Pool maintenance: Five things to check in the fall

The chilly weather we had this weekend was a reminder that fall is upon us. While we’ll have plenty of time to swim in the upcoming months (thank you Southeast Texas subtropical weather), now is the time to make sure your pool maintenance is on point. Everyone likes lists, so we’ve compiled a quick checklist of five things you need to check on this fall to keep your pool maintenance up to date.

Five fall maintenance steps

1. Clean your filters: As we have written in a previous article, fall and spring are the ideal times to clean your pool filters. With the increased amount of leaves and debris that fly into your pool during this time of year, you want to make sure that your filters are in tip-top shape. It’s more important this year than normal, as the rainwater and biologicals (leaves, dirt, and other natural debris) from Hurricane Harvey have certainly tested the capacity of your filters.

Clean filters allow for your robotic cleaners to do their job and your water chemistry to stay on point. And it’s best to clean them now while it’s still warm — going out and doing it in the winter when the water and air temperature are in the 40s and 50s is no one’s idea of a good time.

2. Cover/drain your backflow preventer: One of the biggest problems one can run into in pool maintenance is a frozen backflow preventer. When a freeze comes (and it’ll most certainly come), the backflow preventers are susceptible to cracking. They crack because they aren’t completely drained, therefore the remaining water inside freezes, expands and puts stress on the backflow preventer. Near-freezing temperatures and wind can also cause trouble, as cold wind sometimes cools the preventer enough to cause freezing and cracking.

Draining the backflow is important (and something we’ll come over to do for a fee), but covering the preventer to keep out the wind is important, too. There are several ways to do this: you can wrap the preventer in a plastic bag, shield it with a dry box, or even put a trash can upside down over it. Call us for consultation or head to the websites of our suppliers (Febco, Wilkins and Watts) for covering and draining tips. These tips also work on backflow preventers for sprinkler systems. A Total Coverage can handle those issues.

3. Check your water chemistry: This is something that you should do regularly, but if you only do it a few times a year, the fall is one of those times. You’re just emerging from the high-usage summer/early fall months, which typically involves regularly placing chlorine tablets in the pool. If you use chlorine tablets regularly (or more than that), there’s a chance that your pool chemistry is a little off-kilter. Too much chlorine can result in too much cynaric acid, which not only will stain the surface of your pool, but could also corrode the elements of your heater (which we’ll go into more in point No. 4).

Along with the cynaric acid, it’s important to check your water’s calcium and alkalinity readings as well. Checking on these things are something you should do weekly via your IntelliChem system, but it’s very important during the fall months.

4. Make sure your heater and lights are tip-top shape: When it’s 95 degrees with 90 percent humidity, as it is during the summer months on non-rainy days, the last thing you think about is heating your pool. But come Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the water and air are cooler, a heater is suddenly very important for that post-meal/post-giftgiving dip. So it would stink if you turned on your heater Thanksgiving Day, only for it to be needing maintenance. As much as we’d like to help you right away in those circumstances, the logistics of the holidays make it extremely difficult to do so.

Therefore, this is the perfect time for a dry run of your heater to make sure everything is good to go. Hopefully all will be good, but if there’s corrosion or any other problems, finding that now will give you plenty of time to contact us and for us to come out and attend to the problem. A quick check/call now is a heck of a lot better than discovering the problem on Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve. The same logic applies with lights — discovering any lighting problems now will allow us to fix them in time for your holiday get-togethers.

5. Skim your pool for leaves: This plays into No. 1 a bit, but it’s important to make sure that the leaves that fall in your pool don’t stay and accumulate. Not only do they make the surface of the water grimy, but they put stress on the the filters and the water chemistry readings. Stagnant leaves can get stuck in robotic cleaners and filters and clog skimmers. The remnants of them can also throw your chemistry out of whack and make your pool prone to staining. Here’s a previous article we wrote on leaf removal.

Leaves can also wreak havoc on variable flow pumps. They can crack baskets and manifolds while causing all sorts of issues. The IntelliFlo VF pump has monitors that alert you before such things happen, but even if you have one, be sure to remove falling leaves from your pool regularly.

While you can do a lot of this maintenance on your own, feel free to give us a call for help at any time. We’ll come out and perform these services for you for a fee.


Discover Ultimate Pools

Ultimate Pools has been a leader in pool building and outdoor improvements in Magnolia, The Woodlands and Southeast Texas since 1991, specializing as a pool builder since 1999. From pools, waterfalls, hot tubs, decks, outdoor kitchens and outdoor improvements, Ultimate Pools will provide the highest of quality and customer service to you. Surf our website, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!

Getting your pool in balance post-Harvey

Cleaning and draining your pool (if necessary) is a big part of getting your pool back in shape after heavy rains. But just because your pool is glistening does not mean that its recovery from Hurricane Harvey is complete. For your pool to truly be in tip-top shape the water chemistry must be in balance.

In this article, we’re going to take that newly cleaned pool water and make sure it’s chemically in balance. If it isn’t, we’re going to show you the importance of that balance and how to achieve it.

Putting your pool water in balance

The pool in the picture above looks glistening and ready to go, but having clean, aqua pool water doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is up to snuff. There are three areas of water chemistry which are extremely important in the well-being of your pool — the amount of cynaric acid, the calcium content and the alkalinity.

It’s very important to continuously check these metrics and not simply stop and be satisfied once the water is a desirable color. If you don’t check them, especially when dealing with a rain and flooding event such as Harvey, you leave your pool susceptible to algae blooms and scaling.

We detailed these measurements in an article we did on IntelliChem. While the IntelliChem system will let you know what the measurements are, the cynaric acid and chlorine will have to be applied separately.

Of the three measurements, cynaric acid might be the most important. Cynaric acid acts as a stabilizer, protecting the chlorine from getting burned off by the sun and losing its potency. Cynaric acid operates in a similar way that sulfates do in wine or homogenization does with milk. It keeps the chlorine fresh so it can do its part to get your water in balance. Having 30-35 parts per million of cynaric acid will help chlorine do its thing and help with calcium and alkalinity.

If you simply shock the pool every so often or throw in chlorine tablets without paying attention to the cynaric acid output, you’re likely to get the dreaded algae and scaling. And that’s not a good time.

How calcium and alkalinity keep water in balance

Keeping tabs on calcium is extremely important, as too little calcium will cause the water to eat away at the plaster while too much calcium will cause scaling on walls and on the pool surface. You want to keep the calcium between 200 and 400 parts per million, with 250 being the sweet spot.

As far as alkalinity, keeping it under control is necessary to prevent corrosion of the metal equipment in the pool and staining of the plaster. The range for alkaline substances is 80 parts per million to 200 parts per million, with 120 being the ideal amount. You should also aim to have the pH in your pool between 7.2 and 7.8, with 7.5 the prime target. Chlorine, with cynaric acid as a lead blocker, can get these elements to where you need them to be. For best results, have your free chlorine at 3.0 parts per million. As always, feel free to contact us with any questions about these matters.


Discover Ultimate Pools

Ultimate Pools has been a leader in pool building and outdoor improvements in Magnolia, The Woodlands and Southeast Texas since 1991, specializing as a pool builder since 1999. From pools, waterfalls, hot tubs, decks, outdoor kitchens and outdoor improvements, Ultimate Pools will provide the highest of quality and customer service to you. Surf our website, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!

Cleaning and draining your pool post-Harvey

Now that Hurricane Harvey’s rain has fallen, it comes time to assess the damage and clean up your pool. There are several factors to consider when cleaning or draining your pool, between your safety, particulates in the pool and rebalancing the chemistry of the water. We did a short “what to watch for” post last year during the torrential spring rains that Southeast Texas was getting. That’s a good reference while evaluating what you need to do.

The above picture shows one of our pools in the aftermath of Harvey. The owners were lucky not to have much in the way of flood damage, and their IntelliChem system did its job in helping keep the pool’s chemistry on point throughout the storm. We offer the IntelliChem system with all of our pools, and having one — and putting it to use — drastically reduces the need for draining your pool.

Cleaning and draining your pool: What to look for beforehand

Unfortunately, Harvey wasn’t as kind to all of our customers in Montgomery County and Southeast Texas. Some of them fell victim to the flooding that plagued (and still plagues) the region. That resulted in pictures such as the two below.

In the cleaning your pool article that was linked in the first paragraph, there were three things that needed to be monitored: safety from fallen items/animals that might have drifted in the pool area, particulates such as dirt/mulch and leaves, and water chemistry. Since Harvey was much more a rain event than a wind event in Montgomery County, falling debris from trees and houses weren’t as much of a concern. However, insects, reptiles and small mammals could have been washed into your pool area (depending on how much flooding you received) and the sheer amount of rain water will throw your chemistry off.

But a big X-factor in the Harvey clean-up will be keeping mindful of possible bacteria. The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals warns that animals and possible sewage in flood waters can cause spikes in E-Coli and other harmful bacteria. It advises using bacteria test strips on the water to get readings. If there is a bacteria issue, chlorine might not be effective, so use products such as Sea Klear PRS Stage 1 and 2 to break down the bacteria and trap it in your filters.

Draining your pool: Do’s and dont’s

We covered the process of this last year, which we paired with the other linked article in the first paragraph. Please feel free to read this, but we’ll also highlight a few things that might be relevant for this storm.

One of the main things you need to do is clean your filters constantly. The filters serve as an integral part of the cleaning process, as they trap the debris and separate it from the pool water. However, when you’re dealing with floods and rain water of this degree, the filters will get full, overwhelmed and not do their job fully if left unmonitored. Therefore, it’s important to clean and empty them yourself or call us to do it for you for a fee. Cleaning and emptying filters are available for a fee as part of our pool maintenance services.

Along with keeping the filters in tip-top working shape, you also need to brush your pool several times a day. Brushing the pool uproots debris that’s clinging the surface of your pool and releases it into the water. From there, the filters and vacuums can capture and separate it. Brushing the pool also is huge in preventing algae from forming down the road. It also allows the IntelliChem system to balance the water chemistry more effectively.

As far as dont’s, do not ever drain the pool completely. If you do that, the shell of the pool will “pop up” and “float” out of place, causing an extreme headache and even more labor. The saturation of the ground after a rain event like Harvey makes a dislodged shell even more of a concern, as the moisture and dirt below the surface push the shell out if there’s not enough volume inside the pool to push back against it. It’s a phenomenon we detail in this article.

Instead, drain the pool no more than halfway and refill the drained portion with clean water. From there, use vacuums and filtration to further clean the water, along with the IntelliChem system’s water chemistry capabilities. Sometimes one draining will do the trick; sometimes you’ll need more. Either way, never drain the pool more than halfway. This is another service we provide for a fee as part of our pool maintenance package.

Either way, your pool will once again look like this.

Give us a call for help in this area, and stay safe.


Discover Ultimate Pools

Ultimate Pools has been a leader in pool building and outdoor improvements in Magnolia, The Woodlands and Southeast Texas since 1991, specializing as a pool builder since 1999. From pools, waterfalls, hot tubs, decks, outdoor kitchens and outdoor improvements, Ultimate Pools will provide the highest of quality and customer service to you. Surf our website, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!

Hurricane Harvey and your pool

Southeast Texas is no stranger to hurricanes and tropical storms in the late summer and early fall. Unfortunately, we’re dealing with another one this week, as Tropical Storm Harvey is set to become Hurricane Harvey and make landfall sometime on Friday, most likely between Matagorda Bay and Corpus Christi.

If it strengthens as anticipated, Harvey will be the first Category 3 hurricane to hit the United States since 2005, which was the year of Katrina and Rita. Hopefully, Hurricane Harvey won’t have nearly the destructive impact those two storms had.

The landfall impact of Hurricane Harvey in Greater Houston and Montgomery County won’t be direct, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be an impact. Schools in Greater Houston are already taking precautions in the wake of the storm, as are businesses and government services.

Hurricane Harvey and swimming pools

There is a wide berth on the impact of hurricanes and tropical storms, but as a pool owner/prospective buyer, you’re here because you want to know how this storm could affect your pool. Well, you’re in luck, as we’ve produced literature in the past talking about the effects of rain on both the building of your pool (and corresponding elements such as decking) and how to clean your pool after a big storm or flooding. The latter is something we penned last year after a spring deluge. We also had a post highlighting the clean-up of a pool after a particular set of storms.

While everyone is well aware of the problems that come from hurricane landfall (remember Hurricane Ike in 2008?) as far as wind and lightning, many of the problems when it comes to pools has to do with the amount of rainfall.

While tropical storms don’t get the headlines of hurricanes, those are the type of storms that tend to have the most continuous damage in Southeast Texas. Hurricanes tend to make landfall hot and blow right through to inland areas, exiting relatively quickly. For example, Ike powered through Houston and motored into the Great Lakes region. Meanwhile, Southeast Texas residents can remember weaker tropical storm systems being caught along the coast, stagnating and dumping buckets of rain for days on end. Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 was the most notable example of that phenomenon, as the storm camped off the coast for two weeks feeding Metro Houston with rain. Unfortunately, some models expect Hurricane Harvey to have a similar effect.

What does that mean for pool owners? As detailed in our linked article above, the deluge of rain causes flooding, which can make your water quite dirty. That’s not all, though. Excess rain also throws off the chemical levels of your water (making it susceptible to algae growth, among other things), overwhelms your filtration system with particulates, and even introduces animals (dead or alive) to your pool. So if you see anything askew be sure to do this:

Then gives us a call and we’ll do our best to help you dry out and get your pool back in line.

Hurricane Harvey and pools in the building process

Now what should you look for if you’re in the process of getting a pool/deck built or looking to break ground? Our effects of rain series also details that. Excess moisture in soil causes a delay in the initial dig, as saturated soil is prone to collapse or erosion. If the initial dig has been made, the hole can’t be surfaced until it’s sufficiently dry. If done too early, tiles can pop off, walls can collapse and the pool can “float away” (read the recent link for more on what that means).

Excess moisture also does a number on decks and stone, so it’s important for the surface to be dry. Otherwise, the foundation for your new deck could be slippery and insecure and your tiles/stone could pop off. So bear with us if the storm and rain causes delays in the installation of your pool — a few days delay here will save you money and considerable headaches later. However, we’re available to walk you through the process of dealing with these storms, so don’t be afraid to contact us!

Stay dry, stay safe and read up on all the linked articles. Beats standing in the rain!


Discover Ultimate Pools

Ultimate Pools has been a leader in pool building and outdoor improvements in Magnolia, The Woodlands and Southeast Texas since 1991, specializing as a pool builder since 1999. From pools, waterfalls, hot tubs, decks, outdoor kitchens and outdoor improvements, Ultimate Pools will provide the highest of quality and customer service to you. Surf our website, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!

Prowler 920 is the next generation of robotic cleaners

Robotic cleaners are essential in keeping your swimming pool clean and clear of debris. That’s why we at Ultimate Pools are proud to offer Pentair’s newest cleaner, the Prowler 920. It uses a safe, low-voltage control unit to motor around the surface of your pool instead of relying on water power. That, plus its many brushes and mobility, make the Prowler 920 the next wave on the robotic cleaner market.

Want to find out more about the Prowler? Read below.

Inside the Pentair Prowler 920

The biggest difference between the Prowler and your typical suction cleaner is the process in which it moves. Suction cleaners use a water aspiration system that derives power from the pool’s plumbing. The pressure from the main filter pump and booster pump in the cleaner sucks water from the pool and sends it back through the return line. That water activates the gears in the turbine, which motors the cleaner like gears motor a wristwatch. During this process, an aspirating effect allows the cleaner to “suck” debris from water and send it into the cleaner.

Sounds kind of complicated, doesn’t it? Well, it kind of is, and there are a lot of parts that have to be maintained. You have to pay for the pump, cleaner and plumbing to use a suction cleaner, all elements that are unnecessary with the Prowler 920. It uses 12 volts of safe power to motor around the surface of the pool instead of depending on the power of the water pumps. The voltage is low enough and safe enough to take electrocution out of play, and you need less overall power to operate the cleaner.

Along with the electricity/power elements, here are some other benefits of the Prowler 920:

  • Multiple brushes: The Prowler has multiple brushes that not only cleans the present loose debris, but scrubs to expose more debris from the surface. While you’ll still need to scrub the surface of your pool on occasion, the Prowler will make those scrubbings less frequent.
  • Mobility: Along with having the multiple brushes, the Prowler can travel places other cleaners can’t. Instead of being confined to the bottom of the pool, the cleaner can climb the walls of the pool. From there, it can use its multiple brushes to clean the tile line. This provides a more comprehensive cleaning and also limits the amount of scrubbing you need to do along the walls.
  • Able to handle more debris: The Prowler has a top-loading basket to catch debris such as leaves, which provides a more complete cleaning experience than a suction cleaner. It also has a smaller basket for finer debris. In addition, it has two liners — including a pleated line that filters water in the cleaner — which makes for a more complete cleaning. While you’ll still need to skim your pool from time to time, the Prowler will help pick up what you can’t skim. It’s also easy to remove the accumulated debris from the cleaner.

Discover Ultimate Pools

Ultimate Pools has been a leading pool builder in Magnolia, The Woodlands and Southeast Texas since 1991. From pools, waterfalls, hot tubs, decks, outdoor kitchens and outdoor improvements, Ultimate Pools will provide the highest of quality and customer service to you. Surf our website, send us an email, give us a call at (936) 321-9632, or visit our offices at 5170 FM 1488, Magnolia, TX 77354 today!