Essential Equipment for a Clean, Healthy Pool
All swimming pools need a good quality pump and filter to keep the water clean and healthy. This equipment is like the engine of a car and must be maintained in proper running order. In addition to pool pumps, some basic cleaning equipment is also required to remove debris and keep the floor and walls of the pool clean.
Swimming Pool Pumps
Today’s modern self-priming pumps have a long life, provided they are properly maintained. Neglected pumps and motors, on the other hand, are probably sufficient to put anybody off swimming for life!
All pool pumps must be protected from the weather – sun, rain and even wind can damage them. The location of any kind of swimming pool pump is also very important. It should only be sited below the level of the water in the pool if a gate valve is fitted; and should be sited above the water level only if a special purpose pump is used. In addition, the backwash pipe should not be longer than about three metres and it should preferably pump downhill.
Most pumps should be allowed to run for 12 hours a day in summer, thus ensuring that the water passes through the filter twice daily.
It’s essential to ensure that pump lids remain sound and that ‘O’-rings do not perish or break. If the lid is worn in any way, air will enter the pump and interfere with its proper operation.
It a pump will not prime, or if it loses its prime while it is running, it is important to check whether there are leaks in the pipes leading to the pump, impeller or motor mouldings. In addition, the strainer and suction pipe could be blocked or the water level could be below the skimmer opening.
When water leaks out between the pump and motor, the problem is often a burned-out seal. Most pump suppliers supply step-by-step instructions which will enable you to disassemble them.If you are not sure how to replace a seal, ask your supplier for this information.
If a pump gets wet – or worse, is submerged in water – you are likely to have high repair bills. The obvious answer is to cover the pump to prevent this happening. Several manufactured pump covers are available, including those to look like rocks.
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Pool and Spa Filters
There are different types of swimming pool filters, all designed to remove dirt from the water in its own way.
Most modern filters incorporate pressure gauges which have a normal reading of 45–80 kPa. If the reading is too high (say 100 kPa), the filter should be thoroughly cleaned. If that does not help, there could be an obstruction somewhere. If the reading is too low, there could be a leak or a blockage in the suction line. If you have a sand filter, this could be caused by too little sand medium in the filter.
Backwashing is vital for good filtration as the filter is cleaned when the flow of water is reversed. If the filter is dirty, there will be a greater strain on the pump. Never forget to disconnect an automatic pool clear prior to backwashing.
An average filtration cycle of 12 hours is required for effective filtration during summer. In winter this can usually be halved. Most experts advise that filtration be done at night.
Hi-rate sand filters are usually fitted with multi-port valves. They generally have no moving parts and are made of strong heavy-duty polyethylene, stainless steel or glassfiber (also known as fiberglass) which does not corrode. Impurities are filtered through sand and eradicated by backwashing.
It is a good idea to wash out the sand in a sand filter every year (preferably prior to the summer season). Do this with a strong jet of water from a garden hose, taking care not to damage the equipment. Alternatively, remove the filter lid and simply allow the pump to run on the ‘backwash’ cycle. If you wish, stir up the sand with your hands to help release the debris. It is surprising how much dirt, oil and algae accumulates in the sand.
It is also important to replace the sand every two to three years and to ensure there is sufficient sand in the filter at all times.
Cartridge filters are commonly used for spas. The water is pumped through cartridge elements made of a continuous cylinder of fanfolded material and when the cartridge becomes clogged with dirt, it has to be removed and cleaned so that it can be cleaned. If you don’t clean it properly it will not continue to filter efficiently. A handful of diatomaceous earth put into the skimmer box will improve the efficiency of most cartridge filters.
Eventually cartridges do begin to degenerate and they will have to be replaced. They can sometimes be rejuvenated by soaking in a 1:3 solution of hydrochloric acid and water to remove calcium deposits which have accumulated in the filter material.
Diatomaceous earth filters are generally cylindrical in shape and made of stainless steel or fibreglass. The filter unit is housed in a drum where elements covered with a closely woven synthetic material act as a support for the diatomaceous earth filter. As the dirt builds up, frequent back-washing becomes necessary and the earth has to be replaced.
These filters usually have multi-port valves to facilitate changing between the filter, backwash and re-circulation or rinse settings.
Swimming Pool Cleaners
An essential piece of equipment, the pool vacuum cleaner has the same function as an ordinary domestic vacuum cleaner, sucking up dirt that accumulates on the pool floor and walls. Although reasonably efficient and certainly not difficult to operate, cleaning a pool with a manual pool vacuum takes up quite a lot of time. The alternative is a more costly automatic pool cleaner.
Manual pool cleaners are simple to operate. The pole to which a manual cleaner is attached may also be used with a brush which sweeps algae and dirt off the floor and walls of the pool. It is important to choose the correct vacuum brush for the pool you are using as the wrong type could damage the lining of your pool and invalidate any guarantee you may have.
Automatic pool cleaners are reasonably modern inventions which take much of the hassle out of pool cleaning. They are also said to cut down on pool chemicals by as much as 40 percent. Linked to the pool filter (usually via the weir), they suck up the dirt and with constant movement help prevent algae from settling on the pool walls and floor.
There are several types of cleaner on the market, some of which are better able to cope with square bottom pools and angles than others (rather than freeform shapes). Pool builders generally have their favourite pool cleaners and you may be happy to be influenced by whoever builds your new pool. Cleaners currently available include the Baracuda, Zodiac and Kreepy Krauly, a South African invention.
If you decide to invest in an automatic pool cleaner, remember to unplug it when back-washing the filter.
Various types of skimmers are used in pool cleaning. These include both automatic and manual skimmers, and skimmer boxes.
Skimmer boxes are found in all pools and they should be cleaned at least once a week. It is essential that all debris is removed from the skimmer to enable it to operate to maximum efficiency.
Salt Water Chlorinators
Space age chlorine-generating systems have become very popular in recent years. Using salt, they make their own chlorine at a fraction of the cost of regular chlorine.
These units work in conjunction with the pool filter or a separate power supply. A salt cell is fitting to the pool plumbing between the filter and the water outlet and a control unit mounted next to the cell for easy monitoring and control of the pool’s hygiene.
If a chlorinator is used, the water in the pool tends to be slightly saline. This is not unpleasant, however, and converts insist that it is in fact the most healthy form of chlorination, producing crystal-clear water which is sparkling clean and healthy.