Some pool problems are sneaky, but a well-trained pool operator can spot them from a mile away. Train your senses to notice a few key indicators and you’ll stay ahead of pesky issues poolside. This month we explain the first signs of trouble and the quick fix strategies used by the best pool pros.
Smells – Ever walk into a hotel and smell the pool from the lobby? That’s a bad sign. What your smelling are chloramines – the gaseous biproduct of used chlorine. Beyond smelling bad, chloramines are bad for bathers and advance the decay of your natatorium structures, fixtures and equipment. Chloramines are easily controlled with a little math and science. A trained operator should regularly breakpoint chlorinate (shock) the pool to oxidize the combined chlorines and neutralize the production of chloramines. Need a refresher on the math? Click here for a basic math review.
Surface Debris – The majority of harmful pathogens in your water are basking in the sunlight at the surface of your pool. As such, most pools have been engineered to collect most of the water from the surface of your pool, and less from the main drain. If you’re seeing significant floating debris, it may be an indicator that your surface collection isn’t working as designed. First, check your water level. If you have skimmers, the water line should be roughly halfway up the skimmer box. If you have gutters, water should be slightly cresting them when the pool is not in use. If your water is too high or too low, be quick to adjust. If the water level was appropriate, make sure there are no restrictions in the surface collection components. The most likely restraint are clogged skimmer baskets. They’re an easy fix.
High Utility Bills – Pools are expensive, and high utility bills are part of the price of doing business. Nonetheless, if your utility bills seem to be higher than normal you may have a leak. If water is exiting the pool, not only will your water bill climb, but you may also notice an increase in electricity or gas consumption as well. Perform a quick bucket test to determine if water is exiting through unintended sources. If so, remediate quickly. Leaks are expensive to fix, but much more expensive not to.
Rust – Metals rapidly age with exposure to oxygen and moisture, and your natatorium has plenty of both. Don’t worry, there’s good news. Premature aging of your metal fixtures and structures is avoidable. Your HVAC system is your first line of defense. Always keep your relative humidly at 40-60%. Be sure to cross check your HVAC settings with a simple hygrometer (humidity meter) in various areas on and around your pool deck. Beyond rust, keep an eye out for condensate forming on walls and windows. It’s another sign that your RH is outside of its ideal range.
Foam – Hot tubs are subject to lots of issues, but foam may be the most apparent. Collection and aeration of surface debris can lead to foamy conditions and is usually an indicator of poor water balance, poor filtration, or both. Is your hot tub a hot mess? Drain it, scrub it and clean your filters prior to refill. You’re usually better off starting from scratch with new water.
Pump Room Puddling – Your pump room floor should be dry. If it’s not, identifying the leak should be priority one. Small leaks can cause big problems for your mechanical components. Most are easy fixes if you correct them proactively. If you find a leak that’s beyond your repair, be quick to call a licensed plumber.
Cloudiness – Cloudy pools are dangerous. The lack of visibility makes it significantly harder to identify distressed swimmers. Cloudy conditions are almost always the result of poor chemical balance or poor filtration. Start your troubleshooting process by checking your chemicals and identifying any that are not in their ideal ranges. Low sanitizer levels or high calcium counts are likely issues. If your chemicals seem to be in range you should check your filters. Clean or backwash them if necessary and confirm that they’re operating within design standards. Many operators overwhelm their filters with excessive flow rates. Be sure to operate yours within the manufacture’s parameters.
Basin Deterioration – This broad category can include failing tile, missing grout, surface etching, peeling paint, calcium deposits and more. If you see any of these problems in your pool, it’s time to check your saturation index. Make sure the five factors (pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, temperature and TDS) are balancing out appropriately and fall within their own ideal ranges. If not, they’re likely causing corrosive or scale forming conditions that are compromising the structural integrity of your pool.
Dirty Decks – Your deck is a hot, moist environment. As such, it’s capable of cultivating nasty bacteria, viruses and protozoa. You don’t want to be known as the swim club where all the members have athlete’s foot, toenail fungus or plantar warts. Put your best foot forward when it comes to your deck and locker room areas. Make sure they’re disinfected on a daily basis, long before they become a science experiment in the making.
Still stumped? Join us at a CPO class for a full review of the math and science that leads to efficient, effective and safe aquatic facilities. Check out the full schedule here.