If you live in a cold climate, winterizing your pool is a necessary but sometimes bothersome requirement. Inground pools that are not properly winterized may end up with cracked pipes, broken hoses, and damaged walls. In order to winterize an in-ground pool, water quality needs to be adjusted, equipment cleaned and stored, the water level lowered, and a cover chosen and fitted.
Water Quality Parameters for Winterizing a Pool
Despite the fact that no one is going to be using the pool, water quality remains important during the winter. Because the goal of winterizing a pool is to prevent damage to the pool and its supporting structures, the water needs to be balanced and cleaned. If the water quality is not ideal, prolonged exposure to the water itself, when it is not being filtered and treated, could damage the pool.
The first step to creating ideal water chemistry is to balance the pool water to the following levels:
- pH: 7.2-7.8
- Alkalinity: 60-180 ppm
- Calcium hardness: 150-1000 ppm
After reaching these levels, the next step is to shock the pool with a large quantity of sanitation chemicals. Chlorine is used for chlorine and bromine pools, and hydrogen peroxide for PHMB pools. When using chlorine, approximately 1-2 lbs per 10,000 gallons of pool water is needed.
It takes time for chlorine levels to fall, but it is necessary to wait because high levels of chlorine may react with the algaecide and render it useless. High chlorine levels may also damage pool covers. A range of 1.0-3.0 ppm is typically the goal before moving to the next step.
The use of a commercial algaecide is common but not mandated. Mechanically cleaning the pool will also help prevent the growth of unwanted organisms and remove waste. Make sure to clean all of the surfaces of the pool. Vacuum cleaners, skimmers, leaf-rake bags and other tools can be used. The goal is simply to remove as much material from the water and the surfaces of the pool as possible.
Preparing and Storing Pool Equipment
Most of the equipment will need to be cleaned and drained when winterizing a pool. A specialized blower or a wet/dry vacuum capable of the required low pressure is necessary to purge water from the pipes and hoses. High pressure can damage these, so make sure to use the proper equipment.
You should expect that someone will need to:
- Clean and drain the filter
- Drain the heater and pump
- Purge all hoses and pipes
- Turn off electrical power and make sure the circuit breaker is off
- Turn off the gas and put out the pilot light on gas heaters
- If severe weather is expected, remove motors for storage indoors
Pool equipment should be cleaned and allowed to dry thoroughly before storage. Once the hoses and pipes are purged, plugs will need to be placed on the pool end in order to prevent them from refilling with water. Some people use pool antifreeze in addition to blowing out the lines. If you choose to do this, use only pool antifreeze, not the kind intended for vehicles.
Types of Pool Covers
There are four basic types of pool covers:
- Solid lightweight fabric
- Spring-loaded mesh
- Spring-loaded solid
- Automatic and manual covers with tracks
Lightweight fabric covers are usually held in place with sandbags or anchors. Spring-loaded covers are typically anchored to the deck surrounding the pool. Tracked covers may be built into the sides of the pool or anchored on the deck.
Pool covers must be monitored for accumulation of snow, water, and debris. Solid covers must have drains or pumps to remove standing water because it presents a drowning hazard. All covers should be kept as clear as possible because excess weight can damage them.
Draining the Pool
How far you drain the pool depends on the material that it is made out of. Pool materials can be damaged by excess exposure to freezing air as well as by the expansion of ice if the top of the pool freezes over. Because of this, where the water line is located is important and depends on what the pool is made of.
In general, pools are drained to below the skimmer mouth and tile line. One to six inches is usually recommended. The exceptions are pools using mesh or automatic covers. Mesh-covered pools are typically drained 18-24 inches below the skimmer mouth, while automatic covered pools are usually not drained any lower than the skimmer mouth.
Winterizing Above-Ground Pools
Most of the steps are the same for above-ground pools, except that the hoses and pipes will usually be disconnected entirely rather than purged and plugged. Sometimes air pillows are used between the water and the cover on above-ground pools in order to reduce water pressure on the walls. It is less common to use air pillows on inground pools, but some people do.