Swimming Pool Blog


Raising Pool Equipment for Flood Protection

Pentair Pool Heater Troubleshooting Guide
by Rob Cox January 15, 2019

ELEVATING POOL FILTER SYSTEMS

elevated pool systems
Image by Pool and Spa News, from "Hurricane Harvey Sparks Interest in Elevated Equipment Pads" May 14, 2018

Recently there has been a lot of interest in elevated pool equipment pads, to protect pumps, filters and heaters from storm surges on the coastline, or flooding from nearby rivers, or excessive rain events. And in protecting pool equipment from flood damage, you may also protect pool owners from electrocution.

Storm surges are floods that come in from the ocean, whipped up by hurricane force winds or at times from underground seismic activity. Storm surges of as little as five (5) feet can have a devastating effect to coastal swimming pools, as it was on the night of Sept. 13, 2018, when Hurricane Florence surged ashore in Wrightsville, North Carolina, raising the ocean nearly ten feet its normal levels.

And you may also remember that during Hurricane Florence last fall, areas of coastal North Carolina received nearly 36" of rain within a four day period (in addition to the storm surge that came ashore!). Swimming pools were filled with mud, and thousands of swimming pool pumps and heaters suffered irreversible damage.

How High for Pool Equipment Platforms?

image from reddit, flooded poolIf your pool equipment and pool is located in a designated 'Flood Plain' or is within coastal waterways, there may already be some guidance on how high pool equipment should be - above the base flood elevation, or anticipated rise of water. In most states, such matters are assigned to a Floodplain Management Office, which sets the expectations so that pool equipment is safe from flooding, and pool owners safe from electrocution.

In-ground pool pumps are commonly 'self-priming', which means that they can create enough suction to lift water vertically, as much as ten (10) feet in most cases. However, when pumps are more than a few feet above the pool water level, it can become easy to develop pool priming issues. Small air leaks on the pool equipment that can cause the system to drain down, or draw air instead of water.

Check valves are used effectively however, to keep pool water in the pipes, instead of allowing it to run downhill, through the pump and back to the pool. Check Valves are one-way flow valves that can be placed in front of the pump, or down near ground level on a raised system, to trap water inside the pump, in front of the pump, for easy pump priming.

In Houston, a town known for flooding during hurricane events, new legislation requires houses to be built at least one (1) foot above the 100-year floodplain elevation. Many builders are also raising equipment another foot, building elevated platforms of 2-3 feet above the surrounding ground.

What is Needed to Elevate Pool & Spa Equipment? 

Raising your pool pump and filter is a lot easier than moving your pool equipment to another location in the yard. In many cases, you just need PVC fittings and sections of PVC pipe, to extend the pipes from where they are now, to a new level, several feet higher than before. If you are equally lucky, your pool pump wiring harness, usually a flexible conduit, will retrofit to the new height without lengthening or rewiring the pump.

You will need to use a check valve on the incoming pipes (skimmer and/or main drain), to keep the water in the system when the pump shuts off. Jandy style check valves are the standard, and Waterway's new style Check Valve allows faster access should you need to open up for clearing a clog or to reverse the valve when winterizing a main drain line. Check valves like these accept pipe sizes from 1.5" to 2.5", and can be used with a 1.5" - 2" reducer bushing.

Build a pool equipment platform too high, and servicing the equipment may be difficult or hazardous. A full-on deck can be constructed of heavy timbers, with stairs and guard rails, or give some thought to access for repairs and regular maintenance. Wide and safe steps can be built to perform service and equipment replacement tasks.

Methods to Elevate Pool & Spa Equipment

raised wooden box for pool equipmentWOODEN BOX: With 5 yards of soil tamped in place and level, you will raise the earth in the area (after raising or capping the pool pipes). Then nail together 2x6 boards as a form and pour a new concrete pad 4" thick, with pieces of steel mesh or rebar added for strength. Another option is to create a gravel pad by building a wooden box with 6x6 or 8x8 timbers on top of the raised earth, and then filling the box with gravel. The box can also be built 3 rows tall, filled with soil, and topped with gravel for the last 6 inches, or concrete for the last four. A concrete base is necessary for gas-fired pool heaters. A concrete footer is recommended to prevent slippage and erosion for wooden boxes built more than two courses tall.

WOODEN PLATFORM: Another common method is to erect a platform, or a small wooden deck, built with heavy timber posts of 6x6 or 8x8, set into concrete. Angle iron or other steel posts can also be used, and the platform can be made from non-combustible materials if a gas heater is involved. When elevating pool equipment with a wooden deck, the most important thing is to made it wide enough to be able to service the equipment safely and access all parts of the equipment for inspection, repair or replacement. Permanent steps with railings or sturdy permanent ladders may fit the bill, but be careful to oversize everything to make it as safe and easy to service as possible.

above ground pump and filter - raised just slightlyJUST RAISE THE PUMP: If your pool filter system consists of a pump and a filter, and no heater - you may just consider raising the pump only, 1-3 feet, and leaving the other equipment at the current level. Other than dirty water stains, most pool filters, pipes and valves will do fine if underwater for a few days. The pump motor and pool heaters, as well as the electrical - breaker box, timer(s), outlet and light switch, are the items that really cannot be submerged. So again, if you have no heater, and your electrical is already at a high level, build a cinder block or timber shelf to raise up the pump, and then adjust the plumbing and electric as needed to meet the new level. 

RAISING THE ELECTRICAL: If your pool breaker box, timer clocks, outlets or controllers also need to be moved to 'higher ground', I would recommend that you call an electrician to perform the task safely. In some cases, new wires (longer wires) may need to be run from the household main breaker box, and there are a lot of complications in extending the power lines - that it's just better to let a pro elevate pool equipment power. An even simpler option is to install PVC unions on the pool pump, for easy removal when flood waters threaten to rise.


Other Tips:

  1. Nudge the platform to touch the pipes, and if possible attach the pipes to the platform with plumber's strapping, to provide vertical support to pipes. Rebar stakes can also be inserted into the ground alongside the pipes, and lashed to the pipe.
  2. Provide several footholds or intuitive ways to climb up higher if needed, so that service persons won't step on the pipes or accidentally knock into pipes and valves.
  3. Keep in mind that taller and thinner platforms may succumb to tilt and creep over time, especially supporting heavy equipment. Over-build an elevated pool equipment platform to prevent movement.

 

 If you have any questions on raising your pool equipment platform, send me an email!

 


- Rob