Pro Tip #17

Vacuuming, manual or robotic, what makes sense?

Automatic (or robotic to some) vacuums have been around for many years now, but most recently in the last 3-5 years the quality and functionality have definitely improved.

Historically robotic vacuums have been expensive to purchase and repair making end users question the viability of the purchase. To a much lesser extent both of those concerns still exist and are real but like many products the evolution has cured many of the older problems, if you care for it properly it will return long hours of service.

How the automatic concept pays us by allowing the pool technician to use their skills more effectively throughout the day and letting the machine do the vacuuming as needed in the off hours. Think of it as best time utilization. You will still need to manually vacuum your pool occasionally but it will be minimal. If you are a first time user consider requesting a demo for your pool to ensure it will meet your particular configuration and expectations, also a service agreement if there will be multiple users of the vacuum. Yes automatic vacuums are well worth it.

Pro Tip #16

Enzymes, another needless chemical for your pool….. or not?

What is an enzyme and why should you care?
Enzymes are everywhere. We even have enzymes in our mouths and they work as the first stage of digestion by breaking down food into smaller molecular components to get this process going.

Pool enzymes aren’t much different. A common view is that enzymes “eat” whatever they are designated to treat but what really happens is a process of separation. Enzymes break things down to smaller pieces to better eliminate detrimental chemical.

Pool enzymes are “built” to remove the annoying things that are difficult for chlorine to attack. You’re familiar with these; oils from cosmetics, sunscreen, deodorants, hair products, nitrogen from perspiration and urine and other organics.

The use of enzymes can help your pools or spas in many ways. They can:

  • Lessen the frequency of required breakpoint chlorination
  • Eliminate scum lines on walls in skimmer pools, wave pools and spas
  • Lower the use of chlorine by “pretreating” organics
  • Prevent oil contamination of all filter media
  • Eliminate biofilm in piping and filtration tanks that require the “attention” of chlorine
  • Help keep UV quartz tubes and UV intensity sensor clean and operating more efficiently between services

It is important to know that while they can be a benefit, not all are created equally. Enzymes are chemically designed for certain tasks and selecting the product that best meets your needs can sometimes be tricky.

The answer to the initial question is that yes, enzymes do have value and are a useful pool water treatment when applied properly by experienced personnel.

Pro Tip #15

Why is my pump motor hot?

The practical application of pumps and hydraulics is quite an in-depth study in engineering. The concepts of flow, horsepower, and energy consumption sometimes seem to be almost counter-intuitive and contrary to the way we naturally think – such as a pump requiring more energy to pump less water than the pump was designed to pump. There is, though, a question that commonly arises in the pool industry: “My pump motor is so hot, what is going on?”

The two go-to answers are:


  • Lower voltage is being supplied to the motor than what is actually required. Voltage can easily be confirmed a volt meter. It is surprising to learn how inconsistent utility company voltage can be.
  • The pump is doing more work (flowing more water) than what it is designed and built for. The more flow the pump produces, the more horsepower it uses and amperage it consumes – and in turn, a higher amp draw can easily exceed the motor’s rating and design. There are many ways to solve these problems. The most common is as simple as closing a valve on the pressure side of the system a bit. Other solutions can be more complex.

In either case, expensive damage to the motor or pump will eventually  occur if left attended. Always use a qualified expert to install, trouble-shoot and check these systems. Typical high voltage used for large commercial pool systems offer no room for mistakes.

If you need assistance, please give us a call. We do this type of troubleshooting all the time.

Pro Tip #14

Why does your chemical tubing explode?

Because it can’t take it anymore!  In short, because of material fatigue.  Plastic material will become brittle over time as a result of UV, heat and chemical exposure.

Tubing should be inspected routinely for abrasions (is it rubbing against anything?), nicks or cuts.  If tubing becomes kinked during installation or tight radius bends it will “bruise” and eventually leak.  Tubing exposed to sunlight must be UV rated (often black).  You should use the highest pressure rated tubing appropriate for your system.

Chemical leaks are bad.  Chemical leaks are unsafe.  Chemical leaks can be expensive.

Only love lasts forever.  Change tubing before it puts you on notice.

Pro Tip #13

Control your pool from your phone

Did you know that you can manage one pool or thousands of pools from all over your City, State, or even around the world from your laptop, iPad or Smartphone? The communication is basically free, the implementation cost is relatively low, but the impact on your pool operations is tremendous. Combined with good on-site water testing and maintenance basics, remote e-based water management programs are providing many organizations with high quality and streamlined pool operations.

Compared to earlier controllers that were limited to pH, ORP, and temperature parameters, the new controllers include digital GPM flow as a standard feature, so you can monitor your precise Health Department-required flow at any time day or night. You can also can monitor pump vacuum (hair & lint strainer soiling), influent pressure (pre-filter), effluent pressure (post filter), pool water level, chemical tank levels, direct reading of water clarity, direct PPM reading, direct chloramine readings, and much more.

Vital information about your pump room that is easily accessible on your Smartphone helps you manage your overall operation easier and better, and can help prevent a wider variety of pool room issues. With expanded information you can now be alerted with:

  • Flow below required GPM,
  • VFD operating at a higher than normal level (not saving energy due to site conditions),
  • Dirty strainer (which can cause damage to pumps),
  • Dirty filters (reducing pool flow or decreasing water clarity),
  • Tampering or pump operating outside its recommended amperage (prevent from burning out),
  • Low or empty chemical containers,
  • Chloramine levels that can cause eye and lung irritation,
  • Clarity levels that fall below Health Department guidelines

Pro Tip #12

CO² pH control, why bubble up your pool?

When CO² is added to water it creates carbonic acid which we can utilize to lower pH in our pools. The residual side-effect is that it will promote Total Alkalinity (TA) rise. CO² alone will require the additional maintenance procedure of column poring acid directly into the pool. This is undesirable for a few reasons we won’t discuss at this time.

The combined use of CO² and acid has both chemicals feeding at the same time when you need to lower pH. With this method, both lower pH and they counteract the TA side effects created by the other. You use less sodium bicarbonate for TA adjustment and less acid as well. Win win.


Pro Tip #11

What does UV do?

Ultraviolet light (UV) provides a non-chemical, environmentally friendly treatment option for a wide range of processes. Most microorganisms, even cryptosporidium, are inactivated in less than a second by high doses of UV light, leaving no undesirable chemical residues. Due to their compact size, low ownership costs and simple maintenance requirements, UV-disinfection units have been installed by many of the world’s multi-national soft drink companies, breweries, pharmaceutical giants, municipal waterworks, and wastewater treatment plants.

Applications for UV light treatment continue to grow. In addition to inactivation of microorganisms, UV will break down inorganic and organic pollutants in water. This is particularly true in the swimming pool industry, where, in addition to the disinfection benefits, a significant reduction in combined chlorine levels can be achieved.

Using the proper UV product for each specific application insures that you are getting the right equipment to meet your needs. There are two major “classes” of UV for aquatic applications- low pressure UV and medium pressure UV.

Medium Pressure UV systems emit a “wide” spectrum of UV light (200 nm- 315 nm).  This wide UV spectrum not only effectively deactivates pathogens (such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, E- coli, and Pseudomonas), but also destroys all three chloramine compounds.  This type of chloramine control is vital- not just for the safety of the bather and the comfort for those both swimming in the pool and those on the pool deck.

By emitting most of its UV energy at 254 nm, Low Pressure Amalgam UV is excellent at deactivating pathogens.   Low Pressure UV uses much less electricity to operate and is more user-friendly for the typical spray park customer.

Pro Tip #10

What does total alkalinity (TA) and dominoes have in common?

Like the first tipped domino in a line-up, total alkalinity has reaching influences on pH, corrosion indices, ORP and chlorine levels controlled by ORP.

  • When TA is out of range, <50 PPM or >150 PPM, pH becomes unstable and control can be very difficult.
  • The amount of chlorine required to yield target ORP set point is dependent upon stable pH. This can result in either lower or higher than desired chlorine levels in the pool.
  • The stability of TA produces a stable pH which is the cornerstone of all corrosion water balance indices.

The lesson here is that when TA levels are a problem, so are pH levels. When pH is in trouble, often so are chlorine levels.

Always fix TA first and pH is likely to tall in place as will chlorine.

Pro Tip #9

Do you have too much chlorine in the pool?

KSI Thinking 2Perhaps you are swimming in a heavily used pool; or maybe you are in the bleachers at the natatorium watching the big swim meet. You notice the smell of “chlorine” in the air. And – it’s bad – really bad. If you are in the pool, your eyes may be stinging and swelling. Even if you are up in the bleachers, you realize that your eyes are becoming red and irritated. Either place, you smell “the smell.” “Too much chlorine, again!” you think. “I told them last week that they were using too much chlorine, and they obviously weren’t listening.” You resolve to go talk to the pool manager again, and make sure that she hears you – loud and clear – this time.

You find the pool manager in her office, and you begin reading her the riot act. Fortunately, she is a patient person, and lets you say your piece. Her response, though, is not what you expected.

She explains to you that the smell, eyeburn, and irritation weren’t a result of having too much chlorine in the pool water, but from not having enough! And she tells you why:

Swimmers’ sweat and other organic pool water contaminants contain nitrogen-rich ammonia. As long as the pool water maintains at least ten times as much molecular weight of chlorine than nitrogen, the nitrogen off-gasses to the atmosphere. Outdoors, it blows away; indoors, it must be evacuated from the natatorium (and it usually doesn’t get all evacuated, which leads to big problems). But if there is less that ten times as much chlorine in the water than the nitrogen being introduced, then the nitrogen combines with the chlorine, making chloramine.

A pool can be “heavily” chlorinated (20 ppm+) and, as long as there are no chloramines, the water will not have “the smell” and it will not cause irritation. But just a little bit of chloramine (0.4 ppm and higher) leads to eyeburn, irritation, “the smell”, and contributes to respiratory damage. Chloramines are created when the chlorine residual in the pool water is lower than what is required to treat the nitrogen load. Chloramines can be destroyed by adding enough chlorine to the water to overcome the molecular weight imbalance and restore the 10:1 chlorine/nitrogen ratio.

“So” the pool manger says “I need to do some water testing when the pool closes, and calculate how much chlorine I need to add to destroy the chloramines. I will multiply my chloramine level by ten, then add this much chlorine directly to the water. I’m going to add it tonight, and the pool will be closed tomorrow until the chloramines are gone and the free chlorine residual drops to an acceptable level.”

You ponder this as you drive home: The red eyes, irritation, and smell are not caused by too much chlorine, but from actually having too little chlorine during a high organic load. And – even stranger – more chlorine, in the right amount, needs to be added to the pool water to get rid of the smell and other problems.

Pro Tip #8

Is your bleach any good?

Unlike other commodities, the pool bleach (sodium hypochlorite) delivered to your facility may vary widely in quality, purity, and chlorine content. In addition to having no easy way to verify bleach purity and quality, bleach also begins to degrade and lose its strength from the minute it is made.

Bleach is made by “cracking” salt brine (sodium chloride) with a high electrical charge. Brand new bleach contains about 15% elemental chlorine and has a pH below 10. This fresh bleach begins to degrade almost immediately, and this degrading process kicks into overdrive if the impurities from the manufacturing process (iron, manganese, and other metals) are not thoroughly filtered and removed. Then caustic soda is added to the fresh bleach to raise the pH well into the 13-15 range. This pH increase gives the bleach longer shelf life and slows the degradation of the bleach’s elemental chlorine strength. It is assumed (but not verified) that the bleach delivered to your facility has an elemental chlorine content of 12%-12.5%. Also, do not forget that every gallon of bleach contains a pound and a half or two pounds of salt.

How quickly your bleach will degrade depends on many factors. If your bleach was not properly filtered, the chlorine will begin to oxidize the unfiltered iron and manganese and can lose as much as one third of its strength in the first few days. If the bleach in your storage tank appears reddish or blackish, it contains iron and/or manganese. If you do not remove this tainted bleach, it will continue to contaminate any fresh refills. Good bleach should be yellowish and clear; the bottom of the tank should be able to be seen through the bleach, even when the tank is full.

Unfortunately a lot of low-quality, poorly filtered bleach  makes its way into aquatic facilities. Many agencies consider all bleach to be the same, no matter the manufacturer or supplier; that is not the case.

There are a couple of good rules of thumb to judge if you have good bleach. If the bleach in your storage tank is translucent (clear yellow and you can see the bottom of your tank when it is full) then your bleach is probably pretty good. If not, use up all the bad product and start over. Second, if you begin using more bleach than normal (and you are not having unusual conditions like a week long water polo tournament) then you were probably delivered low-strength bleach.

KSI Crossed arms smallIf you are concerned about the quality of your bleach, the best option is to take a quart or two of freshly delivered bleach to a qualified bleach testing facility. We can assist in finding the closest facility in your area. Filtration tests reveal impurities that destroy chlorine content and strength test show the actual chlorine strength. Poorly filtered bleach may be delivered at acceptable chlorine content but will quickly degrade. Even the best bleach will lose elemental chlorine strength with time, Even if stored in a sealed drum, year old bleach has only 6%-8% elemental chlorine; somewhere close to the strength of typical laundry bleach.