Yes, it is that time of year again. It is time to close our swimming pools for the season. I am always sad when this day comes - I will no longer see all of the smiling faces of our customers and be able to visit. As you can imagine we are asked all the time, "What do I need to do to winterize my pool?" I am outlining steps that I recommened to all of our customers. If you live in the northern part of the United States you need to take into account the freeze factor.
First let me say that you do not necessarily have to winterize your pool. Here in New Bern, North Carolina about half of pool owners close their pool and the other half keep it open. I personally keep our pool open - it is nice to look at and it is usually nice enough to sit poolside and enjoy the weather. I will address how to maintain your pool in another blog.
You will want your water temperature to be 65 degrees or below. Why? Because technically algae cannot survive in these temperatures. Now there are some types of algae that grow anywhere - ask anyone who has had Mustard Algae.
Take a sample of water to your local swimming pool store and have it analyzed and make sure the water is in balance. It is very important to have the proper amount of calcium in your water as calcium is food for your water and without enough your water will find it in the plaster, liner, or anywhere else it can find it. (Remember balanced water uses chemicals more effectively)
You should also purchase the correct size kit. Most come in either 10K or 20K. You may need an extra bag of shock depending on the size of your swimming pool. I also recommend a product called "Pool Magic Spring & Fall". This product is the very last thing you add to your water before putting on the cover. Pool Magic contains all natural enzymes that break down organics to make opening and closing fast and easy. It prevents organic staining through the off-season, which reduces maintenance for the following opening. Used at opening it polishes water for eye-catching appeal. One bottle is generally enough. We use this product on all pools that we close and open and it really does work! Do not forget the filter cleaner!!! Sand, cartridges and DE grids all need to be chemically cleaned.
Make sure your pool is clean. Brush walls and floor, vacuum the bottom of the pool, net any debris off the top. You want your pool to be clean and clear. I would also suggest cleaning all of your pool tools and storing them in a dry place.
Now your water is balanced and you have put in your closing kit. I recommend you circulate your pool for at least 4-6 hours, overnight is even better. After you circulate the chems you will want to clean your sand if you have a sand filter. There are many different kinds to choose from I would recommend one that works like a shampoo. Your pool should now be drained below the skimmer and below the return. I would say a good 3"-6" below the return is a good rule of thumb. If you have a fiberglass pool you will want to check the manufacturers recommendations.
You should now winterize your filtration system. If you have an above ground pool you will want to disconnect the hoses from the pool and pump. Inground pools are usually hard plumbed and you therefore do not have to remove the hoses. Remove all plugs from the motor and filter tank. If you have a pressure gauge remove that also. I recommend putting all of these small parts in the pump basket next to the motor - they will be safe and will not be lost come Spring. If you have a Multiport Valve put the valve in the winterize position. Cartridge filters should have the cartridge removed and stored in a dry place. DE filters should have all the DE rinsed out of them and the grids washed down and stored in a dry place.
Now for the skimmers and return fittings. Skimmers should have a gizzmo screwed into them. How the Gizzmo Works: Every pool has a skimmer. When water freezes it expands. The expansion breaks the skimmer. The Gizzmo absorbs the expansion. The water crushes the gizzmo instead of destroying the skimmer. It's That Simple! The Gizzmo is designed to absorb the expansion of winter freeze-up in skimmers only. The return fitting(s) also need to be winterized. You will first need to take the outside ring and eyeball out (put them in the pump basket with all the other small stuff). Now to plug the hole. You can use a specialized plug that has a gasket and it screws into the return fitting from the inside of the pool. You can also use a freeze plug. This is simply a plug that you put in the return fitting and tighten using a wing nut.
Almost finished!!!!!! All that is left is the cover. Inground pools can either use a tarp/water bag cover or a safety cover. With the safety cover you will need your special allen wrench and the stretcher bar. The tarp/water bag cover should be pulled tight across the pool. You will need to drain the water off this cover periodically over the winter. More water on the cover the greater the chance of it falling into the pool. Above ground pools have a tarp cover that comes with a cable and winch system of keeping it on the pool. I also recommend getting a few air pillows to tie in the center of the pool. This pillow(s) will form a dome in the center of your pool to keep water from sagging in the center. You will want to keep any debris and/or water off the cover. This will definitely help come spring. You can purchase a pump to keep the water off these tarp covers from any pool store.
I do have one other bit of advise - if you have an above ground pool and you are having a bit of trouble keeping the cover staying down you can use empty milk jugs or soda bottles filled with water and hang them from the grommets of the cover. I have had a couple of customers who are in a high wind area tell me that this is not necessarily a good idea because the wind may scrape the pattern off the walls. I used this when we had an above ground pool and it did seem to help.