Lightning: Its effects and ways to protect against it

lightning strike 2

A well-placed lightning strike can cause considerable damage to anything it strikes. One bolt can produce up to a billion volts of electricity, so anything that gets struck tends to suffer significant damage, like the tree above. Needless to say, lightning damage can be a factor for your pool as well — but not necessarily in the way you might think.

After dealing recently with the effects of flooding, we’re turning our attention to lightning. One strike, whether it hits the pool equipment directly or causes an electrical surge that trickles down to the lighting, wiring, or the modem of the internet router inside the house, can cause quite a bit of chaos with your pool’s features. In this article we’ll go over what kind of damage a bolt can cause and steps that can be taken to try to head off damage if lightning does strike.

Effects of lightning

Very rarely does the bolt of lightning actually hit the pool or pool equipment. Instead, the surge of electricity is typically going to hit at the tallest point of the yard. Most likely, that will be a tree, a metal pole, or the roof of the house. From there, the bolt makes the journey down to the surface, where it can hit the water or get into the modem connection or lighting wiring. After that, this is what tends to happen:

  • The modem could get knocked offline: If your pool is connected to the internet via ScreenLogic, the electrical surge can either knock out the power to your house, which will turn the internet connection off, or blow out the communication wires between your modem and the pool. The first can be fixed when the power comes on, the second would necessitate a rewiring of the ScreenLogic so you can control your pool’s functions remotely.
  • The underground lighting wires could be compromised: The surge from the lightning can travel all the way from the strike point down into the underground wiring, either damaging the lights or shorting them entirely. If its the former, it might take days or months until you realize that there is a problem. This is especially true with copper wiring.

As far as the actual pool and spa, you won’t need to be worried about physical damage unless there’s a direct hit. That hit could come from the lightning bolt itself or from falling debris such as tree branches. Lightning could also inflict damage on any sort of irrigation system you have installed too. If that happens, we can repair for a fee through A Total Coverage.

Solutions/Preventative Measures

While you obviously can’t prevent your house from being struck by lightning, there are measures that can be taken to minimize the damage from the bolt. One option is to purchase a surge protector device for your pool’s computer system. The surge protector is designed to take all of the brunt from the lightning strike and protect the system for damage. It basically acts in the same way as an insurance deductible. It will need to be replaced with each strike, but if there’s any damage to the computer system the surge protector’s warranty will cover it.

The other option is to have your homeowner’s insurance cover the damage costs and the cost of having an electrician fix any faulty lighting or wiring. While you wouldn’t have to keep buying surge protectors, the deductible on your homeowner’s insurance could be quite large (5-10 percent of your insurance value). Either way, those options are worth looking into so you have a plan of attack if a lightning bolt compromises your pool or irrigation systems.

Flood aftermath: Getting back to normal

In our previous post we detailed the affects of a flood on your pool and the steps that can be taken to get your pool back to swimming shape. We recently received a story from a customer who put the advice in that post into practice to get their pool ready to go. Join us on a trip into the Cochran’s Crossing section of The Woodlands, where we’ll see a skillful flood recovery.

After the rain

backyard flood

The recent deluge of rains led to a lot of scenes like the above scene in The Woodlands and throughout Greater Houston, as the heavy rain stressed local creeks and rivers and also oversaturated already wet soil, bringing groundwater to the surface. Therefore, places that aren’t exactly “riverfront property” got a temporary riverfront view.

As the weather stabilized, the flooding receded and things started to look a little more normal. However, the dissipation of the flooding also provides the first real glimpse of the damage that was done. As you can see below, the excess water took its toll on this pool, overwhelming it with outside water, dirt and debris.

pool during flood

After the flood: The cleaning process

It took just under five days for that murky, muddy pool to turn into the glistening, beautiful marvel below:

clean pool after flood

So what was done? It was a multi-faceted process which involved drain and refilling the pool twice along with vacuuming the pool and cleaning out the filters several times. As explained in the last article, the pool wasn’t drained completely, as a completely drained pool could cause the shell of the pool to “float”. Instead, it was drained halfway to remove much of the murky water, then refilled with clean water. Once the clean water was added, the pool was vacuumed to remove remaining debris, with periodic filter cleanings taking place during the vacuuming process.

Because of the amount of flood water and particulates that made it into the pool, the pool was drained and refilled a second time. From there, the vacuuming and filter cleaning was effective in getting the pool back to being swimmable. As for the rest of the yard? That’s looking pretty good, too.

post flood yard

Cleaning your pool after flooding and heavy rains

spa black

It’s springtime in Southeast Texas, which means rain — lots of it. This past week saw the area deluged by storms, causing flooding and destruction all over the Houston area. Along with the flooding of highways, yards and houses, the recent weather has caused area pools to be filled with rainwater and debris, both floating and wind-blown.

When we redesigned this website a year ago, we did a series on the effects of rain when it comes to building your pool. This rainstorm has prompted us to pen this writeup on how to clean and get your pool back in swim mode after heavy storms and flooding.

Three variables in cleaning your pool after flooding or a storm

pool black

The rain had let up a bit but seems to have come back with a vengeance. It will stop eventually at some point. When it does, it’ll be time to look in your backyard to see how the pool is holding up. While your pool might not look quite like the picture above, odds are that there are a lot of displaced items in it. Whether it’s animals that have decided to take residence in your pool, dirt or leaves that were blown in, or simply an overflow of displaced rain or groundwater, your pool isn’t exactly swimmable right now.

It’s not a simple as taking a skimmer and scooping out the foreign debris, though. Here are the three things you have to be cognizant of while getting your pool back in shape.

Safety

Before starting the process of cleaning your pool, it’s important to take the appropriate safety measures. When it comes to flooding, that means making sure any animals or debris such as broken glass or branches are identified and removed safely and completely.

We know what you’re thinking — what kind of animals could possibly be in my pool? Well, the recent flooding saw a baby tiger get loose in Conroe. While we don’t expect any big cats to make an appearance in your backyard, don’t be surprised if snakes, bugs or small mammals — alive or dead — get blown or washed into your pool from the flooding. Spiders can also make an appearance, especially in dark places such as filters and skimmers. That includes poisonous spiders such as the brown recluse, so wear gloves and be careful when sticking your hands inside the filters or skimmers.

As for other animals, the amount of caution depends on the animal. Many bugs and smaller snakes can be removed with minimal risk, but if you get a larger snake, a poisonous snake such as a copperhead, or a sizable dead mammal, you’ll want to have an animal removal service do the trick.

As far as glass and other debris, the advice is the same as with the spiders — be careful and don’t haphazardly stick your hands into hard-to-see dark areas. Have a flashlight handy and be safe.

Particulates

Once you’ve gotten all potentially hazardous material out of the pool, it’s time to deal with the other annoyances that have blown or washed into the pool. Heavy storms and flooding can introduce all sorts of particulates to the equation, items such as leaves, dirt, mud, sand, and mulch. These elements will overpower your robotic cleaner and clog up your filters, so you have to be careful.

While you’ll be able to grab some of the bigger chunks of debris, others will have to be removed by vacuuming and filtering. To best do this, turn off your pool and let the particulates settle on the surface of your pool before starting the vacuum process. To vacuum your pool, attach the vacuum tube to the filter pump, screw on the vacuum head and turn on the pool, allowing your pump to suck debris from the surface to the filter.

Odds are that you’ll have to do this process a few times, as the filter can only handle so much material before being clogged. Turn off the vacuum, clean the filter, and repeat the above process until the vast majority of the particulates are gone. At that point, your robotic cleaner should work effectively.

In extreme cases of heavy particulates, draining the pool partially is an option. Doing this, then scrubbing the surface, will help prevent algae blooms after a flood. If you decide to drain the pool, do not drain more than half of it and certainly do not drain all of it. If you do the latter, your pool will be dislodged from the ground (which is filled with groundwater that will push the shell of your pool up) and start to float. If this happens, you’ll have to completely rip out your pool and re-do it. And you don’t want that.

Another way to combat algae, or even the staining of your plaster from material such as mulch, is to scrub your pool once a day during the storm. Scrubbing your pool breaks up the material and can save you money down the road, as the chemicals in mulch combined with standard white plaster can cause discoloration and, eventually, the replastering or acid-washing of the surface.

Chemical rebalance

Once you have the debris and particulates removed, it’s time to get your water back in balance. Introducing heavy rain and groundwater will alter the pH and chlorine balance. If you have an IntelliChem then you can set the system to your preferred specs and have the system do its work. We noticed that pools with IntelliChem did a good job of keeping the pool’s water chemistry afloat (pun intended) during the most recent storms.

If you don’t have an IntelliChem, then you’ll need to add chlorine to your pool during the storm to keep the water close to balance. With the excess rain, ground and flood water that’s present, you’ll want to go a little heavier on chlorine than you normally would. Pouring the chlorine while you are brushing the pool is a good way to be efficient with your maintenance time.

What you should do before meeting your pool builder

contemporary pool shenandoah

With March Madness behind us, we are coming upon our spring blitz. Summer is approaching at a rapid clip, so now is a time when people look into installing a swimming pool. We enjoy this time of year, as it gives us a chance to meet new customers and further branch out into the community.

But it’s not necessarily as simple as “I want a pool, what can you do for me?” Well, it can be if you want, but that initial meeting with a pool builder could be a humbling and discouraging one without doing some research first. The last thing we want to do is to discourage and intimidate you from getting that dream pool by quoting a ridiculously large fee that’s way out of your price range.

So with that being said, here is a checklist of what you should research/have in mind prior to meeting with a pool builder. Or, in other words, this is our version of this:

What to do before meeting the builder

Before deciding which features are important and which bells and whistles you want to have alongside your swimming pool, the first thing you have to do its figure out the exact money you want to spend. If we know your financial ballpark before we start discussing the size of your pool and all of the options that can be added along with it, we can devise with a realistic game plan that fits your vision of your pool while also being within your budget.

A lot of times pool builders will include all of bells and whistles in their initial estimate, which makes for a large, intimidating quote. If you figure out your budget beforehand and communicate it to us, we can skip the awkward initial stages and start further along down the path of building your pool.

Once you have your budget in place, it’s time to prioritize your features. Here are some of the main questions you have to ask yourself:

  • How big do I want my pool to be?
  • How much decking do I want surrounding my pool?
  • Do I want a hot tub and if I do, where do I want it to be in relation to my pool?
  • Do I want features such as waterfalls, waterslides, lighting or a swim-up bar?
  • Do I want any automated systems such as IntelliTouch, Easy Touch, robotic cleaners or water chemistry tools such as IntelliChem or ozonators?
  • Do I want lighting and if I do, do I want LED or regular lighting?

Once you have answered the following questions, then you have to rank each answer in the order of most important to least important. Unless you have an unlimited budget, you might have to choose between a few square feet of decking over a waterfall, at least initially. Either way, it’s important to have a ranking of priorities that you can communicate to your builder to find the perfect combination of features.

When considering your priority rankings, also keep in mind that some aspects of the pool-building process need to be settled right away, while others can be added down the road. Therefore, keep the following things in mind in this order when you are deciding what your dream pool should be:

  • Once the project has started, your pool size is permanent and your deck size might as well be: You can’t just call an audible and make your pool bigger once the ground has been broken — the size of your pool is set from that point on. Also, adjusting your decking size is a huge pain and can be quite costly. If you decide to add more decking after the deck has been framed out, the colors might not match and the costs will likely rise. Therefore, decide these sizes and costs first before proceeding. This is the point where you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to sacrifice size for more bells and whistles.
  • Decide whether you want a spa and where you want that spa to be: A spa doesn’t necessarily need to be present at the start of construction, but it’s best to tell your builder at that point whether you’ll eventually want one. If you want one down the road and communicate that to us, we can install the necessary piping and drainage at initial construction for a much lower cost than it would be down the road. However, once you decide you want a spa, you need to come up with a set placement for it. You can’t pick up and move the spa, and the overall cost of the spa is directly related to its distance from the pool equipment pad.
  • Features can come later, but it’s best to decide now if you’ll eventually want them: Items such as waterfalls, plaster, slides, swim-up bars, and fire pits are things that can be added down the road and can be treated as line-item additions, but it’s best to plan for their addition during the initial construction. If you decide at the beginning that you’ll want a waterfall down the road, we can install a main drain now and wouldn’t need to drain or replaster the pool in the future to install the waterfall. Having to drain and replaster the pool in the future would cost considerably more money, so if you think you might want a waterfall down the road let us know now. Your bank account will thank you.
  • You can add smart systems at any time: Items such as the IntelliTouch, Easy Touch, ScreenLogic, ozonators or robotic cleaners can be installed at any point along the way. We add these systems to pools that were built years ago, so if you decide you want to control your pool functions and water chemistry through your computer or smartphone down the road, we can help.
  • Lighting can be installed at any time, but once you decide on the type of lighting, that’s permanent: We can install regular lights or LED lights whenever you’d like, but if you get regular lights initially, we can’t retrofit existing lighting niches to LED down the road and vice versa. The technology for that change simply isn’t available yet. It’ll come, perhaps soon, but for now, whatever lights you choose are the lights you’re staying with.

Picking the right types of plaster and caring for plaster

Last week we wrote about the three main types of plaster that we use as finish on pools. Today, we’ll delve more into each type of plaster, the advantages and disadvantages of it, and how to maintain and take care of your plaster once it’s installed.

pool spa green woodlands

Breaking down the types of plaster

While we did a short overview on the types of plaster in the earlier article, it’s time to go more in-depth into the benefits and drawbacks of each type of finish.

Regular white plaster: This is the most common type of plaster that is installed for several reasons: It’s the base of all plaster finishes, it’s the easiest to install, and it’s the most affordable. Along with being the “default” type of plaster, white plaster is also the easiest plaster to color, making it a popular choice for people that are looking to add a bit of a dash of flavor to the finish of their pool.

The cost and the flexibility make white Portland cement the finish of choice for many, but choosing the basic finish makes it very important to pay attention to all of the elements of your pool, especially water chemistry. White plaster is easy to damage if your water chemistry isn’t on point. If your water is more basic than acidic (or too acidic), it can eat away at your plaster and could cause you to have to replaster your pool down the road. That would eliminate any savings you received from choosing white plaster in the first place.

Deficient water chemistry can also effect the color of your plaster. Having your pH a little off can cause uneven coloring down the road.

“If your water chemistry is off, your surface color is going to be very splotchy,” said Hervey Rodriguez of Uno Construction. “It’s going to look more like an easter egg.”

Quartz plaster: Quartz plaster is a popular alternative to the basic white plaster due to two factors — durability and attractiveness. As we mentioned in the first article, the quartz finish has a similar look and feel to counter tops you’ll find in a kitchen, as they are sturdier against the main chemicals of a pool (chlorine and muratic acid). Quartz is a hard surface that will stand the test of time.

That durability makes it worth the increased cost for many, as pools that have a quartz finish need to be replastered a lot less than its white plaster cousin. But it’s not completely infalliable to water chemistry problems. While the chemicals of the pool won’t eat away at quartz, the cement base of quartz makes it especially vulnerable to scaling, as the water can extract calcium from the exposed cement and leave annoying marks along the surface.

The IntelliChem is a valuable tool with a quartz finish, as it can tell you if your water chemistry is scaling. And like we wrote earlier this month, a little scale now can cause a lot of annoyance later.

Pebble plaster: Think of pebble plaster like a luxury car — if you can afford it and it’s important for you to have it, you’ll be pleased with the purchase. Pebble plaster is the BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar of the pool-finish game, as the pebble, stone and white ash styles provide a smooth, soft surface that’s as easy on the feet as it is on the eyes. It’s also less prone to deterioration or staining.

The luxury car comparison does fit though, as pebble plaster costs quite a bit more than both white and quartz plasters. Therefore, a pebble plaster surface must be a priority. If you are working on a budget and want elements such as a waterfall, an elevated spa, or a lap pool more, then it might be tough to add pebble plaster to the menu (though more power to you if you can).

Pebble plaster is also not flexible as far as coloration. Like with many luxury items, what you see is what you get. Asked for pebble plaster to be colored is like asking for steak sauce in a premier steakhouse. You might get a funny look.

Maintenance and repair

Now you know the ins and outs of the types of plaster, we’ll talk about how you take care of the plaster. As with most things in your pool, maintaining the correct water chemistry is key. When it comes to plaster, it’s best to keep your pool’s pH on the acidic side. Rodriguez recommends having your water in the 7.2 range, as the acids combat calcium buildup and staining on the quartz and pebble finishes while keeping the dissolving of the white plaster at a minimum.

If you already have plaster issues, there are a couple of directions you can go depending on the types of plaster you have. If you have quartz or pebble, getting an acid wash is a good way to proceed. There are two main methods of acid wash, a basic acid wash and a non-grain acid wash. Both involve making the water extremely acidic (6.3 or 6.4 pH) and allowing those acids to eat away at staining. A basic acid wash is a three-day process, while the non-grain wash runs five to six days.

An acid wash isn’t advised for white plaster, as the acids will eat away at the finish. Instead, you can try a lighter, less-acidic wash or get your pool replastered entirely to bolster your surface.

When getting a pool replastered, you’ll need to have a bond coat applied to the old surface. That will meld the new plaster to the old, adhering the surfaces to prevent breakage, slippage, or any other source of unevenness. Think of it as applying primer before painting your house.

Plaster and your pool: The main types of plaster

While crystal-clear water and great tiling are important aspects of your swimming pool, plaster provides the foundation for your pool’s look. Plaster is the coating over the gunite shell that provides the surface of your pool. The right plaster can give your pool’s surface an attractive look that accents your entire backyard swimming environment, as that finish will make your pool stand out.

So how do you pick the perfect finish for your pool? To help you do that, Ultimate Pools will give you a bit of a crash course on plaster. Today’s article will breakdown the different types of finishes that you can have installed in your pool, while our next article will break down some of the variables that go into selecting and taking care of that plaster.

Enjoy the journey.

pool spa the woodlands

Three main types of plaster

There are three main finishes that are typically installed on Ultimate Pools pools. All of them contain the same base, but the additional ingredients make the aggregate product of each unique. Here are the main three types that we usually deal with.

Regular white: This is actually the base of all the plasters that we deal with, as this white coating comes standard for installation over all gunite shells. This plaster is made from white Portland cement, making it easy to install and color with dye packages and paint. However, this type of plaster is the least durable of the three and make white plaster susceptible to staining and dissolving if your water chemistry is not on point.

“It’s actually made from the same type of material as Rolaids,” said Hervey Rodriguez of Uno Construction. “If you and I can digest it, you can imagine what happens when your muratic acid or chlorine are off.”

Quartz: For an additional fee, you can get quartz injected into your plaster. There are several benefits to this, the main one being the increased sturdiness of your finished surface. Quartz is a harder material which is used in a variety of furnishings such as indoor kitchens, making it more durable to the wear and tear your pool will face.

While a quartz finish will not be susceptible to flaking or being eaten away by the chemicals in your water, it does expose a lot of cement to the water of your pool. That increase the odds of staining, as the calcium components of the cement can cause discolorations on the surface if the water chemistry is off.

Pebble: Unlike the previous two types of plaster, pebble plaster does not involve a high level of exposed cement at the surface. Instead, the surface consists of smooth rock, as there are three main types of pebble finishes — pebble, stone and white ash. These stones make for a smooth, even, softer surface and the rounder the stone, the better the surface feels on your feet. And the lack of exposed cement makes staining less of a concern while containing similar durability to the quartz finish.

The concerns about pebble are the price (it costs a decent amount more than the quartz and white plaster finishes) and the lack of coloration options if that’s a priority. The surface color will be even, but the color options are based on the type of pebble selected. “We aren’t Sherwin Williams,” Rodriguez said.

These aren’t the only plaster finishes that are available, as you can get a glass finish. But the above three finishes are great places to start when looking to fulfill your plastering needs. Stay tuned for the second installment on plaster.

Scaling: What causes it and how to prevent it

While it’s annoying, scaling is something that will happen in your pool from time to time. Whether it’s the rocks, the plaster or the tile on the surface, scaling can leave a white calcium mark or residue that can detract from the aesthetics of the pool. While scaling on plaster, tile or bricks isn’t harmful to the foundation of your pool, it does leave it looking less attractive.

How does scaling occur? How do you deal with it once it happens? And better yet, how do you prevent it from happening in the first place? We’ll answer these questions one by one in this article.

wall with scaling

Scaling, as you can see in the picture above, typically shows up as a white film or mark on the surface and is visible once a wet surface is dried. It varies in degree and severity and can range from anywhere to a slight disturbance to a huge hassle that causes plenty of headaches and consternation.

Causes of scaling

There are two main causes of scaling, one which occurs naturally with an imbalance of moisture and one that occurs when the water chemistry of pool isn’t diligently maintained.

  • Efflorescence: Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it, it’s a tough one. It’s also tough to get out of concrete, as efflorescence is a crystalline deposit that comes from salt gravitating to the surface of concrete or masonry to create a white, film-like coating. Efflorescence scale can be caused simply by a gradual moisture imbalance in a section of your pool.”The moisture causes the salts to emerge through the gunite and rise to the surface,” said Scott Gordon, the Branch Manager of Sales at Master Tile. “These salts need somewhere to go, and efflorescence is the result of that. You’ll see it happen on bricks of a house if a sprinkler keeps hitting them at a certain point.”
  • Water chemistry imbalance: Having the wrong pH and alkalinity is another main cause of scaling in pools, as it leaves more of a calcium deposit on your plaster and tile than a salt-based one. Having the water slightly out of whack allows there to be too much calcium in the pool, which latches on to the pool surface and leaves a white scale residue. Too little alkaline can have a similar effect, leaving the unsightly white film.

Preventing/Dealing with Scaling

The best way to deal with scaling is not to allow it to happen in the first place. Gordon believes that taking the initiative with water chemistry is essential in preventing scale from occurring in the first place.

“It’s up to the homeowner to keep their pH levels where they need to be,” he said. “If you don’t pay attention or neglect it, your pH will go too low and too high and scaling will occur, and once it occurs, it’s very difficult to remove. You can try to scrub it out, but it usually comes back right after. Having the correct water chemistry is key.”

You can use smart maintenance systems such as IntelliChem and ScreenLogic to keep your water chemistry on point. As detailed in the writeup on IntelliChem that we did in July, the IntelliChem system not only helps you keep your chlorine, alkalinity, cynaric acid and calcium where they should be, but they can also tell you whether your pool water is ideal, normal, corrosive or scaling. If your water is the latter, than that’s when that tricky white film starts to appear.

It’s also good to scrub the surface of your pool regularly. That will help break up any calcium or salt deposits that make it to surface before they start leaving their mark on that surface. See point No. 1 in this article — scrubbing works with scaling as well as algae.

As far as correcting current scaling, the best way to go is to make sure your water chemistry is where it needs to be. There are other possible solutions that can be considered such as scrubbing out the white film or using chemical and glass beads to blast it out, but that scale will return if the water chemistry isn’t what it should be. If you want to keep your pool looking good, learning water chemistry and implementing it is absolutely necessary.

Spa mode helps keep spa water fresh and clean

Taking a dip in your spa usually isn’t the first impulse you have during the winter months. With the temperature being inconsistent at best and cold at worst, it’s easy to forget about your pool and spa and not put it into spa mode, letting the water sit idle until there’s a hint of spring in the air.

That is not a good idea.

Keeping your pool sitting in pool mode during the winter months can make that first spring dip into the pool uncomfortable, even harmful. Even when you aren’t planning on using it for a considerable length of time, it’s extremely important to switch your pool from pool mode to spa mode for a few minutes a day to keep your water’s circulation and chlorine dispersal in tip-top shape.

spa pool

What exactly does spa mode do?

Before we identify the consequences of not utlizing spa mode every day, we’ll explain what spa mode does in the first place. From here on out we’ll explain spa mode in relation to your actual spa, as that’s the part of your pool system where water needs to be circulated the most.

There are two main lines that are utilized when spa mode is activated — the suction line and the return line. The suction line takes water from the pool and sends it back in the pump for it to be refreshed. Once the water travels up to the pump it is sent back through the return line into your pool through a variety of avenues which include waterfalls, the jets in the spa, and bubblers.

On the way back to the pool, water is sent through to the cleaner line to the cleaner pump, where debris is filtered out and chlorine is added before returned to the pool as fresh water. That is why it is also important to periodically clean your filters, which will help your suction and return lines keep your water as clean as possible.

Consequences of not running spa mode

Ok, so you’ve let your pool sit during the winter months and are itching to jump into the spa and take a soak. Maybe you are looking to have some friends over to celebrate the first pool day of the spring. You turn on the jets and the first thing you notice is a strong chlorine odor. You ignore it, thinking that it’s just the chlorine working overtime to treat your pool.

That’s not what’s happening.

That smell coming from the jets and waterfalls isn’t indicative of over-chlorination. Instead, it’s indicative of the presence of chloramine. Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia. While it is a disinfectant, it isn’t nearly as effective at combating debris and bacteria as traditional chlorine. It’s also a lot harder to filter out through the suction and cleaner lines in the pool and can cause respiratory and skin discomfort at times, along with that annoying smell.

As for that smell, chloramines are smelly because they basically are the product of stale, spoiled, used-up chlorine. Equate it to milk being left out for too long. The heavy chlorine smell is a sign that the powerful cleaning elements of the chlorine in your pool have been compromised, leaving less-effective, “spoiled” chloramines. Not only is the smell unpleasant, but the ability of your suction cleaners, robotic cleaners or smart automated systems such as IntelliTouch to keep your water cleaned and chemistry on-point is negatively impacted.

Be proactive

Whether you are planning on using your pool or spa in a day, a week, or in a few months, you should put your pool into spa mode five minutes a day. That means running all of your water features such as jets, waterfalls and air bubblers, along with any water pumps you might have, for five minutes. Prior to putting the pool into spa mode you need to turn your pool’s air blowers on and keep them going for an extra minute after switching back to pool mode to clear out any remaining water.

Putting your pool into spa mode is something that can be handled remotely with smart systems such as IntelliTouch, Easy Touch, and Easy Touch Lite. You can program the time you want the pool to be in spa mode and let the system do the work. That will make that first spa day of spring a lot more pleasant!

Cleaning your pool filters: Why it’s important to do

Ultimate Pools offers many cutting-edge products, such as IntelliChem and Dolphin cleaners, that help keep your pool clean and swimmable at all times. That being said, it’s important for pool owners to clean their filters on a regular basis, as clean pool filters provide a base that keeps your pool water fresh and ready to go at all times. If your pool filter is dirty or compromised, water flow is compromised and your IntelliChem/Dolphin Cleaners aren’t as effective in doing their jobs.

How do you know when it’s time to get your pool filters cleaned? Here are some common indicators:

pool with waterfall steps

  • When the spillway of your spa is producing a weak stream of water: When a pool filter is clean, the pumps in your spa will send out a steady stream of water in pool mode which eventually gets circulated throughout your spa and pool. When a filter is dirty, that water stream is reduced greatly, even to the point of dribbling out. That lessens the circulation of water throughout your pool.
  • Your suction cleaner isn’t moving as fast: Your suction cleaners (such as the Pentair Racer) use the energy that comes from water being pumped into your pool to run. If you notice that your cleaner is going slower or even sputtering along, then there’s a good chance that your filter is dirty and depriving your cleaner of the necessary water energy. As a side note, robotic cleaners such as the Dolphin cleaner do not rely on suction and still work effectively when your pool is in this state.
  • If your pool isn’t chlorinating properly: Whether you use a smart system such as IntelliChem to refresh your chlorine levels or prefer to use chlorine disks, a dirty pool filter will hamper the efficiency of getting the appropriate level of chlorine in the water. If you notice that your readings are off, or that the chlorine disks aren’t as effective, the filter might need to be cleaned.

Cleaning filters and water pumps

There are other ways to figure out when it’s time to clean your pool filters. One of them is checking to see if there’s any change of pressure in your conventional water pump. This will only work if a) you have a conventional pump instead of a variable pump like the IntelliFlo® VF pump and b) if you took a reading of your water pressure upon installation of the pump.

Part b is very important because it gives you a base pressure to base future observations off of. If there is an increase of over 10 PSI from installation, then your pool filter is dirty and likely clogged, but there is no way to know this if you don’t take an initial reading. However, once the filter is cleaned you can reset the pressure gauge as a reference for future readings. If you have the IntelliFlo VF pump, reset your sensor for the same effect.

How often should you get your filters cleaned?

Getting your filters clean increases the life of your pool and also decreases the frequency and cost of replacing your filters. While your pool filter will never be fully back to 100 percent pristine after you get it cleaned — body oils and suntan lotion, among other things, prevent a 100 percent cleaning — treating pool filter cleaning as a regular process such as changing oil in your car will save you money and aggravation in the long run.

So how often should you get your filters cleaned? At Ultimate Pools, we recommend getting it done twice a year. There are two ideal times to do this — in the spring after the pollen has fallen (which usually proceeds the hot weather ideal for swimming) and once your pool season ends (typically late fall). You can get the most bang for your buck by having them cleaned at these times.

As far as cleanings, it is possible for you to do them yourself, but to do that, you have to get the exact model of your filter and research how to specifically clean that model. That can be inconvenient and difficult, so let us do it for you. We offer cleaning of your pool filters on a by-appointment basis. Give us a call or email us to set this up!

College Park boys basketball starting its district season

college park logo

The new year means turning the page on many things, including the high school basketball district season. Ultimate Pools is proud to be a sponsor of College Park High School boys basketball, which has been quite successful since College Park High School opened its doors in 2005. The Cavaliers started District 16-6A play last week with a loss to Atascocita, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today. College Park then fell to The Woodlands this past Friday.

If the history of the program is any indication though, this season is one that will be worth watching. College Park has won four district titles and made the playoffs five times in its 10-year history under head coach Clifton McNeely, most recently during the 2013-14 season. The Cavaliers have advanced as far as the regional semifinals, which they did during the 2011-12 season.

This season’s Cavaliers squad has a mix of youth and experience that will be fun to watch. College Park is led by 6-foot-4 sophomore Quentin Grimes (17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game) and sophomore Shannon Scott (14.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg). It also gets solid veteran leadership from senior guard McKinley Green (9.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg) and senior forward Dax de Boer, who leads the team with 6.1 rebounds per game.

With games coming up against teams such as Kingwood, Oak Ridge, Summer Creek and Conroe — along with rematches with The Woodlands and Atascocita — there is a lot of entertaining College Park basketball action to come this season. You can follow the Cavaliers on MaxPreps.com, Twitter, or check out the team’s website.