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!

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!

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!

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


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!

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.


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!