Rob Cox December 27, 2018
Back when I ran all over creation on a pool service route, we had a customer with a small pool in a small backyard, very colorful and charming, like the homeowner herself, a single woman in her late 50's.
She couldn't stand to look at a solid pool cover all winter, and the idea of a safety cover was also not appealing. She asked me if I could winterize the pool, but not put a cover on the pool.
I took a look around. The pool backed to a golf course, and there were no large trees around the pool, just a few small maple trees, and the sun exposure to the pool was about average. She had a solid fence and no children in the house, so safety was not a main concern.
"We can Winterize it, and Not cover the pool, if that's what you want", I told her, "But..., you'll need to keep the pool clean, with a Leaf Rake or a Leaf Master. Leaves use up the algaecide, and can stain the plaster. And, you should brush the pool weekly. And, also test the water at least monthly, and... you're going to need more chemicals to keep the water clear...".
She stopped me by raising her hand, and with my mouth still hanging open, she said "How much would it cost for you to take care of all that for me?". :-)
She kept the pool mostly clean, and we stopped by once per month to vacuum the pool with our porto-vac and test and balance the water chemistry. During the coldest winter months, when the pool was frozen solid, we didn't need to visit at all.
Must You Use a Winter Pool Cover?
No, but winter covers protect your pool from stains, algae growth and poor water balance that could damage pool surfaces. Pool covers block both debris and sunlight, to conserve your winter chemicals and protect soft and shiny surfaces. And a pool safety cover as shown here, keeps your pool safe and looking great.
It is recommended to use a winter cover, and 99% of pool owners who have their pool winterized do cover the pool for winter. However, if you want to close the pool, but keep it uncovered all winter, or if you need to delay purchasing a new cover until next fall - here are the steps we took to do it for our customer above.
- KEEP THE POOL CLEAN: With the pumps and pipes winterized, you can't vacuum the pool through the system. The options are to use a Leaf Master ® type device, which connects to a garden hose to create a venturi vacuum. You can also use a pool Leaf Rake, the bag type of skimmer net, to scoop leaves, twigs, bugs from the surface, and from the pool bottom or floor easily. A good Pool Brush should also be used vigorously each week, to give some water circulation, move dirt and oils and to break up any tiny bacteria or algae colonies that are forming on the wall or floor surfaces. Clean the pool weekly, until it freezes solid across, and then again weekly after it thaws out.
- TEST & BALANCE THE WATER: Use a good Test Kit, or Test Strips to run the full battery of tests on the pool water, once or even twice per month. Winter rain and snow, and everything floating in the air above is absorbed into your pool during winter, and this can consume your winter pool chemicals, and pummel your pH, Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness levels. In addition, be sure that your Cyanuric Acid level is up to 50 ppm, to protect your chlorine from the sun. To add chemicals to an uncovered pool during winter, predissolve by adding to a bucket filled with water, then pour the solution around the edge. Brush the pool well afterwards, to help dissolve and disperse the adjustment chemical.
- CHLORINE + ALGAECIDE: Keep your chlorine level up in the pool by filling a chlorine floater (or two), with tablets and floating them in the pool with the baffles fully closed. Refill the floaters every few months, and test the water regularly to be sure that you have 1 ppm of chlorine, until water temperatures drop below 60 degrees, then it can go to 0.5 ppm. For winter algaecide, add an initial dose of 1 qt per 10000 gallons, and a weekly maintenance dose of a good winter pool algaecide like Algaecide 60 Plus, If you notice algae growing in early fall or late spring, shock the pool with a heavy dose of your favorite pool shock, and brush well. When the pool is frozen solid, or has water temperatures in the 40's - you won't need much chlorine or algaecide.
- OPEN THE POOL EARLY: My customer who left the pool uncovered in winter also was agreeable to opening the pool in April, or a month earlier than most people in the region. She also closed the pool later than usual too, in late October, being careful to run the pump if a frost warning was issued. When the water temperature rises, and sunny days grow longer, it can be hard to control algae growth without a pool cover. So plan on opening the pool about a month before normal, or when the water temperature rises into the 60's. While the water is still below 65° F, you can run the pool pump less, 4-6 hours per day, to maintain clear water.
She just didn't want to look at a pool cover all winter long! It took some small amount of care, but she was able to look at blue water all winter long. For most folks however, I would recommend a tight fitting winter pool cover, to keep maintenance to a minimum, and to protect and secure the pool during the off-season. But it is possible to close a pool, without covering the pool, but it's best to cover the pool that is not circulating.
Maybe what you need is just a better looking pool cover! Safety covers come in all types, shapes and sizes...