As sad as it may be, summer is coming to an end. Before you move on to the fun fall festivities ahead, you need to check off a few to-dos around your property before the sun officially sets on the season. If you have a swimming pool, learning how to winterize a pool is one of the most important items on the list.
You already know owning a backyard pool comes with a lot of responsibilities. Beyond cleaning out leaves and maintaining the water level, a pool needs regular maintenance to remain a safe—and beautiful—rec environment. Winterizing a pool properly helps extend its lifespan and makes reopening come spring that much easier. Let's dive in.
Why Winterize a Pool?
Unless you live in a climate that's warm enough for year-round swimming, winterizing your pool is a pesky yet beneficial task you have to undertake each fall. Think of winterizing your pool as doing your future self a favor. Your swim space will be much easier to reopen in the spring if you follow the right protocol now, and you'll cut down on the likelihood of any major maintenance tasks if your pool is properly treated with chemicals and closed securely. Winterizing your pool also guarantees you'll have one less thing to worry about when stormy winter weather rolls in. The last thing you want to worry about while you're clearing snow off the driveway is your swimming pool freezing over.
When to Winterize a Pool
Figuring out the exact time to winterize your pool is part science, part personal preference. As a general rule of thumb, you want to wait until outdoor temperatures fall below 65 degrees Fahrenheit consistently. That helps ensure your pool won't breed any algae or bacteria, which thrive in warmer temperatures and may crop up if you close it too early.
Beyond that, choosing when to winterize your pool is up to you and depends a lot on your climate and various pool upgrades. If you live in an area that experiences balmy temps through September and into early fall, you may want to consider leaving it open a bit longer than someone who gets hit with a drop in temperature early in the season. Likewise, if your pool is equipped with a heating system that allows you to wade in even if it's chilly out, you can opt to keep your pool open a bit longer.
Just remember, you need to winterize your pool before temperatures drop below freezing. Many of tasks involved are difficult (if not impossible) to do in freezing temps.
How to Winterize a Pool
Follow the below eight steps to winterize your pool. The process for an above-ground and inground pool are very similar—we've outlined the only difference in the step-by-step tutorial below. The process for winterizing a saltwater swimming pool versus a chlorinated pool is similar too; you may need to remove the salt cell and use different chemicals, but the basic steps are the same.
Deep Clean the Pool
Kick off the winterization process by giving your pool a thorough cleaning. Use a skimmer to remove all leaves, debris, and dirt from the surface of the water, then brush the walls of the pool using a bristled pool brush. Finish by using a pool vacuum to clean up any lingering debris off the pool floor and emptying the skimmer baskets.
Remove Any Accessories
After you've finished cleaning your pool, remove any equipment and accessories that remain in the water. This may include step ladders, thermometers, buoys, ropes, and automatic cleaning equipment. Clean everything well, allow it to dry, then store it all away for the season.
Test and Balance the Water
Using test strips or an at-home pool test kit, get a read on the current state of your pool water. Doing this will allow you to balance the chemicals you treat your water with and protect the pool and its surface from any damage during the off-season. As a general rule of thumb, you want to maintain the following levels:
Alkalinity: Between 80 and 150 parts per million (ppm)
pH levels: Between 7.2 and 7.6
Calcium hardness: Between 175 and 225 ppm
Shock the Pool
Add a shock treatment—which kills bacteria—to your pool water according to the package instructions. Make sure to circulate the water by leaving the pump running for at least 24 hours after you apply the shock treatment to ensure it gets evenly distributed.
Algaecide is another essential chemical to add to your pool during winterization, since it helps prevent the growth of algae while the pool is closed. An important note: Never add chlorine shock and algaecide at the same time—always give the shock time to distribute and then add the algaecide afterward.
Lower the Water Level
Depending on the type of winter cover you choose, you'll want to lower the water level in your pool by 6 to 12 inches. Your pool cover manufacturer may specify exactly how low you need to go.
Drain the Pump and Heating Equipment
It's important to drain and clean all pool equipment including the pump and heater, which can be damaged by freezing water and temperatures. Clear the water from the pool lines before plugging them up to prevent any excess water from entering. Drain water from the filters, pumps, and heater before plugging them too—if possible, you can remove and store them away from the pool for the season. If necessary, you can use a blower or shop vac to blow the remaining water from the equipment. If you're winterizing an above-ground pool, you'll want to focus your attention on disconnecting the hose and plugging the outlets instead of clearing out the pool lines.
Cover the Pool
Last but certainly not least, it's time to cover up the pool. Make sure your chosen pool cover (whether it's a safety cover or winter cover) fits the pool securely
without leaving any gaps, holes, or tears. Anchor your pool cover around the edges using an included cable mechanism or heavy cinder blocks to keep it from blowing up and off during a winter storm. If you're covering an above-ground pool, place an air pillow in the middle of the pool before covering; this will help absorb the pressure of the water as it expands to ice and keep any snow or rain from adding too much weight.
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