Understanding the different pool chemicals, their levels and general pool chemistry has a learning curve, but learning it ensures you have a clean pool in Melbourne or anywhere else in Victoria all season long.
Even when you have many automated features with a swimming pool, (and even with our self-cleaning systems) swimming require pool water balancing and understanding water chemistry. We will try and explain all the areas of water chemistry for pool owners.
Pool Chemistry 101
Many people think that all they have to do is fill their pools and turn it on and that is it – all the automated machines take over and no more to manage. You need to understand that every time material ends up your pool (i.e. leaves / people swimming / dust) it will alter the chlorine level and the chemical balance of the water.
It sounds horrible but every time someone gets into the pool, they leave dead skin, soap residue, hair, and body oil in the water, or birds can fly over and excrete waste – this is something to not cause alarm but you do need to manage your pool chemistry and water balance.
The first thing you need to understand in pool chemistry 101 is the sanitising system.
Your pool sanitising system (in most of our pools is the salt chlorinator) which makes chlorine. This chlorine makes your pool water safe to swim in and keeps the water from going cloudy, or green. There are other types of sanitizing options – i.e. metals (copper/iron) peroxide but the most popular and most reliable is chlorine.
The second thing you need to understand is pool balancing – i.e. your pool’s pH levels, alkalinity, and calcium hardness. These are the other balancing items needed for your pool to stay clean and safe.
Chemicals Used in Swimming Pools – Sanitiser
Arguably the most important pool chemical is your sanitisers. It helps get rid of any nasty components that have no business in your pool. You want your chlorine levels to be 1.5-
3 parts per million (ppm). If it goes higher, it can irritate the skin or eyes.
One – Chlorine (types of chlorine products)
Chlorine is an extremely popular pool chemical because it’s cost-effective and efficient. Chlorine enters the molecules of the pool’s contaminants to destroy them from the inside out. It works well on bacteria, viruses, and algae growth.
Chlorine tablets are one popular form if you don’t have a salt chlorinator, and they come in one or three inches. You can add them to the skimmer basket on your pool, or you can turn your pool into an automatic chlorinator by getting a floating chlorine dispenser and adding it to your pool.
You can install a salt chlorinator system which would be at least 95% of swimming pools. This is a nice option that makes chlorine generation automatic. The machine makes chlorine automatically from the salt that is in the water releasing liquid chlorine without any input from you other than the occasional bag of salt.
It will disperse chlorine automatically and you turn it up or turn it down depending on the demand the water has.
The final option for chlorine is granules. You pour these granules in the filter and pump, and they will start to dissolve. As they dissolve, your pump will add them to your pool water. There’s no way to ensure the entire pool gets an even dose though and is quite a manual system.
Two – Chloramines – the by-product of chlorine
Chloramines appear in your pool water as byproducts of chlorine’s oxidation process. When chlorine destroys the molecules of the contaminants in the water, it gives off chloramines. Chloramines irritate skin, cause eye redness, and give off that sharp scent people associate with chlorine.
To get rid of chloramines, you have to add more chlorine to the water. You also want to get into the habit of shocking your pool to keep these levels down. This by-product ‘chloramines’ is the real reason that chlorine gets a bad rap….we often hear that people say ‘Oh I don’t like chlorine like in a public pool smell’ or ‘my eyes hurt in chlorine pools’ – they usually mean like when they swim in public pools.
It is the chloramines that really smell like ‘off chlorine’ and makes your skin really itchy. IF you have a really effective circulation system like a self-cleaning pool then the chloramines get taken out by the filter so much faster so you don’t get the build ups. The water is filtered so quickly that the itchy skin, sore eyes and bad-smelling off chlorine is not there.
Three – Sunscreen and Stabilised Chlorine
Chlorine gets removed from the water mostly by the sun. For this reason, you need to add a chemical to protect the chlorine when it is in the water. This is called stabilization. It acts as a sunscreen on your chlorine.
Stabilised chlorine will prevent the UV rays from the sun from burning the chlorine out of your outdoor pool. It contains cyanuric acid that acts as a shield. However, it’s possible to get too much cyanuric acid in your pool, and you’ll have to flush it and add new water to dilute it.
Four – Bromine
Bromine is used in the spa market when you have a body of water that is hot all the time. Bromine is a popular choice for a spa. Bromine will ionise the contaminants in your water. It can last longer than chlorine, but it can produce waste that reduces the chemical’s overall effectiveness. Try to keep the levels between 3 and 5 ppm. Bromine is not used for swimming pools.
Five – Saltwater
This is actually a chlorine pool. People refer to their pools as ‘salt’ but understand that the salt gets charged through the salt chlorinator machine into liquid chlorine. The raw ingredient is sodium or magnesium-based salt and then the machine makes chlorine.
Six – Minerals
Silver and copper are two of the main minerals that get used in pools, but they work best but are not very popular. Silver kills the bacteria while copper kills algae growth. Adding water to copper or silver will produce a positive charge that targets and destroys anything in the water with a negative charge.
Mineral pool- some people talk about a mineral pool – however, this is more a supplement to the basic water chemistry. You add magnesium based salt instead of sodium-based salt. You can also add other mineral packaged products (which in theory enhance the activation of the pool chemicals). You can install a mineral sanitising system, but you have to understand that it’s still chlorine and chlorine works best at killing bacteria in your pool.
Seven – UV Pool Sanitiser
The UV pool sanitation setup works without the aid of pool chemicals. Instead, it uses ultraviolet rays to get rid of germs, algae, and bacteria that can infect the water. The pool water flows over the UV light to destroy any contaminants in the water. You’ll need a secondary sanitiser like a salt chlorinator to kill any bugs in the pool. The water also has to run through it for it to work properly.
Eight – pH
Your pH levels in the pool water will tell you whether it’s basic or acidic, and uses a 0 to 14 scale. On the scale, 8 to 14 is basic while 0 to 6 is acidic. Seven is a neutral pH level.
Anything can throw off this reading like rain, dirt, or people swimming, so you have to monitor it closely to keep it in range. To control the pH, you’ll need a pH increaser and pH decreaser. Ideally, you’ll keep your pH levels between 7.4 and 7.6 because this enhances how effective the chlorine is.
Nine – Algaecide
Balancing your pool chemicals will help you control algae growth. If your water doesn’t circulate well, you can end up with an algae bloom or an increase in how quickly it grows. Applying pool shock will help, but you may have to repeat the shock process several times for it to be effective. (article 4)
Getting an algaecide is a second option. This chemical stunts the algae’s growth to stop it from taking over until you get your chlorine levels adjusted. For hard water, make sure your algaecide is free of copper.
Ten – Calcium Hardness
Calcium hardness tells you how hard or soft the water is, and it can change depending on whether you live in Melbourne, Victoria or somewhere else in Australia. You’ll notice that you have scaling or corrosion on the walls of your pool if the calcium is too low, and applying a calcium hardness increaser can help.
Cloudy pool water is a sign of high calcium. Shocking the pool can lower it, but a high pH level can increase it. Before you try and fix it, double-check your pool’s pH. If you have a concrete or plaster pool, keep the calcium hardness between 200 and 275 ppm. Traditional pools need between 175 and 225 ppm.
Eleven – Alkalinity
Alkalinity balances the pH levels by absorbing large level changes of pool chemicals before it impacts the pH. Make sure you have an alkalinity increaser, but remember that it’ll boost both your pH and alkalinity if you add it to the water. A pH decreaser will lower your alkalinity and pH levels.
Add the decreaser first to drop the pool’s alkalinity levels before adding the increaser to get your pH back in range. If your alkalinity levels skyrocket, you can add muriatic acid to get your alkalinity to fall between 100 and 150 ppm. The perfect number on the scale is 125 ppm.
Twelve – Metal Sequestrant
Any water with iron or copper can lead to rust-colored stains that require scrubbing in order to remove them. Adding a metal sequestrant will keep the stains away. It works by attaching directly to the water’s metal particles to prevent them from ending up on the walls or floors.
Thirteen – Clarifier and Flocculant
Pool clarifier will get rid of any cloudiness in the water. However, this is a very fast-acting temporary fix, and the cloudiness will eventually return if you don’t treat the underlying cause. Flocculant will treat the underlying cause of your pool’s cloudiness by causing the particles to sink. You can then vacuum them out of your pool.
Fourteen – Pool Shock
You want to shock your pool on a regular basis, even if you have everything perfectly balanced. To shock your pool, add a large amount of unstabilised chlorine. It can get rid of algae, clear up your water, and help keep it free of bacteria and contaminants. For the best results, apply shock once a week.
If your pool doesn’t use chlorine, get a chlorine-free shock. The UV rays from the sun will destroy both types quickly. Add the shock in the evening and let it run throughout the night to distribute it evenly around your pool.
Testing Pool Chemicals
Understanding your pool water chemistry and learning the different balancing formulas are invaluable tools that help you keep your pool healthy. You have to routinely test the water to find out exactly where your levels are. You want to test the water at least once a week, before and after you add pool chemicals.
You can use liquid test kits for more precise answers, or you can buy test strips for rapid results. There are also digital testing kits. No matter what you use, you want to take a sample of your water to your local pool dealer at least once every three months for more testing. They’ll tell you your levels and give you a list of chemicals to fix.
When you first own a pool it does take a little bit to get used to it but the local pool shops are there to assist with your understanding.
Pool Chemical Usage Varies by Pool Type
Did you know that it’s harder for algae to grow & stay living in some types of pool surfaces than others? For example, fibreglass pools resist both algae and bacteria growth. In turn, this can save you money by not using as many pool chemicals. The smooth surface of the fibreglass pool prohibits algae growth, especially when you compare it to plastic, vinyl, or concrete options.
Though it doesn’t actually stop the growth, what it does is sit on the surface and does not get a foothold into crevices and imperfections on the surfaces. Due to the complete smoothness of the fiberglass surface layer the algae can only sit on top of it and not grow inside the small crevices. Also fibreglass also have the option of the Vantage In-Floor Cleaning System.
This system cycles your pool water through filters to spread your pool chemicals to every part of your pool evenly. Circulation is the key to stopping any algae growth. Algae likes to grow in stagnant areas of pools.
Another option you have is to get a fibreglass pool that comes equipped with a salt water chlorinator. The salt chlorinator can then provide consistent chlorine production that kills any algae. (article five)
Concrete has more calcium in the walls, so you’ll need to add more calcium to keep your chemical levels balanced. If you don’t, the water could leach calcium from the walls and throw off your entire pool chemistry.
Visit Compass Pools Melbourne for Options Regarding a Swimming Pool With low Chemicals
Whether you want to know more about fibreglass pools in general or you’d like to install a swimming pool that doesn’t use chemicals, drop by Compass Pools Melbourne. We’ll help you with your pool chemistry, discuss your options, and help you find the perfect fit.