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Prevention Is Better Than Cure

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

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Top 3 Myths Affecting Swimmers and Pool Operators

As swimmers, swimming pool operators, or facility owners, we are subjected to countless myths and legends that have been floating around the aquatic community for years. These wives tales can lead to misunderstandings, and for operators, can lead to the improper care of your swimming pool. It is important to be aware of the myths, lies, and assumptions, as well as understanding the truths in order to do our part in maintaining a comfortable swimming environment for all. Here’s a list of some of the top 3 myths affecting swimmers, and operators!

 

"CHLORINE WILL TURN MY HAIR GREEN!"

Although believed to be the causing factor by many, chlorine is not responsible for hair discolouring. If a swimming pool has caused your hair to turn green, it is likely due to the presence of copper in the water. Metal plumbing or algaecide can cause copper to reside in the pool water.

 

"CHLORINE MAKES MY EYES RED AND SORE!"

We have all experienced irritated eyes and skin after swimming, and likely we have all deduced that our eyes sting and our skin is dry because there was too much chlorine in the swimming pool. Unfortunately, we have been misguided.

 

Swimmer “red eye” is actually caused by chloramines which are formed when nitrogen (found in urine and sweat) is combined with chlorine. These chloramines are to blame for irritating our eyes, skin and even our respiratory systems. In fact, if these chloramines exist, operators may very well need to add MORE chlorine to the pool water in order to reduce the formation of chloramines. If the pH is too low or too high, swimmers may also feel some discomfort and irritation. Human tear ducts have a pH of 7.5, which means operators must ensure the pH remains between 7.4 and 7.6 and the combined chlorine stays at 0.2ppm or below in order to maintain a comfortable swimming environment.

 

"THE POOL MUST BE CLEAN BECAUSE I CAN SMELL THE CHLORINE!"

When you walk into an aquatic centre and you smell the strong scent of chlorine, our automatic response is to assume it must mean the pool is clean! Maybe we relate it to the smells of cleaning chemicals, but whatever the reason, this idea is wrong. It is actually the opposite; a properly cleaned swimming pool should not smell like a chemical factory. The strong smell that we have all experienced so many times is really due to chloramines – the result of a reaction caused by the mixing of chlorine and contaminants carried into the water by swimmers.

 

These contaminants can include but are not limited to:

  • Sweat
  • Urine
  • Body Oils
  • Cosmetics

A strong smelling swimming pool can indicate that the chlorine is working harder than necessary, due to the presence of contaminants in the pool and may really mean that the pool is in need of further chemical intervention.

 

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Water Chemistry: Finding the Balance

Water Chemistry is a significant part of the operation of your pool. Maintaining proper water chemistry in your pool will not only ensure the safety of your bathers, but also can increase the longevity of your entire pool system.

 

There are five chemical parameters that need to be monitored, in addition to the oxidiser used to keep the pool clean and balanced. The oxidiser, or disinfectant, is used to destroy impurities in the water, helping maintain a safe, clean swimming environment. The five chemical parameters all have inverse relationships and all impact the overall water environment in very different ways. It’s important, as a pool operator, that these parameters are carefully monitored, and adjusted when needed, to be kept within the Ontario Health Code requirements, as well as to ensure the adjustments don’t throw the other levels out of range.

 

pH LEVELS

pH levels and total alkalinity are two chemical parameters who work together, and can even be thought of as the best friends of water chemistry. Like most friendships, when treated properly (or balanced in this case), the friendship grows and strengthens, but if one friend is not being considered (pH or total alkalinity), the relationship can become sour quickly.

 

pH is the single most important parameter in swimming pool water chemistry. It drastically impacts the water balance with even a slight change on the logarithmic scale. As humans, we have a pH of 7.5, so ideally our swimming pools pH level should be maintained within the 7.4-7.6 range. pH is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration in the water, and is measured on a scale of 0-14 with 7 being the neutral pH. 

 

What Happens when pH Levels are too Low?

When the pH is below 7.2, it is considered to be too low. At this level, the water becomes acidic, and the oxidizer decreases in strength. This will cause eye irritation for bathers, etching of the plaster walls, corroding of metal parts, staining of walls from dissolved minerals, and a significant decrease in alkalinity.

 

What Happens when pH Levels are too High?

pH is considered to be too high when it reaches 8 and over. High levels of pH can cause your water to become basic, can cause the oxidizer activity to slow and become inefficient, can increase scale formation and discolouration of the pool walls, and can create cloudy water causing your mechanical system to work harder to maintain a clear water environment.

 

One of the most common operator errors in balancing the pool water is correcting the pH without testing and balancing alkalinity. pH is the most important parameter, and has the largest impact, however, if pH’s best friend, alkalinity, isn’t monitored and balanced, the pH will never be within the proper range.

 

TOTAL ALKALINITY

Total alkalinity is the measure of a solution’s ability to neutralize hydrogen ions expressed in parts per million (ppm), which is a measure of the water’s resistance to change in pH.  The chemical used to balance alkalinity is Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) and the chemical used to decrease alkalinity is an Acid. If the alkalinity is within its required range (80pp-120ppm) it allows the pH to resist change and maintain its level.

 

What Happens when the Alkalinity Levels are too Low?

When alkalinity levels are too low, getting an accurate pH reading will be impossible Low levels of alkalinity will also create a very acidic pool environment for your bathers. The pH will change rapidly and maintain an acidic environment until the alkalinity is balanced. Once this is complete, the pH can be balanced.

 

What Happens when the Alkalinity Levels are too High?

If the alkalinity is too high, the pH is not truly reflective of its level and will began to bounce

(7.2,7.8,7.4). Once this occurs, it will throw off all other chemical levels and the water will become an unpleasant environment for bathers. The alkalinity MUST be within its desired range before balancing the pH levels. It is also important to let the alkalinity stabilize before any other levels are touched.

 

Understanding and monitoring the relationship between these two very important chemical parameters will help decrease issues in the overall chemistry of the pool. It’s important to remember that any time you are adding a specific chemical to the pool, you must be aware of and account for all other chemical levels, including how they will react to one another, and how they will affect the overall comfort and health of your pool water.

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