What good water balance means to you…
Our customers ask, “why do I have to worry about testing & balancing my swimming pool water? If it looks clear, everything must be good. Right?” The answer is, “Usually not.” The short answer is if the water isn’t properly balanced, you’re not safe, the pool & its components (filter, pump, heater, pool surfaces, fittings, etc) just won’t last long, and finally, you’ll be wasting your money!
Here’s what we mean:
Pool Water balancing for you & your body: When the pH & Total alkalinity are out of balance, your chlorine, bromine or other sanitizer don’t work as efficiently as they should. When the sanitizer doesn’t work efficiently, bacteria & other stuff you don’t want in your spa start gaining control. You could easily end up with skin rashes and eye irritations at least.
Pool Water balancing for your pool: Without proper chemical maintenance, you can get water line scum build-up, much shortened heater life (the heater either corrodes away due to low pH & Total Alkalinity; we’ve seen people buy 2 heaters in one season because they don’t think they need to balance their water!) or scale build-ups (high pH, high Total Alkalinity, high Total Hardness) prevent efficient heating (scaling of the thickness of just 1 sheet of paper can easily cause you to use at least 10% MORE electricity or gas), clogged filters and shortened filter life. Left completely alone, we’ve even seen the pool liners become faded & brittle & other damage because of it’s constant contact with out-of-balance water. Consistent, low total alkalinity & especially calcium hardness over a period of several months can lead to a shortened vinyl liner life (lots of little, tiny pinholes – no warranty coverage). You didn’t buy your pool for that mess!
Remember that the source water for filling your pool can have certain properties that can cause chemical changes as you top off your pool; especially pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness & metals & minerals. If your tap water is “soft” or “hard”, those chemical make ups, make a difference. The use of water softeners makes a difference. Certain salts will directly affect the water balance.
Here are the proper water balance parameters to keep in mind:
pH – 7.4 – 7.6
Total Alkalinity – 80 – 120 ppm in concrete pools, 120 – 150 ppm in vinyl or fiberglass pools
Calcium Hardness – 200 – 250 ppm in concrete pools, 175 – 225 ppm in vinyl or fiberglass pools
Total Dissolved Solids – less than 2500 ppm (in NON-salt pools)
Iron or Copper – ZERO
Cyanuric Acid – 40 – 100 ppm (chlorine pools ONLY; bromine CANNOT be stabilized; biguanide pools – Soft Swim or Baquacil – do not require stabilizer)
Maintaining Total Alkalinity & Calcium Hardness in the middle of their respective “good” ranges is just a really good idea. Everything works just the way it should. The water looks great, feels comfortable, chlorine & bromine are acting properly, water balance is bouncing around.
Total Alkalinity is a measure of carbonates and bicarbonates in the water. Total alkalinity works as a buffer for the pH helping to eliminate “pH bounce” or pH sensitivity. In other words, let’s say your pH is low, under 6.8, and your total alkalinity is low as well, under 50 ppm. You may add the correct amount of pH increaser and fix the problem but you find that the pH is back low again within 3 days. It’s difficult to get the pH correct and keep it there. If the TA is high, you may notice that it is difficult to get the pH down to a proper level. We often see this problem with pool owners who indiscriminately add baking soda to their pool on a regular basis. Increasing Total Alkalinity is pretty simple. Lowering it because of improper chemical use can be tough.
Calcium Hardness is on parameter that many people choose to ignore; mainly because they don’t understand it. Calcium hardness is a measure of dissolved calcium and other minerals in the water. When the CH is low, the water is aggressive and wants to satisfy its calcium deficiency. The water will “rob” calcium from ANY pool surface, including vinyl liners (vinyl becomes brittle) and fiberglass (spider cracking of the surface). Concrete or plaster finished pools will experience “etching” of the walls & floor, almost like scraped, scaly grooves in the pool surface. High CH will potentially cause cloudy water and scaling of pool surfaces and equipment such as the filter and heater because calcium is one of those minerals that dissolves best in cooler (under 85 degrees F) water. These problems are seen over a longer period of time as compared to pH and Total Alkalinity.
You can virtually witness low pH damage in a matter of days. Low Total alkalinity & Calcium hardness damage is noticed over a series of weeks.
Rain water can dramatically effect your water balance, depending on its pH & obviously the quantity of rain. The pH of rain varies across the country generally becoming more acidic as you go from west to east. As rain falls, it carries down particulate matter that is suspended in the air. This suspended particulate is dust, dirt, soot, chemicals, even bird droppings.
Adding fresh make up water after evaporation or backwashing will eventually have an effect on the water balance. Additions of more than 2 inches of fresh water should be allowed to circulate for 24 hours then tested to make any necessary adjustments.
Also keep in mind that rain water (especially when heavy or copious) can add to chlorine demand.
Wasting money: I think you’re beginning to understand the reason why from the above information. You’ll be purchasing more chemicals when you don’t need them. More frequent filter changes (proper cleaning of the filter cartridge should give a life of 2 to 3 years minimum, DE filter elements should last about 5 years with proper cleaning & maintenance). Par Pool & Spa wants you to have fun. Proper water balancing, testing & care shouldn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes per week on average.
Be sure to test your water with a good quality test kit or test strips. Remember to change the strips or testing reagents each swimming season. For added accuracy seek out a local pool professional who is able to properly and thoroughly test your pool water. These test need to include: Total chlorine or bromine, Free chlorine, combined chlorine, pH, total alkalinity, acid demand, alkali demand, calcium hardness, total dissolved solids, water temperature, mineral or salt level (saline or salt chlorine systems), iron and copper levels. Don’t wait to adjust the water balance. Like most things, it costs more to fix than to maintain.