Weathering the Storm

So with a large storm approaching, what should be done to prep your pool and backyard?  Here are a few pro-tips.

1.  Prepare for the water level to go up.  For a large storm, your pool might rapidly fill to the extent that you need to empty it.  Typically, this can wait until after the storm passes.  But, you may want to flake out your waste line now and be ready for it.  You can also go a bit preemptive and pump it down a few inches in anticipation of the rainfall.  

2.  Stow loose items in your backyard.  Wind often accompanies rain.  And with that is the potential for loose items to become projectiles or even fly into you pool where they can cause damage to a vinyl liner.  

3.  Shock.  Storms don't just bring water.  They can also bring algae that it picks up along the way and that typically is mustard algae.  Nip it in the bud with a higher chlorine level.  

4. Most important is safety.  If something happens to your pool during that storm,  make sure you measure you own safety before attempting to fix something while the rains and winds are still prevalent.  Material things can be replaced and nothing out there is worth an injury sustained through slipping and falling on a hard pool deck.

5.  We are here to help.  And if you have any questions, just call us.  :)

Looking Out For the Customer

Had a customer come into the store the other day that we hadn't seen in awhile.  Turns out that he took the opportunity to explore service from a competing firm (one of the national franchises in our area) and had returned to us for both our experience and trust that we have his best interest at heart.  

Confronted with a bad motor on his pump, the competitor had attempted to sell him an entire new pump but also one that was grossly oversized for his pool.  Yes, in America we often think "bigger is better" but practically no one needs a pump greater than 1 hp on their pool, much less a 2.5 hp pump.  For what the competitor wanted to charge for the new single speed 2.5hp pump, GNP could have installed a brand new variable speed pump that would have saved the customer on their power bill.  

At GNP, we don't attempt to impress with shiny new vehicles or fancy shirts and jingles.  We simply provide you the best advice we can because you are our neighbor.  And, we have over 70 years of collective pool experience to ensure you get the best advice possible.  


Why Your Pool Stays Green After Opening and Why You Need to Worry About Chemistry.

Had a customer who continues to have problems with a green pool right after opening and obviously isn't too pleased.  This was the case last year as well and he asked why is this case again this year?
In short, the answer is "high stabilizer" or cyanuric acid which in his pool was over 200ppm.  That's excessive.  Very excessive. 

Cyanuric acid helps to reduce the chlorine loss by protecting the free chlorine in the pool from the sun’s ultraviolet rays which will slowly dissipate it over time. Areas exposed to high levels of sunlight should maintain 60 – 80 ppm. When you have levels of cyanuric acid above that, it binds the chlorine making it less effective as a disinfectant and thus slower acting to kill bacteria/micro-organisms or prevent algae. It will also increase cloudiness in the pool water and make your water more acidic. Because of all of this, commercial pools are closed by the city when the level goes above 80 ppm

The difficulties he is having with algae are indicative of high stabilizer because quite simply his chlorine is locked up to such an extent that it is practically ineffective.  Industry rule of thumb is that you need a chlorine level of 7.5%-15% of your stabilizer level for the chlorine to be effective. For a stabilizer of 200 ppm, this would mean keeping the chlorine at 14-28 ppm which is extremely high.  Clearly we don't recommend this.  But, if he runs his chlorine at a typical 3-5 ppm, he will be falling behind as it just won't be enough.  And as the algae blooms, it will clog up his DE filter very quickly, causing even more problems.  To make matters worse, the local big box store recommended using a copper-based algaecides as the quick fix but after time that too will cause problems as the copper builds up in the water to such a level that it reacts with the chlorine and ironically turns the pool green.  

At the root of his challenge are chlorine tabs.  The customer used them all last season and apparently at an excessive rate.  Each tab he put in contained stabilizer and over the season his level grew and got out of hand.  And in shocking his pool, it is unclear whether he used a shock that did not contain stabilizer.  Given the levels he has, I would expect he used trichlor or dichlor based shock as well only making the problem worse.  

So what should he do now.

First, At this point, it would be recommended that a portion of the pool water be replaced with fresh water, because the only way to lower the level is through dilution.   But he can also take some other steps to reduce the chances that this happens again.  Such as:

  • Vac to waste whenever vacuuming the pool  Simply put a running hose in at the same time to replace the waster water with fresh water.  
  • Use pool bleach (12% Sodium Hypochlorite) which is a "pure" chlorine (no stabilizer) and stronger than regular supermarket bleach.  It's easy to use, won't cloud up the pool and will help to get your stabilizer down over time simply because you aren't adding anymore with tabs.  Simply pour the bleach in and mix it like you would your coffee.  If push comes to shove, you can use regular supermarket bleach (no perfumes or scents, just plain bleach) but make sure it is at least 8.5% Sodium Hypochlorite (dollar store bleach is much weaker).  
  • Make sure the shock does not contain stabilizer.  Look for “Cal-Hypo” and stay away from any shock that contains “Trichlor” or “Dichlor”.   Yes, it’s usually cheaper but it leads to this problem.  
  • Reduce the number of tabs.  Tabs are not meant to simply replaced en masse on a weekly basis.  You need to find the right level for your pool that maintains the proper levels of chlorine without spiking your stabilizer.  

Chemistry matters.  

Why is My Robot Cleaner Acting Up?

A client asked about why their robotic cleaner wasn't doing as well as they expected?

Robotic pool cleaners are great.  In fact, they are more than great.  They are more effective than pressure cleaners and cheaper to operate.  

But, they do have their idiosyncrasies just like anything else. People sometimes think that just because it is robot, that it is going to leave their pool immaculate and that they will never need to do regular maintenance.  That's not the case.  In fact, robotic cleaners still do not replace the need for regular brushing of your pool.  Nor are they capable of getting your pool fully restored after a significant lapse in regular maintenance or if you have a bad algae problem.   

What they do provide is a cheaper and more effective way to keep debris out of your pool than pressure cleaners. Even still, there are a few things that you can do to help maximize your experience with a robotic pool cleaner.

1- Make sure the filter system is OFF before turning the cleaner on. This does two things.  First, it allows the dirt to settle to the floor of the pool for the cleaner to pick up.  Second, the cleaner doesn't work against the current of the return nozzles which will either knock it off the wall or confine it to a particular part of the pool.  

2- Never sit and watch the cleaner. Put it in the pool & go away. Let it do it's work and come back later.  It will eventually get the job done.  

3- Remember the cleaner is NOT a replacement for pool maintenance. You still have to brush the walls & steps etc occasionally, you just don't have to run that manual vac for hours at a time to clean the pool.

Online Buying - A Cautionary Tale about Warranties.

We often are confronted with customers who find what they believe are great deals online through standard channels for various pool products.  Indeed, you can often find things for cheap prices online but it mostly comes with a catch. 

The warranty on many pool products is null and void if bought online or the warranty is drastically reduced and we have sadly seen this scenario play out many times in the last year with some very large purchases.  For example, we had one customer who opted to purchase a heater online to save money only to have it fail within the first year.  Not only was it not covered under warranty (which it would have been had it been purchased through Great Neck Pools) but the repairs ended up costing over three times the amount that was saved in buying online.  

Don't take that risk.  Buy from an authorized dealer to ensure you are protected by a warranty and in many instances, you can actually get an extended warranty at no additional cost by doing so.  


Backwashing Your Pool

Great Neck Pools Maintenance

A client asks, "How do I backwash my pool?"

  1. Turn pump off.
  2. Unless you have a hard-plumbed backwash line, unroll blue, flat backwash hose to an area where dirty water can drain.  Make sure there are no kinks in the hose to avoid it bursting.
  3. Turn multiport valve handle to the backwash position.  Whenever you turn the handle, depress it first all the way down prior to turning.  It's also a good practice to turn the handle in the same direction whenever moving it.  The direction itself doesn't matter but you just need to be consistent in the direction you choose.
  4. Turn pump back on for 60-90 seconds or until the water in the sight glass clears.
  5. Turn  pump off.  
  6. Turn multiport valve handle from backwash position to the rinse position.
  7. Turn pump on for about 20 seconds.
  8. Turn pump off.
  9. Repeat steps 3-8 two more times.
  10. With the pump off, return the multiport valve handle to the filter position.
  11. Turn pump on.
  12. Roll up backwash hose.
  13. For DE filters, you can now add DE to your skimmer to recoat your DE grids for proper filtration.  That amount varies depending on make and model so consult your owner's manual or call Great Neck Pools to confirm.  


Pool Maintenance - Keeping Water Balanced

great neck pools pool maintenance

Encountered a customer who did not choose to balance their pool water but instead opted to only monitor and add chlorine as needed.  

Water balance is extremely important as it provides the proper conditions for your chlorine to work most effectively and  provides an environment that is NOT conducive cloudiness or algae growth.  For instance, a low pH can cause your sanitizer (chlorine) to deplete quick not only making it less effective but costing you money in using more.  Further, it can make swimming not as enjoyable by irritating you and your loved ones while they swim.  No one wants to swim in an acid bath.

And that goes for your liner and equipment as well.  Having a low pH in your pool will start to corrode your liner, ladders, handrails, PV, pump fitting, etc.  Basically, everything.  In fact, most equipment manufacturer's warranties do not cover damage due to low pH. Alternatively, a high pH can cause scaling which will leave a film around your pipe, heater elements and your liner.  While this is simply unpleasant from an aesthetic point of view for the liner, it can damage your heater.  

Bottom line, you need to keep your pool balanced for the sake of your equipment and the well being of your family when they swim.  Good news is that we can help.  Great Neck Pools always provides free water testing and we will gladly talk you through what you need to add to keep your pool looking great and safe to swim in.  Or, we can even come out and balance it for you with weekly service plans starting at $70 per week with chemicals included.

We stand ready to help you enjoy your pool.




My Pool Smells Like Too Much Chlorine

A client comments "I don't need to add chlorine to my pool, because I can already smell the chlorine."

That's actually a common misconception.  A properly balanced and disinfected pool will have no strong smell of chemicals.  In fact, the odor that many people associate with chlorine is actually comes from chloramines which are the byproducts of the chlorine's reaction to contaminants in the pool.  This includes such things as perspiration, body oils, cosmetics and even urine.  (And no, there is no magic chemical that turns blue when urine is introduced to the pool.)  So actually, the smell of chloramines is actually a good indication that the chlorine in the pool is not high enough to meet the contaminant load.  Further, the red and itchy eyes that sometimes affects swimmers is also caused by those same chloramines.  

So bottom line, keeping the pool properly chlorinated will remove any unwanted odors, be easier on your eyes and safe for you to swim in.  And we can help with that here at Great Neck Pools but either having our professional staff come out and clean and balance your pool on a regular basis or with our free in-store testing.  All you have to do is ask.  



Variable Speed Pumps


Lots of buzz now from our customers concerning Variable Speed Pumps.  What are they and do you recommend them?

In short, yes we do recommend variable speed pumps.  While certainly more costly up front, they allow you to run your pump at lower speed for most of the time thus saving you greatly on your power bill.  In fact, a typical pool owner will save $300-$500 per year in electricity costs simply by switching to a variable speed pump.  Why is this?    Thanks to a little thing known as the "Pump Affinity Law", energy savings are disproportionately larger as you lower the speed of your pump.  For example, a 50% reduction in your pump RPM gives you a 75% reduction in operating costs.  And a 66% reduction in RPM will give you a savings of 89%. You can actually run a variable speed pump on low power for 24 hours cheaper than having a single speed pump run for 12 hours a day.  

Additionally, given the cost of the variable speed pump, the quality of the motor is much better than a normal single speed with encased motors that protect the motor windings from exposure to the elements.  In fact, our Jandy variable speed pumps come with a three year warranty which is the longest in the industry.  So, with energy savings alone you can recoup the higher upfront costs of the variable speed pump before the warranty even expires.  That's a great deal.  

So if  you open your pool this year and and your pump has died, think about an upgrade that will actually end up putting money back in your pocket.  



Copper Based Algaecides

A customer asks:
"I used an algaecide that contained copper and it really seemed to do the trick.  Why do you advise against them?"

Every so often, we encounter this question.  Seems that in response to a pool with algae growth, our customer with either add a copper-based algaecide or their pool service will treat their pool with it to solve the problem.  And indeed it does work.  But that's only part of the story.

Once you introduce copper or any other metals to your pool, the only way to get them out is to use a sequestrant agent to bind them, trap them in your filter and then backwash.  So why is this an issue?  Well, once you get too high a level of copper in your pool, the chlorine will begin to oxidize it and turn the water green, possibly stain your pool and this is actually the cause of green hair among swimmers.  It's not the chlorine.  It's the copper being oxidized by the chlorine.  Think "Statue of Liberty".  

That's why we avoid quick fix gimmicks like this in treating pools that are brought to us with algae problems.  Sure, it's a quick fix but it comes at a price.  The only real solution is to get the pool balanced properly and a sustained treatment with chlorine to get it back to a clear condition.