How to open or start a pool in spring
Starting or opening a pool is quite simple. But it takes a little work and an extra set of hands. Honestly, it’s best to start a week or two before wanting to open it not only for the best results, but also to eliminate some of the “last minute” stress.
It doesn’t matter if you have an above ground pool or an inground pool, the basic work is the same or similar. Follow these easy steps with details and tips:
Remove all leaves, dirt, and debris. of the winter cover before removing it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people let the whole winter mess go straight into the pool! Talk about extra work. I’ve seen really clean “winterized” water turn black with the “tea” and debris from the winter cover. Take a couple of half hours to scoop up excess and accumulated leaves from the top of the deck. Remember, it’s not just the leaves from last fall; it’s spring pollen, tree “choppers,” and pine needles too.
Remove all ice and winter expansion plugs (Gizzmos). You cannot turn on the pump and filter system if the water does not flow from the pool to the filter and vice versa! Make sure to replace the respective directional returns (eyeballs), suction grids (generally used in bottom suction fittings), circulator fittings, etc. If you are using standard fixed eyeballs, remember to point the water flow DOWN towards the bottom of the pool to optimize circulation. For even better circulation, consider replacing the standard directional returns with “the circulator.”
Bring the water level to normal operating level. If the water on top of the deck is relatively clean and free of algae, use that water to fill the pool. It’s free! It might be a bit dirty, but that’s okay, it will deal with the rest of the pool. At this time, it is a very good idea to add an algaecide to the water or a natural pool enzyme to begin cleaning the water and preparing it for the initial impact. If you are adding fresh tap water to finish off the pool, add a good metal and mineral scale and stain control product to prevent sudden staining of metal, especially iron or copper, when the pool is first shocked.
Carefully remove the winter cover. Clean it, fold it and put it away. When cleaning, use a good cleaner that is made specifically for cover material. A good chemical cleaning of the winter cover will extend the life of the cover by removing dirt and grime from the fabric (you wouldn’t put dirty clothes in the closet for the next season, would you?)
Connect the filter system. Properly connect the correct hoses or pipes to the proper valves or connections on the pump and filter. Even I made this mistake: the correct hose goes into the wrong filter fitting and 2 weeks later, the pool is still not clean! This is the easiest way to remember: basket to basket (skimmer basket to pump basket) and hole to hole (outlet – “to the pool” – hole in the filter valve or tank body to return to the opening in the pool wall). Be sure to properly lubricate all stop valve or stop valve O-rings with a good silicone lubricant. Not only will it give the joint extra life, but it will also help it seal more easily. Do not over-tighten the raised hose clamps; tightening too often will “crimp” the hose allowing air to leak. REMEMBER: Replace ALL drain plugs on pump, filter tank, and heater (if equipped).
When starting the pump for the first time, be sure to “prime” the pump with water. Do not start it dry, not only can the pump be damaged, it puts additional strain and strain on the entire system. If your pump is below the water level, as in most above-ground pools, priming is probably not necessary because the water “falls” naturally into the pump (gravity feed). If the pump and filter system is more than 3 feet above the water level, priming is absolutely necessary. Note that it may take several minutes for the system to “detect” and start.
SPECIAL NOTE: It is VERY normal for a LOT of bubbles to come out of the return fittings when starting for the first time. Even for up to 24 to 36 hours, some bubbles will remain in the plumbing system while it returns to normal operation.
SPECIAL ADVICE: To make starting the filter easier, open the “air bleed” valve at the top of the filter tank when starting the filter. You will hear a great “hiss” of air as it comes out of the filter. When the water comes out, replace or close that valve. If your filter does not have a manual air bleeder, temporarily remove the pressure gauge to obtain the same results.
Cleaning and vacuuming the pool of all the dirt and debris. Remove all excess material from the pool before adding a shock and launching an algaecide, especially if the water is relatively clear and clean. The less stuff is in the water, the more effective the initial flush will be.
Clean siding or tile line with a good quality pool surface cleaner such as Off the Wall Surface Cleaner. DO NOT use household cleaners as they can affect the pH and add phosphates to the water which will contribute to algae growth later on. This is where most of the scum of winter has made its mark. Clean it now while it is still “soft” and easy to remove instead of when it is baked in the sun it is more difficult to clean. Prevent this foam line (biofilm) from re-forming with regular cleaning or using AquaFinesse Pool Pucks.
Add your starting doses of shock and algaecide. Now you can add the chemicals! When starting out, don’t skimp. Make a good “strong” and adequate dosage of algaecide when opening. In the long run and short term, you will save a lot more money if you do it the right way. Follow the dosages below.
Allow opening or start-up chemicals to circulate for 24 to 36 hours before performing any tests or water balances. Why wait? 2 reasons:
1. Shock and algaecide additions will change the chemistry and balance of the water. That little time will allow the levels to stabilize again for a more accurate reading.
2. Chemicals already in the pool water can settle to the bottom. This is especially true of cyanuric acid, commonly known as a pool conditioner or stabilizer. If the water is not allowed to circulate and agitate what is at the bottom, you will end up adding stabilizer which, most likely, does not need any additions. This is a great way to save money. By the way, NEVER add conditioner or stabilizer unless your pool water needs it and only if the test shows a level of 20 ppm or less. Stabilizer or cyanuric acid levels should not exceed 60 ppm. Higher levels are simply wasteful and do not provide anything for water balance.
Install ladders and deck equipment. Be sure to securely tighten the anchor bolts, trampoline, and slide anchors (if equipped). Check that the bolts or hardware are in good condition. Replace worn or corroded nuts and bolts for your safety.
Filter 24 hours before bringing Opening water sample for testing and analysis. Adjust pH, Total Alkalinity, and Calcium Hardness as needed.
Chemically clean the filter with Kleen It or Strip Kwik Filter Cleaner after 2 weeks to remove filtered winter material. Chemical filter cleaning approximately every 8 weeks prolongs filter media life and promotes longer filter cycles.
NEVER DRAIN your pool. The liner will shrink, void your warranty, and could damage your pool. In gunite, plaster, or even fiberglass pools, removing the water from the pool could cause the pool structure to “float” and cause serious damage to the structure. Always check with your local builder for specific instructions.
Start chemical doses in chlorine, bromine, ionizer, salt-chlorine pools. The discharge must be complete to break down residual chloramines (combined chlorine) from the winterizing. If chloramines are not addressed now, a persistent chlorine demand problem (inability to maintain a solid level of chlorine or bromine) will develop.
Chlorine shock: Unstabilized Cal-Hypo is the preferred product for use in an initial spring damper. It goes in, oxidizes, and then comes out (gas is released). Use at a rate of 3 to 5 pounds per 5,000 gallons for best results. DO NOT use a non-chlorine shock with initial startup. Liquid chlorine bleach is fine, but it is very weak (around 11%) compared to Cal-Hypo (around 60%).
Initial algaecide: Don’t skimp on the algaecide! Always use an algaecide that has at least 30% active ingredients. Be careful with the use of algaecides with copper as an active ingredient; Improper use can cause stains on the pool surfaces. Gallon jugs of algaecide typically contain less than 10% active ingredients and are a waste of money. Follow label directions for a STARTING dose, usually 1 to 2 quarts per 10,000 gallons.
After adding the initial shock and algaecide, be sure to run the filter for 48 to 72 hours continuously. DO NOT backwash the filter during this time. Let the filter and chemicals do the work.
Final and ongoing steps: balance the water (pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness). Using additives like borates and natural enzyme products will enhance any chemical pool care system you use. Be sure to shake the pool and add algaecide every 2 weeks to remove swimmer debris that cannot be filtered and keep algae under control.
Follow the 5 keys to pool care. It is easy.