Maintenance Free Swimming Pool

by Pool Builders on 04-09-2014 in Articles

For the homeowner, a swimming pool that will totally maintain itself is the Holy Grail. While no pool can be considered truly "maintenance free," we are getting closer every year. Advancements in controls, sensors, and chemical feeders reduce the time required to a pool. To keep things simple, we will focus on three components to maintaining a clear pool and technologies available. These include: 1) sweeping/vacuuming, 2) balancing water chemistry, and 3) filtration. A properly designed/configured solution will definitely reduce the maintenance on your pool.

AUTOMATIC CLEANING

The latest development in automatic cleaning is "in-floor cleaning." Somewhat similar to an automatic sprinkler system, these low profile fixtures will pop-up automatically to drive all debris down to the drain and out of the pool. This is not a cheap add-on for a new pool build and prices range from 4 to 10 thousand dollars.

Many are already familiar with the "robotic cleaning" systems which involve an automated cleaner/sweeper working its way around your pool during its cleaning cycle. There are several models available from Pentair, Hayward, and Polaris. They all have different features, benefits, and pricing. Keep in mind the size and weight. A common complaint with some of the newer systems is the weight and it is hard for some individuals to remove the system out of the pool.

Unfortunately, there is nothing in the market place that can replace the telescopic net. The good news is this item is not needed all of time for most of us. But if you do have floating leaves or pollen, remove it as soon as possible or you will be dealing with an organic stain at the bottom of your pool.

BALANCING WATER CHMISTRY

Sanitation These options have not changed much over the past couple of decades. However, the delivery systems have made major changers. Chemical treatments would include traditional chlorine (calcium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, lithium hypochlorite, dichlor, and trichlor), bromine (less common), biguanide (Baquacil and AquaSilk), and Copper Sulfate (Pristine Blue). You are probably familiar with a "salt pool," or a salt water generator (SWG) which converts sodium chloride salt into chlorine. When the water chemistry is properly maintained, SWGs can drastically reduce the need to shock your swimming pool.

Non-chemical treatment would include ionization (copper, copper/silver, copper/zinc), mineralizers (Pool Frog), ozonation, and U/V Light. The last 3 items do not provide a "residual" for sanitation and the biocide component is short lived making it a poor choice as a primary sanitizer. Do not get me wrong, they do offer wonderful benefits. They all reduce the amount of chlorine that is necessary to maintain a pool. Ozone and U/V are becoming more popular with the combined use of chlorine to reduce the disinfection byproducts (DBP such as chloramines and thihalomethanes) and can reduce the frequency of using shock treatments. Of these non-chemical alternatives, only ionization has a long lasting disinfection which makes it the most attractive option. Ionization can be used with anything listed above including chlorine or be used in a "chlorine free" pool.

AUTOMATED pH SYSYTEM

Keeping your pH and alkalinity in balance is probably what occupies most of your time in balancing your water chemistry. If the pH is too high, chlorination is not an effective algaecide or biocide. Your water can also become cloudy from dissolved solids coming out of solution which will create scaling conditions. Alkalinity will drive your pH up. And addition of make-up water can throw everything off. Today, many manufacturers such as Pentair, Rola-Chem, and Hayward offer systems that will monitor pH and have a pump to feed an acid solution when needed to help keep your water chemistry in balance. This is a must have if you are seeking a "maintenance free" pool. Although these systems are automated, they do require occasional maintenance. The pH probe must be cleaned periodically and the system needs to be calibrated to make sure the readings are accurate. Both of these processes are only performed a couple times per season and are not time consuming.

FILTRATION AND FILTER AIDS

Filtration is what keeps the water clear and makes the water pleasing to the eye. There are 3 basic types of filters being used today and each have their pros and cons. Below we have a quick rundown.

Sand

Sand is by far the easiest to maintain but its filtering ability is the lowest - down to about 20-40 microns. Cleaning a sand filter is very easy; simply backwash the filter to remove the trapped debris. The constant back-washing will remove quite a bit of water from your pool and the make-up water will through your water chemistry off. For me personally, that is a major disadvantage and adds time to pool maintenance. There are a few types of media that can be used but we will save that for another article.

DE

The most effective filter media, is DE (diatomaceous earth). DE is made up of fossilized diatoms (porous, sponge like microscopic organism) and can filter down into the 5 micron range. DE, however, requires a little more care than sand. When you backwash you never really know how much DE you remove so you never really know how much to put back in. Also if the screen tears, it makes an awful mess in your pool. However, it will keep your water nice and clear.

Cartridge

This is my favorite. It is also the greenest alternative. There is no back-washing so your water chemistry tends to stay balanced. Their filtration efficacy falls somewhere between Sand and DE. Cleaning the filters is not hard but will take a little bit of time (10 - 30 minutes depending on filters and if soaking is required).

Clarifiers (Filter-aid)

There are many chemicals that fit in this class. They are used to pull small particles into larger chunks so the filter can then remove them. It will give water that extra bit of sparkle. They usually have a name such as Emerald, Clear, or Blue in its name. The chemistry is not usually disclosed, but we do know most are a cationic polymer or sodium polyacrylate. Even though a peristaltic pump can be used for application, it is not recommended to be used unless it is truly needed. The reason being is that too much can gum up your filter.

Ozone (Filer-aid)

Ozone generators are used in conjunction with other technologies/treatments to oxidize any and all organic matter in the pool water. "Oxidation" is essentially what chlorine does, but with ozone, the leftover byproduct is pure clean oxygen. The oxidized material will either fall to the bottom of your pool or remain suspended so your filter can capture it. The new DEL Ozone Eclipse uses a proprietary method to produce mixed oxidant of ozone and hydroxide radicals. Both are very strong oxidizers and are also naturally occurring. You cannot get more organic than this.

ODDS & ENDS

Automatic Pool Covers

Pool covers keep debris from getting into your pool when not in use. For many of us, it is a must have for the Fall season. While an automatic pool cover offers safety around a pool, it also can greatly reduce maintenance requirements. On days when leaves are falling, just cover the pool and keep all the debris out of the pool. Throughout the rest of the year, the chemicals will last a lot longer if the pool is covered when not in use, because of reduced evaporation and also because of protection from the sun.

Computer Automation

Swimming pools are now smart (and yes there is an app for that). Features such as wireless controllers and remote monitoring, makes it convenient. You can control pumps, lights, water features, sound systems just to name a few. These modern controllers allow you to adjust any and all functions without ever getting up out of your chair, out of the pool, or even outside your house. They are easy to program and additional equipment can be added.

WHAT IS THE BEST COMBINATION FOR A "MAINTENANCE FREE" POOL?

Again, "maintenance free" pools are not quite here. So for a good start at a "reduced maintenance" pool, here are a few suggestions (of course this depends on your budget and if you are building pool or just trying to upgrade your existing pool equipment). To balance my water chemistry, I opt for the Genesis Expanse copper ionization system from Intec Americca Corporation as the primary sanitizer and set it on a timer and run it for about 2 hours a day at a reduced power. I would use the DELOzone Solar Eclipse as a clarifier/filtration aid and run this I conjunction with the pump. Finally, I would use the Rola-Chem pH feed system to maintain my pH. I would also recommend a cartridge filter (no brand pr. I would also use a Creepy Crawly or Baracuda for the cleaner. It is light and cab be quickly and easily removed from the swimming pool by mostly anyone.

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