There are many aspects to swimming pool maintenance, but preserving the chemical balance of pool water is by far the most important of these. However, even before launching into the what's and how-to's, it is important for a new pool owner to understand exactly what constitutes a healthy pool and which are the most important parameters to monitor in the maintenance cycle. Read on to understand these parameters and how you can control them to keep your pool healthy and safe.
Why should you care about water chemistry?
- Safety – Maintaining the pH balance of your pool is important, since it determines how effective your chlorine treatment method will be. If the pH is too low or too high, your chlorine-tablet pool or salt-based pool (which produces chlorine) won't be as clean. This is because the chlorine will be only fractionally efficient at killing bacteria and disease-causing pathogens.
- Comfort – Having a pool that is too acidic or basic can affect your skin, hair and eyes. Overly acidic or basic pools can cause irritation to the eyes and skin, taking away from your enjoyment of the pool.
- Corrosion – Overly acidic or basic pools will react with the hand rails, liners, ladders, pumps and other metal-containing components in the water causing corrosion, which is dangerous and unattractive.
Water chemistry balancing parameters
1. Total alkalinity (TA)
This is a measure of the level of alkalinity in the water, which dictates how resistant to pH changes your pool water will be. TA and pH are closely related, as high alkalinity is synonymous with high pH, and vice versa. Low alkalinity will make your pool overly sensitive to pH changes, while high alkalinity contributes to scaling and cloudiness in the water. You can use muriatic acid to improve or reduce high TA, while a pH decrease can correct low TA.
pH is a scale of numbers from 0-14 that shows the degree of acidity (0-6) or basicity (8-14) of your pool water. Maintaining acceptable pH ranges can help to maintain your pool components and finishing intact. Keep your pool pH within the 7.2-7.8 range to prevent corrosion and irritation on the skin.
3. Calcium hardness
Water is hard because of high levels of calcium and magnesium minerals, whose levels in water vary according to the region. Too little calcium in pool water will cause erosion on the plaster, while too much calcium will cause clouding and scaling in the water. The acceptable range is 250-500 ppm (parts per million). Levels can be altered either by draining and diluting with fresh water or using a calcium hardness increaser. If your pool has vinyl sides, aim for lower calcium hardness.
4. Free available chlorine (FAC)
The FAC in pool water is responsible for killing off harmful pathogens in the water, as well as eliminating oil and grease from the water. Shock treatment is a high-chlorine chemical used to correct low FAC. Shocking increases the FAC levels by 5-10 ppm. However, before shocking, ensure that you have the pool pH at the correct range. Shocking should be done after sunset, and water should be tested before use after shocking. If the reading is higher than 3.0 ppm, wait for the chlorine to dissolve naturally before re-entering the pool.