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Pool Water Testing: Techniques and Restrictions for Pool owners

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Pool Water Testing: Techniques and Restrictions for Pool owners

As a pool owner, the only way to identify if your pool has an issue is to conduct thorough pool water testing. In this article, we will discuss various techniques to implement to test pool and spa water, and their advantages and disadvantages.

Pool Water Testing: Techniques and Restrictions for Pool owners

Measuring free chlorine

Besides strip tests, there are various techniques you can use to evaluate the condition of pool water.

One approach considered less effective compared to others is the Orthotolidine (OTO) drop test. This technique examines levels of sanitization in pools and spas. However, it does not allow one to identify the chlorine levels in the water.

Another method to measure for sanitization levels in the water is the DPD (N, N-diethyl-p-phenylenediamine) test. It also offers a free chlorine test, enabling pool owners to know the water’s exact levels of chlorine. Similar to OTO, it uses a control color to identify the condition of the water. You can do this technique using a titrimetric test or, at times, a photometer. It is the most popular and affordable technique.

However, when there are concentrated chlorine levels, say 10-15 ppm, that may lead to inaccurate results since bleaching of the color may occur. Moreover, levels of chlorine are significantly lowered at high pH readings. It is important to note that 0.5 ppm levels of combined chlorine can disrupt the normal functioning of DPD and lead to incorrect results. In such a case, the free chlorine test will read a false high. Thus, the user will not be able to pinpoint combined chlorine in the water. Therefore, this technique has a disadvantage because test results get affected by individual perception, lighting, and surroundings.

FAS-DPD, also known as DPD titration testing, uses a slightly different testing procedure than the typical DPD testing. Instead of using colors to identify test results, it utilizes a testing agent. First, color is put into the specimen before adding a titrating agent. Afterward, the user waits until they see a change of color. The quantity of sanitizer in the pool will be identified by the percentage of titrating agent required for a color change. This method is more effective than the DPD technique at any concentration of chlorine levels. Unlike the DPD technique, FAS-DPD can estimate levels of chlorine for free until 20ppm is attained. Both methods are prone to false high results during chlorine pool water testing because of the existence of potassium monopersulfate.

Strip tests

Strip tests are one of the most straightforward techniques you can use for pool water testing. They work efficiently for checking water chemistry in a pool or spa. How do they work? Strip test pads contain substances bound to react with elements in the water. After a few minutes of reaction, the color of the test pads changes and can determine the water condition. The advantage of strips is that one gets to know the state of the entire pool.

Nonetheless, several disadvantages come with this technique. The state of lighting in the pool significantly impact on the proper functioning of test strips. There’s also a limitation on the colors for differentiation on the strip. Consequently, you will not get consistent test results at times.

A more advanced form of the strip test is the digital strip reader. It differentiates the specimen color from the custom color. It also compares the color to a concentration using a sequence of mathematical calculations. A Digital dip-and-read strip is more accurate than the regular strip test. The reason being, individual notions and lighting do not affect this strip. But in general, the digital strip test also has cons that might interfere with the validity of the test results.

pH balance

Calculating pH levels is crucial in facilitating the right water conditions in a pool. Most pool and spa owners test for water pH using a substance known as phenol red. Like OTO, this is a colorimetric drop test that differentiates the sample color from the standard color. It is a relatively simple and appropriate way to test for pH levels. However, on the pH scale, it is only correct from 6.8 to 8.4; phenol is not a reliable method outside this range. When the water contains high levels of bromine and chlorine and reacts with phenol red, it turns to a dark purple color indicating a pH of at least 6.6.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, this pH is relatively low. Solving this problem would require one to implement a neutralizing agent. Alternatively, you can also use pH meters to check for pH levels. Unlike phenol red, it is not limited to a specific range. However, you should carefully adjust it to facilitate correct results.

Pool owners should also ensure correct pH levels. Therefore, they must test for alkalinity. The most common method to do this is through Titrimetric testing. The total quantity of titrant used eventually gives rise to an alkaline reading. Before using this technique to test for pH, eliminate halogens, and incorporate photometers.

Popular disruptions

During pool water testing processes, you are likely to encounter some disruptions. Excess concentration of chlorine and the existence of biguanide lead to an abnormal change of color. Test results often result in yellow or green color when there’s any form of disruption compared to the typical pink color. However, you can use sodium thiosulfate to decrease chlorine levels.

Pool News coverage brought to you by Pool Magazine's own Marcus Packer. Marcus Packer is a 20 year pool industry veteran pool builder and pool service technician. In addition to being a swimming pool professional, Marcus has been a writer and long time contributor for Newsweek Magazine's home improvement section and more recently for Florida Travel + Life. Have a story idea or tip you'd like to share with Pool Magazine? Email mpacker@poolmagazine.com your story idea.

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Cleaning and Service Equipment and Supplies

Chlorine Prices Going Up… Tablet Shortage Continues

Homeowners can expect to pay up to 58% more for chlorine tablets this summer say experts.

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Chlorine Prices Going Up - Chlorine Tablet Supply Shortage

Millions of homeowners can expect to pay more to clean and sanitize their swimming pools this summer. According to financial analysts the chlorine shortage we first reported on in September has not improved in the slightest. The fact is that the outlook looks bleak through the summer for the situation to improve.

Why are Chlorine Tablet prices so high right now?

Kate McShane of Goldman Sachs warns in a recent research report released Monday that the chlorine shortage in the United States has not improved. Shortages and price increases stem from an enormous fire at the BioLab factory, one of the country’s largest chlorine tablet manufacturers. The fire put an additional stress on already dwindling supplies.

McShane indicated that prices for chlorine have gone up roughly 37% year over year due to the ongoing shortages. Prices are expected to spike 58% year over year through June to August. This coincides likely enough with the height of pool season. Homeowners are sure to be looking at much higher prices than in previous years.

The same bucket of Chlorine Tablets you bought last year may cost up to 58% more this summer say leading financial analysts.

“Of the 26 pool shops we spoke to, 15 expressed uncertainty or doubt when asked about whether they will have enough chlorine for pool season. Adding to the pressure created by the chlorine shortage, respondents called out a plastic bucket shortage, driven by COVID-related manufacturing slowdowns, which has made procuring certain volume sizes of chlorine more difficult for retailers, and has led suppliers to deliver chlorine in either bags or in buckets with different colored lids, according to respondents,” McShane said.

McShane continued, “When asked about whether the cost and availability of chlorine have improved in the last month or so, several respondents noted that while the supply of chlorine has improved somewhat, cost has not.”

Commentary from the industry’s main pool equipment supplier Pool Corp. on its recent earnings day underscores the severity of the chlorine shortage.

Recent comments from Pool Corp. the industry’s leading supplier of pool equipment emphasize how badly the supply chain has suffered in recent months.

“I mean overall, I would tell you the price on dichlor and trichlor [chlorine tablets], which is the product that was impacted by the shortage, they’re up about 60%. So if you think about how that’s going to shake out for the balance of the year, it will probably remain at elevated level because I believe that the industry is going to be short for the season,” Pool Corp CFO Mark Joslin explained to analysts on a recent earnings call on April 22.

Homeowners Looking for Chlorine Alternatives

Homeowners are bound to look for creative sanitization solutions due to the shortage, Joslin said.

“Now that simply means that people are going to move their method of sanitization to another product, either a granular product or a liquid product. But there’s no shortage of ways to sanitize the pool. It just simply means at a certain point people will shift. We’ve also seen certain parts of the country accelerating the use of salt as a method of sanitization too,” Joslin added.

Despite the increasing prices, shares of Pool Corp continue to rise. Shares this quarter are up 11% as Pool Corp continues to absorb market share in a market where seemingly everyone is looking for a pool. First quarter sales and profits rose 57% and 165%, respectively.

Fairview, TX based Orenda Technologies summarized this years price hikes when they stated “Between manufacturing shortages, health and safety protocols and shipping delays, costs in all aspects of the supply chain are higher than ever thanks to COVID-19. This is not just in the pool business, it’s pretty much the entire global economy. Unique to pools, however, is the catastrophe of losing a major chlorine manufacturing plant, responsible for over a third of domestic trichlor production. That hits everyone hard.”

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Cleaning and Service Equipment and Supplies

Pool Metals and Metal Staining

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Pool Metals and Metal Staining

Metals are naturally existing elements found in every place; in water, soil and stones. Metals in soil and stones dissolve in acidic rainwater, which is then carried to surface water and groundwater. Through this, the dissolved metals find their way to pools and tubs when filled. Exposure of metals to water cause staining on pool surfaces and equipment. This article discusses the techniques to control the presence of pool metals. It also discusses the different kinds of metal staining and the relevant chemicals to eliminate and hinder stains.

Pool Metals and Metal Staining

Metals in pools and hot tub water

There are 91 existing metals, but only 6 are problematic to hot tubs and pools. The 6 metals include magnesium, copper, cobalt, iron, manganese and calcium. Here we will only discuss 4 that are cobalt, copper, magnesium and iron.

Fill water, inclusive of almost all municipal and well water supplies that fill hot tubs and pools, contains a few metals. It is advisable to test for metal concentration in source water before filling the hot tubs and pools.

Tests for iron and copper are easily accessible, though the majority only measures the free form of the dissolved metals. They also do not test the sequestered and complexed forms of dissolved metals. A two-phase metal test containing adequate reducing and releasing agents give better results on free, complexed and some oxidized metals.

Sources of metal contamination in the pool and hot tub water are plaster and pebble surfaces, water features, decking materials, metal equipment, galvanic corrosion, chemicals and runoff.

In addition, flagstone, marble and stone contain iron that leaches into the pool after every rainfall. Imbalanced water may cause the introduction of copper from heat exchangers found in gas-fired water heaters. Moreover, copper-based algaecides and mineral-based water treatment may be a source of pool metals. Plant fertilizers can also introduce metals when incorrectly applied or due to uncontrolled flooding. More sources of metal include irrigation methods with well water.

Preventing stains

Water Treatment

Avoid using untreated water with high metal concentration (higher than 1ppm) in hot tubs or pool. Treat the water when the metal concentration is higher than 0.2 ppm. Sediment filters (10 microns or less) eliminate the majority of the bigger oxidized particles. Use filters that have metal adsorbents to treat water, to minimize dissolved metals concentration.

Primary Sanitizers and Stabilizers

Maintain proper concentration of primary sanitizers and other similar stabilizers to prevent organic contaminants. These include; pathogens, non-hazardous bacteria and algae minimizing the need for a copper-based algaecide.

Bonding of Metals and Water

The majority of the pool and hot tub equipment are metal-made. For example, electrolytic halogen generators, the heating core of electric heat pump, gas-fired pool and hot tub heaters, ladders, light rings and handrails.

To enhance chemical and electrical safety, install a bonding system in the hot tub or pool. The bonding system involves joining the copper wire with all the metal elements and water combined. This minimizes electric potential difference. Lack of this system, enables dissolution of pool metals, causing staining that damages the equipment. This is the process known as galvanic corrosion and can heighten due to several factors such as salt water, stray direct current as well as its power supplies. Anodes (zinc metal) reduce the damage on the equipment but don’t deal with the cause of corrosion. Test the bonding system every year, or any other time there is corrosion.

Pool & Hot Tub pH

pH is the most vital yet most ignored factor in preventing metal release in water. Low pH water (below 7) is acidic and corrosive. Acidic water dissolves metals from the pool equipment.

Improper water chemistry harms pool surfaces and machinery. Always ensure to maintain an accurate pH, alkalinity (carbonate) and calcium (hardness). If inadequate, water draws carbonate and calcium from cementitious surfaces, discharging metals into the water.

Sequestering Agents

Sequestering agents join with the dissolved pool metals to reduce oxidation hence reduces staining. They chelate the metals, not eliminate them. They require a complex modern ultra filtration system to remove sequestered metal particles as the particles are too small for the pool filtration system. Add this agent on a regular basis, as a secondary disinfection and primary sanitizer systems keep on destroying them.

Ways to reduce metal concentration in hot tubs and pool water

  • Bind the metals using polymer and water-insoluble natural adsorbents
  • Filter the water through a reverse osmosis system
  • Remove and replace a part of the water with fresh metal-free water

Removing stains from the pool and hot tub surfaces

1. Metal stain removal from the surface

2. Chelation of the dissolved metals in the water with a sequestering agent

3. Elimination of the metals from the water.

To get rid of pool metals and metal stains, add oxalic acid, ascorbic acid and citric acid or a similar product into the pool water. An experienced pool service expert should only execute the use of Muriatic acid in the removal of metal stains as it can lead to permanent damage to the pool surface. Chelation of dissolved metals and minimizing concentrations of dissolved metal have been earlier tackled.

Figuring out the difference between metal stains and those by organic contamination can be difficult. For evaluation, establish the origin of the stain, asses the water chemistry and test the stain with either citric acid or ascorbic acid.

Note: Some organic stains, similar to those brought about by iron bacteria, vanish after treatment with ascorbic acid but return with the introduction of chlorine residuals.

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Cleaning and Service Equipment and Supplies

Selling Automatic Pool Cleaners Online

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Selling Automatic Pool Cleaners Online

Amidst the pandemic this summer, Rene Huston, president of Patio Pleasures acknowledges an increase in their sales, of up to 10 pools in a day, if available. The unanticipated pandemic that led to the cancellation of travel plans had people invest that money for their backyard luxury. This is no wonder; there is an increase in the sales of automatic pool cleaners, especially high-quality robotic models. Clients also opt to invest cash they would have used elsewhere to enjoy the benefits of the long-term, cost-efficient APC’s.

Since their introduction in the 1950s, automatic pool cleaners have become part of pools in North America due to their personality and efficiency. They move around the pool on their own, cleaning the pools, hence minimizing the need for manual vacuuming and sweeping.

Jeannie Pearcy, owner of SwimFun Pool & Patio in Olathe, Kansas, United States, tells her clients a pool cleaner is similar to a Roomba for your pool.

Recently, online competition affected APC sales at brick and mortar vendors. Reacting to retailer’s complaints, APC producers began making ‘trade-only’ products. These products are only physically accessible through pool and spa shops. These products come with extra features like additional supplies longer warranties or refundable offers. Furthermore, you can access and depend on service from the vendor and manufacturer. Discussing with pool and spa vendors, there are varying opinions on the sell of automatic pool cleaners.

Store manager for Outback Pools & Spas in Wichita Falls, TX., Jimmy Cooper, appreciates manufacturers for looking out for their welfare too. Clients get to experience what a brick and mortar can do. Customers can purchase these pool products online though you can have horrible encounters with them. This gives the stores a chance to enlighten clients on what they can do.

Online vs Retail stores

It may seem like the ideal service to request for a robotic automatic pool cleaner from your home and have it brought within two days. However, their satisfaction can be short-lived either with the delivery of the wrong product or early failure of the product.

Most clients come to Huston’s store, complaining of an ineffective online product. They use this opportunity to explain the advantages if they had bought it from them. Such discussions and encounters build the confidence of customers in brick and mortar vendors.

Moreover, when online clients take their automatic pool cleaners to Cooper’s store for maintenance or service, he cannot do anything about it because the product is not from his store. He instead offers to sell them a similar product from his store. To ease their frustrations, he explains the benefits of buying from stores.

With this approach, Cooper believes he has changed the opinion of half of the online buyers to in store clients.

For years, Huston has avoided servicing online bought goods. However, now her opinion has begun to change. At times, it depends on how busy they are at a particular time though she’s still unsettled. She’s a bit receptive, taking into consideration the profits they could earn.

Maintenance Intervals

One of the significant selling points of an automatic pool cleaner is its ability to somehow get rid of the pool guy, as Cooper states.

Cooper calculates with his clients an hour service each week for a year in comparison to purchasing a cleaner. They realise a $1000 or $1500 cleaners operating two or three hours in a day for a year is cheaper than they thought.

The service crew is not always there, and the pool requires cleaning between their visits. Even with an automatic pool cleaner, manual work like scrubbing the pool walls requires the service crew. Depending on the water environment, manual vacuuming may also be necessary.

Selling Game Plan

Since APCs are more virtually intriguing compared to other pool equipment, retailers depend on popular displays in the store to start a discussion with a client.

After capturing the customer’s attention, Huston urges would-be buyers to go with a unit home and try it out. This program at Patio pleasures permits clients day access to the unit. When returned, they do a far check to ensure the unit is clean, the baskets and other pieces still in place.

The program, try before you buy, has also worked for Pearcy. Even if the Client does not purchase the unit, then, they include it in their purchase wish list and save up for it. Furthermore, SwimFun sells the season’s trial unit at a cheaper price with a limited warranty.

Cooper recognizes that persuading clients on the advantages of an automatic cleaner has become simpler. This is due to the increase of dependence and convenience of technology though some purchasers are still ignorant.

With a number of sales strategies in place, verbal means is the most powerful convincing method in the sell of automatic pool cleaners. This is the reason the product will remain a powerful sale in the retail sector.

Conclusion

Huston notes that pool owners are seeking ways to maintain their pools happy and healthy. Time is of the essence; get an automatic pool cleaner as it is the ideal choice for your pool.

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