Get your pool ready for the off-season while protecting your investment by following these tips.
Just like your kids need that new winter coat, your swimming pool needs to be properly prepared and zipped up for the cold months.
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Here are five tips from pool service experts on how to bundle up your pool for winter:
1. Hire a pool professional
Winterizing a pool isn’t a matter of throwing on a cover and calling it a day, according to Tim Britton, office manager of Rogers Pools in Indianapolis.
“A contractor is going to blow out the swimming pool and plumbing lines, and basically drain all the water out of the lines,” he says.
A similar winterization process is necessary for above-ground pools, says Craig Calvin, a salesman for Brothers 3 Pools, which has locations in Bethpage and Saysville, New York. In addition to adding chemicals to prevent algae, an air pillow is centered in the pool to attract ice that would otherwise form along the side when the water freezes, Clavin says.
Larry Berczyk, owner of Valley Pools & Spas headquartered in Burnsville, Minnesota, says above-ground pool owners can easily winterize their own pools.
"With above-ground pools, you disconnect the hoses from the pool equipment and let them drain," he says.
Calvin says you could use a shop vac to help drain the lines, but it would most likely require a commercial-grade shop vac to empty the typical 50 feet of line.
If you hire a pro to winterize your above-ground pool, Clavin says the average cost in his market ranges from $125 to $175. It can cost as much as $300, including the cost of chemicals, to prepare an inground pool with an intricate setup, he says.
Britton says you can expect to pay between $275 and $400 for a full-pool winterizing of an inground pool in the Indianapolis area.
Stewart Dixon, owner of Stewart Dixon Aquatic Services in Greenwood, Indiana, says homeowners can handle some tasks, such as checking water chemistry and verifying the cover is in good working order, but should leave the machinery to the experts.
“Most freeze damage occurs from homeowners winterizing the plumbing and equipment themselves,” he says. “These repairs can be very costly, and a swimming pool is a big investment sitting in your backyard.”
2. Leave some water in the pool
“You should never drain a pool completely and leave it over the winter,” Dixon says. “Otherwise, you risk the hydrostatic pressure popping it out of the ground or floating a liner, which can lead to a new liner or a complete remodel.”
Calvin says you shouldn't drain your above-ground pool at all during the winter.
"The water should be left at the same level you swim," he says. "It gives the [pool] cover something to sit on."
Britton says not to worry about your pool freezing in winter; it won’t hurt the pool, and it probably won’t freeze all the way down.
Elden Foltz, owner of SHS Pool and Spa Service in Indianapolis, recommends installing a winter pill — a floating ball that releases chemicals throughout the winter to prevent scaling and algae buildup.
3. Watch the pool chemicals
Inground pools require more attention to winterize, and a good pool contractor will do more than just remove water from the equipment.
“They should put a little antifreeze in the plumbing lines after they blow the water out,” Britton says. “And the water in the pool itself needs to be cleaned and have the chemical balance just right, as if you were going to be swimming in it.”
Dixon says pool owners should take the responsibility of ensuring the correct pool chemistry.
“The most important thing a homeowner can do prior to a service company closing their pool is to make sure the water chemistry is balanced, your cover is in good shape, winterization plugs and so forth are accessible, and all your regular [pool] housekeeping chores are completed prior to their arrival,” he says.
4. Prepare your pool for an unexpected freeze
Foltz and Britton recommend closing up a pool no later than the end of October, and earlier if you have a sand filter.
“You want your pool closed before the first snow,” Britton says. “Halloween would be a late closing.”
Even if you live in a warmer climate where temperatures seldom fall below freezing, experts say it’s still a good idea to prepare for the occassional dip below freezing. Your pool water won’t freeze if it’s running through the pipes so make sure all of your pool equipment is operating.
Experts say the life span of a pool pump is typically two to five years, depending on the load on the pump. If your pump is nearing the end of its life cycle, get it serviced or replaced.
5. Cover your pool
Make sure your pool cover is tight and secured during the winter months.
“That will help keep it relatively clean as well as safe,” Britton says.
Foltz urges homeowners to make sure their cover is in good condition and have an automatic pump remove water from the cover’s surface.
“A cover is designed so you can walk on it without any problem, but you can easily get 400 gallons of water — at 8.8 pounds per gallon — on top of the pool and that will cause serious problems.”
6. Store pool equipment
If your pool has detachable ladders, diving boards or other structures, it's a good idea to remove and store them during the winter, Berczyk says.
Doing so will prevent damage from drastic weather changes, or from snow and ice buildup.
Editor's note: This article was originally published July 10, 2014.
Staff writer Cynthia Wilson contributed to this report.
Do you have to winterize a pool? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.