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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.

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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

Pool Stains, What They Mean & How To Remove Them

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Pool Stains - What They Mean and How To Remove Them - Steps for Removing Pool Stains

There is nothing worse than a dirty pool than perhaps a stained pool. Identifying pool stains and what they mean is important. There are different approaches towards cleaning certain types of stains. Figuring out what is causing the stain is often possible by looking at the color of the stain. Various maintenance issues have a tendency to create a certain colored stain in the pool. Identifying what those colors indicate can help you locate the source of the problem.

Pool Stains - What They Mean & How To Remove Them - Pool Stain Comparison Chart
How well do you know your pool stains? View our Pool stain comparison chart.

Types of Pool Stains & What They Mean

Pool Stains - Green Brown Stains

Green Brown Stains

This type of pool stain is typically caused by decaying organic matter such as leaves and debris. Allowing leaf debris to accumulate at the bottom of the pool can cause an unsightly greenish-brown stain.

Stain Removal

To remove an organic stain quickly, sprinkle granular chlorine shock directly on them. On vinyl-liner pools, you’ll want to pre-dissolve the shock first in a five-gallon bucket of water before pouring it on and brushing it in.

Red Blue Stains

Berries cause reddish-blue pool stains. If you have berry trees in your backyard, this could very well be the culprit of red-blue stains in your pool. As the berries decay, the juice and skin of the berry can cause a stain that looks almost purple in color.

Again, you’ll want to take the same approach as removing organic stains. Brushing the liner with shock is your best option here and should remove the stain quickly.

Red Blue Pool Stains
Blue Green Black Stains in your pool

Blue Green Black Stains

Blue-ish Green-ish Black stains on the bottom of your pool could very well be berries too. However if there aren’t any berry trees in close proximity, high levels of copper could be the cause. If you have copper piping as part of your pool equipment setup, corrosion could cause stains that are of a blue-green black composition.

Mineral Based Algaecides

The leaching effect of copper intrusion has been known to cause stains that can be difficult to remove. Heavy doses of copper-based mineral algaecides have also been shown to produce similar stains. There are products such as Stain Free, A+ Stain Remover, and Jack’s Magic Blue Stuff that do an admirable job of removing stains on vinyl liners.

Green Brown Red Stains

Pool stains that are greenish brownish red usually indicate the presence of iron in the pool. As iron rusts, it has a tendency to leave a rusty greenish brown-red stain. This is true in all types of pools.

Leaching Metal Stains in the Pool

Metal leaching can occur that produces a stain from the pool coping, decking material, and a variety of other sources. Marble, granite, and flagstone all contain the mineral Iron and can leach into your swimming pool after a heavy rainstorm. Stains of this nature also occur without proper waterproofing.

Removing green brown red stains in your swimming pool
Brown Black Purple Stains - Manganese staining

Brown Black Purple Stains

This type of stain may look like a big bruise on the bottom of your pool. Stains that are brownish, black purple tend to be the cause of high levels of manganese. This can actually come from the local water supply, especially if the source is well water. Superchlorination is the best way to handle the problem as it oxidizes the manganese to a rust like substance that can be vacuumed off the pool floor. The next step should be cleaning out the pool filter as manganese can cling to surfaces.

Testing for Organic Stains & Metal Stains in Pools

You can easily remove organic stains with a little elbow grease and the right supplies. The typical field test pool contractors use for determining what type of stain they’re dealing with is to simply rub some chlorine on the stain to see if it dissipates. Metal doesn’t react to chlorine. This is why components such as pool ladders are made of metal. If the stain doesn’t react to the stain, then it’s probably metallic in nature.

One way to test if it’s a metal stain that you’re dealing with is to apply some ascorbic acid to the stain. If the stain is removed or at least reacts (lightens) in the presence of rubbing with Vitamin C powder, you have a pretty good indication that it’s a metal stain.

Plaster hydration stains
Plaster hydration stains – Photo Credit: Culator

Hydration Stains in Pools With a Plaster Interior

These stains tend to look like metal staining but are present in plaster pools. Since these types of stains can be difficult to remove there are some things you need to know first. Plaster hydration stains occur when the pool plasterer plasters the pool while the form isn’t completely dry or moisture or humidity is present. If you’re certain that the stain isn’t metallic (stain doesn’t react to ascorbic acid) then acid washing the pool interior is the best option for removing hydration stains.

Removing Organic Pool Stains

Once you’ve determined that it is actually an organic stain that you’re dealing with, chlorine is going to be your best friend here. Honestly, if you had the right amount of chlorine to begin with, you probably wouldn’t even have an organic pool stain. Superchlorination of the water is your best option for dealing with organic stains. Shocking the pool is going to help remove stains caused by leaf debris and decaying organic material. The go-to solution for many pool contractors is to use Cal Hypo (Calcium Hypochlorite Shock).

  • The process here is to test and balance your pool chemistry. Your ideal comfort zone for alkalinity is going to be in the range of 100ppm to 150ppm with 125ppm being the sweet spot.
  • The next step would be to shock the pool. For smaller stains a regular dose of Cal Hypo should do the trick. For larger pools or larger stains you’re going to want to up the dose. The typical regimen is 3 pounds per 10,000 gallons.
  • The third step in the process is brushing the pool to physically remove the stain. On vinyl liners you’ll want to be careful here making sure not to tear the liner while attempting to clean it.
  • Next, run your pump overnight and allow the water to circulate throughout the swimming pool. Make sure to do this for at least 8 hours.
  • Brush again in the morning. Repeat the entire process until satisfied with the results.

Removing Metal Pool Stains

The process of removing metal pool stains is a bit different than removing organic stains, however, using the correct products will greatly assist you in getting rid of metallic pool stains. There are a number of products on the market as we mentioned previously that can assist you in removing metal pool stains. Consequently, finding the right product to use all has to do with first identifying which type of pool stain you actually have.

Cleaning a pool stain is only half the problem. Keeping them from coming back is the real issue. Recurring pool stains can be a real nuisance. Moreover, people are less concerned with cleaning a stain and more concerned about why it occurred to begin with. Ideally, people want to keep mineral and metal stains from coming back.

Our top picks for Metal Removal products

Metal-Free by Natural Chemistry

CuLator 4.0 Powerpak

There are a number of products that pool service professionals use for tackling metal pool stains. Some tried and true products the pros use are Metal-Free by Natural Chemistry, and CuLator 4.0 Powerpak.

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Best Robot Pool Cleaners & Pool Monitors

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Best Robot Pool Cleaners & Pool Monitors

Swimming pools are indisputably excellent sources of enjoyment and relaxation. Even so, cleaning and maintaining a pool is not a walk in the park. Pool maintenance usually consumes a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately, you can never skip pool maintenance if you want to maintain crystal clear pool water. On average, you need to clean your pool at least twice a week. Moreover, you need to ensure you have balanced water chemistry at all times. Fortunately, there is a wide range of pool cleaning equipment you can use to keep your pool in good shape. In this article, we look at the best robot pool cleaners of 2021.

Best Robot Pool Cleaners & Pool Monitors

2021 best robot pool cleaners

The pool filter is usually responsible for getting rid of dirt and debris in your pool. However, some particles may be too large to go through the filter. As a result, you need to use a vacuum or robotic pool cleaner to clean the pool. At present, there is a wide range of robot pool cleaners in the market. Each offers unique functionality.

There are two primary types of automatic pool cleaners; pressure cleaners and robotic cleaners. Both deliver excellent functionality. But pressure cleaners usually depend on the pool filter and pump to function. At times, they rely on a booster pump to operate. On the flip side, robotic cleaners depend on electricity to function and work independently. Also, some robotic cleaners use smart technology like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to function.

Factors to consider when buying a robotic pool cleaner

Typically, robot pool cleaners incorporate a head unit responsible for running all operations of the cleaner. You can set a robotic cleaner to work at your preferred timings during the day. Most robotic pool cleaners have floor and wall cleaning options. In addition, pool professionals usually advise getting a robotic pool cleaner that cleans the waterline. Such pool cleaners reduce the need for brushing your pool surfaces. Nevertheless, these robotic pool cleaners tend to be more expensive.

All robot pool cleaners use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi systems to function. Thus, you can easily control the robotic cleaner using a smartphone app. You can start and stop the robotic cleaner at any time. When buying a pool cleaner, always buy one with a quality debris canister. The debris canister is responsible for trapping debris in the pool. After cleaning the pool, you need to empty and remove the canister according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Another factor to consider when buying a robotic pool cleaner is the size and shape of your pool. If you have a complex pool design, buy a robotic cleaner that can navigate tough corners. Also, if your pool has steps, choose a robotic cleaner that can go up the steps.

Different types of robot pool cleaners

It is important to note that robot pool cleaners are costly. Thus, before purchasing this equipment, ensure you analyze your requirements. Even so, pool experts report that robotic pool cleaners are worth the purchase.

DOLPHIN Sigma Robotic Pool Cleaner with Bluetooth and Massive Top-Load Cartridge Filters, Ideal for Pools up to 50 Feet.

Hassle-free clean. Easy-to-use, robotic pool cleaner equipped with an anti-tangling swivel cable, allowing Sigma to move freely around large residential pools up to 50 feet with ease. Backed by a 3 year quality assurance.

$1,497 on Amazon

Polaris Alpha IQ+

This is one of the best robotic pool cleaners you can find in the market. The Polaris Alpha IQ+ incorporates a fast and straightforward installation process. Also, it does an excellent job of helping you maintain crystal clear pool water. You can find it for about $1,458.96 on Amazon

Aquabot Turbo T4RC

Another robotic pool cleaner is the Aquabot Turbo T4RC. It is lightweight and uses a series of brushes to keep the pool clean. You can find it on Amazon for as low as $1,999.

Polaris 9550 Sport

Best Robot Pool Cleaners & Pool Monitors

Another Polaris robotic cleaner is the Polaris 9550 Sport that goes for approximately $1299 on Amazon. This cleaner is ideal for getting rid of dirt on pool surfaces of inground pools.

Smart pool water monitors

Maintaining balanced water chemistry is essential. Currently, there are several pieces of equipment specially designed to check the pool pH, calcium hardness, and chlorine levels. Smart monitor systems do this job and send measurements to your smartphone app every day.

WaterGuru Sense

This smart monitor system is specially designed to stay in the pool skimmer. The WaterGuru Sense smart monitor measures the pool pH and chlorine levels. You can find it on Amazon for as low as $295.

cFloat

Another smart monitor system is the cFloat. This system helps you improve water quality at all times. It goes for approximately $399 on Amazon.

Sutro Smart Pool Water Monitor

This smart monitor helps you know your pool chemistry. Also, it advises you on all the chemical adjustments you need to make. Purchasing a Sutro smart pool water monitor costs approximately $199.

Ultimately

Today, there is a wide range of smart pool equipment. Before purchasing any pool equipment, ensure you evaluate all your requirements.

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Dealing With the Trichlor Shortage Head On

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Dealing With the Trichlor Shortage Head On

The recent fire that destroyed the chemical plant in Louisiana is the main reason for the current chlorine shortage. As a result, a good percentage of pool companies were adversely affected. At the same time, some pool companies remained unaffected by these events and have been able to carry on business as usual. Such companies relied on other pool sanitation systems like saltwater systems and baquacil.

Dealing With the Trichlor Shortage Head On

But generally, the shortage of chlorine is a big challenge for many pool owners. There has been a significant rise in the price of chlorine due to increased demand.

How did pool professionals deal with tricholor shortage?

Once the news hit home, pool experts came up with several strategies to deal with this sudden shortage of chlorine. President of Patio Pleasures Pools & Spas, Rene Huston, said that trichlor shortage forced them to stock up in excess. This way, they would still have supplies in the next swimming pool peak season. Although this was a good idea, they realized that the demand was too high. In particular, the demand was three times than what we would sell in normal seasons.”

Most pool companies stocked up the chlorine in excess to deal with the shortage. Even so, this strategy also comes with other challenges. When you decide to stockpile chlorine, you need to create safe storage space. As a result, pool product suppliers have had to expand their warehouses to accommodate excess stock. Aside from creating a stock house, you need a lot of money to purchase chlorine in bulk. Unfortunately, very few pool experts have enough cash to stockpile.

What were the early signs of chlorine shortage?

People started noticing the shortage of chlorine by a sudden hike in prices. Before, pool owners bought a 50-lb buck of 3-inch unwrapped tablets at $70 to $75. Last year., the price rose to $125. Thus, pool owners had to pay almost twice what they used to pay to get chlorine tablets.

CEO/RMO of Cline Commercial Pool Service in California, Lori Ann Cline, says that she received a notice that the price of chorine would rise by approximately 15 to 20% during summer. Therefore, her company had no choice other than increase their prices to retain their profits. Contrary to popular belief, the increase in prices has not helped them deal with scarcity. In fact, most of their suppliers are currently reducing their purchases every week. So, they cannot buy as much chlorine as they would wish. Unlike before, they cannot order multiple buckets of trichlor.

Dealing with the situation beforehand

The owner of Richard’s Pool Service, Richard Garnai, says that the shortage of trichlor has not been a big problem for them. They already had a solid plan for dealing with the shortage. Their suppliers advised them to purchase trichlor in bulk. This way, they would be able to meet the expected surge in demand during summer. If they run out of stock, he considers manufacturing the chemical himself. Additionally, he plans to use cyanuric acid and liquid chlorine if he runs out of stock.

Garnai advises pool experts not to depend on tabs this summer. He says that looking for other options is a great idea. Trying to reduce the use of chlorine tabs is a great idea to deal with this problem. Some of the alternatives to trichlor include calcium hypochlorite and liquid chlorine. Although bromine is also a great alternative, it tends to degrade when exposed to sunlight.

Education programs

At the moment, it is essential to educate customers about this sudden shortage. Most customers are angry about this whole situation. Consider informing your customers that you are suddenly experiencing a chlorine shortage, and it would be best to look for other alternatives. Explaining the sudden increase in prices is also a good idea. Pool professionals are also encouraging customers to stock up tabs before summer. Fortunately, most customers are responding positively.

Using alternatives to chlorine

At present, there is a broad spectrum of techniques that can help you lower chlorine usage in your pool. These techniques help pool experts deal with the trichlor shortage well. When reducing the pool’s dependence on chlorine, the first thing to do is keep the pool in good condition. Using UV, Ozone, and AOP pool systems also helps you reduce chlorine usage. Consequently, pool experts are trying to encourage customers to consider other pool sanitation alternatives. Fortunately, most customers are responding positively. Nonetheless, pool experts hope that they won’t experience these challenges in demand and supply come next year.

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