly onto your pump motor, electrical panels or heater controls.
If you haven't cleaned and lubed the pump lid o-ring in awhile, a winter check up is the perfect time to lube and protect any sealing o-rings on your pool equipment.
Check out the deck to be sure that none of the pads have shifted, tilted or cracked. Inspect diving boards and pool slides for tightness. Wrapping tightly during winter helps preserve the finish on gelcoat boards and slides. Diving board covers are best, or you can use a good tarp and rope and/or bungee cords to block the sun and snow.
The pool skimmer - check check visually for any cracks, and that the skimmer weir and lid are intact. If you winterized accordingly, you will find a quart or gallon sized bottle, 1/4 full of pool antifreeze or pebbles. The purpose of a 'skimmer bottle' is to absorb the expansion of ice that forms in the skimmer, from rain water and snow melt. Filling it slightly with antifreeze or pebbles (something that won't freeze) allows the bottle to sink slightly into the skimmer water, so that it freezes around the bottle. NOTE: If using antifreeze, be sure to completely rinse any traces of previous chemicals from the bottle before pouring in antifreeze.
After pulling back the cover onto itself, to expose a length of the pool, look for any signs of cracking, discoloration, water line marks or new stains. For concrete pools, inspect the tile and coping stones for any movement or cracks.
If you can find the pool floater, it would be a good time to refill the floater. NOTE: If you used a non-chlorine Winter Kit floater, be sure to completely rinse any traces of the chemical before filling it again with chlorine tablets. And, tie it off on both sides of the deep end, using a long piece of twine tied to the floater, to prevent bleaching or staining of pool surfaces by a stuck floater.
Take note of the water level, if you have a mesh safety cover, you may want to lower the pool water at this time, so that the water is not freezing at the tile line, which puts pressure on the tile, and gets the cover stuck into the ice. Ideal water level for a safety cover would be about 6 inches below the tile. For solid pool covers, I like to have the water level about 4 inches below the pool tile, or below the skimmer, for vinyl pools.
Check the breaker box, to be sure that the pump breaker is still in the off position. The time clock should also have the 'ON' tripper removed, and placed in the bottom of the box, or screwed to the wire shield.
Make sure that your pool light is not on! Some people with heavy solid covers have unknowingly left their pool lights on all winter!
Secure the power boxes, and lock them if you want extra security. Inspect the area above your electrical panels to be sure that nothing is overhanging that would drip water onto the electrical boxes. Building a small roof to deflect rain water from falling directly on outdoor power boxes is a pretty good idea, if you can swing it.
Finally, check the wire harnesses that run from the power boxes to the pool pump, heater, salt system, valve actuators, sensors... Check all wires and wire conduit to be sure that they are secured, connected and intact, and that everything looks safe.
Quick scan to your pipes above ground, or for aboveground pools, inspect the any visible plumbing at the pool. Slide valves, or push pull valves, should be tested, and left in a mid-position. Lube the disk o-rings if the action is not smooth. Multiport valves should be set in an open position. That is, push down on the handle and leave the handle in a position between any two positions, so that the back of the handle is pushed down.
Others may prefer to use the 'Closed' position on the multiport, but if you leave the valve rotor raised off of the valve body (by having the handle in between positions), it creates an air space that could prevent freeze damage if water was to flood the valve. Leaving the valve in the 'Waste" position is another option. If the system were to become flooded, or un-winterized, this allows water to run out of the system.
Inground pools will usually have the main drain valve closed, inspect that it is closed. If you have Jandy type valves, you can remove the handle if you want to prevent anyone from accidentally opening the valve before spring.
I like to clean off the deck around the pool at this time, and clean up any trapped leaves nearby the pool. A leaf blower is my choice, and if large enough, you can blow any leaves or twigs off of the pool cover. For safety covers, you are making sure that all of the straps are tightly connected, and the springs all have a medium tension. Larger covers should deflect downward towards the water, but smaller covers should appear drum tight. Tighten up the straps if there are some that are not medium tight.
For solid covers, some of your time should be spent cleaning the cover. A leaf rake works best, to scoop off any leaves and twigs. Take care with larger branches, that they don't pierce the cover while you are removing them.
Tighten up the cover if it has many wrinkles across it. This will help it to drain more easily. Tightening-Up the cover is done by grabbing two handfuls of pool cover at the edge, and pulling hard away from the pool. Do this around the pool, about every ten feet or so, and you will have pulled the cover up more onto the pool deck, and pulled out surface wrinkles.
Replace or repair any deflated water tubes, aka water bags. Water bags should be spaced end-to-end, without gaps, and doubled up in areas of short overlap, where the cover is only 1-2 feet from the pool's edge.
Be careful not to use cinder blocks, bricks or planters within 3 feet of the pool's edge. If they fall in they can do a lot of damage to the cover and to the pool.
For aboveground pool covers, locate the wench, and give it a few cranks, to make sure the cable is tight. Check your wind protection method (Cover Clips, Wall Bags or Cover Seal - or other homemade remedy), to be sure that it's still functioning. Tightening-Up aboveground pool covers is also very important, to prevent the wind from whipping it around on the surface. Air pillows, while primarily used as an ice compensator, to break up the pool ice sheet, also help to keep an above ground pool cover tightly fitted to the pool.
Now is the time to check the water chemistry - your pH, Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness. For thin mesh covers that allow a lot of sunlight through the material, also check your level of cyanuric acid. You may want to shock the pool, or superchlorinate at this time, refill a floater, or add additional algaecide. Since you have the cover open, skimming and brushing the areas you can reach, or to distribute chemicals, would be time well spent.
Final part of your winter pool inspection is to give the pool fencing and gates a good looking over. Fix any loose boards, or misalign gate latches. Make sure the gates self close and self latch, and if you don't use a pool fence gate during winter, consider keeping it locked.