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Remembering Virginia Graeme Baker

Most pool owners and operators have heard the term VGB compliant as it relates to main drains in swimming pools, and may have heard of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act that was brought into legislation in the United States.

 

As a member of her community swim and diving team, Virginia Graeme Baker was a strong swimmer who could swim unassisted at only 3 years old. Despite this, Virginia (called Graeme by her family) died in a spa (hot tub) after becoming trapped on the single main drain fitting of the spa, even with the frantic efforts of her mother, Nancy Baker to release her from the drain. Eventually, two men were able to release Graeme from the drain, but exerted so much force that the main drain fitting was actually broken in the process. At the very young age of 7 years, Virginia Graeme Baker died from drowning as a result of becoming entrapped on the main drain fitting of the spa.

 

MAIN DRAINS & THE RISKS

The danger of a single main drain in a pool or spa cannot be overstated; when a single main drain is covered and is the sole source of suction for a pump, a tremendous hold-down force is exerted on the person covering the main drain fitting. For a typical residential pool or spa with an 8” round drain, the hold-down force can be in the order of 739 pounds! Even the strongest person would be unable to overcome this kind of force. The larger the surface area of the drain the greater the force, even if the same pump is used. For a 9”x9” main drain, the force will be about 1191 pounds, and for a 12” x 12” main drain the force will be a whopping 2117 pounds! This is approximately the same weight as a skidof bricks! But becoming entrapped by the suction is only one of the dangers of an improper drain installation. People can also become eviscerated if they sit on an improper drain, or become entangled (hair and jewelry) if the velocity of water through the drain is too high, or the drain openings are improperly designed.

 

PREVENTION

Following Graeme’s death, Nancy Baker worked tirelessly as an advocate for pool safety and through the political clout of her father-in-law, former Secretary of State,  James Baker III, and in association with Safe Kids Worldwide, lobbies to congress to bring into law the mandatory use of anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices and methods.

 

Use VGB Compliant Main Drain Covers

Perhaps the most important change was the nature of the drain cover itself. Main drain covers are now required to be VGB compliant, meaning that they have a shape and openings that have been designed to dramatically decrease the likelihood of a person becoming entrapped. The drains are also sized for different flow rates so that the velocity of water moving through the surface of the grate does not exceed 1.5 feet per second. This low velocity decreases the likelihood that things like hair will be drawn into the grate creating an entanglement problem.

 

Use Multiple Main Drains

Another important safety measure in pools and spas is to never have a single main drain. In Canada,  it is law that every public pool and spa have at least two main drains, and that these be spaced apart from each other by at least four feet (1.2m). If one drain fitting is blocked, the water has another path to go though (the other drain fitting) so that an ‘absolute’ vacuum cannot be achieved.

 

Use a Safety Vacuum Release System

Finally, another measure to improve main drain safety is the use of Safety Vacuum Release Systems (SVRS). These devices are installed on the suction side of the pump(s) and are designed to eliminate the suction force of the pump. There are generally two types (mechanical and electrical) which are designed to sense excessive suction and act to relieve this suction. Electrical units work by shutting of the pump, and mechanical systems work by allowing air to enter the pump so that it loses suction.

 

Swimming pools and spas provide a tremendous amount of fun, leisure, exercise and therapeutic benefits to families, the public and patients. But we have to always remember that pools are really machines designed for our aquatic needs, and like all machines, pools have inherent dangers that have to be managed. For decades, we drove cars without the benefit of seatbelts, airbags and so many other safety features. At one time, we didn’t even have windshield wipers! Thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Baker after her loss of Graeme, properly designed pools and spas are now safer than they have ever been.

 

Click here for more information on Virginia Graeme Baker, what you can do to prevent entrapment and other tragedies or to read the Pool and Spa Safety Act.

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What Sets Contractors Apart?

There are a lot of considerations when selecting a swimming pool contractor to build your pool. Whether the project is a high-end residential project or a multimillion dollar waterpark, it is important to be very diligent in selecting the builder to avoid delays, cost overruns, improper construction and lots of headaches. But what things should be considered?

 

WHAT DOES THEIR SAFETY RECORD LOOK LIKE?

The safety record of a company should be a primary consideration. A company with a poor safety record attracts a lot of attention (not the kind they want) and can really bog down a project. In fact, a project can be put on hold for an extended period if there are glaring safety infractions or heaven forbid a serious injury or fatality on the job site. Ask the proponent for a copy of their Health and Safety Policy, and safety record. If they don’t have one, or are unwilling to provide information, move on.

 

PRICE ISN'T EVERYTHING

Price, while always an important consideration is not everything. We frequently hear our clients say “…I wish we had gone with the more reputable builder. This job has become a nightmare…”  The saying “you get what you pay for” could not be truer. If the price seems too good to be true, it is. There is no such thing as an extraordinary $7 bottle of wine, and there is no such thing as an inexpensive Bugatti car. The two things are mutually exclusive. The Bugatti and a K-car will both take you to the store, but the Bugatti will take you to the store for decades (and look really good doing it!), and there is no comparing the quality of the two. The same is true in pools. You can choose a method and a builder that may appear to save you a little coin but suffer endless change orders and additions to the project. Or you can spend that little extra bit of money to hire a thorough and reputable builder and have peace of mind for years to come.   

 

DO THEY HAVE A STRONG FOUNDATION?

Like a strong building, a strong company needs a strong foundation. In the construction business, this foundation is in the form of knowledge that is both deep and wide, and can only be acquired from years of experience specific to the industry. A newer business just doesn’t have the history to be as knowledgeable as a well-established company that has been around for a long time. In the experienced company, there are senior people and younger members of the team. There is a combination of high energy and drive and a deep well of information that was developed over decades of practice. The thing about knowledge is that it is often applicable to a wide variety of applications that help experienced builders provide the best outcome for the client. Hydraulic concepts in pools and water management for example, are often applicable to electricity where Voltage equates to Feet of Head and current flow to velocity. Companies who have a deeper knowledge in their art have a broader understanding of the many things they may encounter in performing their work. Look for contractors who have a broad range of experience over a long period of time, senior people who have “been around the block” a couple of times and young energetic and well educated project people.

 

DO THEY HAVE INTERNAL SYSTEMS IN PLACE?

It is a great thing to have knowledge, but if it is held by a few individuals it often fails to crystalize in the positive outcome of your project. Good companies develop internal systems that reflect the Best Practices that have been developed out of the knowledge gained from experience. It is these companies who seek to establish a culture of quality and caring expressed in writing the form of standard operating procedures. Ask your potential contractor if they have internal systems in place to support quality assurance, delivery, and value added designs, longevity of the product, and so on. A company with systems is a company that cares about what they do, and who they do it for. Also ask if the company has a Mission Statement. The Mission Statement is the guiding philosophy of the company. A company without a mission is like a pilot without a map. Yes, the plane is flying…but the destination is dicey.  

 

WHAT IS THEIR EXPERIENCE LEVEL?

The Record of Experience speaks volumes about the knowledge base of the company. Obviously, the more pools a company has built, the more experience they have. But it is also important to look at the different types of pools that a company has built. Not all pool builders build all pools, and sometimes for good reason. For example, Company ABC may be an advocate for cast-in-place pools through their limited knowledge and experience; they know how to build them, but nothing else. Concrete pools are really good and are considered the gold standard in the industry, however, there are times when another type of pool is more appropriate than a concrete pool. If the pool is going on the top floor of a high rise, weight may be a limiting parameter. It is important to find a builder who has the experience to recognize and understand your options and what best suits your needs. Ask your potential builders for their list of projects (current and complete) and also for a list of references. If the record of experience is small or limited in scope, you may want to look a little deeper into the company. If the reference list seems small compared to the record of experience, it should raise a red flag! A good contractor doesn’t maintain a specific reference list…every single client should be a reference.

 

DO THEY USE THEIR OWN FORCES?

If the builder you are looking at using has a lot of subcontractors, it may be worth looking a little further. Dividing the scope into different trade subcontracts (mechanical subs, waterproofing, tile, concrete etc.) dilutes and displaces responsibility of the trades and of the general contractor. When something goes wrong, it’s nobody’s fault, and it’s everyone’s fault. A great deal of time is spent trying to figure out if the waterproofing contractor caused the leak, or if the tile contractor damaged the waterproofing. Or maybe the concrete contractor is at fault. It is best to source a contractor who self-performs the entire pool scope with their own forces from the excavation, to mechanical and electrical work, to tile setting and commissioning and training. When there is only one company performing the entire scope for the work, there is no opportunity to cast blame for problems to others. You only have one phone call to make. 

 

ARE THEY FINANCIALLY STABLE?

The financial stability of the company is also an important consideration. Are they able to completely bond a large project? Often tender documents ensure that this is the case, but private projects may overlook the need. What happens if things go wrong, or the contractor walks off the job or goes bankrupt? Who will finish the job? Who will pay for the work? Also, you want to be sure that the company you select is going to be around tomorrow and for years to come. Of course, there is never a guaranty but the best predictor of the future, is a record of the past. If the company has been building great pools for decades, they are likely to be around for a long time to come.

 

DO THEY HAVE A SERVICE DEPARTMENT?

Once the pool is built, you are away to the races. But what if something goes wrong with the pool after a few years? Who will close the pool for winter? It is always best of the company you choose to build the pool also has a service department who can deal with any problems and to perform regular maintenance. The service department of the company who built the pool is best equipped to service the pool since they will have an intimate knowledge of the pool from the construction phase. There are many “pool builders” out there who actually have no idea how to best operate a pool, and have no service department. It is best to steer clear of these builders. Once the project is complete, you never see them again. 

 

CAN THEY PERFORM?

Finally, schedule can be critical, especially for commercial projects. Liquidated damages can cripple a business that was counting on opening the pool in December, but it didn’t happen until the following May. There has been more than a few projects abandoned or sold for pennies on the dollar as poor performing contractors drove the owner into insolvency. No builder is perfect or immune to making mistakes…things happen. What sets the premium builder apart from others is how they react to the problems. The only way to know how different builders react is to speak with their past clients. Don’t accept a short list of “preferred references”. It is a lot of work to fully research your builder, but it will pay dividends many times over in the long run.

 

A well-constructed pool delivered on time and on budget will provide decades of enjoyment, or in the case of a commercial project, revenue generation. The best start to this positive outcome is to balance all of these considerations discussed, and make a good decision.

 

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10 Reasons Why Swimming is Good for your Health

As temperatures cool and holiday season’s approach, most of our fitness progress made in the warmer summer months is replaced throughout the fall and winter with growing regret. Whether it's due to the cooler weather, the loss of convenient outdoor exercise or our weakness for delightful holiday foods, throughout the cooler months of the year we would prefer to stay at home, cocooned in a blanket with a piece of pie and a TV series to binge watch than take on the cold and head to a gym. Unfortunately, this change of behaviour can lead to a decline in our overall health.

 

HEART WORK PAYS OFF

An energy surplus (when you consume more energy than you burn) which can lead to many different health issues including insulin resistance – the very first step to diabetes, and other serious metabolic problems. Committing 30 minutes of physical activity daily can go a long way.

 

Exercising doesn’t need to be a chore. In fact, many of the activities we enjoy during the summer can now be found indoors as well. Many gyms have tracks and treadmills for those who prefer walking and jogging, bikes, basketball courts and for one of the most effective forms of exercise, swimming pools!

 

SWIM FOR YOUR LIFE

Swimming is a low impact activity that is mentally and physically beneficial. Unlike many other forms of physical activity, swimming is both cardiovascular and strengthening at the same time. Although swimming is easy on the body, it makes use of all major muscle groups including shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips, and glutes. Here is a list of some of the incredible health benefits swimming can offer throughout the entire year.

 

  • Aquatic exercise has been found to improve cardiac function in mild to moderate chronic heart failure.
  • Swimming provides a total body workout, as nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming, which can help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and strengthen your heart – all factors which help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Swimming has been recognized as one of the most effective calorie burners. Regular aquatic exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, healthy heart and lungs.
  • Swimming reduces the impact on your body, while still providing a complete body workout making aquatic exercise more beneficial to individuals suffering from obesity and osteoarthritis than forms of land based exercise.
  • Swimming and aquatic exercise increase’s muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance.
  • Aquatic exercise has been shown to improve respiratory function, and provides an opportunity for individuals with asthma to work out in a moist air environment, reducing exercise induced asthma symptoms and improving asthma overall.
  • Regular aquatic exercise reduces the risk of diabetes by controlling blood sugar and lowering body weight.
  • Exercise is extremely important for individuals with diabetes in order to increase insulin action and keeps blood sugars at a healthy level. Due to the buoyancy of the water, swimming does not put pressure on joints and eases the stress on the body, including feet making swimming ideal for people with diabetes.
  • Swimming can evoke relaxation, alleviate stress and improve overall mental health. The stress relieving benefits of swimming are comparable to those found in yoga.
  • Swimming improves coordination, balance and posture and improves the quality and quantity of movement for those suffering from joint pain.
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Winterizing Your Swimming Pool

Swimming pools are an excellent way to stay active and have fun in the summer, but if you live or operate a swimming pool in a colder climate, there comes a time at the end of the swimming season when pools must be winterized. Not winterizing a pool in a colder climate is simply not an option, unless you want a hefty repair bill come spring.

 

The power of water when it freezes and thaws is absolutely amazing. In colder climates, like Canada for instance, pools that are not properly winterized will experience all kinds of damage, such as cracked and broken pipes, pumps and filters.

 

In addition to winterizing the entire mechanical system for the pool, the pool shell itself requires protection against frost. The simplest way to protect a pool shell is to leave it full of water for the winter. When filling the pool for a winter hibernation, care should be taken to allow room for the water to rise with rain and snow. Typically the water level in a pool is left 12-18" from normal operating level at the time of winterizing.

 

To complete the winterizing, the pool should be completely drained, and compressed air used to blow out water from the recirculation piping. All returns, water inlets, drains, etc. need to be capped or plugged to keep water out. Play features in pools also need to have all the water removed from them and in some cases some water features will need to have antifreeze introduced into them to prevent low lying fittings from collecting water and freezing. Items such as skimmers should also have expansion devices installed to prevent these items from damage due to freezing expansion. Once all of the piping has been cleared of water and properly sealed up, the pool shell can then be filled and chemicals added. Items such as pumps, filters and heaters in the mechanical room also need to have all drain ports opened up and drain plugs removed.

 

WINTERIZING TIPS

When winterizing a pool, it is imperative that the time is taken to do it properly, in order to avoid any future damage and additional repair costs to the facility. Taking the proper steps can not only help preserve the condition of the pool tank and the mechanical equipement, but these simple steps can also help increase the longevity of the grounds, building, and deck equipment. Here are some tips to closing a swimming pool, recommended by the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

 

  • Adjust the chemical balance of the pool water to the recommended levels.
  • Treat Facility water with appropriate products to minimize algae, bacteria, or damage to surfaces.
  • Clean and vacuum the pool.
  • Empty and store skimmer baskets and hair and lint traps for the winter.
    Backwash the filter thoroughly and clean the filter media or elements.
  • Drain sand filters. Remove cartridges or D.E. filter elements, inspect for tears or excessive wear, and store.
  • Lower the water level to below the skimmers and return lines for plaster pools. If needed, remove the remaining water from the recirculation lines using an air compressor or industrial type tank vacuum cleaner.
  • Open all pump room valves and loosen the lid from the hair and lint skimmer. However, if the filter is below pool water level, close the valves leading from the pool to the filter.
  • Grease all plugs and threads.
  • Add antifreeze formulated specifically for recreational water applications to the pipes to prevent bursting. Do not use automotive antifreeze.
  • Plug the skimmer or gutter lines. Winterize with antifreeze and expansion blocks. Secure the skimmer lids to the deck to prevent their loss. Plug wall return lines and the main drain.
  • Make sure the hydrostatic relief valve is operational.
  • Drain and protect pumps. If a pump and motor will be exposed to sever weather, disconnect, lubricate, perform seasonal maintenance of the pump, and store. Add antifreeze to help protect pumps and seals from any residual water left after draining.
  • Clean surge pits or balancing tanks.
  • Disconnect all fuses and open circuit breakers.
  • If underwater wet niche lights are exposed to the elements, remove them from their niches and lower them to the bottom of the pool.
  • Drain the pool water heater. Grease the drain plugs and store for the winter.
  • Turn off the heater gas supply, gas valves, and pilot lights.
  • Install the winter safety cover.
  • Properly store any unused chemicals as described on their labels to prevent containers from breaking and the mixing of potentially incompatible chemicals. Dispose of test reagents, disinfectants, and other chemicals that will lose their potency over the winter.
  • Disconnect, clean and store the chemical feeder, (Remember - Only Water can be used to clean out the chemical feeders) controllers, and other chemical feed pumps. Store controller electrodes in liquid and in a warm environment.
  • Clean and protect pressure gauges, flow meters, thermometers and humidity meters.
  • Store all deck furniture (chairs, lounges, tables, umbrellas, etc.) Identify and separate all furniture in need of repair.
  • Remove deck equipment, hardware, and non-permanent objects such as ladders, rails, slides, guard chairs, starting blocks, drinking fountains, handicapped lifts, portable ramps, clocks, weird, and safety equipment to prevent vandalism. Store in a clearly marked, identifiable, weather-protected location. Cap all exposed deck sockets.
  • Remove the diving boards. Store the boards indoors, upside down and flat so they will not warp.
  • Turn off the water supply to restroom showers, sinks, and toilets. Drain the pipes and add antifreeze.
  • Remove shower heads and drinking fountain handles. Open hose bibs and fill spouts.
  • Inventory all supplies and equipment. Make suggestions for preventative maintenance and repair, upgrading, and needed equipment purchases.

** ALL COMMERCIAL POOLS ARE DIFFERENT – ENSURE YOUR PERSONAL CLOSING PROCEDURES FOR YOUR POOL PRIOR TO COMMENCING WORK. 

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Understanding Pool Filtration & Filter Media

Pool water filtration is one of the most important aspects of a swimming pool. For obvious reasons, it is imperative that the water be clean and clear. Swimmers and lifeguards require this crystal clear water for several reasons, whether it be for swimming laps, knowing when to start a flip turn, or being able to see all of the pool patrons clearly in order to effectively monitor the pool. Furthermore, the water needs to be clean and free of bacteria so that swimmers do not leave with an illness. While there are many systems that work in conjunction with a pool filter to help keep the water healthy, the physical pool filter, which is available in varying styles and options,  is the focal point in providing clean, clear water. 

 

In most cases, pool water is pushed by the filtration pump through the filter system. Other systems operate using the pump on the other end of the system where it can pull the pool water through the filtering system. Either way, what happens is essentially the same – as water passes through the filter media, physical dirt and bacteria are removed, and clean water continues from the filter through the remainder of the recirculation system for further treatment, and returned to the pool. 

 

The style of filter, along with the media being used, will determine the effectivness of the filtration system, as differing types of filter media actually filter different sizes of particles out of the water.

 

#20 SILICA SAND

The reason that pool filters use #20 silica sand (also known as 20 grit or 20 grain, 0.45-0.55 mm sized granules) is that it is small enough to filter out micro bacteria, yet large enough that it doesn’t get pushed through the whole plumbing system and cause other problems. In addition, larger granules are unable to filter the small bits of dirt and bacteria that it is intended to. #20 silica sand can filter out particles down to 20-40 microns in size. As water passes through the sand (which is essentially a really small stone, which is jagged on all edges if looked at through a microscope), the jagged edges catch tiny dirt and bacteria particles, eliminating them from the pool environment.

 

Depending on various factors (bather load, bather cleanliness, etc.) sand filters need to be backwashed every so often to clean the sand. If the sand filter is not maintained, it will stop filtering as it is supposed to. Backwashing is completed by running water through the system backwards to release all of the dirt and bacteria that has been caught by the sand, and must then be removed from the filter tank.  When the water being discharged is clear, you are finished backwashing. Most filters have a sight glass so operators can physically see the dirty water at the beginning of backwashing eventually turn clear when the process is done.

 

Sand is the oldest and most commonly used filtration media, because it is effective and one of the most cost friendly options. However, after many cycles of filtering and backwashing, the granules become rounded, eliminating their filtering capabilities. The sand should be changed approximately every 5 years, depending on usage and backwashing frequency. 

 

ZEOLITE

Zeolite is an all-natural product that is gaining popularity in the pool industry. It is about half as dense as #20 sand, meaning you can use about half as much as what is recommended for the filter. For example, if your filter requires 100 lbs. of sand, you would only require about 50 lbs. of zeolite. This type of filtration media is a bit more expensive than sand, so there will be a higher upfront cost. With the ability to filter particles down to 5 microns, Zeolite is comparable to a D.E. filter, and better than sand, though D.E. filtration systems are much more expensive than a sand filter system charged with a zeolite media. Zeolite lasts about the same amount of time as sand with regular use, which is approximately 5 years. 

 

CRUSHED GLASS

Crushed glass is a new addition to the filter media family. Made from recycled glass (good for the environment) that is crushed to the same size as #20 sand, it filters using the same principles as sand. In comparision to sand, crush glass lasts longer (approximately 10 years) and can help in removing micro particles with its negative charge. When using crushed glass, more of the filter media is used for filtering because it utilizes more of the filter tank, as opposed to sand which typically only uses the top four to six inches. This means there is a shorter backwash time, saving more precious water. 

 

DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (D.E.)

Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) filters the water very effectively, down to two to six microns, however they are more expensive systems and take up a larger footprint in the mechanical room. D.E. is tiny fossilized skeletons of sea plankton that are coated onto a grid of filter elements that sit in a tank where the pool water passes through. The water can either be pushed or pulled through this system.  D.E. is considered carcinogenic, and proper handling and storage techniques, including protective gear and breathing protection, must be adhered to. D.E. filters are able to be backwashed for cleaning, but the media is lost in the process, and needs to be periodically replaced. D.E. systems do not eliminate chloramines which cause the chlorine smell commonly noticed at an indoor pool, so using a UV system is strongly recommended in order to eliminate them (a reccommendation for all pool filters). 

 

REGENERATIVE FILTERS

Regenerative filters are another new option in the pool market. They also utilize D.E. or a synthetic substitute, however are a bit more complex in their design. In a traditional D.E. filter, only the channels and depressions of the surface of the filter media trap particles. The underside of the D.E., the side attached to the grid, has a reduced ability to filter. In a regenerative filter, the media is held on multiple tubes, or “fingers”, that are periodically “bumped”, causing the filter media to fall to the bottom of the tank. The filter media is then redistributed, allowing unused sides of the media to be used for filtration as well. Regenerative filters offer a large amount of surface area with a relatively small footprint and are often toted for their water saving qualities due to the reduced need for backwashing and D.E. replacement. The water savings may or may not offset the cost of these units, therefore your individual return on investment should be evaluated before purchase.

 

Thanks to several innovations and advancements in technology, there are many options available when considering pool filters, and filtration media. It is important to consider all of the factors specific to your project when choosing a filtration system, or to at least understand what you want and don’t want when planning with the pool designer that is working on your project. You want to have the right filtration system and media for the facility to ensure it is operating in the most economical way.

 

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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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Who Should Become a Certified Pool Operator?

According to the National Swimming Pool Foundation, every aquatic facility should have at least one trained and Certified Pool Operator®. At some facilities, routine maintenance is provided by a third-party service company. In this case the outside service technician should also be certified. It is also suggested that the owner of the facility being serviced by an outside company have a Certified Pool/Spa Operator® certification in order to properly evaluate the performance of the service technician.

 

Since the owner or manager of each facility is responsible for the safety of the pool, being certified is very important. Owners, managers and pool operators of every facility should have an extensive knowledge of statutes, administrative codes, regulations and common accepted practices.

 

The National Swimming Pool Foundations suggests that “any individual who makes changes to the water quality, or performs routine maintenance of swimming pool system components, should obtain a CPO® certification.” At some facilities, head lifeguards or head instructors are trained and certified to operate the swimming pool. This is to ensure that other managers are familiar with aquatic risks and prevention techniques. Since these individuals are involved daily with the swimming pool activities and programs, proper training is significant. All repair and maintenance work should only be performed by a qualified individual/ company. This may mean that it is necessary to use a contractor or licensed professional.

 

CLASS C POOLS

When it comes to small Class C pools (hotels, motels, apartments, condominium pools), there is very little delegation as to who should be certified. In many instances, the swimming pool manager could very well be the owner. The owner/manager whether operating the pool or not, should be certified in order to have a good understanding of the basic pool operations. If the facility has a spa, there is additional responsibility and the importance of having proper training is higher. Any individual who evaluates and adjusts the pool water chemistry should be certified and it is recommended to have a certified pool operator present whenever the pool is open for use.

 

CLASS E POOLS

Medical treatment pools, therapy pools, exercise pools and other specialized pools, otherwise known as Class E pools, usually have a very small staff and the operation of the pool is only one of many responsibilities. Normally, pool maintenance is contracted to an outside third-party service technician. It is important that this technician be certified. The manager of the facility should also be certified to ensure they have the knowledge necessary in evaluating the performance of the technician.

 

CLASS A, B & D POOLS

Classes A, B and D pools (competition pools, park pools, water parks) typically have a highly trained aquatic staff. At these larger facility, management is structured in several layers starting with the facility director at the head. The aquatic staff also normally includes aquatic coordinators, swim instructors, lifeguards, supervisors and maintenance employees. Each individual on the management team is responsible for the supervision and safety of the facility. Larger facilities should require the proper training at each level of management including maintenance personnel, head lifeguards, pool supervisor, and facility director.

 

Click here to register for one of our in class CPO courses.

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Chemical Controllers: What's the Big Deal?

Today, technology is all around us. It makes our lives easier and allows us to connect to anything from anywhere at anytime. Having a smart phone, access to the internet, and heck - even a personal computer, is a staple in this day and age. The internet is about to become classified as a utility because we are so dependent on it for our everyday life. When I was growing up, technology was nowhere near where it is today. There was no such thing as an iPhone, an Android phone, or a Blackberry. I remember the days when a telephone was attached to the wall, it had a rotary dial and a cord, and it meant running half way across the house to answer it when someone called! The extent of modern technology in my house as a kid was a microwave, a television, a VCR and an Atari game system. If I wanted to communicate with friends I had to either call them on the old rotary phone or walk down the street to their house.

 

Fast forward to 2016 and just imagine your life without technology. With app’s like Twitter, all of the day’s news is waiting for us in the palm of our hand each morning. With Facebook and Instagram, we don’t even need to call our friends to know what’s happening in their lives. Technology has so much to offer and it has reached out into most areas of our everyday lives making completing daunting tasks more efficient and less time consuming. If you look around, how many people do you see without a form of technology, whether it be a mobile phone, a tablet or a personal computer?

 

Well the modern day swimming pool is no different. Technology, automation, and computer controls play a very important role in today’s pools. Gone are the days of having to manually adjust the chemistry in a swimming pool by hand on a regular basis. Swings and spikes in pool chemistry were difficult to control when adjusting manually, but with the help of technology, computer controls keep the chemistry in check and allow your pool to virtually run on auto pilot.

 

These improved chemical controllers also add an additional level of safety to the modern pool. Given that the chemical controller controls the feed of chemicals into the system, it also has the ability to lock out the feed if chemical levels get to high or too low. For example, if the PH level in a pool drops too low, the water will become very acidic and can cause damage to the pool/spa, and can also cause irritation to a swimmers body. If the body of water is very small, such as in a spa, and PH levels are drastically low, it can even cause acid burns. When the controller sees a low PH condition it will put the controller into alarm and prevent additional feeding of muriatic acid, keeping bathers safe and alerting the operator through on screen displays, texts or email notifications. The controller can also do the same thing when it comes to chlorine levels. If the chlorine levels in a pool or spa become too high, it can lock out the chlorine feed until the levels come within an acceptable range. The controllers can be set to a proportional feed, pumping in smaller amounts of chemicals to prevent “over shooting” or “spiking” chemical feed.

 

Behind the scenes of every swimming pool is a mechanical room; the mission control of a pool. The mechanical room is full of pumps, filters, piping, heaters, controls, UV’s, and a small computer control center called the chemical controller. The chemical controller is the brain of the entire operation, but what does it do and what are the differences between the different manufacturers?

 

The chemical controller constantly monitors the water through a sample line and sample cell which is fed water via the filter pump. The basic controller is checking the chlorine or bromine levels and PH with ORP and PH probes. Higher end controllers also have the ability to check free chlorine, total chlorine and stabilizer levels. What’s more, they can also connect to and control UV units, start and stop filtration systems, automatically control backwashing of the filters and they can even communicate with variable frequency drives (VFD’s) and building automation systems.

 

The days of worrying about your pool while you’re off duty or away from your facility are long gone. With new technology, most chemical controllers now have the ability to send a text or email notification directly to your smart phone if the controller senses a problem! You can even connect to them over the internet through HTML or smart phone apps to monitor and control the complete system from anywhere in the world. Talk about a technological advancement for a swimming pool!

 

Imagine being a pool operator of a commercial facility and having an issue with the pool in the middle of the night, or worse, while you are away on vacation. You could come back to a real mess, and the pool chemistry could be completely out of balance. Depending on the size of the pool, this mess could take a couple of days to get back inline. A pool with a modern chemical controller will notify you of the problem and then automatically start to chemically treat the water to keep it in balance, before you come back to a big mess.

 

But what are the big differences between different manufacturers? Is one better than the other? In my opinion, there really aren’t any “big” differences; they all come down to budget, options, and operator preference. All name brand controllers come with the basic ORP and PH monitors and controls, and just like a new car you can get them with options. For example; if monitoring the chlorine levels and bromine levels by ORP is not your thing, add on a PPM probe. Some operators are not familiar with ORP levels, but they are very familiar with PPM levels because this is what they commonly record in their books. Is the ability to log in and control your pool using your smart phone from anywhere in the world important to you? No problem! Just add an HTML interface. Today, most chemical controller manufacturers are seeing the importance of being connected all the time and this option is now becoming a standard hardware option and just requires setup at the time of commissioning. Are you looking to monitor the cyanuric acid level of your outdoor pool? No problem! Simply add on the probe. Free chlorine and total chlorine are an easy add-on to any system with the simple addition of monitor probes. All of these options can be added to any chemical controller.

 

No matter what brand you choose, at the end of the day all will ultimately do the same thing. How much it will do depends on how much you want to invest and what options you want to include. 

 

So next time you are staying up to date with your friends on Twitter and Facebook, or checking the news on your CNN app, take a few minutes to click the pool app on your phone and see how things are operating on your swimming pool.

 

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