Adjusting Your Pool’s pH and Total Alkalinity Levels  

by Pool Builders on 12-27-2011 in Articles

Knowing the pH and total alkalinity of your swimming pool water is necessary for maintenance and sanitation. Without these measurements, you could be wasting away your disinfectant products, which are pretty much useless in pools with imbalanced pH levels.

Whether your pool is new or old, keeping an eye on the pH and total alkalinity levels is highly essential. As a pool owner, it is your job to ensure that your pool water is safe enough for its swimmers. Before you're even able to chlorinate your pool, you will have to ensure that the pH and total alkalinity of your swimming pool are on point. If your pool water is too acidic, then the disinfectant will render useless. And if your alkaline level is too high, then you could end up with problems with your filtration systems, due to calcium build ups clogging up your pool equipment.

When chlorine enters into the pool water, it produces a chemical called hypochlorous acid, also known as free chlorine. This is what does most of the disinfecting. The pH level of your pool will determine how much of this acid is produced. For instance, if you have pool water that has a 7.0 pH level, the water is too acidic. The free chlorine level can be up to 80 percent, with 20 percent being ineffective (make sure it is between 1.0 and 3.0 ppm). This level of pH in pool water can also cause skin and eye irritations in swimmers. The recommended pH level for swimming pools is between 7.2 and 7.6. It is quite rare in private pools, but if the water happens to reach 8.0 or higher, you will have to maintain two to three times as much free chlorine to have the same sanitizing effect.

To control the pH level of your swimming pool, you will need to either add acidic or alkali products to the water. Acid reduces the pH level and alkali increases it. Two products you can use are liquid muriatic acid and sodium bisulfate. Both are powder acids that can be purchased at local pool supply stores. Just make sure that the powder acids mix well with the water, so that it disperses throughout. You can use your filter pump to help circulate it, so make sure to turn it on. Never place the acid inside of a skimmer because it can cause damage in the pipes, equipment and fittings. Acid can harm your skin, so make sure to handle it carefully; wear goggles and gloves. If any spills onto your clothes or deck, rinse it off right away. Make sure to follow the directions on the product, but keep in mind that the amounts are approximate, so feel free to experiment to see which measurements work best.

To raise the alkaline levels of your swimming pool, you can useplain household baking soda or soda ash, which can be purchased at your local pool supply store. The total alkalinity of your swimming pool water refers to the total amount of alkali it has. Some of the alkali, also known as soluble salts, that can be found in your pool include bicarbonates, carbonate and hydroxides. The total alkalinity of your pool determines the water's resistance to large fluctuations in alkaline levels. Different areas of America have different alkalinity levels in its water and sometimes even in adjacent communities. A color test can be conducted, using a water test kit. Drop in a few reagents into the sample of pool water and match the color it changes to with the chart of colors that comes with the kit. The total alkalinity that you want to have is between 50 and 150 ppm, but it all comes down to the conditions of your pool.

Just keep an eye on the pH level. When the total alkalinity is on the high side, it can cause the pH level to rise after acid is placed into the water. If the pH drops, below 7.2 then the total alkalinity is too low.The levels stabilize when the total alkalinity is just right. Most people aim for total alkalinity levels that are between 50 and 80 ppm when pH levels rise and 80 to 120 ppm when the pH drops. Use the acid or alkali products to help stabilize the pH and total alkalinity.

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