Rob Cox March 15, 2016
If you live in the sunbelt, pool season is revving up. With temperatures on the rise, the first swim of the year is near. It's time to awaken the pool from hibernation and give it a good spring cleaning.
You've been running the pump just a few hours per day, maybe 6 - but when the water temperature nears 70 degrees F, more filtration, sanitation and circulation is needed to keep the water clean and clear.
Today's post is how to 'open' a sunbelt pool, although it's not really a full opening, since it was never really closed fully, or winterized. A sunbelt pool opening involves inspection, deep cleaning and lubrications.
Most places in the U.S. see some freezing temperatures, except for parts of southern Florida. Your biggest concern may be cracks from ice expansion - cracked equipment specifically, which will make itself known immediately.
Pipes: With the system running (on a dry day), look for leaks on the pipes, valves, pump, filter. Small leaks have a way of turning into big leaks, so look closely to see small weepers and seepers.
Pump: Open the pump basket and remove for cleaning. Clean off the pump lid o-ring and mating surfaces with a rag to remove grit and grime. Prime the pump (if needed), replace the lid and start up the system. Listen to your motor, to its 'sound signature', to remind yourself of its normal sound. Any pump leaks from the seal plate, shaft seal or effluent pipe fitting should be addressed. And on the suction side of the pump, check for any air leaks from the pump lid, or influent pipe fitting, bringing air into the system. Open the filter air bleeder to allow start-up air to escape. If you have a clear pump lid, you should see 99.9% clear water, with just a few bubbles, after a few minutes of running.
Filter: Check for any leaks around the filter band clamp or on any filter valves. Note the pressure on the filter tank gauge. If you don't remember what your 'clean/dirty' pressure gauge readings should be, backwash the filter (sand/DE), or clean the cartridges, and then note the clean, start-up pressure. You can write on the tank with a large marker the clean/dirty pressure numbers, like 8/15 - or you can use a marker (or fingernail polish) to make 'clean/dirty' marks on the pressure gauge lens.
Heater: While many sunbelt pools don't have pool heaters, many also do have a gas, electric or solar pool heater. None of these require calibration or adjustments in most cases. Follow your heater start-up instructions to test out the heater, even if you are not yet planning to heat the pool, run the heater through some paces to be sure it's ready to go when you need it.
Pool: Inspect the pool for any cracking (!) around the tile line, on the coping stones and throughout the pool interior. Inspect the caulking between the pool and pool deck and consider if you need to replace some of the pool caulk. Inspect the pool deck as well, to look for changes in height or angle, as well as any cracks or surface problems. Ladders, rails, slide and dive equipment should be inspected for damage and to be sure they are tight and secure. Check the skimmer parts closely, looking for any cracks around the well or throat, or any damage to the basket, lid or weir.
Filter: Spring is a good time to deep clean the filter. DE filters and Cartridge filters have their elements removed and hosed thoroughly as a minimum. For a really clean filter, soak the grids or carts in a Filter Cleaner solution to remove oils and scale that clog the pores. Then rinse again. Sand filters also benefit greatly from using a Filter Cleaner to break down and remove the greasy gunk that collects in the top few inches of sand. And if you haven't changed filter sand in 5 years or so, now may be a good time. See this video on pool filter sand replacement.
Heater: Gas heaters should be cleaned internally, of any leaves are laying above the heat exchanger or below the burner tray. Heat pumps also catch a lot of leaves through the top grill. Both can be cleaned with a Shop-Vac. Heaters benefit from unrestricted air flow, and low humidity; and spring is a good time to trim back overhanging branches and overgrown bushes, to allow more sunlight and air volume. Mulch should not be piled up around pool heaters or pumps, it traps too much moisture, blocks air flow, and releases acidic gasses.
Pool: After shocking the pool, I like to use buckets of chlorinated water to wash off the deck, to help remove mold and mildew. The pool caulking joints can be cleaned with a brush on a pole, and some Comet cleanser or bleach solution. Skimmers can be cleaned with Comet or similar chlorine based abrasive cleanser. Clean the inside of the well and throat to remove dark oily deposits. If the tiles need cleaning, you can use a Tile & Vinyl cleaner, which won't affect your water balance and contains no phosphates.
Finally, brush the pool surfaces (vacuum first if needed). If your arms feel like they're gonna fall off - you're doing it right! This is a most important step, brushing, to dislodge invisible pockets of dirt and fine films that allow algae and bacteria to thrive. Use a good pool brush, and if you can manage it - brush it the next day again! Brushing is good exercise for you, and also good for your pool!
There aren't too many o-rings that need lubrication, but the pump lid o-ring should be lubed twice per year. If you happen to pull the motor off the pump, you can lube the seal plate o-ring and diffuser o-rnig. DE filters have a standpipe o-ring (where the grid manifold connects) that needs lube, and both DE and Cartridge filter tank o-rings should be cleaned and lubed annually. If your sand or DE filter has a slide valve (aka push-pull), remove the plunger and lube the disk o-rings twice per year. And if you have a chlorinator, clean and lube the lid o-ring.
List of pool orings that can be lubed, your pool may have some of these o-rings
Be sure to use only a Teflon based lubricant. Silicone based lube can be used in old style Grey Jandy valves, but it's generally too tacky for use on other o-rings. And never use Vaseline, or any petroleum based lubricant, which will eat away or damage soft rubber o-rings.
If you have any specific questions on opening your sunbelt pool, send me an email, or call our hotline at (877) POOLCTR or 877-766-5287.