The end of summer is a crucial time for pool owners.
Temperatures are dropping and so can your yearly pool maintenance costs, depending on how you prepare your pool for winter.
While many people hire outside help to close their pools, you can save hundreds of dollars by doing the work yourself; and the best news is that winterizing your water does not have to take all day! With the proper tools and a few hours at home, you can close your own in-ground or above-ground pool this season – and gain some valuable experience for years to come.
Closing In-Ground Pools
When preparing your in-ground pool for winter, a good place to start is with the water itself: do not drain it too low.
Keeping the correct water levels through wintertime will be crucial to your pool liner’s health, so make sure to drain no lower than just below the skimmer. Checking the pH levels (how acidic your water is), and balancing your pool’s alkalinity (a blend of carbonates, hydroxides, bicarbonates, etc.), are also important beginning tasks when closing an in-ground pool. A healthy pH balance is anywhere from 7.2-7.6, and alkalinity should rest somewhere between 80 ppm and 150 ppm when closing. If you use chlorine or another pool sanitizer, make sure these levels are high enough to prevent algae that can accumulate in the wintertime, but low enough that the acid will not damage a pool cover. Once you have checked the pH, alkalinity, and sanitizer levels, you may also need to shock your pool, especially if you live in a cooler climate where such measures will further protect your pool from winter damage.
Next comes cleaning – there should not be an ounce of debris left in your pool before covering up for the season. A clean pool means a safe pool, protected from unnecessary buildup that often occurs in winter months. Make sure to remove any debris from your water’s surface, brush and vacuum the bottom and sides. Depending on how much your hose fills with waste, you may also need to backwash to remove any extra buildup. Remove any add-ons around your pool, especially from the ladder, and be sure to clean the skimmer baskets as well. Many people also include the use of algaecide, or other chemicals included in a winter closing kit, to their pool-winterizing routine. (Check here for information on algae and the best method of clearing it from your pool).
You will also need to remove any drain plugs from your pool equipment and clean your pool filter. Be sure you clean out all DE powder if you have a DE filter, to prevent fabric from jamming in the cold. If there is no water in your pool pipes during the wintertime, there will be no chance of freeze damage – so be sure to also blow the pipes out. While there are many different types of pool vacuums for this specific purpose, you could also try using a cost-effective, high-powered air compressor to clear the pool pipes.
Once the pipes are drained, your pool levels are situated, and the water is clear, plug up all pool pipes and place the pool cover. Pool covers, which are not to be confused with safety covers, come in mesh and vinyl. Here is a list of pros and cons that accompany each type, so you can decide which one is right for your pool. Make sure that your cover is fastened tightly enough to prevent extra water from creeping into the pool, placing extra weights to hold down the sides if necessary.
Closing Above-Ground Pools
Above-ground pools are a bit more straightforward to close than in-ground, but the same basic steps will still be necessary.
Check water chemical levels, (pH and alkalinity are the same for most pool types), clear all debris, and vacuum. Once you have completed those tasks, plug your return line with a winter plug. Make sure your pool baskets are clean, and clear the skimmer of any debris to ensure that rainwater can drain through the winter.
The pump and filter in an above-ground pool will need to be cleaned, and all hoses leading to the pool will need to be removed for winter closing. As with in-ground pools, the best insurance against cold-water pump and filter damage in an above-ground pool is to drain all the pipes. Once you have removed any tubes, filters, and pumps for winter storage, place these items in a safe, indoor location.
The final step – and possibly the most crucial with above-ground pool closings – is to secure your pool cover the right way. Using twine or any other sturdy ties, try securing an air pillow on top of the water in the center of your pool. Air pillows are a great investment for above-ground pools, because they not only ensure against too much rain water collection, they also make removing the cover much easier. If you are not using an air pillow, you can attach a pool cover using steel cable, which also works well with mesh covers. Whichever method you choose, just make sure that your pool cover is secure against a high wind or any other winter elements.
Even though it can be a bittersweet experience, closing your own pool does not have to be a costly or time-intensive process. If you have never tried it before, look into winterizing your pool yourself this year; you will save some money, and will develop the skills necessary to ensure that your pool has a long life!