It’s that time of year when the weather starts to get pleasant. The grass is starting to turn green again. You’re still wearing a sweater in the morning, but by the afternoon, you’re in short sleeves. Maybe you’re even eating lunch outside, with a jacket nearby in case the breeze gets chilly.
It’s time to start thinking about your pool.
No, you’re still months away from even thinking about jumping in, but that’s the time to start getting your pool ready for summer. When you get the urge to dive into the pool, you want to do it now—not weeks from now. Whether your pool is vinyl, gunite, or fiberglass, here’s what you need to do to get it summer-ready.
Check the Filtration System
With your pool covered up and out of use all winter, you probably haven’t been running the pump and filter on a regular basis. Even before you uncover the pool, your first step is to get your system in line. Assemble your pumps and filtration system. Empty your skimmer baskets. Perform any needed maintenance on moving parts that aren’t quite ready to run. If you put in any winterizing plugs when you closed the pool up for winter, remove those. These steps are all important to do before you top off your pool.
Top Off Your Pool
There’s a good chance your water level decreased over the winter, so the next step is to add water. (Hopefully, you didn’t drain your pool entirely, because that can be extremely damaging. But if you did, fill it up all the way.) You’ll want your water level to be around the middle of your skimmer opening.
Run Your Pump and Service your Filtration System
Once your water level is where it needs to be, you can prime the pump, turn it on, and start servicing the filters. (Hose off your cartridge filter, if you have one, or backwash your sand filter, or disassemble and service your DE filter.) Then you can set your pumps to their normal setting. You’ll want to run your pump system 24 hours a day until you’re confident that everything’s functioning the way it needs to.
Have Your Water Professionally Tested
You’re probably used to testing your own water throughout the season, and that’s great. But when you’re getting your pool ready in the spring, it’s good to start with a professional opinion. The experts at your local pool store have knowhow and testing supplies you don’t have at home, so bring in a water sample for them to thoroughly analyze and provide recommendations. The best way to get a sample is to wait until the water’s been circulating for a couple of days, then dunk your arm in up to your elbow to fill a bottle of water.
While you’re at the store, you can also pick up any pool maintenance tools you’ve lost track of over the winter. This might include water testing strips or reagents, if you’re running low, and chemicals to balance your pool. If you already have a stockpile of chemicals at home, check the expiration dates before going to the store—pool chemicals can expire.
Balance Your Pool
With professional recommendations in hand, you’re able to actually balance the chemicals yourself. As you do this, the three figures you’ll want to manage are chlorine level, pH, total alkalinity, and mineral content.
Chlorine: 1-3 ppm (parts per million). The easiest way to increase your chlorine level is with chlorine tablets placed in the skimmer baskets or a floating chlorinator. Alternately, your pool professional can attach a chlorinator to your filtration system. (One note: A lot of tablets include a stabilizer called cyanuric acid, or CYA, which can be damaging to metal filtration components. If you have any of those, that third option is the way to go.) If it’s too high, leaving the pool uncovered in direct sunlight should decrease your levels in just a few hours.
pH: 7.2-7.4. Soda ash will increase your pH, if it’s low. If it’s high, sodium bisulfate or muriatic acid will decrease it.
Total alkalinity: 80-120. Alkalinity, of course, is related to pH. So if it’s low, sodium bicarbonate (not bisulfate) will increase it, and if it’s high, muriatic acid will decrease it.
Mineral content: Calcium hardness of 150-250 ppm. If it’s low, you can increase it with calcium chloride.
All that balancing is likely to produce sediment that will circulate in your pool and make it cloudy. It will take about a week for the water to get nice and clear, so until it does, you’ll need to clean the filter every day and adjust the chlorine level as necessary.
Remove the Cover
Throughout this process, you should keep your pool covered until right before you start using it. Pollen, leaves, and other debris need to be cleaned out on a regular basis, and there’s no reason to allow those into your pool before you absolutely need to. When the weather is nice enough to finally jump in, take off the cover—but clean it off first, so any of the debris on top doesn’t fall into the pool. Then vacuum the pool and get your bathing suit out of storage. (If you’re the type to get impatient and dive in when the weather is still a little chilly, a solar cover can warm up your water while protecting your pool).
Enjoy your clean, balanced, well-maintained pool! You’ve earned it. And enjoy the fact that when that first hot (or almost-hot) day rolls around, your pool is waiting there, ready to cool you off.