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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 is Ultraviolet (UV) & How it is Applied to Swimming Pools?

The strong smell of chlorine within an aquatic facility is not a sign that the pool or spa is clean. It's actually a signal that there is something wrong. Luckily, there is an application that can be added to your swimming pool recirculation system to help correct this issue, and create a safer and more enjoyable swimming experience - An Ultraviolet (UV) system.

 

From a hydrotherapy spa to the largest Olympic-sized competition pool, UV sanitation systems are quickly becoming (or have already become, in some municipalities) the most popular method of additional water treatment in the aquatic industry. UV not only destroys chloramines, the unpleasant by-products of chlorination, but it is also a highly effective disinfectant (although the need for chlorine is reduced with the use of a UV system, it is still needed to ensure proper disinfection).

 

Chloramines are formed when free chlorine reacts with sweat, urine, and other contaminants in pool water. Trichloramines, in particular, are powerful irritants which are responsible for eye and respiratory complaints and the unpleasant ‘chlorine smell’ commonly associated with indoor pools. Chloramines are also corrosive to the surrounding area, and in time can lead to damage to pool accessories, buildings and structures, such as railings, ladders, and ventilation ducts. Any water treatment system that reduces these unwanted conditions is therefore welcome.

 

UV harnesses the power of ultraviolet light to eliminate microorganisms, lower chemical usage, and eliminate toxic by-products.

 

WHAT IS UV?

UV is a highly efficient, natural disinfectant that nutralizes virtually all known microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and molds and their spores, by permanently destroying their DNA.

 

Ultraviolet light is a naturally occurring component of sunlight. It falls in the region between visible light and X-ray in the electromagnetic spectrum. The mechanism of UV disinfection is strong sunlight that disinfects water by permanently de-activating bacteria, spores, moulds and viruses.

 

These systems reproduce UV radiation inside light chambers via powerful lamps, which emit germicidal UV-C light that is used to disinfect pool and spa water.

 

UV-C causes permanent damage to a number of microorganisms almost instantly as the water circulates through the light chamber. By disrupting the microorganism’s DNA, protozoans, viruses and bacteria are unable to replicate and remain inert. This light, however, works only on water that flows through the chamber.

 

HOW IS UV APPLIED TO SWIMMING POOLS?

Ultraviolet is a recommended application that can be added to any swimming pool. However, it should only be used as a secondary pool water disinfectant. A primary disinfectant,  such as chlorine or bromine,  still needs to be used at all times. Chlorine/bromine have a very important property which UV lacks – the ability to provide a residual level of disinfectant in the pool water contained within the tank itself. This means chlorine/bromine can remain in the pool water actively attacking pathogens at the moment they are introduced, whereas a UV system can only disinfect the water that passes through the UV chamber within the pools recirculation system. Once the water has left the chamber, it is vulnerable to be re-infected by swimmers.

 

UV systems are particularly suited to both chloramine destruction and disinfection. The resulting effect is a cleaner, healthier, and more pleasant atmosphere both in and around the pool. The potential dangers caused by Trichloramines are significantly reduced, and the danger of infection by harmful microorganisms is also eliminated.

 

There are a variety of considerations to be taken into account when choosing an Ultra Violet system and different lamps are used in different applications. The nature of the decision can be quite detailed, making it important to find the right swimming pool professional who can assist in finding the right application for you and your aquatic facility.

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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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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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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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Heat Loss Prevention: Solar Blankets or Liquid Pool Covers?

When I think about heating an outdoor swimming pool, the first method that comes to mind is a solar blanket, or solid cover. Usually, this means a large blue bubble wrap sheet that covers the entire surface of your pool, and is stored on a reel when the pool is in use. However, did you know there is another option to help keep the heat in your pool? Let’s take a look at two of the most common, but different options.

 

A solar blanket retains heat, and radiates the heat to the pool water when the sun is shining. When purchasing a solar blanket, you have several options you can choose from including, but not limited to size, shape, colour, density, and type of material. With the array of sizes and shapes, there will always be something that will fit your pool almost perfectly or, in some cases, after a little trimming. All colour options are equally effective, so the choice of colour is ultimately based on the pool owner’s preference. The density of the cover will usually determine the life expectancy of the cover.  

 

SOLAR BLANKETS

Solar blankets can help protect your pool water from debris that could blow in on a windy day; however, solar blankets can also become a breeding ground for algae if left on for too long in the heat and humidity. Below, are a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of solar blanket heating options.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Solar blankets have an insulating quality (provided by the air pockets that make them up) that liquid covers do not.
  • Can help prevent some debris from entering the pool

DISADVANTAGES

  • Solar Blankets don’t last long. After approximately 3 seasons, the blanket will need to be replaced.
  • Labour intensive (If you do not have a reel for your solar blanket, you need two sets of hands to lift and fold the blanket before and after pool use)
  • Solar blankets are not aesthetically pleasing.
  • They can be very dangerous if trapped underneath.
  • Not environmentally friendly. Did you know you can make tens of thousands of sandwich bags from the material used in a solar blanket? Process to manufacture uses oil to produce the plastic.
  • Although a solar blanket will prevent some debris from entering the pool, most of it ends up in the pool when you take the cover off.

LIQUID POOL COVERS

Liquid covers reduce heat loss in your swimming pool by reducing evaporation of water from the surface. There are a number of liquid pool covers currently on the market by many different manufacturers. However, one thing that seems to be consistent throughout the market is the environmentally friendly factor. Liquid pool covers are usually biodegradable and made with an alcohol based product, which won’t harm your pools chemistry when used in the correct dosage. Most importantly, liquid pool covers are safe for your family, and even your four legged friends!

 

The ingredients used to form a liquid pool cover are not the only safety feature. When considering safety, liquid pool covers are by far the safer option in comparison to a solar blanket. If you have children or pets and use a solar blanket, there is a potential risk of entrapment. Once submerged, a solar blanket can be difficult to escape for people and animals of all sizes. A liquid pol covers invisible film is impossible for something or someone to get caught underneath, eliminating the risk of entrapment entirely.

 

When taking operation into account, liquid pool covers have their disadvantages as well. Since the liquid is a thin layer, it can be disturbed by movement in the water and from wind. The liquid pool cover will only resume its total pool coverage once the water movement has stopped.

 

The convenience of a liquid pool cover is another benefit. There is no labour required to use this product. On top of that, how many times have you thought to yourself, “I’d like to go for a swim”, only to realize that your solar blanket is on and to go swimming, you not only have to find another set of hands, but you also have to remove it? Sometimes, going for a swim isn’t really worth the effort. A huge benefit of a liquid pool cover is the immediacy. Do you want to swim right now? Great! With a liquid pool cover all it takes is a big jump and you are swimming, without the worry of lugging that large wet plastic tarp off of your pool. Below, are a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of liquid pool covers.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • The danger of entrapment is eliminated with the use of a liquid pool cover
  • There is no labour requirement
  • No need to worry about replacement covers
  • Non-toxic
  • Very aesthetically pleasing. The cover is completely transparent, and invisible to the naked eye. Swimmers won’t even know it is being used.
  • Environmentally friendly and biodegradable

DISADVANTAGES

  • Must purchase the product
  • Not suitable for disturbed water
  • Will not stop debris from entering the pool

Solar blankets and liquid pool covers both have their benefits, but they also have their downfalls. They are both effective at preventing heat loss from your pool, however, there are some differences. After considering all of the factors for each option, and weighing them against some of your needs you can determine the benefits you value the most, which in the end, will help you make a decision.

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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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