Mastering Pool Maintenance

Owning a pool requires some work, and the key to mastering your pool maintenance is to know as much as you can about how your pool works and staying ahead of any problems that can occur. The following tips and walk-throughs are meant to help you do just that.

Having a problem with your pool and don’t know who to turn to? Our pool experts are here to help you with all your pool related questions. Please contact us if you cannot find what you are looking for – we offer in-store service and education for your pool as well on on-site service calls.

Weekly Pool Maintenance

1. Skim Off Leaves and Debris
Use your leaf skimmer or leaf rake to remove debris from the pool.

2. Brush Walls
Brush the walls in a downward motion to push sediment toward one end of the pool so it can be easily vacuumed. Brushing also helps break up any algae that may be starting to form on the pool walls.

3. Vacuum
Attach your manual vacuum head to your vacuum pole and hose. Submerge the vacuum head and hose and let it fill with water, at which point it should sink below the surface. The most common hook up method is through the skimmer, but you can also use a dedicated vacuum line if you have one.

4. Clean Skimmer Basket
You should clean out your skimmer basket weekly or more often if necessary. Too many leaves or other debris can restrict flow through the pool system.

5. Check Water Circulation
The circulation system includes the skimmer, pump, drain and filter, with their main purpose being to clean the water and distribute chemicals. It can take anywhere from 6-12 hours for all the water in your pool to go through the filter once, and you want to filter all the water in the pool at least 2 times per day, so expect to run your pool between 12 and 24 hours per day.

6. Check Filter
The three most popular types of filters – sand, cartridge, and vertical grid DE – screen out debris and particles from you pool water. Check your pressure gauge and clean the filter as needed. Filters are dirty when the pressure rises 8 to 10 psi from when it was clean.

7. Check Chemicals & Shock
Test your pool water frequently (daily or weekly depending on weather and usage) and add chemicals if necessary, following manufacturers’ directions. A regular shock treatment will eliminate algae, bacteria, swimmer waste and other organic matter that may have entered the pool. It also prevents bacteria and algae growth, cloudy water, chlorine odor and eye irritation. You should also top up your pucks and weekly preventative algaecide.

8. Check Your Sump Well (Fiberglass pools)
Check if there is any water accumulation in your sump well. If there appears to be excessive water in the sump well you should drain it out using a submersible pump and hose to an area where it .

Automatic Pools Cleaners

Step 1: Preparing Your Vacuum
Your pool may have it’s own dedicated vacuum line, but if not you can hook up your vacuum through your skimmer.

Put the vacuum in the water with all of the hose attached. Let the unit fill up with water. Ensure that the vacuum hose is filled with water as well, which can be done one of two ways. Either put the end of the hose up against a return jet and wait for it to push air out and sink below the surface, or force water through by alternately sinking and lifting the hose.

Step 2: Vacuum Hook-Up
Through Skimmer
Once the line is full of water, send the hose through the skimmer weir and attach the end of the hose to the hole that leads to your pool equipment. If you see two holes in the skimmer, the one furthest from the pool generally leads to your equipment while the other is for the main drain.


Dedicated Vacuum Line
If your pool has a dedicated vacuum line, simply follow the steps to fill the vacuum and hose with water, and then put the hose in the dedicated slot. If there is no suction coming from the dedicated line, you will need to head over to your pump and adjust your diverter valves. If the diverter to the dedicated line is shut off, turn the handle so that it is in line with the pipe to open it up completely. You will know if it has been opened by the sound of water gushing through it. You can then proceed to close off the diverters going to the skimmer(s) by turning the handle perpendicular to the pipe (forming a T). You may only need to close these diverters partway to get the suction you are looking for, so try closing it halfway first and seeing how well the vacuum works. You can proceed to adjust it from there. If the suction is too high, the vacuum hose will become flattened. If it is too low the vacuum will not move or will only move very slowly.

Step 3: Clean Up and Storage
In a system with a vacuum line, make sure you close off the diverter to the line before removing the hose and re-open the diverter valves to the skimmers. You can then remove the vacuum and hose from the pool. Clean any debris from the vacuum head before storing it and the hose out of the elements.

Note: Do not coil or roll up sectioned vacuum hose. The sections should be separated and laid flat so that they do not become permanently bent, which can affect the performance of your cleaner.

Pool Opening

As soon as the springtime air surrounds us, so comes the time to get a pool opening. Though some may find the task overwhelming, following these five simple steps will help turn a potential headache into a simple chore. Don’t have the time? Call us to have our service professionals do the work for you!

1) Remove the pool cover

Note: In fiberglass pools – you should always check your sump well before lowering the water level of your pool. Drain any water out of your sump well prior to draining off your winter cover.

Standard Tarp Cover: Covers provide the most cost-effective way of protecting your pool from dirt and debris over the winter. Begin by using a leaf net to remove the debris from the surface of the cover. Usually, the task of removing debris is somewhat easier while there is still water on the cover, so do not totally drain the cover of water until all the waste has been removed.

You should start filling the pool under the cover before you drain the water from the top of the cover – you never want to lower the water in your pool too far. Small holes in the winter cover can allow the water underneath to seep through, making it difficult to remove all the water from the top of the cover. In a fiberglass pool, the water level should never drop more than 3-4″ below the skimmer, and you should always check and drain your sump well before removing any water.

The cover can be cleaned one of two ways. First, you could wash your cover while removing it by using a method called fan-folding. Take the two corners of the cover at the short end of the pool and pull it roughly 4-5 feet onto the deck. Repeat the process over and over again, folding the cover back into itself (like an accordion). Take your brush and garden hose, and scrub the exposed five-foot section as you fold. The second method involves taking the whole cover and spreading it out on your lawn or driveway. Wash the entire cover and allow to dry before storing.

Safety Cover: By far the easiest option when opening your pool, a safety cover only needs to be removed, cleaned and then folded and stored away for the summer months. Storing the cover in a proper storage bag or bin will help protect it from rodents and other pests.

Fitted Vinyl Cover: It is important to store fitted vinyl covers in water over the summer months. Clean the cover thoroughly before storage. Now is a good time to check the cover for holes that need to be repaired. This is also a good time to order a replacement cover if you think your cover is on its last leg. Waiting until fall to realize the cover needs replacing could result in a longer wait to close your pool.

2) Clean entire pool area

To clean the deck area, brush debris away from the swimming pool. On the deck, use a high-powered pressure sprayer to remove any stains. Remove debris from the pool surface or floor as needed. DO NOT add shock or algaecide while debris remains in the pool water. Organic waste will eat up chemical and impede its effectiveness; thus, costing you more money. Clean the water line and coping with a vinyl cleaner designed specifically for pool surfaces. DO NOT use household cleaners on your pool surfaces.

Once the waterline has been cleaned, begin adding fresh water to the pool using a garden hose.

3) Assemble pool equipment

Pump/Filter: Coat any threads with Teflon tape and restore any gauges and drain plugs on the pump and filter. Do not forget to replace the strainer basket in the pump.

Heater: To prepare the heater, replace any drain plugs at the base of the heater, and reconnect both the pressure switch and the thermostat if disconnected during the winter. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for igniting the pilot on the inside of the front panel.

Automatic chemical feeder: Set the feeder’s check valve at a medium position and clean any waste out of the inside. Apply silicone or teflon lubricant to the cover o- ring to ensure a tight seal.

Skimmer and returns: Remove any plugs, containers and Gizzmos from the skimmer and returns, as well as any foam rope if used. Install the skimmer basket.

Deck Equipment: Assemble diving board and install any ladders or handrails. Check over all exposed nuts and bolts and replace any that show signs of corrosion. Make sure to check the rubber ends of the ladder to see if they are still intact. Reagents typically have a shelf-life of one year so it is best to replace them each spring.

Ozone/UV/Salt System: Reinstall/reattach these items as needed. Lubricate o-rings and seals as needed to prevent leaks. Plug the system in and check that it still works.

4) Begin Circulation

By now all winterizing plugs should be removed, all pool fittings and equipment reinstalled and the water level should be halfway up the skimmer opening. Set the multi-port filter valve in the “filter” position and open the air bleed valve if there is one. Operate the filter valve ONLY when the pump is turned off. Make sure all necessary diverter valves are in the open position before starting the pump.

You will need to prime your plumbing lines by filling them with water before turning the pump on. You can do this by placing a hose in the pump basket and running it until they appear mostly full. Equipment that is located above the water level can be harder to prime as the water drains out of the equipment when it is turned off and the pump lid removed. Once you feel enough water has been put in to the lines, tighten the pump lid and start the pump. If the pump basket does not start to fill with water within the first one to two minutes, you should turn off the pump and check that all plumbing fittings are tight including the pump basket and unions, then add more water to the plumbing lines and try again. If the pump still will not prime, you may want to try priming the lines from the skimmer. This is a two person job. One person will put the garden hose in the hole at the bottom of the skimmer that is the equipment intake and seal around it with a clean cloth or rag. Force water through this line while another person at the pump keeps an eye on the water level inside the pump basket. Once the pump basket is full of water, remove the hose and sealing rag and quickly turn the pump on. You may need to repeat this several times to fully prime the line. Keep an eye on the air relief valve on the filter that you opened earlier- you will need to close it once the system is primed and running.

To make priming the lines easier, consider installing a hose bib in your intake line by the pump where you can attach a garden hose to feed directly into the equipment lines.

5) Balance Water

It is highly recommended to have a water test done after the pool has been opened. Once the pool is clean and circulating, there are some chemicals that can be added immediately. Use a quality algae inhibitor as an initial treatment for the water. Inhibitor algaecides work efficiently at low or high pH conditions, making it effective even when the water may not be properly balanced.

Secondly, add an oxidizing shock compound to the water.

It is important to establish sanitizing residual in the water as quickly as possible. Granular chlorine is of higher quality than liquid, and is recommended for initial treatment following spring opening. Always remember that the trick to keeping clean pool water all season lies in your ability to stay ahead in your chemical treatments.

Pool Chemistry

Swimming pool chemistry overwhelms many pool owners, especially those who just had a pool installed and are already overwhelmed with information about how to maintain their pool.

The most important thing to remember is this: Properly balanced pool water will not have a strong odor, and should look clear and blue, and feel comfortable to swim in. Itchy skin, red eyes, cloudy water and water discolouration mean something has gone amiss. Many veteran pool owners only test their water once per month, and otherwise know the balance of the water just by look, feel and smell. Our recommendation is to have a water test done shortly after opening your pool in the spring and once per month throughout the season, or any other time you are not sure of the water condition.

Before we dive into the chemistry lesson, here are a few helpful reminders to keep your pool water crystal clear all summer long:

Get into a routine. Find a time during the week (like Sunday evening) you’re most likely going to be home on a regular basis to do your maintenance.

Stay ahead of the game. It is important to recognize potential problems and to treat them early. For instance, hot weather depletes chlorine and allows for algae growth. When the weather is exceptionally sunny and hot, it makes sense to increase the dosage of chlorine even when the water appears to be clear.

Chemicals provide balance. People sometimes misunderstand that the primary purpose of adding chemicals to pool water is to create healthy, balanced and safe water.

Outside Factors – Weather affects water balance and uses up your chlorine. Rain, algae, and pollen can eat up your chlorine as well as cause pH change. Bathers and some environmental chemicals, such as lawn and garden fertilizers, have the same effect.

Chemical Terminology – When delving into pool chemistry, you should familiarize yourself with the common terms and measurements used on product labels or by pool professionals. Here are some things you should know:

  • PPM or Parts Per Million – Pool chemistry often uses the term parts per million (ppm) when discussing the level of chemicals or compounds dissolved in water. It is the mass of a chemical or contaminate per unit volume of water. Seeing ppm or mg/L on a report means the same thing.
  • Units of Measure (Grams, milligrams, litres, millilitres): Pool chemicals are available as a mix of liquids, powders, granules or pucks. Some people get frustrated trying to measure out their dry pool chemicals because dosages are given in grams or milligrams but packages do not always include measuring cups with them (and who uses a scale to measure their pool products?). With balancing chemicals like pH reducers and boosters, always take the slow and steady approach and add small amounts of chemicals over the course of several days instead of one large dose all at once so you don’t overdose. With shock or oxidizers, you need to be more exact, so make sure the products you buy come with a measuring tool.

The Saturation Index

The saturation index is a mathematical equation that measures the pH, temperature, calcium hardness and total alkalinity of water in order to predict whether the water is scale forming, neutral or corrosive.

Total Alkalinity – TA is the total amount of alkaline material (carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides) present in the water. TA controls the pH’s ability to change. TA and pH have a positive relationship with one another. If the total alkalinity is high, then the pH will most likely be high. Conversely, if the total alkalinity is low the pH may become low or start to fluctuate more than normal. The acceptable range for TA in vinyl, painted, or fiberglass pools is 80-120 ppm.

Calcium Hardness – CH refers to the amount of calcium dissolved in the water. Water that is low in calcium can accelerate the corrosion of pool equipment and surfaces. Water high in calcium has a tendency to form scale; thus, damage to pipes, filtration and heating systems and pool surfaces can result. Very hard water also depletes chemical effectiveness. The ideal range for CH in vinyl, painted and fiberglass pools is 100-200 ppm. You should use a scale preventative chemical in your pool on a regular basis.

Temperature – Temperature controls the solubility of minerals in the water.

Total Dissolved Solids – TDS for short; it is the measure of dissolved materials in water. Pools with high TDS become more susceptible to cloudiness, and can develop a foul odour. Sanitizer effectiveness can be greatly impeded. Levels should not increase above 2000 ppm.

pH – pH is the measure of the water’s acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale measures from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. The numbers on the scale are symbolic representations for an exponential scale (i.e., a pH of 7.2 is 10 times more acidic than 7.4, 100 times more acidic than 7.6, etc.). Low pH causes faster chlorine loss, wrinkling of liners, eye irritation, and chloramine formation (chloramines are byproducts of chlorine after organic waste is consumed, causing pungent smell and skin irritation). Water with high pH is cloudy, scale forming and inhibits chlorine effectiveness. The acceptable range for pH in pools is 7.2-7.6.

Other Factors Important in Chemical Balance

Stabilizer (CYA) – Also known as cyanuric acid, stabilizer acts like sunscreen for chlorine. When maintained around 40 ppm, stabilizer helps reduce chlorine loss by virtue of blocking out the sun’s UV rays. CYA remains in pool water unless a significant amount of water is lost, or a drain and refill occurs. While acceptable amounts of this product aid in the sustenance of chlorine, high levels inhibit chlorine effectiveness. Pools using bromine do not require stabilizer.

Sanitizer – The two most popular forms of pool sanitizer are chlorine and bromine. Most often, proper sanitization is achieved by regular use of concentrated pucks and a weekly shocking product. Usage dictates how much sanitizer demand your pool will have. One common question is “when is the best time to shock my pool?” On a practical level, you should not use your pool immediately after it has been shocked, so it makes sense to shock the pool at night. Moreover, the sun’s UV rays burn chlorine. Shocking your pool during the day means more wasted chemical.

There are two measurements of chlorine that affect water balance. Free chlorine is the amount of available, unused chlorine present in the water. Combined chlorine refers to the amount of chlorine that has combined with organic waste. Combined chlorine contains chloramines, which is what causes that distinct “pool smell”. Shocking the water will eliminate the combined chlorine. Pool water with a strong odour does not always indicate that the chlorine level is high, just that the combined chlorine levels are probably high and shocking is required. Bromine contains similar byproducts called bromamines, but their odour is less pungent. Bromine has proven to be a good alternative to chlorine for indoor pools, where strong odour tends to be more problematic.

Algaecide – Algae comes in different textures and colours, with green algae being the most prevalent. It is important to add an initial dosage of algaecide as part of a pool opening treatment, and to add regular weekly maintenance dosages thereafter. Algaecides serve the main purpose of assisting chlorine in killing the algae, they do not eliminate algae on their own. If algae is present in pool water, it is recommended to have a water test done and to add more concentrated forms of algaecide alongside a shock treatment.

Metals – Certain metals have the ability to permanently damage pool surfaces through staining. The preferred level for metals in pool water is 0 ppm (none). Metals commonly found in water are iron and copper and to a lesser extent manganese. Though not a common problem, simple tests can check for their presence. Metals present in pool water can cause water discolouration and surface staining. Fiberglass pools are slightly more susceptible to staining from metals, so it is important to keep the pH balanced on the lower end of the ideal range, and add a stain & scale inhibitor regularly.

Pool Closing

Winterizing Your Pool

Once those cool fall nights roll around, we stop thinking about swimming in favour of hockey and hot drinks. To enjoy your pool for many years to come it is very important to have a pool closing done properly. A poorly closed pool can result in big hassles in the spring due to cracked plumbing, broken equipment and swamp-like water. To avoid unnecessary expenses, follow these steps to close your pool the right way. If you don’t want to worry about it or just don’t have the time, contact us and have our professionals do it for you.

Choose a warm and preferably sunny day to close your pool, and make sure to bring out your radio and tune it to a good station. You will probably get wet during a few steps, so better weather will keep you in better spirits. Having an assistant will make the job go much faster, but expect to spend at least a few hours getting everything completed, especially if this is your first time closing your pool.

7 Steps to Closing Your Pool

1. Balance the water

To make sure that you don’t find a swampy green mess when you remove your cover in the spring, you will need to balance the pool water and get rid of any algae problems before closing it. Remember that anything left in the fall will only be waiting for you in the spring – and it will have gotten worse. As well, unbalanced water can cause scaling or corrosion that can permanently damage your pool and require costly repairs. Bring in a water sample for a free computerized analysis a week or so before you intend to close the pool so that you will have time to make any chemical adjustments.

2. Clean the pool

Remove leaves and other debris, brush the walls, and vacuum. Get rid of any scum line or pink algae from around the sides of the pool, as leaving them over the winter will make them harder to remove in the spring.

3. Add winterizing chemicals.

It is very important to add the proper winterizing chemicals to your pool. It is much easier and less expensive to prevent algae, staining and scaling than it is to treat it, especially since our winters can be quite long and any problems will go unchecked until spring. Even though you are not using the pool and algae do not grow well in cold temperatures, it is still important to add the right amount of chlorine. Most closing kits will include a winterizing shock, algaecide and stain & scale inhibitor. Some people choose to add their chemicals after draining the water level down to eliminate waste, but adding them while the pump is still running ensures good circulation throughout the pool.

1. Add winterizing shock. Pre-dissolve granular shock by adding to a bucket of water – this prevents accidental bleaching of vinyl liners.
2. Add a stain and scale inhibitor to prevent any metal and calcium from forming deposits on your pool surfaces.
3. Add algaecide. You should allow the shock to circulate and completely dissolve before adding the algaecide.

Allow your chemicals to circulate for a 20 or 30 minutes, and then proceed to turn off all of your equipment.

Chemicals can also be added after lowering the water level: Ensure that granular shock doesn’t settle on the pool bottom by pre-dissolving in a bucket of water and broadcasting a few feet out from the pool edges. Because of the lack of circulation after the pool is drained, you will want to spread the chemicals out over as large an area of the pool as possible, and you may even want to use your leaf skimmer to stir them up if they don’t dissolve right away. Always follow the directions on the packaging.

Never leave pucks or tablets in your pool over the winter. They will not circulate through the pool, and could damage the skimmer or pool surface.

4. Drain water down to winterizing level & plug lines

Drain the water level down 3-4″ inches below the skimmer opening. Many people drain their pool down below the return lines, but this is unnecessary and also riskier – water helps hold the pool in position and without the added support the pool walls are more susceptible to heaving. Never lower the water in your pool more than 3-4″ inches below the skimmer for this reason. Before draining any water make sure you have drained the sump well (if you have one). You should also check the water level in the sump well after heavy rains and during the spring thaw. Drain any excess water from the sump well as needed – never allow the water in the sump well to get higher than the water level in the pool. Next, remove the jet fittings, skimmer basket and skimmer weir door if possible.

An easy way to blow out your lines is using a wet-dry vac, leaf blower or air compressor. First, disconnect the plumbing at the equipment that returns the water back to the pool. If you disconnect the pipes at the filter tank, you can blow all the water from the lines back into the pool. Simply blow air through the pipe until you see air coming out of your return lines. You will need two people for this job: one person to blow the lines at the equipment, while another threads in the winterizing plug. Plug the jet closest to the equipment when you see lots of air coming out, then repeat with the other jets. Then blow out the water between the pump and skimmer. If you want added protection you can pour pool line antifreeze down these lines after plugging them. Use a Gizzmo or place an empty plastic container (with a tightly screwed cap) in the skimmer to protect it from ice damage if water gets into it over the winter. You can also use foam rope in your main drain line to prevent damage from freezing. As water turns to ice, it will expand and crush the foam rope rather than put pressure on the pipe.

Never drain your pool completely over the winter, as the water in the pool keeps it in place. Draining a liner pool will result in wrinkles. If your pool is concrete, draining it completely could cause it to crack or even rise up out of the ground. Fiberglass pools can also shift or move if left empty, as fiberglass is flexible and the water helps keep it in place.

5. Drain and winterize equipment 

It is convenient to put all plugs, gauges and jet fittings together inside the skimmer basket and pump basket so you know where they all are in the spring.

Pool Heaters: Most heaters use natural gas or propane to be more energy efficient. If you are not familiar with how to winterize your heater, follow the steps given by the manufacturer or use our general guidelines to help you through it. It is a good idea to know how to shut your heater down, as most pool companies that offer closings do not have a registered gas fitter on staff. TSSA standards dictate that no one but a registered gas fitter should handle your heater. This means you will have to shut it down on your own or hire a professional to do it for you.

General Winterizing Tips for a Gas/Propane Pool Heater
1. Shut off the gas valve that supplies the heater.
2. For heaters with a standing pilot, make sure that you turn the pilot off.
3. Some heaters will have drain plugs that you can remove to let the water out of the grid. Others will require you to take off the unions and blow air through lines using the pressure side of your shop vac. Either way, you want to make sure that there is no water left in the grid that could freeze over the winter.
4. If your heater is electronic ignition, turn off or disconnect the power supply.
5. Remove the pressure switch and leave unplugged.
6. While you do not need to cover your heater or bring it indoors over the winter, putting a tarp over it will offer protection from the elements.

Pump & Filter

Some people choose to disconnect their pump and place it in a shed or their garage for the winter, but you can keep your equipment safely outside using a tarp as long as it has been drained of water. Always make sure that any exposed pipe is covered. Remove the pressure gauge from the sand filter and bring it inside. Bring everything inside that you wouldn’t want damaged by the weather, such as vacuum hose, maintenance and safety equipment, ladders and diving board. Remember – the better you care for your equipment the longer it will last. You can also leave these items outside as long as they are covered and protected from the elements.

Do not leave your chemicals or testing supplies outside over the winter. Chlorine or bromine pucks, sticks or granules should last over the winter in your garage or shed, but liquid supplies will not. It is best to properly dispose of any liquid products such as algaecide or liquid chlorine at the end of the season as they usually expire by the time spring rolls around. If your liquid products ever freeze, dispose of them immediately, as they will be useless and the containers may burst. As well, you should replace liquid testing supplies each year so do not bother keeping these in storage. Keep chemicals sealed tightly in a well-ventilated area away from heat and water. Always keep any chemical out of the reach of children.

This is also a good time to pack up your patio furniture and any loose deck items if you haven’t done so already. This will prevent them from blowing into the pool and damaging the cover.

6. Place winter cover and water bags.

Your winter cover should be in good repair with no holes or tears. Even the smallest hole can allow dirty water and debris to seep into the pool, which can result in algae and discoloration and possibly even permanent staining. You can patch a small hole or tear with a patch kit, but if there are multiple holes and tears you should get a new cover. You should have as many water bags as needed to cover the entire perimeter of the pool without gaps, thus preventing wind damage. Water bags should be ½ to ¾ full to allow for expansion.

If you have a snap-in winter cover that fits into a track on your coping, make sure that it fits in snugly and securely. Use liner lock in the track to tighten any loose areas.

Safety covers are gaining in popularity, as they protect you, your pets and your loved ones from accidentally falling into the pool over the winter. They are also a visually attractive alternative to a tarp and water bags. Ask us for details and pricing.

7. Congratulations! Your pool is closed!

Kick back and relax knowing that you have taken the right steps to protect your investment. Closing your pool properly in the fall will make your spring opening a fast and easy process. It can also save you a lot of money in pool repairs from any damage such as staining, scaling, and cracked plumbing. It is a good idea to check on your pool every now and then to make sure the cover is still in place and the water level isn’t too high (reaching the skimmer). Removing leaves from the cover before the winter will also reduce your spring workload.

Have a wonderful winter, and we look forward to seeing you in the spring!


Filtration, circulation and chemistry are the three basic factors affecting overall water quality in swimming pools. For residential swimming pools, maintaining water quality means that we need to circulate and filter all of the water in the pool two to three times per day. In order to accomplish this, we have to design our pool installation with properly sized equipment. Our design must consider the volume of water in the pool, how frequently we want to achieve water turnover, how much resistance the water will encounter moving through the system and how we will size our pump and filter to overcome this resistance.

Let’s consider:

Pipe Size
GPM (Gallons Per Minute)
1¼ “

However, we also have to consider that a number of things create resistance within a closed plumbing system. The vacuum from the suction side of the pump, the length of the pipe, the number of fittings, the type of fittings, the pool filter and the elevation of the pump compared to the pool will all contribute to the amount of resistance within the system.A typical 16 x 32 swimming pool, which holds 17,000 gallons and is plumbed with 1½” pipe, has a maximum turnover rate of approximately 6.5 hours. The same pool plumbed with 2” pipe would turnover in just under 4 hours! If all we were considering was the pipe diameter, the typical pool would have to run almost 20 hours per day, while our pool with 2” plumbing would have to run only 12.As you can see from this table, only so much water will flow through a particular diameter of pipe. We base the flow on the maximum standards for velocity, which is 7 feet per second.

Pump Output (GPM) vs. Total Resistance to Flow (Feet of Head)
Make / Model
Hayward 1HP Super Pump




Sta-Rite ¾HP Max-E-Glas II

This resistance, measured in Feet of Head, will determine the volume of flow that any particular pump can produce. Notice in the chart above that a more efficient pump, with a smaller motor can actually move more water . By understanding hydraulics, we can actually design systems that not only improve water quality, but also save money!

Consider that a 3/4 HP pump motor consumes approximately 20% less electricity than a 1HP pump motor. But further consider that a pump motor converts electricity into two products; mechanical energy to move the water, and heat. The amount of heat generated depends on the efficiency of the motor, but, it is not unreasonable to expect that we can save an additional 20% with a more efficient pump motor. Therefore, in our typical pool, a 1HP pump consuming 1500 watts will cost approximately $100 per month to turn over our water three times per day. The same pool using a ¾HP high efficiency pump will cost only $60 per month.

Now, adding 2” plumbing lines, our high efficiency pump with 50 feet of head could turn the water over three times in 13 hours, reducing the run time by 46% and the monthly electric bill to only $32.00! By properly designing the system, a five and a half month season will cost only $176 instead of $550. Would you consider taking me out for dinner with the difference?


A good filtration system is one that keeps your pool water clean while maintaining a high flow rate. Perhaps most important to the health of your pool is to choose a filter whose size and flow rate are adequate for your amount of pool water. In order to properly size a filter, one must calculate the pool volume, capacity and flow rate. Firstly, it is important to calculate the pool volume in order to understand how much water there is to be filtered. Pool volume can be calculated as follows:

Rectangular Pool: Length X Width X Average Depth = Volume (cubic ft.)
Circular/Oval Pool: Radius X Radius X 3.14 (pi) X Average Depth = Volume (cubic ft.)

The Capacity of your pool refers to the gallons of water that the pool will contain (not to be confused with volume, which is a spatial measurement in cubic feet). The capacity of your pool can be measured as follows:

Capacity: Pool Volume X 7.48 = Capacity (Gallons)

Flow Rate is the volume of water that flows past one point over a specified time. Flow rate is measured in gallons-per-minute and/or gallons-per-hour. Determining the flow rate of the pool will measure how long it will take to “turn-over” or circulate the entire body of water one time. Flow Rate is calculated as follows:

Flow Rate: Capacity/Turnover Time(hours) = Flow Rate per Hour

Example: Let’s say that you have a 16×32 rectangular pool, and that you are trying to figure out which filter will work for you. As well, you want a turnover time of 8 hours (i.e. it will take eight hours to circulate the whole body of water). Start with calculating volume:

Step 1: Calculate the Volume
16 x 32 x 5 (avg. depth) = 2560 cubic feet
Step 2: Calculate the Capacity
2560 x 7.48 = 19148.80 Gallons
Step 3: Calculate the Flow Rate*
19148.80 / 8 = 2393.60 Gallons per Hour OR
2393.60 / 60 = 39.9 Gallons per Minute

As you can see, a filter system that allows for a minimum flow of 40 Gallons per Minute (GPM) or more will be adequate filtration for this particular pool. The best advice is to oversize the filter. This will allow for slower wear of the media. You will also find that as filters collect dirt, the flow rate per-square-foot of filter media will be decreased. Oversizing allows the filter to collect more dirt at the highest efficiency level. Most filter manufacturers provide GPM ratings for each of their models. If you need assistance finding out which filter best suits your needs, please visit the Ashton Pools showroom and talk to one of our pool professionals.

Types of Filters

The most commonly used filters employ three different media types: sand, cartridges and diatomaceous earth. Let’s take a look at each of these types in more detail.


A sand filter forces water through graded layers of sand to pull out debris and contaminants. This type is filter is commonly used in both aboveground and inground pools. The media used in a sand filter is #20 silica sand (nepheline syenite), which is very coarse. The main benefit of employing a sand filter is that they are economical to purchase and easy to maintain. A high-rate sand filter that is cleaned regularly (through backwashing) will go many years before you will need to replace the sand. In comparison, DE or cartridge filters need regular cleaning and their media need replacing on a more regular basis. A high-rate sand filter filled with new sand can remove dirt particles 25 microns in size. After time and use, the sand will begin to wear down and become rounded, thus allowing particles up to 60 microns in size to pass through. A Micron is a unit of measure for small grains of material. To give you an idea of how efficient 25-micron filtration is, a grain of table salt is typically 100 microns in size. Therefore, sand filtration can remove particles that are one quarter the size of a grain of table salt. Backwashing is the most important part of sand filter maintenance, and is usually performed once per week. Backwashing simply means to reverse the flow of water through the filter to force debris and contaminants out of the sand that has trapped them, and then to send the contaminants out the waste line.

When to Backwash: Cloudy water, increased pressure and poor circulation are all indicators that your filter is dirty. You can use the pressure gauge to determine if the filter needs cleaning. If your filter has an inlet pressure gauge, mark the pressure with a grease pencil right after a good backwash. Once the pressure has risen 8-10 psi from this base-line reading, it is time to backwash.

How to Backwash:
1. Turn off your pump and turn the control valve on the filter to the “backwash” setting. Make sure your backwash hose is attached, so as to drain the dirty water away from the pool.
2. Restart the pump. Let the water drain for about 2-3 minutes, or as directed by the filter manufacturer. Turn the pump off again when done.
3. Turn the filter to the “rinse” position and run the pump for about 30-60 seconds.
4. Turn the pump off, turn the valve back to “filter” and restart the pump.

Remember that these are general guidelines–always follow manufacturers instructions if they are given.
Each year you will want to open up your filter and take a look at the sand, as over time and use it may become hard and channeling may occur. Channeling (sometimes called “charging”) happens when water forces its way through the sand around the areas where it has hardened. To fix this problem, or avoid it altogether, turn the pump off, cut flow off to the filter with diverter valves and start filling the tank up with a garden hose. The water will overflow from the tank (cleaning out dirt) and you can now take a broomstick and gently break up the hard clumps. Caution: Be careful not to hit the laterals, as they are fragile and will break. The laterals are usually located at the bottom of the tank and are what pull the water out of the sand and back to the pool. If you damage a lateral, don’t be surprised to find sand piles on the pool floor.

Once all clumps have been broken up, check the sand level and add more if necessary. Otherwise you can close up the filter, open diverters, turn pump back on and do a quick backwash.

Replacing Sand: Over time, the grains of sand in the filter will be worn down and become more rounded, allowing larger dirt particles to pass through and re-enter the pool. The sand will also need to be backwashed more frequently, and the operating pressure will be higher. This is typical of sand that needs to be replaced.

1. To remove the sand, turn the pump off and divert water flow.
2. After exposing the sand, start scooping it out with your hands or a small scoop, or try your wet/dry vac. Once again, be very careful not to damage the laterals.
3. Fill tank about 1/3 with water to act as a cushion for sand to be added.
4. Slowly pour sand into filter tank until it is about 2/3 filled.
5. Reassemble filter and do a backwash before resuming normal filtration.


Using a cartridge filter on your pool has several advantages over other types of filtration. Cartridge filters do not require backwashing like sand filters, meaning that you won’t be wasting vast amounts of pool water to keep it clean. They will also catch smaller dirt particles (only 5-10 microns in size) than sand filtration, and the cartridge media can last anywhere from 3-10 years before it needs to be replaced.

The biggest benefit to owning a cartridge filter system is that it requires infrequent cleaning. Each season with a cartridge filter should entail one or two thorough washings of the filter cartridge—once halfway through the season and again before winterizing. Some cartridge cleaning solutions allow you to clean the filter without even removing them from the filter casing. Ideally, at the end of the pool season, the cartridges are removed and cleaned, and stored indoors, preferably somewhere clean and dry. You can determine when to clean your filter by the pressure, similar to how you would with a sand filter. Mark the base line pressure on the gauge with a grease pencil right after a cleaning, and then make another mark 8-10 psi higher. Between these marks is the normal operating range, and when the pressure rises above this range it is time to clean the filter.

How to Clean Your Cartridge Filter:
1. Remove cartridge from filter housing as per manufacturer’s instructions. Use a garden hose with a straight flow nozzle to wash between pleats, pointing nozzle downwards at about a 45-degree angle. Rinse until all debris is gone.
2. Soak the cartridge for at least 1 hour (preferably overnight) in a filter cleaning solution to remove the oils from the filter.
3. Rinse the cartridge.
4. Let your filter dry before putting it back into the tank and reassembling the housing.

Allowing the filter to dry will tighten the weave of the fabric, so that it can trap smaller particles of dirt. This helps to extend the life of your filter and give you a consistent level of filtration for years to come. Cartridge filters are definitely one of the items on your pool that will last longer if properly cared for.


The least common filter used in Southwestern Ontario just happens to be the most efficient. Diatomaceous earth (or DE as it is frequently called) will filter out dirt particles as small as 1-3 microns, which is smaller than what a sand or cartridge filter can pull out. Better filtration means that the pool water will be kept clear and sparkling; moreover, that the pool will overcome dirt and clarity problems more quickly. The operation of a DE filter is much different than the operation of cartridge or sand filters. A DE filter requires that Diatomaceous Earth (in a white powdery form) be added to its interior grids via the skimmer. When DE gets added to the water, it passes into the filter and forms a cake over a series of filter grids. It is this cake of Diatomaceous Earth that traps dirt and debris and locks it there until the filter is backwashed.

Though the DE filter has proven to be the most efficient residential filter by far, it is arguably the filter that requires the most regular maintenance. DE filter owners are often given the task of adding the proper amount of earth every few days to ensure the filter has adequate filtering capabilities. Furthermore, the DE filter is the only one requiring the filter to be opened up and cleaned by hand regularly. Backwashing can clean some debris and used-up DE out of the filter, but will not remove all of the cake. Hand cleaning entails the removing of any leftover cake from the grids, and then dismantling the grids themselves and soaking them in an acid-water mixture. This somewhat high level of maintenance is probably the reason why DE is not more commonly used in pools in Ontario, although those who do use it will tell you that it is worth it.

To Recap:

  • Most economical
  • Low level of weekly maintenance
  • Lowest efficiency of the three types
  • No backwashing
  • Easy and infrequent cleaning
  • High efficiency
  • High cost to replace filter media (but they aren’t changed often).
Diatomaceous Earth
  • Most efficient filtration
  • Cleaner water and quicker recovery time when pool clouds.
  • Requires frequent maintenance
  • More complicated than other systems

 Troubleshooting – Filters

1. I have sand coming out of my jets and/or see sand in my pool. 

In sand filters, there are two possible causes. One is that a lateral is broken (laterals are the ‘fingers’ on the inside bottom of the filter responsible for collecting clean water and returning it to the pool). A hairline crack in any lateral will allow for sand to pass through. Secondly, the sand could be old and worn. New silica sand is very coarse, but through use becomes smaller and finer. Small sand can pass through the openings in a lateral and enter the pool. Replacement is necessary to remedy either of these causes.

In DE filters, the most obvious culprit is a worn out septa (A septa refers to a grid section with nylon mesh coating that the DE binds with in order to form the cake). Even a small tear in the nylon meshing will allow for DE to pass through. Thoroughly inspect the grid system for any tears or unraveling of the mesh.

2. I have dirt particles coming out of my returns, making the water cloudy.

The most common mistake for new pool owners is to have the multi-port valve of their filter in the wrong position. Make sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions on how to operate the filter’s multi-port valve. Having your filter in the ‘recirculate’ position versus the ‘filter’ position means that you are simply bypassing the filter and circulating water back through the pool.

A second and more serious possibility could be that the filter media is damaged or worn and needs replacing. Tears in filter cartridges will allow for water to pass right through. Damage to the grids/septa in your DE filter will allow for dirt and DE to pass into the pool. In a sand filter, it is best to visually inspect the interior to see if the sand is worn or if there is a broken lateral.

3. I have a very short cycle between backwashes.

First and foremost, an increase in the amount of dirt, oils and algae in the pool water will mean an increase in the amount of backwashing you will have to do. High bather loads will also make for more frequent cleaning of your filter.

Secondly, look at the filter itself. A sand filter can suffer from increased pressure due to calcified sand inside the filter. This calcified sand forms hard layers, which impedes flow and increases pressure. Otherwise, some pool products (especially coagulants and clarifiers) when added too fast have the ability to clog the sand and therefore increase pressure. Make sure to introduce these chemicals slowly so that they have the chance to dissolve. If you think this is the cause, you will need to clean your filter media.

4. There is little filter action, and little pressure change.

Cartridge Filters with poor filtration and little change in pressure usually indicates that the filter cartridge is worn out or torn, thereby allowing for water to pass through uninhibited. Visually inspect the cartridge and replace it if necessary.

Sand Filters can suffer from a condition called “charging” where the sand has either been improperly replaced or installed, or installed in insufficient amounts. This allows for water to channel itself through the sand and collect at the bottom with little to no filtration. Visually inspect the filter and replace and/or top up the sand as necessary. Another cause for poor filtration is the hardening of the filter sand through calcification. Depending on the pH and alkalinity of the water, calcium has the ability to come out of solution and form scale on pool surfaces— including the inside of your pool filter. Considering that calcium, water and sand are the basis of concrete, it is not hard to understand the potential for the filter sand to harden over the years. Look for evidence of calcification, charging or channeling in the sand filter and replace as necessary.

DE Filters, when inadequately charged with DE, will not have adequate filtering area to keep the pool clean. Be sure to add enough DE to coat all of the grids and septa. Secondly, Diatomaceous Earth has the ability to coagulate and solidify on the grid surface so be sure to backwash regularly and open the filter and remove any solidified DE.

*Formulas taken from “The Ultimate Tech Manual.” Pool and Spa News, Hanley-Wood, Washington 2002. Pgs. 20-22.

Cleaner Maintenance

For any pool owner who doesn’t have the time or energy to spend vacuuming the leaves, grit and other debris out of their pool, an automatic pool cleaner can become a much-loved accessory.

But even automatic pool cleaners get tired and need to be given a tune-up from time to time. And eventually you will need to upgrade your cleaner, hopefully after it has provided many years of dedicated service.

Here are some tips on cleaner maintenance which allows your cleaner to work to its fullest potential

  • Leaving your cleaner in your pool all day will cause its components to break down more rapidly. Once your pool is clean, remove the vacuum and store it out of the sun and elements.
  • It is a good idea to rinse out and clean your vacuum periodically to remove bits of debris that can get jammed inside the unit.
  • Do not use your vacuum while you are super-chlorinating or shocking your pool – the high concentration of chemicals can break down plastic and metal parts inside the cleaner.
  • Store your hoses by separating and laying them flat out of the sun. The hoses can become permanently bent from being coiled up, which in turn will effect the way your cleaner moves. To straighten hoses that have become bent, lay out flat in the sun for an entire day and night.