Swimming Pool PH and Alkalinity: A Balancing Act

by Pool Builders on 02-16-2012 in Articles

It doesn't matter if your pool is brand new or has been in places for many years, they both need to be maintained the same way. The fundamental goal of pool maintenance is having a pH level that is balanced as well as the alkalinity level. Even moderately acidic water can irritate the skin and eyes of your swimmers. Water that has a high alkalinity level can lead to calcium build up which if not fixed could corrode your filter or pump system. Another reason it is important to pay close attention to your pH and alkalinity is that if they are not balanced, any sanitizers you use might not be as effective as they should be.

One of the most popular chemicals used to disinfect swimming pools is chlorine. Chlorine products contain hypochlorous acid. This strong acid is the active chemical that actually disinfects the water as it is dispersed in the water. What is interesting about the application of hypochlorous acid in a pool is that the actual amount of acid that gets produced as it mixes with the water is actually determined by the pH level of the water. Therefore, it is important to make sure the pool's water has a pH reading is between 7.2 and 7.6. If it is much higher, the amount of chlorine you need to add will be significant and require that you keep swimmers out of the pool for at least two days.

As soon as you notice that the pH readings are too high or two low in comparison with the normal range you can bring it back to normal by adding various alkali or acidic products. Basic chemistry tells us that in order to reduce pH you will need to add an acid and to increase the pH you will add the alkali products. When it comes to the acid products, there are two different products that are most commonly used. These are sodium bisulfate and muriatic acid. Both of these products are powders can be purchased at any pool supply store and can then be mixed with water in a plastic bucket. The mixture is ten poured into the pool and dispersed by stirring the water with a net or brush and by way of the filter system. Be sure, however, not to pour any of the mixture into the skimmer or filtration area as it has the potential to corrode the equipment.

As for increasing the alkalinity of your swimming pool, the products are much less corrosive and much easier to find. The two main products are baking soda and soda ash, both of which can be found in your grocery store if you don't have them already in your pantry. After applying either of these products you will need to test the pH of the water. You may find that the alkalinity increased too much, in which case you would need to add one of the products listed in the paragraph above to bring the water back to a balance. This is often the case when filling a pool for the first time as the water that is used more than likely will have biocarbonates, hydroxides and carbonates, all of which are high in alkaline. Depending on what your geographic location is, your water might have a higher alkalinity than water in other parts of your county, state or country.

Finding a balance between the pH and alkalinity is rather simple. You can purchase an easy test kit from your pool supply store. One type is a small device that has two connected vials in which you put the water you're testing. Then you drop a red or yellow die into each and shake it up. Then compare the color of the water to the color and measurement chart next to each vial. There also test strips you can simply dunk into the water and wait for the pads to change color then hold the strip up to the color key on the bottle.

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