Whether you close your pool early or stretch it out to those few warm days that are inevitable in October, there are some key things to remember when winterizing your pool.
The main reason we “winterize” our pools is simple: it’s to prevent damage. Water expands when it freezes and can wreak havoc on the pool’s filter system, all its plumbing lines, and the pool itself. A secondary but also important objective is to keep the pool as clean as possible until the next swimming season begins.
For the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to talk about in-ground, salt water pools and not the above-ground variety. That’s a whole other kettle of fish.
First, going back to the matter of timing, the experts recommend that you close your pool as late as possible. The ideal water temperature is about 10C or 50F. The danger in closing too early is that you risk an algae bloom. I know people in the national capital region who close in November and sometimes December, but you might not want to stretch it out that long.
If you’ve hired a company to close your pool in the past, you might be surprised to know that it can be a DIY job and that it’s not that difficult. But it does require careful attention to a few basic steps. This isn’t a step-by-step set of instructions because every pool will have different mechanical requirements, but here’s a primer:
1) Vacuum your Pool
- Make sure your pool is as clean and free of debris as possible, so that the liner won’t stain and opening will be easier next spring.
- If there are any marks or stains around the water line or on the stairs, you should consider removing those now rather than waiting until next spring.
2) Balance the Water
- Get your pool water tested one last time and adjust the ph level so that it’s a bit higher than during the swimming season.
3) Lower Water Level below the Water Ducts
- Drain the pool to 6 inches below the water returns/jets, using the pool pump.
4) Remove the Lights & Ladder
- If your pool has lights (normally along the walls), take them and the wiring out and place the lights on the pool deck/pool surround over the winter (just remember they're there when the snow flies so that they don’t get trampled on!)
5) Drain Water Lines
- Close the valves first, than use a shop vac (dry/wet vacuum) to blow out the lines.
- Plug them with winterizing plugs and seal the ends with Teflon tape.
- Flood the lines with pool-grade (only) anti-freeze.
6) Protect Skimmer
- Remove the skimmer basket and place a skimmer guard or skimmer insulation in it to prevent ice damage/breakage.
7) Clean and remove Salt Chlorinator
- This is an expensive piece of equipment so don’t forget to clean it properly and store it in a manner that it won’t freeze.
8) Protect your Heater
- Shut off the valve on the reservoir and keep the heat on until the lines are empty.
- Should you cover your heater over the winter? Different pool experts have different opinions on the matter and it may depend on your particular heating unit. Seek advice if you’re unsure.
9) Winterizing or Closing Kit
- Pour the contents of the closing concentrates in the pool per directions.
10) Put on Winter Cover
- Safety covers are becoming more and more popular, even though they are more expensive at the outset, because they outlive tarp covers, eliminate the use of water-bags (weights) and you don’t have to top-up the water in the spring.
And a final tip: Never use regular anti-freeze in your pool!