The beauty about working in the aquatic industry is learning about all of the information and various components involved in the operation of a pool. It is a natural assumption that there is a hole in the ground and this perfect, pristine body of water is waiting to cool swimmers on a hot day. In actual fact, pool operation can be likened to learning a new language when it comes to the complexity of properly servicing and maintaining this water for people to enjoy.
For instance, there are hundreds of variables that differ for each application and need to be closely supervised to ensure there is no interruption in the pool’s operation, while at the same time safeguarding patrons. The most important component, which can be easily overlooked and can have the biggest impact on the longevity of the pool’s lifecycle, is the basic preventive maintenance practices that need to be policed and properly scheduled.
A small leak, for example, that is not attended to could result in a major leak only hours or days after it starts. If it is not repaired properly, it can result in pool closures and a hefty bill for the owner. It is important every aquatic facility has a schedule of daily, weekly, and monthly preventive maintenance practices in place to ensure the most optimal pool operation for years to come.
WHAT IS PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE?
Preventive maintenance refers to routine upkeep to ensure pool equipment continues to operate efficiently, whereby preventing any unanticipated downtime and the associated costs from equipment failure. It requires vigilant planning and scheduling of maintenance for equipment before there is an actual problem, as well as keeping accurate records of past inspections and servicing reports. Maintenance includes parts replacement, cleaning, tests, and chemical adjustments.
WHAT SHOULD A PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE PROGRAM LOOK LIKE?
Preventive maintenance involves the regular inspection of equipment where potential problems are detected and corrected before it fails. In practice, a preventive maintenance schedule may include things such as cleaning, water testing and chemical adjustments, repairs, inspections, replacing parts, and overhauls that are regularly scheduled, such as filter sand changes. This is why it is imperative that daily, weekly, and monthly checks are completed and recorded.
These inspections should involve much more than simply performing routine maintenance on the pool’s mechanical equipment and water chemistry. It should also entail keeping accurate records of every inspection, water test, and repair, as well as knowing the life expectancy of each part to understand the replacement and maintenance requirements. These records can help technicians anticipate a suitable time to change parts and can also help them to diagnose problems when they occur. If this due diligence is not followed, service interruptions will happen, resulting in downtime to resolve the problem at hand.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Aside from protecting the owner’s investment, and ensuring their pool is operating to the best of its ability, preventive maintenance offers a number of other benefits, including:
- Prolonged life of pool and spa equipment;
- Minimal unplanned downtime caused by equipment failure;
- Less unnecessary maintenance and inspections;
- Fewer errors in day-to-day operations;
- Improved reliability of equipment;
- Fewer expensive repairs caused by unexpected equipment failure that must be fixed quickly; and
- Reduced risk of injury.
In addition to being diligent with maintenance, there are also health and building codes that provide a guide for proper daily operation. These are enforced by inspectors to ensure the pool and spa environment is safe for bathers and the laws are being followed.
There are several simple maintenance procedures that can be easily overlooked, but without the proper attention, it can lead to major complications down the road if they are not completed.
PRIORITY MAINTENANCE PLAN
The heart of the pool is the filtration pump—without it the water would not be circulated through the filter, heater, or sanitization system, creating a potential health hazard for bathers. It is critical that regular checks and maintenance are completed on the pumps to avoid cloudy water, or even prevent an unexpected closure due to mechanical failure.
Simple things like cleaning the strainer basket (daily for an outdoor application and weekly for an indoor application) can have a drastic impact on the overall efficiency of the mechanical system. If the strainer basket is not cleaned regularly, a ‘load’ is put on the pump, forcing it to work harder to circulate the water that needs to be filtered, heated, and chemically treated before it is sent back to the pool. The harder the pump has to work, the more wear-and-tear is put on it. As a result, this can lead to mechanical seal failure, water clarity issues, as well as impact the overall performance of the entire system.
If maintenance is not completed regularly, the pump will fail and force a closure until it can be repaired or replaced. The water can become cloudy, increasing the amount of additional labour and chemicals required to get the pool back up and running. By completing simple pool maintenance, owners can improve the overall longevity of their investment.
DO NOT SKIMP ON SKIMMING
In a pool, the first 152 mm (6 in.) of water is the most contaminated. This makes the skimmer or surface water circulation (if applicable) an essential component to preventive maintenance. The powerful pull of the pump leads water into the filter; once dirt has been removed, it is heated, chemically treated, and returned to the pool through the returns.
Pool owners/operators should ensure the baskets inside the skimmers are cleaned regularly as part of a daily routine maintenance program. These baskets are used to catch debris on the surface while also protecting the pump. If the baskets are not cleaned regularly, they will become clogged with debris such as leaves, band aids, and other common waste found in pools.
This blockage will result in an additional ‘load’ being placed on the pump, forcing it to work harder to circulate the pool water and increasing the stress on the equipment.
CHECKS AND BALANCES
Physical pool care is integral to a maintenance program, but one should not discount the importance of water chemistry. Although it is not visible to the eye (in some cases), water care is a priority in any maintenance plan.
If there is an inconsistency in water treatment, there can be considerable consequences. When it comes to the chemical parameters that need to be monitored, they all have an impact; however, one of the most important and commonly neglected is calcium hardness. This water parameter measures the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the pool to determine how hard or soft the water is. It is important to keep the calcium hardness balanced to prevent the water from becoming corrosive or cause scaling.
The nature of calcium hardness has massive ramifications if it is neglected, as the acidic component can impact the longevity of a pool’s structure and mechanical system. All municipalities have a different measure of source water, and because freshwater needs to be added daily, a good preventive maintenance program should include logs of routine water test results.
When the calcium hardness is low, it has an acidic effect on the system. Simply put, it is a form of acid that slowly eats away at the pool finish causing it to slowly deteriorate. This acidity can sometimes become lost in other chemical parameters but can easily become the culprit if not checked and balanced regularly.
On the other end of the spectrum, when calcium hardness is high, scaling can occur and will be visible along the waterline tile. Behind the scenes, the calcium build-up will also be present in the plumbing. If the calcium hardness remains high for too long, it will eventually cause obstructions in the pool piping. This will cause closures and require costly mechanical retrofits to resolve the problem. This additional cost and inconvenience can be avoided by simply adding a calcium hardness check to the pool’s regular maintenance routine.
LEAVE IT TO THE EXPERTS
There are several components that impact the overall longevity of a pool and its operation; however, an experienced, knowledgeable technician will know the proper preventive measures required to ensure the pool system is running at peak performance.
Neglecting these well-known measures will inevitably impact the pool’s function; therefore, it is of utmost importance for an aquatic facility to not only have a preventative maintenance plan in place, but also ensure it is policed regularly to guarantee a safe and comfortable swimming experience for patrons.