How to 'winterise' your swimming pool
Veda Dante, May 2017
If you're thinking about saving a few dollars by switching off pool equipment over winter, the pool care professionals at Swimart advise against it. While it might reduce your quarterly electricity bill and save you money on chemical costs, you run the very real risk of damaging expensive filtration and sanitation systems, not to mention your pool’s interior. The result? A potentially costly and time-consuming process to repair equipment that's seized up over winter – or put under greater pressure to clean a dirty pool – and return water to a condition that's fit to swim in when the weather gets warmer. “Neglecting your pool during autumn and winter is a big mistake,” says Swimart’s Chris Fitzmaurice. “While swimming pools don't need as much attention as they do in summer, a small amount of regular maintenance will ensure everything is looking good and operating well – saving you a bigger (and perhaps costly) job later on. It’s important to protect your investment and don’t let your pool ‘go to sleep’ during the cooler months.”
Swimart's 10-point winterising pool care checklist
- Clean the pool: Brushing the walls and floor, and then vacuuming the whole pool every couple of weeks helps prevent algae from forming. Cleaning the skimmer baskets and the pump’s lint basket of leaves will also ensure the filtration system works efficiently.
- Balance pool water: The pool’s pH level needs to be between 7.2 and 7.6, which you can easily check by taking a water sample from elbow deep and adding the appropriate treatment to bring the pool to the correct level. If you're unsure about this process, take a sample to your local Swimart store and they can measure it for you.
- Clean the filter: Ensure that the pool’s filter is regularly cleaned, as any grease or oil deposits will harden over winter and make the filter even harder to clean in the warmer months.
- Check chlorine levels: To keep your pool clean and clear, it’s important to maintain your pool’s free available chlorine at a constant level of 2-3 PPM (parts per million) throughout winter. If you’re using a salt chlorinator and a pool blanket, remember to reduce the output of the chlorinator to 1-2 PPM, as pool blankets trap chemicals and chlorine, and can cause high chlorine levels to occur - potentially damaging pool equipment if not monitored carefully.
- Use a shock treatment: Regularly 'shocking' your pool helps remove organic and inorganic wastes (referred to as chloramines), which includes sweat, suntan lotion, bird droppings and dead bugs. It also ensures that the sanitiser can concentrate on killing bacteria and algae instead of these contaminants. Once you’ve added the shock treatment appropriate for your pool, run both the pump and filter for several hours to ensure it has been evenly distributed throughout the pool. If you're still unsure what shocking means, read this.
- Remove algae as soon as you see it: When there is an algal bloom, most of the sanitiser in your pool is used trying to control and kill the algae, leaving no residual to keep pool water clean and healthy. Swimart recommends Aqua-Health Concide as it provides year-round protection against algae without the need for constant use.
- Reduce filter-running times: The pool’s filter should operate 3-4 hours each day during winter. If you’re using a timer, adjust it to suit. You can save money by switching the filter on during off-peak periods.
- Set your solar heater to Winter Mode: If you don't have an automatic controller on your solar pool heating system, manually switch it to Winter Mode or switch it off completely if you’re heading out of town.
- Use your pool cover: Rolling out the pool cover when you're not using the pool will help keep leaves and other organic material out of the water, which means less cleaning for you and less food for algae and bugs to feed on. Pool covers and blankets also help minimise chemical evaporation – saving you time and money.
- Keep up your maintenance schedule: Once you’ve completed your preparation for winter, it’s important that you keep to a weekly maintenance schedule even when you're not using the pool. This involves doing a visual inspection to make sure all of your equipment is working properly, checking the water level and topping up if necessary, emptying the skimmer basket, and checking your chlorine and pH levels.