Most visitors to the Outer Banks list a pool as being one of the biggest deciding factors when choosing a rental property. There is just something about the ease and privacy of a swimming pool when you want to avoid the crowds or the hassle of lugging equipment onto the sand. Homeowners also know that having a pool can increase rental rates by $30-$60 a night, on average.
But how do you protect that revenue stream when the crowds are gone and the northeast winds of winter are blowing? The key is preparation and proper maintenance before closing the pool for winter.
Here is a list of handy tips to keep your swimming pool clean and safe throughout the off-season.
Adjust Water Chemistry
The first thing you need to do is adjust the different levels of your water before closing the pool. The pH level should be between 7.2-7.6, alkaline levels should be between 80-120 ppm (parts per million) and the calcium hardness should be between 180-220 ppm. Having the levels at the proper amounts will protect the pool for corrosion and scale buildup over the winter. These adjustments should be made approximately five days before complete shutdown of the pool.
Shock the Water
Use a chlorine or non-chlorine substitute with the strength of 65% sodium hypochlorite. Take a bucket filled with pool water and add the suggested amount of shock pellets and then pour into the pool while the filter is running. This will kill any bacteria living in the water and filtration system before closing for the winter. If you regularly use a shock product that is safe to swim immediately after using, it is not strong enough to kill all bacteria. Let the chlorine levels return to 1-3 ppm over a few days before the next step.
Add an Algaecide
Algaecide is a chemical that kills existing algae and prevents more from blooming over the winter months. It can cause your water to smell terrible and become discolored. If the chlorine levels have not returned to the suggested levels before adding the algaecide, the treatment will be ineffective. Make sure to use an algaecide that is designated as a winterizing product to insure blooming will not occur over the off-season months.
Remove Everything but the Water
Take out all extraneous materials from the pool including decorative touches, ladders, ropes, baskets filters, hoses, heaters and pumps. Everything removed from the pool should be thoroughly rinsed and dried before storing for the winter.
Clean the Pool
On the day you actually close the pool for good, make sure it receives an extensive cleaning. This may be obvious, but it will save a lot of time in the spring when it is time to open the pool again. Skim the top of the water to remove any insects or debris, then vacuum the bottom and sides of the pool to remove any sand or dirt.
Lower the Water
Some people in southern, warmer states tend to skip this step thinking it isn’t needed. Don’t make that mistake, as Mother Nature can be unpredictable! Lower the water level to accommodate for any freezing that might occur during the winter months. The levels you should lower the water to depend on the type of pool cover being used. Twelve to eighteen inches below the skimmer is a safe level for a mesh cover, while 3-6 inches below the skimmer is preferred for a floating solid cover.
Empty Pool Equipment
All equipment including heaters, chlorinators, filters and pumps need to be drained completely. Any residual water that freezes inside these devices can cause massive damage. Clean all filters from each device and store them for the winter. Any permanent filters can be cleaned with an air compressor to remove any residual water.
Prepare the Plumbing
The water lines that run into your pool need to be prepared for winter as well. Dry them out completely to prevent freezing and cracking over the cold months. Blow air from the skimmer and through the equipment with a shop vacuum or an air compressor. This will insure that all lines are empty and safe.
Cover it Up
You’ve done all the grunt work, now it is time to finish the job and cover the pool for the winter. Make sure that whatever type of cover you use fits well and securely. Also make sure there are no open spaces for water or debris to enter the pool. A mesh cover is the best bet for protecting a pool completely, as a solid floating cover may sometimes allow rainwater to enter the pool, potentially requiring the water to be pumped out of the pool before winter is even over.
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