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Guide to Pool Opening

It's that time of year again, the birds are chirping the sun is shining and the snow and frost are behind us. When this happens, professionals in both the commercial and residential aquatic world think of one thing...let’s open the pool!

 

With the warm April weather, the opening season is underway and in full swing. Are you ready to open your facility's outdoor swimming pool? Many of us made lists last winter with the best of intentions, but as with most things in life, those lists still stare us in the face. So here we are. It's time to finally tackle that list and get your pool open for the summer season!

 

One of the best strategies is to prepare an opening checklist to ensure your hard work doesn't come to a hault when you find you are missing pieces or in need of parts. Check out our sample checklist below.

  • Take inventory of all the operational parts like jets, return fitting, weirs etc. (in the pool industry we refer to these as “white goods”).
  • Ensure your flow meters, pressure and vacuum gauges, and o-rings are ready for opening day.
  • If during inventory, you find missing or find broken pieces, have them replaced and ready for installation.
  • Once your inventory is complete, ensure all of the necessary replacement pieces are ordered and ready to go on opening day!

"Did I winterize my outdoor swimming pool properly?" is the biggest worry every pool owner or operator has in the spring. Mother nature can be cruel, unpredictable and a powerful force over the winter, but most of the time it is out of our hands. Performing a walk around and checking the deck and pool area for visible damage and/or vandalism is the first step. Once your visual is done you can start your true opening procedures.

 

"Don't forget to order and check stock of all your chemicals for start-up and season opening."

 

Once your inventory check is complete, you've done a thorough walk around and you've ensured your chlorine delivery is ready to go, it's time to start opening your pool. If you're working on a commercial outdoor pool, drain out any of that dirty winter water with a submersible pump and use a power wash to clean up the walls and floor.

 

Remove any winterizing plugs in the main drains, returns and jets. Ensure that the hydrostats in the main drains are clean and working properly.

 

Reinstall drain covers and perform an inspection to ensure there is no broken, worn or dated pieces. If you find any areas of concern, consult your pool professional for immediate replacement.

 

Once everything is clean and shiny in the pool area, move onto the mechanical room. Ensure all the equipment is back together, and all of the o-rings on the pump and strainer lids are lubricated and ready to start.

 

Now that the pool is full and glistening in the sun and ready for start-up, run through all of your valves and ensure they are in proper operating positioning.

 

"Always start up the system on backwash. This will ensure that all of the left over sitting debris from the winter goes out to waste and not back into your beautiful swimming pool. Once a complete backwash is finished, start up on filter mode."

 

Your next task is getting the balancing done and ensuring your stabilizer levels are ready to help battle the hot summer sun and keep your operation costs down.

 

"Stabilizer is sunscreen for chlorine."

 

Now that the pool is operating and the water features are flowing, you can sit back, close your eyes and visualize the upcoming summer season.

 

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Meeting & Surpassing Code Requirements

The Ontario and other provincial Building Codes have minimum standards that have been established to ensure that new public pools are constructed to be safe and functional. Following construction, Health Departments are responsible for monitoring and regulating the operation of the pool. The entire content of the code is important, but some items really stand out. For example, strict adherence to the velocity of water moving through suction fittings like the main drains is really important. The velocity of water through main drains is dictated as not to exceed 1.5 fps (feet per second). This low velocity helps decrease the possibility that people might become entrapped or entangled by the main drain fitting.

 

Another really important factor is the turnover rate of the pool. For Class ‘A’ pools (a pool to which the general public is admitted), the entire volume of the pool has to be filtered and chemically treated every four hours. This ‘turnover rate’ provides some assurance that the pool water will be clean and safe for bathers to use. The Building and Health Codes are very important and have elements that work to ensure pools work really well and up to standards, most of the time. As with most rules, there are some exceptions that should be considered. An important question to consider is: When is it a good idea to do more than what the code calls for?

 

CLASS A & CLASS B POOLS

In Ontario for example, a Class ‘B’ pool (a pool operated on the premises of an apartment building with five or more units, a pool operated as a facility to serve a community of more than five single-family private residences, a pool operated on the premises of a hotel, a pool operated on the premises of a campground, a pool operated in conjunction with, a club or a condominium, a pool operated in conjunction with a day nursery, a day camp or an establishment for the care or treatment of persons who are ill, infirm or aged) is required to be designed in such a way that the circulation system exchanges the entire volume of the pools water once every six hours, or four times per day. Most of the time, this is totally acceptable, but there are times when it is not sufficient. At some resorts for example, the pools are shallow and the volume of water is small. This coupled with a very high usage, warmer water and bathers who may not shower as well as they should (especially children) can create a condition that makes the water quality very difficult to manage. We often oversize the circulation systems with larger than required pumps and filters in this instance and add secondary sanitation systems like UV to help ensure superior water quality.

 

The same is true of a Class ‘A’ pool. These pools are required to be designed to exchange the water in the pools every four hours or six times per day which seems like a lot, but again there are some exceptions. If the pool is a therapeutic pool with a higher percentage of elderly users, or users with either a physical or mental disability, there may be a higher risk of contamination by fouling, making it prudent to exchange the water more often and install UV systems. For pools like this we often design the mechanical system to exchange the water every two hours, or 12 times per day, or more.

 

FILTRATION RATE

Another important consideration is the filtration rate of the pool filter system. In all cases this is calculated by dividing the total flow of the circulation pump by the total surface area of the pool and is expressed as GPM/FT2 of filter area. For sand filters, most manufacturers call for a filtration rate of no more than 15 GPM/ FT2. For a pool that has a flow rate of 450 GPM, the total sand area should be no less than 450 GPM/ 15 GPM/FT2 = 30 FT2. This square footage can be achieved by either using one or two larger horizontal or vertical filters, or a ‘battery’ of smaller filters. Is a filtration rate of 15 GPM/ ft2 always enough? For a lesser-used pool with a lower-risk user, and a low bather load, the answer is probably yes, but in instances where there is a high bather load, it may make sense to lower the velocity of water through the filter to improve filtration even more. Sometimes it makes sense to oversize the filter so that the filtration rate is more like 12 GPM/ft2. The same thing can be done with other filter media like cartridge filters or DE (diatomaceous earth) filters. 

 

UV SANITATION SYSTEMS

UV is a secondary sanitizer that effectively renders most bacteria unproductive (and therefore safe) as water passes through the device. UV units are not required by code for pools (UV is required for splash pads) or spas, but may be a really good idea to install anyway. Some bacteria are resistant to chlorine or bromine and can become the source of an infectious condition that can make swimmers sick. This can result in a severe and widespread illness outbreak that could have long term effects or even cause the death of a vulnerable individual. There could also be legal implications for the owner/operator of the pool. Even though the codes do not require it, putting UV systems on a high bather load or high risk pool is a smart and proactive change to make.

 

Finally, the codes are an effective way to improve the overall safety of pools across the community. As with all rules and regulations, not every scenario can be addressed. It is best to look at the particular conditions surrounding your pool and design it appropriately. Since there is no specific  ‘rule book’ to help you decide when code requirements should be exceeded, it is best to consult an aquatic consultant or pool builder who has a long record of experience with a variety of public and private pools. These experienced companies will help you design, build or upgrade a pool that is safe and fun for your clientele.

 

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Bonding & Grounding: The Invisible Super Duo

Comparing James Bond to Pool Bonding may be farfetched, and when thinking about pools, these words would be near the bottom of the list of safety features people may think of. But, like a secret double agent, Pool Bonding acts like an invisible body guard, keeping unsuspecting swimmers safe from the hidden, evil Electrical Shock! And like any good super hero, a trusty side kick is needed, and that’s where “Grounding” comes in. Together, Bonding and Grounding form an invincible super duo, and act as one of the most important aspects to a safe swimming environment when designing and constructing a pool system, secretly keeping the people of the pool safe from the insidious dangers of Electrical Shock.

 

As mentioned, every Super Hero needs a side kick, and when guarding from harmful electrical currents, this case is no different. “Bonding” and Grounding” each have their own jobs, and each are needed to keep the pool area safe.

 

BONDING. POOL BONDING.

Bonding’s super power is an important one. It  joins all electrical pool components and metal components within five feet of the pool together to a thick copper wire, whether it's a mechanical item such as a recirculation pump, simple deck items such as a grab rail or stanchion post, or even unseen items like reinforcing rod encased within the pools concrete walls, forming a safety loop. This safety loop ensures all items have the same voltage, eliminating the possibility of voltages being transferred from the pool to a swimmer, instead containing them within the safety loop, and directing them back to a panel. If needed, a breaker on the panel will trip, dissipating the harmful current within the loop. 

 

GROUNDING, THE TRUSTY SIDEKICK

Grounding, the trusty, yet just as important sidekick, is also silently keeping the patrons of the pool safe, day after day. Grounding power acts in conjunction with Bonding, using the safety loop created by the bonding process, and adds a connection to the ground. This ground connection ensures that any harmful current within the loop is directed away from the swimmers and into the ground, where it dissipates and disappears harmlessly. 

 

A POWERFUL SUPER DUO

Bonding and Grounding, when properly implemented  into the design and construction of a pools system, will continue to act in conjunction with one another, forming one of the most powerful safety duo’s within the pools natatorium, keeping the evil Electrical Shock at bay. Next time you're in a pool, enjoying your swim, listen closely. If you hear a faint tune, it may just be the theme song to the undefeatable super duo of Bonding and Grounding, quietly and courageously continuing the never ending fight with Electrical Shock, keeping the people of the pool safe for years to come!

 

* This is a guest blog post written by Lee Battams, President of Aqua Plans Aquatic Consultants Inc. The knowledge and experience Lee displays on routine site visits have ensured his clients, including Acapulco Pools, remain confident in his abilities in aquatic design.

 

 

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2 Resolutions that will Improve Your Aquatic Facility

January is the month of resolutions. We plan to live a healthier lifestyle, be more financially responsible, and visit with friends and family more often (among others). But what about our aquatic facilities? Improving safety and becoming more environmentally friendly are two resolutions that your facility can make this and every year. The following are ways that your facility can do both:

 

PLAY IT SAFE

Safety should always be the highest priority at any facility. Improvements can always be made to increase the safety of your pool staff and patrons.

 

  • Stay up to date on new changes in codes and policies.
  • Ensure your staff is equipped and trained on the proper regulations and requirements.
  • Train your staff (pool managers, lifeguards, operators etc.) in the basics of commercial pool operating and general swimming pool knowledge. This includes chemical testing, accident prevention and the emergency protocols used at your facility.
  • Ensure all of your staff remains current and up-to-date in all required training (CPR, first aid, CPO etc.)
  • Inspect all of your safety equipment and keep an up-to-date inventory throughout the year. Safety and pool equipment can age, rust, and become damaged over time. It’s important to be aware of any equipment that needs to be replaced before an accident occurs. Equipment can include first aid kits, spine boards, life rings, safety rope, fire extinguishers, warning signs, deck equipment.
  • Perform an annual slide inspection. As water slides age they can rust, or become damaged. It is necessary to have a licensed water slide technician inspect the slide to protect and ensure the safety of the users.
  • When changes are made at your aquatic facility, it is important to update your staff. This includes pool managers, operators, lifeguards, aquatic instructors and anyone else who works in the aquatic centre.

KEEP IT GREEN

Today, everyone seems to be going green in some way. The importance in becoming environmentally friendly has shifted the way we live our lives, and the way we conduct business each day. Not only does going green provide environmental benefits, but green efforts can also lower your operating costs.

  • Make the switch to environmentally friendly products and replace old equipment with new, energy efficient equipment. This solution will not only improve your facilities impact on the environment, but will also benefit your budget.
  • Installing a Variable Frequency Drive (I-Pool VFD) can save you $7,000 - $10,000 a year.
  • Installing an Ultraviolet System decreases chemical usage by 20%.
  • Reduce chemical use at your facility. Water that is maintained properly and consistently can lessen pool water issues and chemical treatments.
  • Use an environmentally friendly liquid “pool cover” to decrease chemical usage and save on operating costs by reducing evaporation and heat loss.
  • Repair any existing leaks and service balance tanks to ensure they are operating properly.

 

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Electrical Safety

Every year people die by electrocution, and some of these incidents are associated with pools. In fact, In September 2016, a young girl working as a lifeguard at a swimming pool in North Carolina lost her life when she was electrocuted as she entered the water. So let’s talk a little bit about this, and how we might reduce the risk of electrical injury associated with pools.

 

Electrical energy acts a lot like other sources of energy in that it moves (flows) from one area to another when there is a “potential difference” in the voltage of those areas. Like a waterfall plummeting from a high point to a low point, so does electricity from a higher voltage (a live wire or battery terminal for example) to a lower voltage (ground).  

 

Electricity generally speaking, needs a “conductor” to move or "flow" through. This flow of electricity is expressed in terms of Amperes or Amps. Some things are better conductors than others. Copper, aluminum and gold are excellent conductors and pass electricity, while things like the human body are less apt as conductors, but can certainly still pass electricity. Other substances like some (but not all) polymers and glass are insulators. Still others are classified as semiconductors (like doped / contaminated silicon). Uncontaminated water is actually an insulator when pure (distilled), but becomes sort of a semiconductor most of the time. In pools, it is usually a pretty fair conductor having been “contaminated” with minerals, chlorine and sometimes salt. The human body is a mediocre conductor, but also a poor insulator. Being that we are largely made up of contaminated water, electricity from a source will pass through our bodies on the way to ground…the lower voltage. On the way through it can interfere with nerve impulses including those activating the heart, and cause damage, seizure or in the worst case death by cardiac arrest.

 

So how can we make the seemingly unsuitable bed partners of pools and electricity less…shocking?

 

BONDING AND GROUNDING

Bonding refers to bringing all of the conductors around the pool (the reinforcing steel, handrails, light fixtures, pump cases etc.) to the same electrical potential by connecting them all together with a conductor (a ground wire). This eliminates the possibility of any potential difference between these various items; whatever voltage one item is at, the same voltage will be seen at all of the other items. But bonding alone does not render the items safe. You can’t get a shock between one item and another, but what if a stray voltage is energizing the bonding wire to some higher voltage? Then any of the items could give you a shock if your body is grounded (for example, being barefoot on the deck). To ensure the items are a zero volts, the bonded items have to be grounded. This simply involves running a wire from the bonded loop to the ground lug in the distribution panel.

 

KEEP ELECTRICAL ITEMS AWAY FROM THE POOL

It is never a good idea to have an electrically powered item near a swimming pool. Things like radios, blenders (for those summer margaritas) if dropped into the pool, can electrically charge the water and potentially shock bathers. Even if the device is away from the pool on the deck somewhere, someone who has recently been in the pool could drip water into the device and create a conductive path with the water from the device, through them to ground…not fun!

 

USE GFCI DEVICES AND BREAKERS

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupting (GFCI) devices work by comparing the current flow in the hot (supply) wire to the current flow in the neutral (return to ground) wire. In any circuit, the current flow should be the same in both ‘legs’.  If it isn’t, it means the current is going somewhere else - like through you! The GFCI device will trip to disconnect the power supply if there is a difference of 6mA (that’s 6/1000 Amps), and does so in a fraction of a second to protect us from being shocked. GFCI devices are a great way to protect people from any electrical device, but are particularly appropriate for things like underwater pool lights where electricity is so close to the water.

 

PERFORM REGULAR ELECTRICAL REVIEWS

It’s a fact of life on this planet of ours that things change, materials degrade, corrode, erode, oxidize and just plain wear out. Your electrical system is no exception. Electrical distribution boxes and the breakers within become corroded and fail. Plastic wire insulation dries out and cracks, ground points become corroded. Corrosion is exacerbated by exposure to salt water because of its electrolytic properties. Having a reputable electrical contractor visit the site periodically may flag some of these issues before they become a health and safety concern. In addition to a visual inspection, they can perform tests (like high voltage meggering) to assess the condition of various electrical insulators in the system.

 

Be safe, swim happy!

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Water Safety Tips

There is nothing more appealing than the thought of jumping into a swimming pool or lake on a hot summer’s day! There are so many benefits to swimming at any time of the year, but it particularly brings an extra layer of enjoyment on hot summer days. Along with talking about all the benefits of swimming, it's very important that we also discuss water safety.

 

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, and the highest rates are among children. Three children die every day from drowning, the leading cause of injury death among children aged 1–4 years. Drowning is not only a risk in swimming pools and lake’s, but it's important for people to understand that children are susceptible to drowning in as little as one inch of water.

 

The most important thing to understand about drowning is that it does not resemble what you see in the movies (arms flailing, splashing, or screaming). In reality, drowning is completely silent. The warning signs of drowning may include:

 

  • Someone who is drowning remains upright in the water and is not kicking and not able to wave or call for help
  • Someone may appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
  • Hair may be over their eyes and or forehead
  • Eyes are glassy and unable to focus
  • Head may be low in the water and tilted back with mouth open
  • Someone is looking towards the pool deck, sky, or shore and appear in shock
  • If a child goes silent something might be wrong

While these statistics are alarming there are a number of ways to prevent drowning.

 

LEARN LIFE SAVING SKILLS

Swimming lessons are very important and the first step to having safe water fun! Everyone should know the basics of swimming and take the extra step to be trained in CPR and First Aid. Many municipalities and YMCA’s offer swimming lessons at a very reasonable price. There are also many free or subsidized learn to swim programs that may be available in your area.

 

FENCE IT OFF 

If you have a backyard swimming pool it is recommended that you have a separate fence just for the pool area (separate from the house and other yard space). In some States this is a requirement for backyard pools, but even where it's not a requirement it's highly recommended. This prevents someone from accidently accessing the area when the pool is not in use. If a fence is not an option, there are other things available on the market, like alarms which can be installed on the doors going out to the swimming pool or on the pool itself.

 

MAKE LIFE JACKETS A MUST

Children, inexperienced swimmers and boaters should wear life jackets in and around bodies of water.

 

BE ON THE LOOK OUT

When kids or weak swimmers are in or near water, they should be closely supervised by a confident swimmer. Adults watching kids in or near water should avoid all distractions like reading, surfing the web, answering the phone, playing cards, and drinking alcohol. It is always wise to designate a “water watcher,” someone who is specifically responsible for watching the kids in the water.

 

Swimming is a fun and safe activity for all ages when everyone does their due diligence with these water safety practices! These tips are just a few of many to keep people safe during the summer season and while enjoying the water all year round!

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The Importance of Wearing a Life Jacket

While many Canadians are preparing for the Summer season and planning water related recreational activities, the warmer days also mark the beginning of a season known for water-related injuries and fatalities. As we prepare, it is important to educate ourselves, and our loved ones on water safety.

 

For many families, summer includes activities such as swimming and boating. But each year, Canadians fall victim to tragic water-related accidents ending in a fatality. A Canadian Red Cross report examining these fatalities revealed many common factors:

Children aged 1-4 and men 15-34 most at risk for water-related fatalities.

On average, there are 97 deaths a year from unexpected falls into water.

80% of fatalities involving children in backyard pools occurred when there was no adult supervision.

From 1991 to 2008, an average of 167 people died each year in boating mishaps. Of these, nine out of 10 were not wearing their life jackets, or were wearing them incorrectly.

 

FREQUENT MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT LIFE JACKETS

As noted by the Canada Safety Council

 

"I don't need a life jacket because I'm a strong swimmer."

Every year, even strong swimmers drown. Where swimming ability was recorded by coroners, almost half of those who died in fatal boating incidents were average to strong swimmers, according to the Canadian Red Cross. Even a confident swimmer can be quickly overwhelmed by factors such the weight of waterlogged clothing, the disorientation and panic of an unexpected plunge, exhaustion from swimming against a strong current, and the numbing effects of cold water.

 

"Only boating newbies need to wear life jackets."

Unfortunately, years of boating experience do not affect your ability to float. If anything, the more time you spend in a boat, the more likely you are to encounter unforeseen circumstances, and the greater benefit you will reap from a habit of properly wearing your life jacket. Of boating fatalities where boating experience was known, 66% were recorded as experienced boaters, and only 34% were occasional or inexperienced boaters.

 

"I only need my life jacket in bad weather."

Boating mishaps are actually more common when the weather is good and waters are calm. Survivors of near-drownings frequently recall how an otherwise unexceptional task or activity quickly went awry.

 

Sources:

Canada Safety Council

The Canadian Red Cross

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