Time To Winterize, Pool Closing Step By Step
While no one wants to say goodbye to the warmth and kick back attitude of the summer, the biting winds of fall wait for no man. Fall closing is an inevitable task for the conscientious pool owner, so let's talk about how you can do it on your own in seven easy steps.
It's only as clean as you leave it
As with most things in life (except those annoying robo-vacs that suck up your spare change and can explain why you can't find the cat in the morning), pools don't get any cleaner just by you sitting around hoping it will. Sweep, vacuum and scrub your pool before closing so you don't have to deal with the black plague next spring. You can clean before or after lowering the water level. It is a lot easier to maneuver when there is less water, but backwashing has to be done before hand. Acid washes are not recommended for fall closing since, even after being rinsed off, residue may eat away at different parts of the filtering system during the winter.
Next step, balance your water levels before pool closing. While this won't prevent your levels from going down all summer, it will definitely make it easier to bring them back up when opening comes around. You want your levels to be around 7-7.5 pH, 80-120 ppm for alkalinity and 180-220 ppm for calcium hardness. Amounts vary according to pool size and conditions. Note: If using both a shock and algaecide treatment, wait in between uses otherwise they will just cancel each other out.
Kits make life easier
Pool closing kits are great tools for an easy winterization. Kits come with all the chemicals you need in the proper proportions and with instructions for use. Can't get much better than that.
Lowering the water level
The amount of water you let out of your pool will depend on the type of cover you are using and your pool lining. Floating covers require much less drainage (if at all) than a porous or mesh covering. Anywhere from 3-20" below the skimmer may be called for. Many experts do not drain pools at all because of the possible stress that is placed on the cover due to lower water levels. If the pipes have been properly blown out and plugged up, draining is not necessary. That is, unless you've got decorative tiles at the water line. In this situation you'll have to lower your water level below the tiles. Otherwise, the water will freeze and expand throughout the winter, cracking and damaging these tiles.
Dealing with attachments
Everything, from ladders, steps, filters, skimmer baskets, solar units, and diving board to cleaners should be removed before fall closing. Make sure any and all parts dry out sufficiently before storing to prevent mold from forming. Disconnect filter systems, heating units, pumps and other attachments and switch to the off position (plugging in a machine that is on already can short circuits or drain units). Drain all parts and make sure there is no water sitting at the bottom. Now's the time to replace and repair any and all faulty, rusty, or old parts that you've been avoiding all month (season? year?). Oil, replace, and polish parts as necessary. Next summer, you'll be glad you did.
Above ground pools should be disconnected from the water supply hoses, as well as filter and pump connections. Using a shop vac or other powerful force, blow air through the pipes of an in-ground pool. This clears out the pipes and readies them for winterization. Antifreeze is an acceptable alternative to blowing the pipes, though some professionals say that this will cause an unnecessary mess in the spring. Those who don't hold of anti-freeze will tell you to blow out all of the pipes very well, and then you will not have to worry about any water freezing (because there won't be any!) Use durable expansion plugs to close the openings to the lines of either above or in ground pools. Note: Duct tape is a pool closing companion. Cover exposed pipes with this tape, and you will create an easy blanket of protection for those pipes. After attaching to the cover, water tubes should be filled to near full capacity (about 80-90%) and securely tightened. Be sure to leave room for water expansion or the tubes will most likely rip or burst on you. If you notice leaking from a water tube, replace immediately. Patch jobs on these items seldom work and are usually more of a bother than anything else. Space the bags (tubes) fairly close together, touching end-to-end or leaving about a half of a foot between each.
A word on safety
Just because swimming season has ended doesn't mean the safety hazard of owing a pool has. You'd be amazed at how many incidents are reported concerning children who have gotten trapped under covers that have not been properly secured. Small children can easily slip underneath these covers, and the more curious your child, the more on guard you will have to be. It is, therefore, your responsibility to secure your covers properly, and to keep all safety devices, locks, and gates in full working condition throughout the winter as well.