frequently asked questions

Should I add pool chemicals in the winter?

If you come by our shop any time in January or February you’ll notice it’s a lot quieter than the rest of the year. The reason is obvious. People aren’t using their pools because the pool is either closed, or it’s way too cold outside to swim. The water is clear, so the typical pool owner thinks everything is A OK! BUT, IS IT?
For today’s topic, let’s discuss how and why to properly maintain your pool chemistry in the winter. I promise I won’t get into Saturation Index, Total Dissolved Solids or other mind-boggling stuff. But first, let’s dismiss roughly 40% of our readers, so they can go about the rest of their day. If you chose to close your pool in the fall, putting some type of cover on it, had us blow out your lines and winterize your equipment, you’re all set until the spring. We thank you for your business.  Just make sure you clear the leaves off your cover AND get on the pool opening calendar as early as possible, before the algae starts blooming. Or, if you’re one of our winter maintenance customers, we are taking care of this chemistry for you. You may still find this interesting, but it’s not necessary. For everyone else, continue reading.
Ok, now that it’s just us, let’s talk about the concept of “it’s clear, we’re good!” Remember, straight acid is also clear. While it may be pretty, it certainly wouldn’t be good for your equipment, nor your surface and would cause disaster when you went to swim in the spring. Now, I realize we’re not actually talking about straight acid in your pool, but the point is, you need to look a little further than, “all clear”. Clear water represents one thing…your algae is dormant and it’s waiting to bloom if your water isn’t treated. All pools have algae and algae doesn’t bloom in the winter. It actually starts blooming at around 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Celsius).
So, if you don’t have the right sanitation level in your pool (chlorine) when the algae is ready to bloom, you’ll be coming to the store to purchase large quantities of shock, Ph adjusters, and either yellow-out or green-out. You’ll then be cleaning filters, all while watching disappointed family members, as they wait for the pool to clear. Then you have to balance your Ph, alkalinity and calcium. I make it sound like a pain, because it is a pain. And, if you’ve been a pool owner for more than a couple of years, you’ve experienced what I’m talking about. HOWEVER, this can all be avoided with minimal effort, by maintaining your chemistry levels in the off season. AND, it doesn’t take a lot of money or effort. You might need to add 1-2 pounds of chlorine per month, or a couple of sticks in your skimmer/chlorinator to manage sanitation levels. To keep your Ph in check, you may need to add a little Lo-n-slo or Balance Pak 200 in the off season. To keep your alkalinity high enough to prevent Ph bounce , you may need to add a little Balance Pak 100. And, to protect your surface investments, you should always maintain your calcium levels. Again, these are not high quantities, but it will potentially save you hundreds of dollars on chemicals in the spring, not to mention keeping your equipment healthy. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And, for our salt customers, remember that salt systems do not generate chlorine under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. So, you’ll want to add SOME chlorine to your pool in the off-season to keep your sanitation level high enough when your salt system isn’t producing.
As always, water testing is free. No questions asked.
I hope this helps.

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Do I have a leak? And, if so, where is it?

One of the most common calls we go out on this time of year is leak detection. So, I thought I would try to help out with some very common things you, as a homeowner, can do before requesting us to make that service call.

First, obviously the most common reason for loss of water is evaporation. While you may believe that because the air has cooled, evaporation ceases or at least decreases in the fall. This is actually not the case, at least not early on. When we transfer from summer to fall and then to winter, we experience a period of rapid evaporation. And, this is further exacerbated by the drought we have experienced this year, with little rainfall filling the pools. So, do not assume you have a leak, solely based on a sudden decrease of water in your pool.

Second, is to “check the obvious”. For example: Have you tightened the lid on your chlorinator? Have you left your pool in back-wash mode? Have you left the valve open on your backwash line? (we get this one a lot). Is there an obvious leak at your equipment? Do you need a new o-ring on your pump pot basket? Etc…

If all of this checks out, the next best step is to determine whether your water loss is due to evaporation or whether you actually have a leak. This is where the “bucket test” comes in. It’s a very simple procedure you can do at home before placing a call for a service technician to come out. Take an ordinary bucket, such as a Home Depot Homer bucket. Place a couple of bricks inside. Put the bucket on the steps of your pool. Fill the bucket to the water line of the pool. Wait 24-48 hours and see if the pool level water has dropped below the water level of the bucket. If the levels are equal, you are only losing water due to evaporation. If the pool water is lower than the residual water in the bucket, you have a leak “somewhere”.

This  leak could be in your equipment, a broken pipe underground, in your pool steps (for those liner customers) or in your main drain. However, most often we find leaks in one of three places (1) in your skimmer, if your deck is settling (2) In your light or (3) In your returns. These three leak areas are fairly easy for TLC to address.

If, however, we run into the situation where you have multiple leaks in various areas of the pool, rest assured we have partnerships with the best people in the business, using very sophisticated equipment.

Please reply or call us with any questions.

I hope this helps!

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How does a pool actually work?

For my first ever blog, I decided to start with the most basic question facing a swimming pool owner and that is, “How does a pool actually work?” It’s not likely something you have thought about before; however, after purchasing TLC Pool & Spa in August of 2018, even after being a pool owner for 15 years, it was obvious I did not have a strong grasp on how to accurately answer this question. However, to be successful, I needed to understand it (and quickly!)

Anatomy of a pool…

To begin, let’s look at the main components of a standard salt pool. In future blogs, I will address whether it makes sense to convert to salt vs chlorine. However, for today’s discussion, let’s use this diagram knowing that if you are running a chlorine pool, you can either simply remove the Salt Generator icon from the equation or you can insert a chlorinator.

How it works…

Let’s start with the Main Drain and Skimmer. The Main Drain is always located in the deepest area of the pool. This is because gravity will carry any debris that falls to the bottom of the pool to the deepest part. The skimmer(s) is always on the top edge of the pool and catches any debris that is on the surface of the water. The skimmer and main drain are the first components that remove unwanted materials from your water. Next is the pump. The pump is made of two components, the wet end and the motor. The wet end contains a pump pot basket, which is the second area that removes unwanted material from your water. Combined, the main drain, skimmer and wet-end comprise the suction side of the pool. In other words, the pump motor “sucks” water and debris from the pool that are first caught at the skimmer/main drain and then the pump pot basket before the motor pushes that water through the remaining components. The filter is the final area that removes unwanted debris. There are three types of filters on the market, including: a sand filter, a cartridge filter and a DE (diatomaceous earth) filter. In future blogs, we will discuss the advantages of each. Next is the optional heater. Obviously, the heater increases the temperature of the water before re-entering the pool. Note that the water has been completely filtered prior to getting to the heater. The check valve, which is located just prior to the Salt Generator (or chlorinator) prevents highly chlorinated water from coming back to the system, thus preventing damage to those parts. The check-valve is extremely important for those pools in which the equipment is located below the pool. In other words, where gravity might carry highly chlorinated water back to the system when the pump is not running. The final component is the Salt Generator (or Chlorinator). This part provides automated sanitation to the water, just prior to the water rejoining the pool through the Return Line, commonly known as the returns. As an aside, many new pool owners believe that they do not need chlorine, if they are running a salt pool. In fact, the Salt Generator actually converts salt to chlorine before entering the pool. But, more on that later.

In summary…

So, the water is sucked by the pump motor through the skimmer, main drain and pump pot basket. It is then pushed through the filter, the heater, the check valve and Salt Generator (or chlorinator), before returning to the pool through the returns. I hope this helps!

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To close or not to close: that is the question

One of the most common questions customers ask us this time of the year is “should I close my pool”? Obviously, the main concerns are whether they want to deal with the fall leaves vs the expense of a cover/having a water feature. However, I wanted to delve into the costs in a little more detail vs just the emotion of closing/keeping open, so I decided to break down both scenarios, as follows:

Staying Open Considerations Closing Considerations
Dealing with the leaves Closing costs
Cost of chemicals throughout the year Cost of a cover
Cost of electricity to run the pump Blowing leaves off a safety cover
Do you still use the backyard and want the water feature Opening your pool back up in the spring
  Lack of a water feature during the winter

Cost to keep your pool open during the colder months:

Let’s first look at energy consumption. Below is a list of the most common sizes of pool pumps. If you have a variable speed, simply choose the size in which you would run in the winter. These are listed as kilowatts per hour. The average cost across the country, depending on your rate plan, is $0.12 per kWh.

¾ HP = 1.26 kWh
1 HP = 1.72 kWh
1-½ HP = 2.14 kWh
2 HP = 2.25 kWh
2-½ HP = 2.62 kWh
3 HP = 3.17 kWh

So, if you have a 2 HP pump, running 4 hours per day October-March, you’re looking at 2.25kWh x 4 hours x $0.12 per KwH X 180 days = $194.40 in energy consumption.

Leaves: If you are paying a weekly service (like us) $50 per week through the fall/winter, you’re looking at roughly 24 weeks x $50 per week= $1,200

Chemicals: I picked 10 sporadic customers that keep their pool open year round and averaged their chemical costs for October-March and came up with an average of approximately $130. Obviously, they all consume much more during the hotter months.

Total to stay open: $1,524. This does not include any repairs that need to be made.

Cost to keep your pool closed during the colder months:

Cost to close the average pool in the fall, including average amount of chemicals: $275

Cost of a cover (varies extremely from a leaf cover to a safety cover). Let’s go with a typical safety cover at around $2,000. They last about 10 years, so $200 per year.

Cost to blow the leaves off your safety cover. If you do it yourself, great, if not, let’s assume this is done as part of your lawn company maintenance at $5 as part of the service. $5 X 24 weeks: $120

Cost to open the average pool in the spring, including the average amount of chemicals: $275

Total average cost to keep your pool closed for the season: $870

So, in the end, it appears you are paying (on average) $654 more to keep your pool open throughout the year. The cost is slightly more, if you consider replacing the pump more often, due to the additional use.

Again, these are all averages. Many times, we open a pool and it takes us more chemicals/time to actually clear the pool, for various reasons (more rain than expected through the winter, higher temperatures in the spring/fall than normal, etc…) I hope this helps!

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