Thursday, July 7, 2016

What accessories should I purchase with my aboveground pool?

There are many accessories to consider when buying an Above Ground Pool to extend your season, reduce maintenance and simplify ownership.  Here is a list of a few popular accessories:

A.   Heaters- There are 3 popular choices of pool heaters.
1. Natural gas or propane heaters which will cost between $900 and $2000 plus installation. Gas heaters are the most expensive option in the long run due to operational costs and the cost of fuel.
2. Electric Heat pumps are becoming more popular because the cost of operation is so low.  Though the electric heat pump costs more than a gas heater - $2000 to $3500 plus installation - when compared to a gas heater, the heat pump will pay for itself in 3-5 years since the cost of electricity is so low.
3. Solar heating systems are available as low as $200 for small DIY kits however these kits will only produce heat in ideal conditions.  In order for solar heaters to provide any heat to the pool, the heating system must receive sunlight for most, if not all of the day.  Most pools will require more panels or collectors than the manufacturers’ state to notice significant heat gain. The cost will be $400 to $2,000.

B.   Liner upgrade Your midrange and less expensive pools are typically packaged with overlap liners. Overlap liners are the lowest quality liners available and are included to meet a low price point. It is highly recommended that you upgrade to a “hung” or “beaded” liner. Beaded liners are typically a higher and thicker grade vinyl and are an excellent option to ensure that your investment lasts a long time. You can expect the upgraded cost from an overlap to beaded liner to be anywhere from $100 to $350 depending on the size of the pool.

C.   Filtration – Reputable pool companies will include a filter system that is designed to keep your water clean with an approximate 12 hour per day run time. Be sure your pool has an adequade filtration system. When you are purchasing your pool, if upgraded filter media is available, it is a good investment.  Lastly, be sure to buy product with locally available parts.   

D.  Lights - Current technology has brought the price of pool lights down substantially and now with the advancements of LED technology, it is possible to get color changing lights. Many brands of quality lights are available for aboveground pools for the $250 to $700 price range. 

E.  Fountains – There are plenty of fountains that thread into the return, and deck fountains available today at reasonable prices. Keep in mind that any pool with fountains will experience additional water loss and evaporation - so if water is difficult for you to get, you may not want this option. Return fountains are available for around $25 and deck jets cost $175 to $350 a piece.

F. Chlorine generators – Also known as “saltwater pools” – pools with chlorine generators are very convenient and improve your water quality, feel, and clarity a great deal. Due to the technical nature of the product, many pool companies don’t offer this product. There has been a great deal of discussion about salt corroding metal and damaging concrete surfaces. We have been installing chlorine generators for 15 years and have seen very little downside. The problems seem to have some relation to the type of salt you use. The higher quality pool salts include other chemicals that buffer the water and the corrosive tendencies of salt, while the “plain” salt does not. I recommend you consult your pool professional before making a decision. A good chlorine generator starts at $300 up to $1000.  For more information on salt water pools, please refer to our blog post “Do saltwater pools work?” from May 2016.

Some of these options can be added to your pool after it has been installed to help with your budgeting. Keep in mind that the lowest price is not always the best choice when making a long term investment like this. Your local pool professional is your best source for knowledge and though you may pay more than you would on the internet it will likely be a good investment.

Robert Sullivan is the author of this information. He began installing aboveground pools in upstate NY in the late 1970’s and now owns the largest pool company in his market. He has been directly involved in pricing, marketing, selling and building several thousand aboveground pools.  


Monday, June 27, 2016

Vinyl Liner Thickness: Gauge versus MIL

The purpose of this article is to clear up the common confusion when comparing MIL thickness to gauge when discussing vinyl liner material.

It is important to note first and foremost that “GAUGE” has no meaning in the plastics field. Gauge is a unit of measurement without a specific distance; this is dependent on what you are measuring. For example, a 12 gauge shotgun barrel is different than a 12 gauge wire but in both cases the higher number is a smaller unit.

Sheet metal is commonly specified by a traditional, non linear measure known as it’s “gauge”. The larger the gauge number, the thinner the metal. The same is true for electrical wire gauge, the larger the gauge measurement the smaller the size of the wire.

American measurement (imperial measurement) that is equal to 1/1000th of an inch in thickness.

MIL measurements have nothing to do with the metric measurement millimeter. Due to the way that these measurements are acquired, 27 MIL vinyl is thicker than 20 MIL vinyl but 20 gauge or 20G Vinyl is a meaningless term without measure.

While the term gauge is not a “real” term it is unavoidable within the pool industry due to internet marketing and the need for pool liner manufacturers to follow suit to market their product.

At 21st Century Pools & Spas our stock aboveground liners are 17 MIL standard and hold a 20 or 25 year warranty depending on the brand of liner that is chosen. It is important to ask all retailers, online or otherwise, what their liner MIL thickness is as that is the only real measurement for vinyl liners. It is also useful to ask for warranty information to ensure your investment is adequately covered.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How Do I Maintain Proper Water Chemistry?

Maintaining clear water in a swimming pool may seem like a daunting task at first,  however, it can be made easy and stress free by following a once-a-week, 3 step chemical system. 

The 3 step system that we follow at 21st Century Pools and Spas includes sanitizer to keep the water clean, shock to remove contaminants in the water, and algaecide to both kill and prevent algae.  

The 3 step system works in both inground and aboveground pools, of any surface type, that have water circulating through the pump and filter for 10-12 hours per day.   

Step 1 – Sanitizer 
  • Sanitizing the water with a chlorine tablet is the primary method of keeping pool water clean.
  • Chlorine tablets may be placed directly into the skimmer basket, or in a chlorine floater that moves around the pool. 
  • Be sure that if you are using chlorine tablets that the pump runs for at least 10-12 hours every day.  Chlorine tablets continue to dissolve even if the pump is not running and sitting chlorine can potentially bleach the liner of your pool.
  • Chlorine tablets that contain stabilizer (CYA) are formulated to last longer than regular chlorine tablets when exposed to the sun.
  • Some chlorine sticks are formulated with a special film that covers them when the pump and filter are not running to prevent chlorine from pooling in high concentrations and staining the liner.  If your pump and filter do not run constantly, consider switching to chlorine sticks with this coating.
Step 2 Shock 
  • Shock works along with the sanitizer to destroy bacteria and other contaminants.
  • Shocking a pool once per week eliminates the contaminants that the sanitizer collected throughout the week and rejuvenates the chlorine to allow it to continue cleaning the water    
  • Some shocks contain algaecide and water clarifiers that contribute to maintaining water clarity.
  • Make sure that you read the instructions on the shock that you are using.  Some shocks must be predissolved and others require waiting after shocking before swimming.  In order to keep your pool surfaces looking good, and your swimmers safe, you should make sure to understand how to properly use all pool chemicals.
  • Be sure to remove the cover of the pool before shocking and keep it open for a few hours after shocking.  The chemicals in shock are very strong and can break down the solar cover material.
Step 3 – Algaecide 
  • Algaecide can work as both an algae killer, and an algae preventative.
  • It is important to remember that shock may halt algae growth, but algaecide is the product that actually kills and breaks down the algae spores.  
  • The most effective algae killing treatments include both shock and algaecide within an hour of one another, to first stun the algae and prevent continuing growth, and then to kill the visible algae and any remaining spores.
In order to make sure that the levels in your pool are within acceptable ranges, you should test the water once a week with test strips, or bring a sample of pool water to a professional pool company for a comprehensive water analysis. 

pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness levels must also be balanced on an as needed basis.  These levels will change with rain, water addition or loss and with heavy swimmer loads.  Levels should be checked after each of these events in order to maintain steady chemical levels.

Be sure to ask your local pool expert about chemical interactions and proper chemical doses for your particular pool.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Choosing the Right Pool Filter

There are three different types of filters that are appropriate for swimming pools.  The water is drawn in through the skimmer by the pump, and is pushed into the filter, where it is cleaned and then pushed back into the pool.  The three filter options are: cartridge, diatomaceous earth (D.E), and sand.  Depending on the size of your pool and your other particular needs, please be sure to speak with your local pool dealer to choose which filter is best for you.  Below we will elaborate on the pros and cons of each type of filtration system.

Cartridge filters are a type of paper filter that catches a very fine particle (10-20 microns).  In order to clean the cartridge filter, the pool owner must remove the filter from the tank and hose it off thoroughly in order to remove dirt and debris.  Unlike D.E. and sand filters, cartridge filters do not need to be backwashed, so this type of filter will conserve water best. 

A D.E. filter can filter out an even finer particle than cartridge filters are capable of (3-5 microns).  Since this type of filter is capable of filtering out such a fine particle, it is able to get your water the clearest and crispest that it can be.  D.E filters must be backwashed when the pressure inside the filter rises to about 8 psi over clean pressure.  D.E. filter media must be replaced after each backwash.  Since this filter can remove such a fine particle, it is likely to become dirty before a cartridge or sand filter would.    D.E. filters have a lot of components, and they should all be inspected after each backwash in order to keep the filter working properly.

Sand filters can capture a particle between 20-40 microns and are the easiest and most efficient filtration system available.  Just like a D.E. filter, the sand filter must be backwashed when the pressure rises to 8 psi over clean pressure.  Sand only needs to be replaced every 3-5 years, and can be replaced with a finer media that will help filter a smaller particle out of the water, just as a D.E. filter would do.  

Have a conversation with your local pool professional to find out which filter type is best for your pool.