What Does VGB Mean and Who is Virginia Graeme Baker?

Information in this post can be found at poolsafely.gov

In the swimming pool world today, there are certain standards that must be upheld in regards to safety.  One of which is that main drain covers must be VGB compliant.  I have worked in the swimming pool industry for almost ten years now, and have been involved in most aspects related to swimming pools including, in-ground installations, pool maintenance, service/repair, plumbing, liner replacements, technical sales, automatic pool cover installation/replacement, water slide installation, and concrete work.  There may be a few things I have missed, but overall if it has to do with swimming pools, I have had a hand in it.  When I got into this business, there was a lot that I did not know, and growing up with a pool my whole life I thought that I knew a lot.  I was basically thrown into the mix of things at the beginning of the season one year and had to learn fast or I would not have made it too far.  Throughout my years doing the construction and service side of things, I had heard the phrase “VGB compliant” but as with every other new term or phrase I learned over the years, I just accepted it as another industry term.  Occasionally, with things like that I would wonder what it means,but like most abbreviations we used I assumed it had to do with some state or federal document that outlined the specifications of a main drain cover.  Which it actually is, but when I thought that the “VGB” part of the phrase must stand for something like “visible grate basin” or some other fancy talk of that nature, I was completely wrong.  I hate to admit it, but it wasn’t until years after I first heard the phrase that I actually looked into what it meant.

Virginia Graeme Baker, was a young girl who drowned after she was trapped under water by the powerful suction from a hot tub drain.  In June 2002, she became stuck to a hot tub drain and was unable to pull herself free. Efforts by her mother to pull Graeme from the drain proved unsuccessful. Two men who eventually freed Graeme from the spa pulled so hard that the drain cover broke from the force. Graeme died from drowning, but the real cause of her death was suction entrapment due to a faulty drain cover.

After her tragic death, her mother, Nancy Baker, worked tirelessly to advocate for pool and spa safety. Mrs. Baker, her family and Safe Kids Worldwide actively lobbied Congress to win support for a law to require anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices, as needed. The statute, which was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, was signed into law by the President in December 2007.
As a new father, I found this information to be rather upsetting.  I never knew of this girl or her family, but the thought of having to go through something like that is heart breaking.  I am very glad that this law got passed making swimming pools and spas safer for swimmers, but I wish it could have come at much less of a cost than the life of a child.  The reason that I bring this up is because I feel that terms and phrases like “VGB compliant” are tossed around too loosely.  As I have previously stated, I had no idea what it meant for quite some time.  I think that it is important for people to know and respect the fact that the only reason the phrase and law exists is because a little girl lost her life.  With my very heart filled condolences to the family of Virginia Graeme Baker, I want to thank her mother, Nancy, for working so hard to protect the lives of countless others. Thank you.  As you can see below, new Virginia Graeme Baker compliant main drain covers are designed to be unblockable.  Rather than being a flat surface, the new design is more of a dome shape to prevent a body from being able to completely block the flow of water.

In addition to replacing old main drain covers, there are other steps that can be taken to help prevent unintentional swimming pool injuries and deaths.  One is to install a perimeter fence around the pool.  This would make access to the pool more difficult for young ones.  Along with installing the fence it is important to make sure the gate is self closing and latching, with the latch out of reach of children.  Another good idea is to have the gate only open away from the pool.  Keep in mind that children are pretty crafty.  They could pull a chair or something up to the gate to be able to reach the latch.  If the gate opens toward the pool, then a child on a chair could unlatch the gate and push it open.  If the gate only opens away from the pool, then children would have greater difficulty opening the gate even if they were standing on a chair, because their bodies and the chair would act as a barrier.  Some people do have fences around their pools, however, they use the house as one of the barriers.  In this case, it would be a good idea to install alarms on the windows and doors that lead out to the pool area.  In regards to the pool area itself, it is a good idea to clean it up after swimming each time.  Leaving pool toys and towels laying around the pool area may be enough to temp a child into entering the pool area to retrieve a toy that they had fun with earlier.

In addition to that, many people have seen those devices that float around the pool that contain chlorine tablets, and some of them are shaped like toys (ie. cute little ducks, or frogs, or dolphins etc.)  While these types of chlorine feeders are more pleasant to look at than just a basic white and blue one, the fact is that they do look like toys, especially in the eyes of a child.  This is another thing that could tempt a child into entering the pool area.  I would recommend just going with the basic floating chlorine feeder.  Another tip is to not let your child’s ability to swim give you false security.  Children should always be supervised by an adult.  Furthermore, supervision should be the adults only job during pool time.

Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by social media or text messaging.  Keep a phone nearby in case of an emergency, but that’s it.  For more information on pool safety you can read my previous post “Swimming Pool Safety” or visit the website below.

I hope everyone has a fun filled summer relaxing poolside, and remember to be safe.

poolsafely.gov and stay safe this summer
For more information on Virginia Graeme Baker and other pool safety tips please visit

pool diagram

How To Have Your Vinyl Liner In Ground Swimming Pool Clean Itself – Part 1

Information for this post was found at http://www.paramountpoolproducts.com/

In a previous post, I stated that technology has provided consumers with better, more reliable products.  That is undoubtedly a true, and although it’s almost 2015 and we still don’t have flying cars, hoverboards and time machines available to us, it would be difficult to argue that the products that are available to us aren’t any better than those we had available in 1985.  The same is true about swimming pool products.  Products that are available today may very well have been considered to be products of science fiction to some during the 80’s.  From robots that clean our pools, to special lights that kill bacteria, it seems that today’s technology allows for a virtually maintenance free swimming pool.  Today, I want to talk about in-floor cleaning systems; a system that has made the need to vacuum your pool practically obsolete.  While this concept may have seemed like wishful thinking at one point in time, it is available today.  The advantages of having an in-floor cleaning system are immense.

I am familiar with different types of these systems, but more so with the Paramount model.  That being said, I am going to focus the bulk of this post toward their in-floor cleaning system, starting with the contents of the system and their wall returns.  Paramount models have a patented wall return (SwingJet) with sweeping abilities that allow the flow from the return to move in a 90 degree arc pattern through the water.  Having that mobility provides enhanced cleaning of the walls and incidentally improves water circulation.  On pools that have a heater or heat pump, the improved circulation in turn improves heating.  This aspect of their in-floor cleaning system works by having several of these “Swingjets” working together to move the water throughout the entire pool.  So, compared to a pool without one of these systems, one would notice an equal disbursement of heat throughout the pool with the Paramount system as opposed to maybe having more warmth at the surface than deeper in the pool without the system.  It does this by utilizing two water flow zones.  One is referred to as the “Power zone” which is what cleans the walls by pushing debris away.  The other is basically an extension of the power zone known as the “Influence zone.”  There may not be as much force here as in the power zone, but there is enough to influence the water outside the power zone thereby increasing the overall circulation.
Another benefit to having Swingjets is that they can be adjusted and positioned to reach areas that a standard return would never touch.  Debris on steps, benches or near corners will no longer be a concern.  That is just the first part of this in-floor cleaning system.
So, with this cleaning system having multiple “Swingjets” working together to increase water circulation and sweep away debris, there has to be a place for the debris to go.  That is where their patented main drain comes into play.

Their main drain, the “MDX – R3” is designed to allow debris to pass through it.  That includes larger debris as well, while still offering several layers of anti-entrapment protection.

Although this system has enough power to remove large debris, it protects against evisceration and entrapment of the body, hair, fingers, toes, and limbs .  Because this main drain allows debris to pass through, there will be no more plugged main drain service calls either.
There is also added safety with the use of the “SDX” high flow safety drain.  This is a secondary drain that is to be used if the pool will only have one MDX – R3.  Basically, the SDX gets tied into the main suction of the MDX – R3, and is installed on the wall of the pool which has two benefits.  First is for safety reasons, having the SDX that far from the MDX – R3 makes it virtually impossible for a swimmer to cover both drains at the same time and become trapped.  If one drain is blocked by a swimmer then the other drain is able to take on the full flow of the pump allowing the swimmer to move on without any trouble.  The other thing is that having the SDX on the wall is that it then acts almost as a skimmer as well, and will remove any small debris that happens to be floating by at the mid level of the pool.
Last but not least, Paramount offers an optional debris canister.  This again works with the in-floor cleaning system and acts as a debris storage container.  With debris being swept down by the Swingjet returns, and the MDX – R3 main drain removing that debris along with the SDX removing some, it will need a place to go.  Without a debris canister, all the debris removed by the in-floor cleaning system will go directly to the pump basket.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, as the pump basket will trap the debris and keep it from entering the other elements of the filtration system. however with the debris canister installed between the drains and the pump, all the debris will be contained before it gets to the pump.  The containment canister is also capable of storing up to 400% more than what most pump baskets can so the frequency of cleaning out the canister compared to cleaning out the pump basket would be far less.
I know some people that had the Paramount in-floor cleaning system installed and have never needed to vacuum their pools.  This system has proven to be effective many times over, and with very little maintenance involved it is ideal for those who don’t want to spend their summers cleaning the pool every other day.  Now, with this in-floor cleaning system they can spend their summers with friends and family in a stress free, and clean pool.  This technology can also be coupled with their Venturi Skimmer for better performance, enhancing its cleaning ability. (See Part 2 of “How to have your vinyl liner in ground pool clean itself” on my blog) For more information regarding this post please be sure to visit http://www.paramountpoolproducts.com/

in ground swimming pool

Types of In-ground Swimming Pools and Which is the Best

When you think of an in-ground swimming pool, what comes to mind?  Many will imagine the typical concrete/gunite swimming pool that you might find at a hotel.  I would think that to be a common conception of what an in-ground swimming pool is.  The fact is that while a concrete pool may have tended to be the industry standard in years past, it is no longer the only material option available for building an in-ground swimming pool.  Just like everything else in the world, technology has provided consumers with better, more reliable products.  Concrete is still available and used quite a bit, but now there are other types of in-ground swimming pools.  There are one piece fiberglass pools available, and what the industry would call vinyl liner pools.  Although all three are common in the swimming pool industry, there are a few big differences in what they have to offer.  When contemplating what type of pool best suits you, really take the time to look at what the advantages a vinyl liner pool are.  To do this, you need to first understand what the disadvantages of getting a concrete or fiberglass pool are.

To start, let us consider the disadvantages of gunite/concrete pools.  Some people might tell you that a gunite/concrete pool is like the “Cadillac” of the pool industry.  There is a certain element of “class” that comes with this type of pool; a gunite/concrete pool acts as a symbol of social class.  If improving class rank is the only reason someone might want a swimming pool, then they probably wouldn’t care to consider what lies ahead of them with the purchase of their new pool.  For others whom might want to get a pool to have summer fun and bring the family together, you will want to consider long term care and expenses.  While there is some truth to the whole “Cadillac” argument, it is probably with regard to the initial cost of installing the pool and the  A concrete/gunite pool is the most expensive pool in the market, which is why I say that it is a symbol of social class.  In addition to that, the pool would need to be resurfaced every 7 – 10 years at a considerable cost.  Why, you you ask?  The need to resurface is due to the fact that the surface is porous and susceptible to damage by water chemistry, which can be difficult to maintain at times.
 Another thing to consider is that concrete can crack.  If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who has worked with it.  Have you ever wondered why a side walk or road is cut into sections? That is done in an effort to control where the cracks occur.  Let’s look at the surface in more depth.  It is a rough, abrasive surface that is not really skin friendly or all that easy to clean.  It is the cause of skinned knees, and it has plenty of little groves for bacteria and algae to cling to.  Now, you have expensive repair.  Had enough? Not yet.  Keeping all that in mind, know that the installation process can take months as well.  Being that the pool is manufactured on site it will likely come with very short warranties, if there are any warranties at all.
The next matter to consider is that all in-ground swimming pool installations require

some plumbing.  This plumbing is done using PVC pipes and fittings that are glued together to allow water to flow from the pool to the filter, heater, chlorinator, etc. and back to the pool again.  Now, heaven forbid there every be a leak at one of the fittings around or under the pool.  With a concrete pool, to repair that fitting, the pool would need to be drained, the concrete busted out, the fitting replaced and then the concrete would have to get re-poured.  That would undoubtedly be a fairly
cost of maintenance.

Now lets consider a one piece fiberglass pool.  I have worked with these in the past and I was not all that impressed.  If you look at the size of a one piece fiberglass pool, there are two things that really stand out.  First, even the largest of fiberglass pools are average in size, and that the advertised size of the pool is not a valid representation of the actual usable size of the pool.  The other thing is that although their size may be average they are still big, awkward objects that need to be brought to your house and taken from the front yard to the back yard.  If you have trees in the way, well no worries they can be cut down (sarcasm).  Another thing about these pools is that they can not be custom designed to fit your personal taste or your backyard needs.  Basically, it’s a take it or leave it type of situation. Be aware that the surface is susceptible to fading and deterioration, and be careful when draining a one piece fiberglass pool because the structure is not self supportive and may buckle or collapse under the weight of the surrounding ground pressing inward.

One piece fiberglass pool owners are at risk to spend more money even when the pool is empty. When a pool is full, the water in the pool counteracts the pressure pushing in from the outside.  Additionally, consumers should know that a deep hole in the ground has a tendency to fill with water.  This is not always the case, but more often than not ground water will begin to seep in.  When a pool is full of water, the water inside the pool is heavy enough to hold back any water from the ground underneath.  When emptied, though, the ground water now has a place to go, and moving water is a very strong force.  I have seen the ability of water to pop a one piece fiberglass pool right out of the ground.  You know what that means: $$$.  With all that considered, there is one more thing.  These pools usually come with suspiciously short warranties on some color surfaces, and no warranties against buckling or floating. If you are considering a one piece fiberglass pool, you should also consider the expense of potential repairs.    

Finally, we get to the good stuff:  the advantages of getting a vinyl liner pool.  I have installed these many, many times.  In my opinion they are without a doubt the “best bang for your buck.”  Unlike the one piece fiberglass, a vinyl liner pool can be custom designed to fit personal preferences and backyard needs.  They can easily achieve that high end look of a concrete pool without the high end cost.  Seriously, I have seen some amazing vinyl liner pools.  A huge benefit is that they come with long manufacturer warranties because they are manufactured in a controlled environment (extra piece of mind).  Another positive is that vinyl liner pools are self supportive. No worrying about the pool collapsing if it needs to be drained, which  it will occasionally.  So, why will it need to be drained?  Sun damage is a common factor and, as with all pools, chemicals required to clean and maintain the pools chemistry can be unbalanced and have adverse effects.  Basically, at some point the liner will need to be replaced.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though.  Replacing a liner is more economical than resurfacing other pool types.  Also, the need for a new liner affords homeowners the opportunity to change the look of their pool.
about them unlike a one piece fiberglass pool is that if properly installed they are

There are countless designs and color choices to choose from and replacing an old liner can be like getting a new pool!  The liners are also smooth so they are easy on the skin, and easy to clean.  Last but not least, a vinyl liner pool is the easiest and least expensive to repair.  As stated before, technology has provided consumers with improved products, and it is no different when it comes to swimming pools.  If considering getting a swimming pool, I would strongly recommend getting a vinyl liner rather than purchasing a concrete or fiberglass pool.      

automatic pool cover

Benefits of Having an Automatic Pool Cover

You may have noticed in your area that more and more people are getting inground swimming pools.  Furthermore, you might have noticed that more of these pools are designed with automatic pool covers (auto covers).  So, you may be wondering what benefits do automatic pool covers contribute to your pool.  Well, as a pool builder I know some of the added benefits of an auto cover.  One of the most important advantages, to me anyway, is that an auto cover adds an exceptional layer of safety to your pool. Before I get into all that, I first want to give you all some background information to give you a better idea of how an auto cover works.

Automatic pool covers use a system of tracks, ropes and pulleys to unfurl and retract the cover from a pool.  They operate by using a key switch or touch pad and a motor attached to a drum. While the operator holds down a button or turns a key,  the motor turns and either winds up the ropes to drag the cover over the pool, or it turns the drum to reel up the cover and remove it from the pool. With these components working together you experience several benefits.

One advantage is that the cover can not be removed from the pool without having the key or knowing a code (depending on which type of cover is installed).  This will prevent children and others from having unpermitted access to the water, allowing the owner peace of mind and reducing the risk of accidental drowning of loved ones and liability as a homeowner. Some other types of covers, such tarps, solar covers, etc., are not designed with safety in mind. These cover designs can become entangled should a heavy object fall on top of them, and quickly submerge under the water. An automatic pool cover is fully capable of supporting hundreds of pounds without the risk of entrapment.  Most manufacturers of automatic pool covers will advise against walking across the covered pool unless in a case of emergency, but there is a certain level of assurance knowing that if something or someone steps out onto the cover that they could step off again.

Be sure to check the pool safety standards set by your location when deciding on a cover or a fence. Different areas have different codes when it comes to swimming pools.  Most places will require that a fence be installed around the swimming pool area.  Some locations state that a fence is not necessary if a pool already has an automatic pool cover.  In my opinion, there is no such thing as too much protection.  So, if the means are there, building a fence in addition to having an automatic cover would only provide more safety.

Having an automatic pool cover also affects the pool directly, making maintenance easier and more cost effective. An auto cover helps to keep debris, such as leaves, dirt, stones and mulch, out of the pool.  The wind contributes to this quite a bit, but having an auto cover will greatly reduce the amount of debris that falls into a pool.  Auto covers also allows the homeowner to save on chemicals, and reduce pool water evaporation.  A pool sitting in the hot summer sun without a cover is susceptible to losing water and chemicals through evaporation.  A pool with an auto cover over it will lose much less because when the pool water evaporates, it will be trapped and condense under the cover only to fall back to the pool again.  Another advantage is that having an auto cover will reduce the cost of heating the pool. Heat rises, and swimming pools lose a lot of warmth on cool evenings. An automatic pool cover acts as a barrier, trapping the heat in and keeping the cold out, especially at night.  Another benefit of automatic pool cover is that it can actually extend the life of pool equipment.  Pumps, heaters, heat pumps, and filters are required to keep a pool clean and heated.  If a pool is constantly losing water, chemicals, and heat, the owner will have to run the equipment more frequently, especially if the pool is in a high debris area.  Heating, cleaning, and filling the pool so often will increase time spent on maintenance, as well as the costs of water, chemicals, and electrical service.

If you are thinking about getting an inground swimming pool, I would highly recommend getting an automatic pool cover.  The cost of maintaining a pool without one would soon outweigh the cost of getting the auto cover to begin with.
Find more information online at automatic pool covers.net

Swimming Pool Safety

Swimming Pool Safety
If you are in need of more information, check out www.poolsafely.gov This is a link to a government website that is full of useful information.  Information used in this blog was obtained from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

 

Despite the cold and snow, the pool season is around the corner.  It maybe further around the corner for some, but still, it’s there.  There is never a bad time to start thinking about swimming pool safety, and with the season approaching one must ask themselves, “Am I ready?”  Some new pool owners might be wondering why there is such a push for swimming pool safety, or what can they do to make sure that the season goes off without a hitch.  I intend to give important information about these topics today.

There are a few main factors that increase the risk of  drowning, such as lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised swimming, lack of close supervision, failure to wear life jackets (they are not just for the lake), alcohol use, and seizure disorders.

So, what can you as a parent and pool owner do to keep your favorite summer past time safe? To start, swimming lessons help greatly. Take the time to teach your children how to swim or give them the opportunity to take classes.  Next, as the adult you should learn CPR.  In the event of submersion, every second counts.  The sooner CPR is started, the better the chance there is of improved outcomes.

LIFE JACKETS, LIFE JACKETS, LIFE JACKETS!!! “Water wings,” “noodles,” and other air filled toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.  Supervision is key, there should always be a designated adult to watch young children in and around the pool. The younger the child is, the closer the adult should be. Children preschool aged and younger should always be within reach of an adult.  Keep in mind that drowning can happen quick and quietly.  Supervision should be the only thing the designated adult concerns themselves with.  IPhones, Facebook, Twitter and all other distractions can wait.  If someone in or around your pool area is subject to seizures, that person should have their own personal supervisor.  For us older folks, we need to avoid alcohol.
  I know that this may sound like a drag to some. Lets face it: cold drinks, middle of summer, pool parties. They all sound like a blast, right?  The truth is that alcohol obviously affects the brain, slows reaction time, and impairs motor function.  Those, my friends, are absolutely necessary when swimming.  Unfortunately, the combinations of drinking and swimming is what took my friend’s life at such a young age.  In addition to that, adults under the influence are different than a small child in a panic.  One difference is that they may not know their limitations.  The other is that adults are obviously are larger, and in a rescue attempt might actually put the child in danger.  Another important thing to avoid is allowing swimmers to “hyperventilate” before swimming under water, or holding their breath for long periods of time.  Those actions could result in what is know as “shallow water blackout”.  Lastly, be aware of the weather conditions. Pools and lightning do not mix.  When I was young, my family and I were swimming when the clouds started getting dark.  We heard what sounded like thunder followed by a strange sizzle, and at that time my mother said it was time to get out.  When we started unfolding the solar cover that had been draped over the railing of the pool deck, we noticed that is had evidently been hit by lightning as we could see by the melted, blackened plastic that stuck together as we unfolded it.
In addition to the tips in bold  above, it is a good idea to have an automatic safety cover if your pool is in ground, or a fence, which would be beneficial to both inground as well as “above” or “on” ground,  they will help keep children away from danger.  In the case of a fence, use a self latching model or a self closing gate that open outward, and keep the latches out of children’s reach.
  There are many other products available to help protect your loved ones, including alarms, and automatic door locks.  Also, you should keep the pool area clear of pool toys when not in use.  This prevents the child from being tempted to enter the pool area to retrieve such things. These are some of the best pool safety tips for keeping you children safe around the pool.  Follow these guidelines and have a fun filled and safe swimming pool experience.
If you are in need of more information, check out www.poolsafely.gov This is a link to a government website that is full of useful information.  Information used in this blog was obtained from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Also take the time to check out these links as well: healthychildren.orgredcross.orgconsumer products safety commision