Reducing Pool Expenses

by Linda Hull


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When our family purchased a home with a pool a few years ago, we found that maintaining our pool was very expensive due to the cost of chemicals, utilities, and repairs. However, by using common sense and practicing some basic routine maintenance, we learned to maximize our savings. Here are some tips we discovered:

Regular Pool Maintenance

The first line of defense is regular pool maintenance. That means cleaning the skimmer basket daily. Next is skimming the water's surface to remove floating debris such as leaves, insects, frogs, and grass. Another regular duty is brushing the sides of the pool to loosen algae and dirt particles. These will fall to the bottom where they can be vacuumed daily.

Keeping debris from reaching the filter helps to keep the filtering element (sand, cartridge, or diatomaceous earth) clean. Removing wet sand from your filter is not a job you want to do often. Backwashing your filter periodically is recommended to prolong its filtering "life," but avoid backwashing sand filters too frequently or the filtration ability of the sand is compromised.

Follow manufacturer directions. Regular pool maintenance reduces the frequency of needed backwashing, which causes the loss of chemically treated water. Water levels must then be restored so the filter can function properly, and chemicals must be added to restore balance. Place your filter on a timer to conserve energy. We usually turn the pump off at night.

Test your water daily to determine if more chlorine is needed and to determine the pH and alkalinity level. You want to keep the pH balanced to avoid stinging, burning eyes and corrosive damage to fixtures and pipes. Each week, you will need to add more chlorine or "shock" to bring up chlorine levels after heavy pool use and to eliminate resistant bacteria. A weekly dose of algaecide can prevent algae growth and buildup. Follow manufacturer directions. Without it, you can enjoy a great science lesson on the varieties of algae that will grow! We found what looked like streams of toilet paper growing in our pool one year! Most pool suppliers will test your water and make recommendations on chemical additives.

Covers

Keeping a solar cover over the pool when not in use helps to reduce debris and helps to maintain chemical levels. In addition, a solar cover warms the water as much as 10 degrees (F), eliminating the need for a heater, and reduces evaporation. Adding a chemical cover also helps hold the heat and limits evaporation. Here in New York, a solar cover extends the time we can use the pool.

Landscaping

Trim tree limbs that overhang the pool area. void plants with invasive root systems which can get into your water pipes or liner, deciduous trees that generate lots of leaves, and pines and conifers which shed needles. Use broadleaf evergreens and shrubs outside the fence line, and use container gardens to beautify inside the pool area. Some plants attract birds and bees, so you may want to plant these away from your pool. Previous owners of our home planted fruit and deciduous trees around the pool. Consequently, we constantly remove leaves and plant debris from our pool. Unfortunately, we don't have the heart to remove them.

Pool Pests

One year we were invaded with ants in our pool area. Sprinkling ant killer granules worked great, but all the dead ants ended up in the pool, forming a nice black ring. Skimming removed the bulk of them, and the filter took care of the rest. Ants can burrow below ground and beside the liner undermining the pool structure, causing costly repairs. Also beware of chipmunks and mice. One year after opening the pool for the summer, we discovered practically an entire colony of chipmunks had fallen in trying to get water. They had also burrowed underground next to a pipe. To discourage them, move bird feeders from pool areas, and avoid planting ground covers around your pool. I've read that natural repellants such as wolf urine can also be a good deterrent.

Supplies

Some suppliers offer seasonal discounts (around Memorial Day) for chemicals and other pool supplies. Buying bulk supplies for the entire summer can offer savings as well. Shop online for further discounts. Don't try to store chemicals through the winter; they may lose their effectiveness.

Insurance

Be sure to advise your insurance company if you install a pool. In addition to regular homeowners insurance, it is advisable to obtain an umbrella liability policy. An umbrella liability policy protects in the event of a lawsuit involving pool accidents. Insurance companies often require a fence with locked gates. Keep safety equipment such as a shepherd's crook or pole handy.

Resources

U. S. Department of Energy, A Consumer's Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Swimming Pool Heating


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