So, you’ve purchased a house with a swimming pool and are eager to swim, but instead find yourself gazing into what looks like a green cesspool.  You can’t see the bottom and begin to wonder if the pool is twenty feet deep, not the six feet you thought.  You convince yourself you’ll never go into the scary-looking deep-end abyss.  Panic sets in and you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.

Then you do what every other first-time swimming pool owner does, you call in a swimming pool store superhero!  He does his thing with a bunch of chemicals, turns your toggles this way and that, gives you a “pool lesson”, and takes off.  A couple hundred dollars later, the pool is still green and you can’t remember what he said to do next.

Don’t Run Away

It may be tempting to run to the realtor to unload the beast before getting further into debt, but hold on.  Pool peace is just around the corner.

Figuring out swimming pool maintenance is like putting together a large puzzle.  When you start out it seems overwhelming, but with a little more education, patience and diligence, you will become good at figuring it all out.

First Things First

As helpful as swimming pool product retailers are, they sometimes skip over very basic details.  Maybe they don’t want to insult your intelligence, but once you understand how the pool operates, which toggle is for what, etc. you will have an “aha” moment that gives you the momentum you need to make the pool dive-in ready.

Here are some of those tips they should tell you:

1.  Water:

A swimming pool is filled with regular water directly from a garden hose.  Just throw it over the edge and turn it on.

You will lose some water now and then, and need to top it up.  Water evaporates, and some drains when running a “backwash”.  Keep the water level at the mid-point of the skimmer. If there are four screws on the skimmer cover, fill to between screw number two and three.  If you don’t have the water level high enough, you risk running the pump dry and damaging it.

2.  Power Switch:

There is a dedicated power switch near the equipment that controls the pump.  You will use the power switch frequently. Never change the lever setting on your filter without first turning the power off. Turn off the power to the pump before emptying the  debris baskets.

3.  Circulation:

The pool reuses the same water for the entire season.  Depending on the size of the pool, the water will fully recycle in about five or six hours.

4.  Outflow:

Pool water is sucked toward the filter system as the pump draws it through both a main drain on the pool floor, and a skimmer drain near the top surface.  (You may have more than one of each.)  There is a toggle on each pipe.  You can choose if you want to suck water from both drains, or one or the other.  Move the toggle in one direction to open the drain, and the opposite direction to close it.

The pump then pushes the water into the adjoining filter.

5.  Inflow:

Once the water has run through the filter, it returns through another pipe back into the pool. There is a lever on this pipe which should always be in the open position, except at pool closing or when draining.

(If you have a mini pool or spa attached, there will likely be a second set of pipes combining the water through the same system.)

6.  Debris Baskets:

There are baskets in the skimmer drain, and on the pump.  As water is sucked into these areas, large debris is collected in the basket.  Always turn the pump off before emptying the skimmer baskets.

7.  Pump:

Always run the pump with water in the basket. If the pump only sucks air or runs dry, it can be permanently damaged.  It is good, even when vacuuming the pool, to leave the main drain open a little to prevent this from happening.

You can run your pump for 24 hours a day.  Doing so will restore your water faster and keep it clearer longer.

8.  Filter:

There are various types of filters.  A sand filter is a large sealed canister attached to the  pump. It is full of sand that should not need replacing.  When operated on the “filter” setting, it cleans the water and returns it to the pool.

There is also a “backwash” cycle.  Backwashing cleans the filter by reversing the flow of water.  Backwash several times a day if the pool is very dirty or full of algae.  Backwash after vacuuming or at least weekly for general maintenance.

To backwash, turn the power off. Change the lever to the backwash setting.  Turn the power back on and run the pump until the water in the filter viewer becomes clear (between one and ten minutes).   Water will be draining out of the system into your drainage area while doing this, so remember to top up your water before or after backwashing.

Read your swimming pool pump and filter instruction books or find them online to make certain you operate this equipment correctly.

Closing in for the Dive-In – Pool Chemistry

By this point you should understand the water flow and how your system operates and be able to get the water flowing nicely through the filter system and back into the pool.

Next you’re ready to investigate how to achieve good pool chemistry.  You will need to keep the chlorine or bromine level high to kill bacteria and algae, but balance it with an acid to keep it at the right pH level.  If the pool is very green, use a shock treatment and algaecide to correct the problem.

It is important to keep the pH level balanced. Not only will poor chemistry lead to skin or eye irritations, bacteria growth, etc., but incorrect pH levels can cause your pool liner to permanently wrinkle, even overnight.  Replacing a pool liner will cost in the thousands of dollars.

Have your water chemistry tested weekly at a swimming pool supply store or with a test kit, and add the prescribed products. After each treatment, be patient.  Let the water circulate and the chemicals do their thing.  They need time.

Once you can see the pool bottom and you’ve fished or vacuumed out anything you don’t want to swim with, enjoy the water of your hard earned labour.  Eat, Pray, Swim!