The perfect chemical balance for your swimming pool
The benefits of a well-balanced pool go much farther than being esthetically pleasing. It’s simple, pool water that is properly balanced and regularly maintained is pleasant. It’s easier on your skin and hair which is a big deal for people who swim frequently. Floridan’s have the ability to swim year-round, which is even more reason to have top notch water. Many people think high chlorine levels burn your eyes when opening them under water; when in fact it’s the unbalanced PH levels that lead to dry, burning, red eyes after swimming.
Let’s begin by thinking of pool water as a living organism, and all living organisms need to achieve homeostasis. Homeostasis, is the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.
Homeostasis is achieved when all the chemicals (elements) in your pool water are at the proper ppm (parts per million). Here are a list of the five vital chemicals pool water needs to be considered “well-balanced”. Also, we will be explaining how to test the levels of these chemicals using a Taylor Technologies complete pool and spa test kit. Chemical levels are measured in ppm (parts per million) within a given water source.
When testing pool water its best to take your sample away from any steps or pool returns. Take your sample from about 1 foot under the surface, this is the most accurate reading because contaminants like body oils and natural sediment can obscure your test results. Its best to fill a clean water bottle and take it to a table or somewhere off the ground, in the shade where you are comfortable. Normally a water bottle holds enough water to run all the tests explained below.
Chlorine is used as a sanitizer to stop the growth of algae, viruses and bacteria in pool water. Proper chlorine levels should be between 3-5 ppm. Lower than 3 ppm and the water will not be sanitized. This can lead to bacteria and algae growth. Other forms of water sanitizers include bromine and biguanide. However, chlorine is the cheapest and most effective way to achieve proper water sanitization.
Start by filling the testing container to the top of the tube with pool water. Add 4-5 drops of r001 into the test tube, then add 4-5 drops of r002 in the test tube, cover and mix gently. The water will turn a shade of purple and compare the color of your water to the different shades of purple on the test tube to determine the chlorine level of the pool. The darker the purple the higher the ppm of chlorine in the pool water.
If the pool is below 3 ppm a full jug (2.5 gallon) should bring the ppm up to 5-6 ppm which is perfect. This also depends on the amount of water being treated. Most residential pools are anywhere from 10-15k gallons.
Acid (muriatic or sulfuric)- is used for PH control and management of the water’s alkalinity level. The human body thrives to maintain a PH that is almost completely neutral (7); this is also the case for pool water. For sake of discussion, the PH determines how basic (low ph) or alkaline (high ph) pool water is from a scale of 0-14, the higher the number the more basic. Generally, pool water is meant to be kept neutral (7.4-7.6) for optimum uptake and usage of the chemicals added the pool water. Your eyes and mucus membranes also have a PH of 7.4-7.6.
When pool water has a PH below 7.4 or above 7.6 the water will burn your eyes and leave skin dry, itchy and irritated. To test the PH, fill the test tube full of water and add 4-5 drops of r004 into the water, cover and mix gently. Compare your finding to the colors on the test tube to determine the PH level in your pool. Adding a cup (8oz) of acid will bring the ppm down 1 point. So, if the pools PH is 8 one cup of acid will make it 7. Always give your pool 2-3 hours to circulate before retesting.
Cyanuric Acid- is best described as sunscreen for your pool. Cyanuric acid is also known as stabilizer or conditioner. Cyanuric acid helps block UV rays from diminishing all the pool’s chemical used for sanitization (chlorine). Indoor pools have no use for cyanuric acid. Using cyanuric acid in an indoor pool would cripple the pools ability to stay blue, clear and algae free. However, outdoor pools with high levels of UV exposure need cyanuric acid to manage the effectiveness of chlorine. Cyanuric acid works best between 50-120 ppm. The lower end of the spectrum (under 50 ppm) will cause the pools chlorine levels to diminish quickly, often reading 0 ppm 24 hours later. This can be a recipe for disaster if your pool gets serviced once a week. That means the water goes 6-7 days without any sanitization, which will lead to a green pool in no time. The higher end of the spectrum (over 120 ppm) will stop the chlorine from reacting, which means no sanitization will occur no matter how much chlorine you add to the water. When the chlorine cannot react and sanitize the water; it becomes green and riddled with algae. This often confuses people because the chlorine levels are high; and the pool is green.
The only way to get a pool out of “stabilizer lock” is to add fresh water. To test the cyanuric acid level’s fill the smaller side of the test tube with about 1 inch of water. Add the cyanuric acid testing agent into the water until the black dot at the bottom of the test tube disappears. Pour the water out of the test tube until you can see the black dot again, this will show the waters cyanuric acid levels. The ppm levels are listed on the side of the test tube. The level closest to your water is your approx. Ppm of cyanuric acid in the water.
Calcium- is used to manage your waters softness/hardness levels. Calcium levels very based on the pools surface. 200-400 for pebble–tech and granite surfaces. Vinyl and fiber–glass are a bit lower, they vary from 120-200. Soft water (low calcium) can lead to corrosion and staining if left untreated, pitting, corrosion, grout and heater damage can also occur. This unnecessary wear and tear make’s the pools surface look older faster and may cause the need for resurfacing. Hard water (high calcium) can lead to scaling on the pools surface, cloudy water, and irritated skin and eyes. Calcium buildup from hard water also known as scaling can clog plumbing and equipment.
To test the waters calcium levels add 20 drops of r10 and 5 drops of r11 swirl it around for about ten seconds and the water should turn bright purple. Next, add r12 until the water turns blue. Make sure to count how many drops you add of the r12 reagent. This is important because you multiply the number of drops added by 10. So if you add 40 drops of r12 your calcium hardness is 400. In a pool with 10,000 gallons 1.5oz of calcium should raise your hardness by 1 ppm.
Soda Bicarbonate is used to control your pools alkalinity levels. Soda bicarb for short is also known as baking soda. Soda bicarb is extremely basic and will cause the pools PH to rise. The alkalinity and PH are lowered by adding acid. To check the pools alkalinity levels start by filling the larger side of the test tube about halfway (approx. 25 ml). Add a few drops of r007 to neutralize the water, then add 5 drops of r008 and the water should turn green. Next add r009 and make sure you count the drops added of r009 and multiply by 10. You must continue adding drops of r009 until the test water stays the different color. If it takes 12 drops of r009 then the alkalinity is 120ppm. In a pool with 10,000 approx. 1lb of soda bicarb should raise your total alkalinity by 10 ppm.
The benefits are endless when the water is treated and maintained correctly. Balanced pool water also extends the life of your pools surface by almost 40%. If the calcium and alkalinity levels are off; the water is unstable. Unstable pool water interferes with your pool’s ability to utilize the vital chemicals correctly. When left untreated this can cause your surface to deteriorate and lose its structural integrity. Which means the pool will need to be resurfaced years before a pool with consistently and correctly balanced pool water. In summary, having a pool maintained properly can lead to cost savings on all fronts. Pool water should be tested and corrected weekly. Knowing the approximate amount of water in gallons is extremely important. This allows you to add the correct amount of chemicals to the water the first time around. Adding too much will lead to replacing the over dosed water with fresh water which runs up costs of chemicals and the chances of unstable, unpleasant pool water.