Why You Should Test and Adjust Your Pool Water Chemistry
Walk into any pool store and look down their chemical aisle and you’ll see it’s pretty easy to get confused as to what all the chemicals are and what functions they serve. Over the years of testing customers’ water samples, there have been many times, after running through which levels were off and how much of each product they needed, I’d hear the question, “OK, but do I really need all this stuff?” After hearing this question enough times I realized there can be a real disconnect between the pool professional and the customer. In short some customers don’t believe they really need these products. They view many of the products as snake-oil type products designed to support the retail store owner while doing very little for the customer or their pool. This actually couldn’t be farther from the truth, and I have found it to be just as important to impart to my customers a basic understanding of why their pools need these products. So the question is, “Why should you test your pool water and what do the chemicals do that helps you and your pool function well?” Let’s dive right in (sorry for the bad pun).
There are 3 main reasons for testing and adding chemical levels in your pool. They are the following:
1.) Bather safety
2.) Bather comfort
2.) Pool equipment preservation
The first reason, bather safety, is obvious to most everyone. For example, without sufficient levels of sanitizer (such as chlorine, bromine, biguanide, etc.) you are quickly exposing you and your family to scores of water-borne germs, bacteria, protozoa, and algae, all of which can make you sick. It is for this reason that we will NEVER recommend swimming in a pool with sanitizer levels below acceptable ranges. In fact we constantly advise our customers to stay out of the pool until the sanitizer level can be brought into range by adding chemicals such as shock. But this is not the only chemical level to monitor and adjust.
Next let’s address bather comfort. Chemical levels such as pH and total alkalinity are directly related to the relative comfort level of those entering the pool. A pH between 7.2 and 7.6 is most beneficial and comfortable to eyes and skin, and prevents rashes that may occur in pools with low pH (low 6 range) particularly in children and people with sensitive skin. Total alkalinity, although not the same as pH, works hand in hand with it to steady, or buffer, the pH and prevent “pH bounce” whenever chemicals such as chlorine are added.
Lastly, and most often overlooked is the adding of chemicals for the reason of preserving your pool and its equipment. The best analogy I can think of is changing the oil in your car regularly to make the engine last. Imagine for a moment that you had no idea that the oil needed changing routinely, and you simply stopped changing it because you thought the shop was just trying to sell you oil and filters for their benefit not yours. Your car’s engine would suffer greatly and likely seize up at 60,000 to 80,000 miles because of sludge-like buildup. But what if you thought this was “normal” and just went on replacing your car (or engine) way before its time regularly? This is very similar to your pool and certain chemicals which function to preserve long-term your pool’s components. A great example of this is calcium hardness. This is by far the most overlooked, underrated, and least understood of pool chemicals. A pool’s calcium level is critical in gunite pools and still highly important in vinyl liner pools. Calcium hardness literally preserves the integrity of the plaster in gunite pools, and all metal, vinyl and plastic that the water comes in contact with. You really want to think twice before declining buying calcium when low just because it doesn’t seem to do anything bad to your pool without it in there. *Pool water naturally tries to balance itself. When calcium levels are low, the water in your pool will pull calcium from the walls and vinyl liner. Over time this leads to scaling, staining and can damage the structural integrity of your pool walls, liner, and or gunite/ plaster.
Consider the short & long term benefits and the overall importance of a properly balanced pool when you test your pool water and shop for pool chemicals!
Once again, those of us pool professionals owe it to our customers not only to test accurately, recommend the right amount of product, and also take a bit of time to explain why you need the products on the shelf. A little understanding goes a long, long way!