Why have a professional close your pool?

Why so sad?  Is it because pool season is coming to  a close?  Or is it because you didn’t want to pay a company to close your pool and now you are concerned that you may not be closing your pool properly?  You may have thought that it can’t be that difficult, or maybe you are thinking that since you saw how the pool professional closed your pool last year, then you know exactly what to do.   Unfortunately for you now that it has come time to close the pool you are second guessing everything.  Perhaps you are wondering what the worst thing that can happen is.  Well allow me to shed some light on this.

What could happen if a pool is not closed properly?

There are several things that can happen if your in ground pool is not closed properly for the winter.  One thing that can happen is something very unlikely and that is nothing.  In very rare instances your pool could go the entire winter without being damaged.  Unfortunately if you live in a northern state that will probably not happen.  Instead, what will likely happen is that you will find that one or more of the plumbing lines running to your pool has froze and ruptured.  This is not a very easy fix.  For instance if it your main drain line freezes and busts, then you are looking at a quite expensive repair.  This is due to the fact that the main drain line runs the deepest and it is very difficult to determine where in the line the rupture is.  It may come down to running a new line to the main drains.

That would mean that to repair it you would have to bring in some heavy equipment to run the line.  In addition to that, the bottom of your pool would have to be busted up so that the new line could be hooked up to the main drains.  Then the bottom of the pool would have to be repaired, and you would more than likely have to purchase a new liner.  On top of that you would have to pay for the water, chemicals, and the cost of heating the pool back up.

If the line that breaks is a return line or skimmer line then the repair may be a bit easier.  It really all depends on the sidewalks around your pool.  If you have 4′ walks around the pool then it wouldn’t take to much effort to dig underneath them to expose the line.  If you have an enormous amount of concrete around the pool then you are looking at a more expensive repair.

These are the reasons why pool professionals typically blow out the lines and then dump antifreeze into them.  When closing a pool the goal is to get the water out of each line and get at least a gallon of antifreeze in.  By doing this it will ensure that the lines won’t freeze a rupture over the winter.  In addition to that it is important that your equipment also be free of water.  I also tend to tell folks that they may want to keep certain equipment components inside their garage or pool house to make sure it stays safe over the winter.  I always take out the o rings and all the small parts associated with the equipment and store them in the pump basket for safe keeping.  I will also make sure that the heater and filter are free of water.  The filter is a bit more difficult to do this with but I have found that if you take the plug off the bottom of the filter it will allow the majority of water to drain out.  This will give any water left over room to freeze and expand without damaging anything.  However when it comes to the multi port valve I always make sure I blow it out.  There is not a lot of room in it already so it is important to make sure it is free of water.  To do this I hook my blower up to the inlet side and go through each setting except for closed and filter.  The closed setting will not let the air flow through and the filter setting will cause any water in the tank to come through the valve and out.  Obviously if you are trying to rid the multi port of water then it is counter productive to put water into it.  Also, if the equipment is inside a room then I wouldn’t want to make a mess.  If the valve is free of water and the drain plug is off then the filter is good to go for the winter.  When I am finished blowing out the valve I will turn it to winterize, or closed depending on the valve.  This will prevent any water from getting into the valve over the winter.

As I said before, the main drains are another part of what I would consider a vital element of your pool.  Obviously they are on the bottom of your pool.  This makes it somewhat difficult to ensure that the line is free of water.  There is a trick to this that I will get to shortly but first you must realize that when closing a pool there are a couple of ways to do things.  You can either drain your pool down to below the returns or you can leave the water in the pool and take a couple extra steps of precaution.  Either way, the main drains will remain under the water.  So how does one ensure that the main drain line is free of water.  This is where that little trick comes into play.  First you have to realize that there is a lot of weight pushing down on the main drains.  That being said, it will allow you to achieve an air lock.  To do this I would blow through the main drain line until both main drains begin to bubble.  I usually allow them to bubble for a good ten seconds or so to ensure that all of the water is out of them.  At this point I very quickly remove the blower and plug the line.  This is how an air lock is achieved.  The weight of the water pushing down will not allow the air to come out and the air in the line trying to get out will not allow the water from the pool to come into the line.  This is called air lock.  At this point the main drain is properly closed.  Even though there is no antifreeze in the line, there is also no water so there is nothing that can freeze and cause the line to rupture.

When it comes down to it, closing a pool is not all that difficult.  However it is something that requires a lot of care and attention to make sure that it is done properly.  Nobody wants to deal with expensive repairs in the spring so if there is any doubt about it at all, then it may be best to leave it up to the professionals to close the pool.  One reason is that they generally have the experience and the know how to get it done right and another very important reason is that they will usually take responsibility if something does happen and repairs are needed.  So before you close your own pool you need to first ask yourself these questions.

 

Before closing the pool.

1. Do I know what needs to be done?
2. Am I confident that I can do it?
3. Do I have the materials that I need to get it done?

After closing the pool.

1. Do the return lines and skimmer lines have at least a gallon of antifreeze in each of them?
2. Did I get an adequate amount of bubbles coming through the main drains?
3. Am I confident that I have properly closed down all components of the pool and can rest assured that no damage will be occur over the winter?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions then maybe you need to consider allowing the professionals to close your pool.  The information in this post is just a reminder of what can happen if your pool is not properly closed.  It is not to be taken as instructions to close your own pool.  In my opinion it is always better to have a pool professional work on your pool.  They will generally have the experience and know how to get done what needs to be done, and do it with confidence to ensure that there won’t be a problem.  In addition to that, if for some reason there is a problem, then they will be responsible for taking care of it.

Closing Your Pool

Summer time is almost over 🙁 … I know that there wasn’t much of one anyway.  On the other hand we did have some good days for swimming.  Here in the northern states people will be thinking about closing their pools in the next few weeks.  I know it seems like this summer has gone by too fast.  The kids are gearing up for school and the moms and dads are breathing a sigh of relief.  I am sure that there are many of you who will have a company come out and close your pools.  In my opinion that is the best way to do it.  It allows you peace of mind to know that it was done right and in most cases if not, then it will be that companies responsibility to repair anything that happens due to them improperly closing the pool.  At the same time I am sure that many of you are thinking that it can’t be that difficult to close a pool.  Even more so I am sure that some of you have had companies close you pools in the past and after seeing the bill you are seriously contemplating closing the pool yourself.  So how do pool professionals close your pools?

To begin they come fully equipped to handle anything that might occur.  They will usually have a truck full of tools and know what to expect.  You on the other hand may have some tools but are not sure what you will need, and there is nothing worse than needing a tool right now and having to wait on it.  Here are 10 typical tools that a pool professional is likely to have for closing a pool:

1. Large channel locks
2. Small channel locks
3. A roll of tape
4. Rags
5. Flat head and Phillips screwdrivers
6. Antifreeze (specifically for pools or marine craft)
7. Plugs
8. A mighty vac (Powerful shop vac)
9. PVC pipe and fittings.
10. Assortment of rubber pressure plugs.

These are all things that will help a pool professional close your pool.

The Process:

1) First thing is first, they will have to shut off your pump and heater.

2) Now they are ready to disconnect the plumbing.  Hopefully the person who initially plumbed the system did it using unions.  Unions make it much easier to disconnect the plumbing and close the pool. (Be sure to remove all of the o rings in the unions and save them in a safe place)

3) It is important to drain the filter of the water. (at least most of it)  There is usually a cap near the bottom of the filter that can be unscrewed for the water to drain out of.

4) I would usually stick the nozzle of the mighty vac into the filter head and switch the multi port valve from one setting to another to make sure that it too is free of water. (If this is done while on the filtration setting water will spray everywhere.)

5) They will also remove the sight glass and pressure gauge from the filter.

6) The pump is another thing that they take care of.  They will remove the plugs from the pump.  There are usually two that will unscrew using a flat head screw driver.

7) It is also a good idea to blow out the heater or heat pump as well.

8) They will also have to blow out each of the lines going from the pool to the pump. Blowing out the
returns and skimmers are where the PVC pipe and fittings come into play.  Using the pipe and fittings they can make “up pipes”.  These are pipes that get threaded into the return fittings and the skimmers and stick up above the water level.  Before they can thread these pipes into the returns they will need to remove the eyeball fittings, and they will need to put these pipes in all of the returns.  Once the up pipes are in place the will blow the lines out from the pump side.  Typically one return will be blown out before the others.  When that happens their helper will put their hand over the pipe to force the air through the other return line.

9) When the lines are free of water they will then dump a gallon of antifreeze into the line and get ready to plug it. (for the returns they will need to remove the PVC up pipe they made.  To do this they will need to plug the up pipe they made so water doesn’t get into the line while they are removing it and they have to have fast reflexes, because as soon as that pipe is free, water will start to enter the line again.  They will have to quickly plug the return.  Repeat the process for each return.

10)  The skimmers are a bit different, typically they can close the pool with water in the skimmers.  They will need to have some sort of foam on hand to do this effectively.  First you will want to remove the skimmer basket and insert the up pipe they made into the skimmer.  Ideally they will want the pipe to be long enough to be above the water level but short enough so that it does not stick up past the deck height of the pool. This pipe is going to stay there all winter so they will make sure that they have plenty of teflon tape around the male adapter so that it doesn’t leak.  Again they will blow out this line from the pump side.  Once the line is free of water they can pour a gallon of antifreeze into the line, and plug the opening.  Repeat this process for each skimmer.  They will then fill the empty space in the skimmer with the foam.  This will keep the skimmer from cracking when the water freezes

11) The main drains are again a bit different.  Typically on newer pools there will be two main drains on the bottom of the pool.  They will be plumbed together and being that they are on the bottom of the pool would be difficult to plug.  However they are actually easier to winterize.  They simply have to blow out the lines until they see bubbles coming out of BOTH main drains.  It is good practice to let them bubble for a good 30 seconds to make sure that all of the water is out of the line.  Again this is a point in which they will need fast reflexes because they will have to plug the line at the pump side and quickly.  As soon as the blower leaves the line water will begin to enter.  Once the plug is in place, then the water can no longer enter the line.  If bubbles come up from the main drains after they plug it then they need to blow it out again.  Once they have all the lines blown out they can start plugging the openings to the pipes at the pump side.  I always plug the openings on the pump, filter, and heater just to make sure that no critters get in there over the winter and cause any damage.  I also find it convenient to store all of the plugs from the filter, and pump in the pump basket along with the o rings and sight glass.

12) The next step is to place anything that can be removed inside a garage or storage area so that they are out of the elements.

This process may be different from person to person.  Not all companies work the same way.  This is just some general information on how a pool professional would go about closing a pool.  In my opinion it is always best to let the professionals take care of things like this just so if there are any problems it will be the professionals responsibility to correct them.

For more information regarding general swimming pool information and specifically vinyl liner in ground pools please check out my other posts.  My entire blog is geared toward vinyl liner in ground pools and I have used my experience as a pool builder and service technician to put together information that I feel a pool owner may be interested in knowing.

pool anti-freeze

How to Winterize/Close an In-ground Swimming Pool

I realize that in some places there is no need to winterize a swimming pool.  In areas where the winter temperatures remain mild, or even if a pool is indoors, there would be no need to winterize.  However, here in the northern part of the country it is important to take special precautions to protect your pool from the harsh winter temperatures.  As you may or may not know, when water freezes it expands.  If water freezes and expands within the plumbing of your swimming pool, there is the potential for severe damages, such as broken pipes or damaged pumps, filters, or heaters, that would result in very expensive repairs.

Just as an example, let’s say you have an in-ground swimming pool with one skimmer, two returns and two main drains.  With this you have a pump, filter, and heat pump.  Now, imagine that you have not taken any precautions to protect your pool from the winter temperatures.  With water still in the plumbing of the pool, the risk of that water freezing, expanding and breaking the pipes becomes very high.  With water still in the filter, heater, and pump, there is the risk of damaging that equipment and maybe so much so that in order to fix it you now have to bite the bullet and replace the entire pump, filter, or heat pump.  If a skimmer line or a return line breaks you are probably looking at a fairly significant cost to have someone come out, dig out the line, find the break and repair it.  Keep in mind that they may have to dig underneath any concrete sidewalks you may have around the pool in that area, or worse, they have to break up the concrete, repair the break, and re-pour the concrete again.  If that is the case, that repair cost has just increased a lot.  If the break occurs in the main drain line, then you are looking at another huge repair cost.  Being that the main drains are encased in either concrete or a pool base of some sort, you will have the choice of never being able to use the main drains again, which would reduce cleaning power, increasing the need to manually clean your pool and increasing the usage of chemicals (not recommended).  Your other option would be to drain the pool, remove the liner, bust up the base or concrete around the main drain, run a new line to the main drains, re-plumb the system, get a new liner, replace the concrete or base around the main drains, install the new liner, fill the pool again, and purchase more chemicals to balance the water once again.  That can all be avoided by taking the time to winterize your pool. (Winterize! Winterize! Winterize!)  I would also recommend paying a professional to do it.  There would be a bit more cost involved, but a reputable company will usually guarantee their work and will allow you the peace of mind knowing that the pool was winterized  correctly.  On the other hand, I know that the extra cost of paying someone to do the job every year is not preferable or possible for everyone.

If you are looking to winterize your in-ground swimming pool yourself, there are a few things that you should know and have.
First, you will need to have pressure plugs to plug off the lines, next you will need Antifreeze.  You can usually purchase pool antifreeze from your local pool store. If not, you will want to use marine antifreeze, and typically you will want to have one gallon for each component of your pool.

Now, it is a good idea to make some pipes that will be installed in the returns, and skimmer of the pool.  Having these will allow you to more easily evacuate the lines of water, and pour the antifreeze in.  For the skimmer pipe you will need a male adapter, piece of rigid schedule 40 PVC and a 90 deg. elbow.  For the return pipe you will need a threaded 90 deg. elbow, a piece of schedule 40 rigid PVC and a 90 deg. elbow. This set up is necessary for each return.  Be sure to glue all fittings together except for the 90 deg. elbow.  That one will need to come back off to pour the antifreeze in.  It’s really only there to direct the water back into the pool.
You will also need a blower of some kind, and it is important for the blower to have enough power to blow out the main drain line.  You must realize that there is an enormous amount of weight pushing down on the main drains, so your blower will have to have enough force to overcome that pressure otherwise you won’t be able to adequately remove that water from the main drains.  Once you have these items prepared, you will be ready to disassemble the plumbing.  On most newer pools, the plumbing will be done with unions installed.  These will allow you to disassemble and isolate each line more easily.  Next, you will remove the plugs from the pump and the filter to allow the water to drain out.  At this point, you will use your blower to blow air through the pump, filter, and heater. You will blow through them until only a light mist of water comes out.  In regards to the filter, you already have it draining through the plug, so at this point you will only need to remove the water from the multi-port valve.  To do this, first turn the handle to set the valve on recirculate.  Blow through the inlet, and stand aside as water will come out of the outlet side.  Once you get that light mist blowing through, you can now turn it to waste.  Again blow through it until a light mist comes out of the waste side.  At this point you have the valve dry enough to not cause any problems.  Remove the sight glass from the filter, and all o-rings throughout the system and place them in the pump basket for safe keeping.  You are now ready to blow out the lines of the pool.  You will want to make sure the pipes are installed in the skimmer and returns, with the openings above the water line.  Now is a good time to recruit a helper.  You will blow through each component from the pump side of the lines.  Typically the returns are tied together underground so when you start blowing through that line you will notice water coming out of each return.  Keep blowing through them, and you will notice that the water will stop coming out of one return first, we’ll call that return “A” and the other is return “B.”  This is when your helper comes in handy.  It will be their job to cover return “A” with their hand.  This will force the air to blow only through return “B”.  Once you get that light mist coming through return “B,” have your helper switch and cover return “B” to allow you to finish blowing out return “A.”  Trust me, it sounds more confusing than it is.  Once the water is free from the lines, remove the 90 deg. elbow of either one and pour in the gallon of antifreeze.  Put a plug in the pipe and begin to unscrew it from the wall.  Keep another plug handy, because once that pipe is free from the wall you will need to plug the opening as fast as you possible can. Repeat those steps for the other return.  Now, plug off the return line from the pump side as well, and you are ready to do the skimmer.  For this you just need to blow the water out of the line until you get that light mist.  Next, pour in the antifreeze and plug the pipe.  This pipe will need to be short enough so the skimmer lid can be put on but still long enough to stay above the water level. (This pipe will remain in the skimmer through out the winter).  At this point you will want to stuff the skimmer with something to take up as much space as possible.  Usually it gets stuffed with Styrofoam.  Doing this will prevent the water in the skimmer from expanding very much when it freezes.  Last but not least, it’s time to do the main drains.  In newer pools, there are two main drains in the bottom of the pool.  Again, they are tied together underground.  You will not be putting antifreeze in this line.  simply blow through the line until both drains begin to bubble.  Once they start to bubble, continue blowing through them for 15 to 20 seconds.  At that point you can quickly remove the blower and install the plug.  This step needs to be done quickly so that water doesn’t come back into the line.

If this sounds like a lot of work or something you don’t feel comfortable doing, I would recommend having a professional assistance.  It will save you the headache of having to do it and it will allow you to rest easy knowing that it was done correctly.  I understand that this is a lot of information, so if  anyone has any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.