a person cleaning out a pool

Pool maintenance tips

Household 4 min read

Whether your pool is in-ground or above-ground, smart year-round pool servicing can ultimately save you money, time, and effort. This is especially true when supply chain crunches or regional natural disasters lead to a scarcity of products and equipment.

Pool care experts know how to fix common problems and prevent the need for expensive repairs. Dan Lenz is vice president of All Seasons Pools & Spas, Inc. in the southwest Chicago suburbs, specializing in in-ground pool construction and service. He’s also the Midwest chapter president of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA). Craig Sears is president of the pool management and renovation company Sears Pool Management in the Atlanta metro area, and a PHTA member.

Pool care tips and pool maintenance cost

Here are their ten pool care tips, and insights on the cost to maintain a pool.

1. Find a trustworthy pool pro

“Make sure you’re getting a good education,” Lenz suggests. He also added that some companies offer pool school sessions that cover pumps, through-filters, circulation, and water chemistry. Even if you take on pool maintenance yourself, you’ll need support. Sears recommends pursuing classes available through the PHTA.

Your location influences pool maintenance costs. The average yearly cost of owning a pool can vary drastically depending on where you live. Sears points out that prices for services, supplies, and chemicals increase the further north you go since the season is short. According to Home Guide professional pool maintenance could cost $110 to $250 per month in southern states versus $400 to $600 or more per month in the north. Lenz cautions against basing your decision on cost alone. Make sure to find a reputable company that has extensive experience with pool cleaning and maintenance.

2. Testing is key

“A residential pool should be tested twice a week,” Lenz says, citing industry standards. “Water chemistry is the area of pool [maintenance] that is going to be the most damaging and costly if you’re not keeping up with it.”

Water testing is critical, especially if you handle the pool maintenance. Besides your tests, Lenz urges pool owners to bring a bottle of water to their local pool pro at least once every couple of weeks to get tested. Neglect testing and you could have acidic water that damages the pool interior or causes a heater to spring a leak, Lenz warns.

3. Choose the right sanitizer

With DIY pool maintenance, you will spend most of your time checking and adjusting chemicals. Correct chemistry protects you and your guests. There are four primary sanitizers: Trichlor, short for Trichloro-S-Triazinetrione, which comes in a stick or puck, liquid chlorine, calcium hypochlorite, and a saline system.

Talk to a local professional about sanitizer options to find the best one for your pool because there are pros and cons to each one, Sears advises.

4. Check your suction outlets

Sears points to a federal safety law mandating new pool suction outlets for commercial pools. Homeowner compliance is voluntary. “What that means is there are a lot of unsafe suction outlets in backyard pools,” he warns. “Make sure that you have compliant fittings.” Add them to your maintenance calendar to know when they’re due for replacement.

This is just one of the reasons Sears advises homeowners against renting out their private pools, even with insurance coverage. “Let’s say they didn’t know the suction fittings weren’t up-to-date, and then an accident happened,” he says. “It would be devastating.” Learn more about homeowners insurance and what coverages can help with pools. Learn more about how homeowners insurance covers swimming pools.

5. Keep your pH balance

“There are so many ways that you can minimize the amount of chlorine you need and still have a well-sanitized pool,” Lenz says. Rather than search for chlorine alternatives, target the overall water balance. Allowing your acidity level to reach 8.0 means the chlorine is far less efficient than it would be with a pH of 7.5. Lenz says you can save more than 50% of your chlorine costs by maintaining the right balance.

6. Clean proactively

Don’t wait until the water looks murky to clean your pool. Lenz’s personal pool has automatic cleaning equipment that runs daily. “My pool is never dirty, and my chemical use is as minimal as it can be,” he says.

But you don’t need robotic assistance. Lenz recommends brushing the interior pool surface once a week to detach the microscopic elements from the walls and the floor so the chemicals can attack them from all sides.

7. Get to know your filter

Every filter contains media that traps particles as the water flows through, Lenz explains. An overwhelmed filter can negatively affect pool circulation. The main filter types (sand, diatomaceous earth, cartridge) have a pressure gauge that indicates when the filter is clean and when it’s time to flush out contamination, called backwashing.

The time to backwash depends on your filter. Waiting until the pressure goes too high on a cartridge could damage it. However, Lenz says the dirtier a sand filter gets, the better it filters. “If you’re backwashing every week and it’s not necessary, odds are the pool’s probably getting a little bit hazier than it would be otherwise.”

8. Target algae

The spores aren’t visible to the naked eye, but there are algae in your pool, Lenz says. He suggests using algaecide routinely. Depending on the product, that could be once a week or every other week.

A high-quality algaecide could go for $60 for a quart, but you’re only using ounces per dose, he says. Treating algae that have taken hold would require twice as much. Lenz adds that keeping algae in check makes the chlorine more available to go after bacteria.

9. Watch the water level

New pool owners may not know that pool water evaporates, particularly when the water is warmer than the air. If your pump or heater stops working, check the water level. Be careful about automatic fill devices: Yours might be hiding a leak. If you’re suddenly going through more chlorine, have a professional check your pool. Spotting a leak early saves you from paying for extra water, heat, and chemicals.

Are in-ground pools easier to maintain than above-ground pools? “There really isn’t any truth to one being less work or more work than the other,” Lenz says. Water volume matters, though, because smaller pools intensify the job that your chemicals and cleaning systems have to do.

10. Prep for cold

“What many homeowners don’t know — and even many people in the industry don’t really know — is cold water, just the fact that it’s cold, can be very damaging,” Lenz says. Year-round pools need extra attention in cooler months. Continue checking the water and adjusting to maintain the overall balance, Lenz suggests. Otherwise, you could shorten the pool’s lifespan.

If you do close up for the winter, use a safety pool cover that anchors into the deck and has straps for tension, Sears says. “We talk about layers of protection in the industry,” he says. “Make sure you’re using as many layers of protection as possible.”

Now that you’ve learned all these pool maintenance tips, you may want to know more about attractive nuisances, (hint—your pool could be one).

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