As pool professionals get ready for this momentous summer swim season of 2021, they are tackling one of the most important stages of pool maintenance: pool opening. It's not just about opening the pool, but more importantly, about setting the stage for easy pool maintenance throughout the entire swimming season. Pool owners will be working from home this summer, and they will be taking an even closer look at pool maintenance — how smoothly it goes, and how much it costs. Meanwhile, with spa sales set to hit all-time highs, water care on acrylic tubs is more important than ever.
What unites the two disparate water care regimes? The filter. To a large extent, as the filter goes, so goes the pool and spa. With that in mind, here's a short review of five basics of filter efficiency that will help keep your pools and spas clean and clear, your customers sweet and your service workdays (relatively) untroubled.
1) CLEAN THE FILTER ON SCHEDULE
While a service pro may assume this, it bears reminding why it's so important to clean filters on time. Regular cleanings are essential to maintain proper circulation, remove debris that is sitting in the filter clogging flow and consuming chlorine as it goes by, and to help prevent degradation of the filter itself, whether it's sand, cartridge or DE.
It heads off a host of problems, large and small, some you may not have even thought of. For instance, by keeping circulation clear, you avoid a familiar headache on spas: a callout to a spa customer to deal with a heater that has shut down due to insufficient flow.
"Here in Canada, especially in the winter," says Kathi Belcourt, manager, Aquatech Pool & Bath, Winnipeg, Canada, "it's particularly important to have good flow and clean filters in spas and hot tubs. All spas have a safety mechanism built into them that shuts the heating element off if there is not enough water flow. This safety mechanism is required to avoid electrical fires, but in Canada, it could result in a hot tub shaped ice cube or worse, cracked or broken pipes. The goal is to prevent 'flow errors' in the spa at all costs. And to do so, it becomes imperative to have clean filters at all times."
2) SLOW DOWN
Slower circulation speeds provided by variable-speed pumps help the filter in different ways, notably by keeping debris from being embedded in the media and by decreasing the length of time that water sits dead in the pool.
"When water is moving continuously and more slowly through the filter, it allows the filter to operate more efficiently to keep the pool water cleaner, cleared and the water chemistry more balanced," says Tom Landi of Landi Pools & Games, with two locations in Vineland & Millville, N.J.
"We have been focusing on variablespeed pool pumps for years and truly believe that pump speed is the starting point for allowing filters to work more efficiently. I get a lot of positive feedback from my clients once they have a variable-speed pump on their pool. They all agree that the extra cost associated with a variable-speed pump pays off within the first season and after, and one of the payoffs, besides a big break on their electrical bill, is better filter efficiency."
3) USE A FILTER CLEANING PRODUCT ON CARTRIDGES
Week to week, a good spray-down can remove debris from a cartridge filter and get it back in action quickly, but on a regular basis, cartridge filters need a good chemical cleaning to restore their effectiveness. How this is done is important.
"For cartridge filters, in addition to rinsing, specially formulated filter cleaners are necessary. But, using an enzymatic cleaner to get rid of oils and grease before using an acid cleaner can be of great benefit," says Jamie Novak, brand manager, BioLab.
"Many pool pros use acid-based cleaners, which do a great job of whitening cartridges, but these acidbased cleaners can set grease and oils into the media, reducing the effectiveness of filtration. So while the filter element might look better (whiter), it is not working as well as it would if the grease and oils were removed beforehand with an enzyme-based cleaning option that breaks down these non-living contaminants."
On the spa side, says Belcourt, "It's also important to remember that having jets in a hot tub increases the importance of filter cleaning. While those jets make your muscles feel good, they are also exfoliating your skin and your bathing suit. The soaps from laundering your swimsuit are now entering the water, as is all the moisturizer you put on your body after showering. And body wash feels great on your skin in the shower, but it leaves a film of oil on your skin that is removed by the jets and mixed into the hot tub water, and all of these things quickly gunk up the filter. The use of an enzyme product can break up and remove them.
"Even when bathers shower before entering a hot tub, contaminants from their bodies can cause the sanitizer to be used up very quickly. The more people there are and the longer they stay in the spa, the faster disinfectant levels decrease. This results in a lower concentration of sanitizer levels than what needs to be present in the water to kill harmful bacteria. Therefore, any additional help we can give the filter will help ensure the spa is clean and clear and safe for users."
4) PURGE THE PLUMBING
Most consumers are unaware that in the pipes of pools and spas, biofilm grows along the walls and becomes a fortress for bacteria, which can cause problems. An enzymatic product with surfactants to dislodge and displace that build up will move it through to the main body where it can be filtered or treated with shock.
"For spas in particular, the plumbing lines need to be cleaned out regularly," says Belcourt. "We always recommend a pipe purge product that is included as a part of a regular spa maintenance plan for our customers.
"Hot water is very different from cold water. And most consumers understand that bacteria and other bad stuff is more likely to appear in a warm environment rather than a cold environment. So the goal is to keep a consistent sanitation of the water inside the hot tub and inside the hot tub plumbing….since hot tub water that isn't sanitized is far less forgiving. As a result, everything we do to ensure the cleanest, clearest water in a spa has to do with supporting the filter, so the filter is working at maximum efficiency, removing all the gunk so that the sanitizer only has to worry about killing bacteria."
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Landi agrees, "We find that the plumbing build up is less of a problem in our pools, partly because we use variable-speed pumps. By running the pump longer so that water is flowing through the plumbing lines almost continuously, it does help avoid the build up in the plumbing lines because when the water doesn't flow through the plumbing lines, there is more of an opportunity for build up to adhere to the inside of the plumbing lines. As a part of regular pool maintenance, we recommend doing a plumbing purge every few years."
5) REPLACE THE FILTER MEDIA
Of course, whether you're using sand, DE or cartridge media, nothing lasts forever. Everything needs to be replaced at some point.
"The age and condition of the filter media can have a big impact on the ability of the filter to remove dirt and debris from the water," says Novak. "Removing dirt and debris physically means that chlorine and shock products do not get used up to break them down. Sand filter media should be replaced every five to seven years, ensuring that the sand particles still have the sharp edges necessary to catch and remove contaminants. Pool or spa owners using cartridge filters should have a spare set available to rotate cartridges each time they are rinsed or cleaned, as it is important to replace with dry filters every time. And each set of cartridges should be replaced every two years to make sure the pore size in the fabric isn't stretched out and unable to catch dirt and debris. Finally, D.E. filter media should be replenished with every backwash, so it can be consistently fresh and ready to filter."
Meticulous care of filters is an investment in your pools and in your customers. Like any investment, you pay up front, and then reap the rewards over time. In the case of filters, you're putting in the time and effort to keep filters in prime working condition, so they will keep your pools clean and your customers happy.
It's a belief that is central to Landi's business model. "My philosophy is that I would rather have a happy customer in the long run than a customer that feels their pool is hard to maintain and expensive to maintain," he says. "With a happier customer, I know that I am going to get that residual income year after year because they are satisfied — and they are going to keep referring business to us. Because then, they will tell their neighbors, friends and co-workers that they should go with Landi Pools because their pool is easier to maintain, looks great, and they spend less money on chemicals and maintaining the pool. And all of these benefits come from focusing on the efficiency of their pool filter."
This article first appeared in the March 2021 issue of AQUA Magazine — the top resource for retailers, builders and service pros in the pool and spa industry. Subscriptions to the print magazine are free to all industry professionals. Click here to subscribe.