Monday, October 21, 2019

Draining your Hot Tub the Easy Way!

Draining your Hot Tub otherwise known as a Spa can be a chore, but it is necessary to change the water on a regular basis. There are a few indicators on when you should drain your spa down and I will touch on a few here as well as the easiest way to drain your spa.

What is the easiest way to drain down your Hot Tub? Each manufacturer includes some type of drain on your Hot Tub. The problem is that accessing the drain in some cases can be difficult. For instance, your Hot Tub my sit right up against the wall in your backyard or near a patio post. It is much easier to use a Utility Pump or Submergible Pump (Sump Pump) in many cases.
Simply attach a garden hose to the Utility Pump, drop it in the center of the Hot Tub and plug it in. Within 20 minutes your entire Hot Tub will be drained down to less than ¼ of an inch of water. It is very easy and you won’t have to mess with Hot tub drain again. You can purchase a good ¼ hp Utility Pump for around $60-$80.

When you should drain your Hot Tub is another question entirely. There are some formulas online and based on these you will be draining your Hot tub down every 30 days or 90 days depending on where your usage fits into the formula. It is much easier to schedule your Hot Tub draining based on water quality versus a usage formula. I suggest draining your Hot Tub when you notice the following issues:

Cloudy Water that won’t clear up
Installing new filters
Foamy water
Scum build-up at the water line
Chlorine or Bromine not holding a constant level
Strong chemical smell
Water is over 6 months old
Human waste has entered the water
Vomit in water
Dead Animal in water

If you experience any of the above you should plan on draining your Hot Tub before using it again. I think the water quality is a better indicator of when to drain your Hot Tub then the usage formula.

A typical Hot Tub is 250 to 400 gallons so draining and refilling it is not a big deal. Figure to use about two 10 minute showers worth of water. I would say the more often you drain it the better overall but you don’t need to drain the Hot Tub unless one or more of the above-listed problems is present. For example, if the water is very foamy instead of purchasing a $15 bottle of Spa Foam Down, it would be better and cheaper to just drain it. I doubt the water from refilling it will cost more than $15.00, more like a few dollars at most. And besides, foam is an indicator of poor water quality so adding a chemical to reduce the foam is a band-aid solution at best.

With your Utility or Sump Pump handy, draining your Hot Tub when needed is very easy. I would say there is no good reason not to drain your Hot Tub regularly. If you are unable to do it yourself, your local pool service company will drain and refill it for you.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Fire and your Swimming Pool

When there is a fire in your area and you do pool service or if you have a pool in a fire area things can get very messy very quickly. Since the fire generates its own wind storm not only are the pools surrounding the fire full of debris, but the ash falling into the area and the pool becomes very problematic.

Once you are able to get back into the backyard to assess the pool, don’t be surprised to find a dark black mess where your pool was once located. All of the ash and debris will make your pool look unrecognizable. The first step is to get the system up and running and that means removing all of the leaf debris on the surface so that you can get the pool pump up and running. If you do pool service this may be a three-week process.

Week one, you want to focus on getting the surface cleared. I set a 25 minute limit per pool so in some cases just doing the surface will eat up the entire 25 minutes. In week two you will want to remove all of the debris on the bottom of the pool. If you have a Vacuum System like the Riptide or Power Vac this will come in really handy. Don’t worry about the ash as it will pass right through the vacuum system bag and you will need to manually vacuum that up. After the first week, the gardener should have had a chance to blow the deck or wash it down so all the ash that is in the pool should be the total from the complete yard. Otherwise, if you vacuum out the ash and the gardener comes after you, don’t be surprised to find the pool full of ash again. So it is a good idea to wait until all the ash is cleaned up on the deck before you vacuum the pool out.

Week three is the time you will clean up the ah from the pool. This could happen in week two if you were able to remove all of the debris from the pool in week one. But give yourself three weeks for this type of clean up process. I highly suggest you use a portable filtration system or a cleanup pump versus the customer’s filtration system. The only time I would use a customer’s filter would be if it is a sand filter or a D.E. filter and it was a “waste” setting on the multi-port valve. Otherwise, the ash is sure to clog up the filter and overload it.

Building a cleanup pump is very easy and affordable and if you do pool service I highly recommend you make one. The cost of all the parts including the pump is under $300 and it is a worthy investment. With the Portable Clean Up Pump, you can manually vacuum just as you would be connected to the customer's skimmer, but you will be connected to the Portable Pump. On top of the pump, you will have another pool hose and all of the ash will go out this line into a drain, the grass or a sewer line. You will lose some water in the pool but you will avoid using the customer’s filter and keeping it from damage or getting overloaded with the ash.

To learn more about the Portable Clean Up Pump:

After the pool is entirely cleaned up you will have to take the filter apart and clean it. Sometimes you will need to replace the filter elements, new cartridges or new DE grids. If it is a sand filter you may need to change the sand out if you notice poor filter efficiency.

You may also notice chemistry issues with the pool after you have it all cleaned up. You may see more algae blooms and the chlorine may have a hard time holding at a good constant level. This is due to all of the nitrates and impurities that entered the water with the ah from the fire. It may take a lot of effort to get the chemistry back in order and you may need to shock the pool several times before it starts to hold chlorine again.

The bottom line is that a clean up of a pool effected by a fire nearby is a big project. The pool will be a big mess and the after-effects of the ash may cause problems going forward with the pool's filtration and chemistry.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Hot Tub Care 101

Hot Tubs and Spas are very popular, and they can be a great leisure item to invest in. They are relatively inexpensive and can fit easily in even the smallest backyard space. Once you purchase one you will need to hire a service company to maintain the chemistry for you or you can do it yourself. The chemistry is similar to a backyard pool with some slight differences.

The first and main difference is the small body of water that you are dealing with. A typical backyard pool has 15,000 gallons and a Hot Tub usually has 250-400 gallons of water in it. The chemistry adjustments, therefore, need to be done in small doses, measured in teaspoons vs gallons or pounds. So a little really goes a long way in a Hot Tub. For example, if a 300 gallon Hot Tub has a zero chlorine reading you would just need 6 teaspoons of 12.5% liquid chlorine to raise to raise it to 3 ppm.

Since they are often heated to 100 degrees all of the time be aware that the chemicals in the spa will burn off much faster than they would in a conventional inground pool. Since they are covered and out of the sun there is also no need for Conditioner (cyanuric acid) to protect the chlorine from the Sun’s UV Rays. Also, if you are using bromine Conditioner is not compatible with it anyway so there is no need to add it to your Hot Tub.

You need to have some idea of how much water is in your Hot Tub. The easy way to do this is to find your manufacturer brand and model number and then go to their website or call them and ask how many gallons are in that particular model. Typically a Hot Tub will be 250 to 400 gallons so yours will be in that range.

You also, need a way to calculate the dosage to add to balance your Hot Tub water. The easiest way to do this is to use a Chem Dosage App like

These apps will give you the exact amount of chemicals to add to achieve your desired levels based on your Hot Tub size in gallons.

Here are the Ideal Levels for your Hot Tub:
Free Chlorine or Bromine ppm: Min 1.0 (Ideal 2.0-4.0) Max 5.0
pH: Min 7.2 (Ideal 7.4-7.6) Max 7.8
Total Alkalinity ppm:  Min 80 (Ideal 80-120) Max 120
Calcium Hardness ppm: min 150 (Ideal 150-250) Max 250

Chlorine and Bromine are the primary sanitizers that you will use in your Hot Tub. You would use either of these two exclusively and not combine them in your Hot Tub. If you are using Bromine Tablets you would therefore not use liquid chlorine. I prefer using chlorine since it is easy to add and measure and it is highly effective. Bromine is also a good choice and having tablets available is convenient in helping you maintain your Hot Tub sanitizer level all week long. You just want to make sure you don’t overdo it since it is a very small body of water and a little really goes a long way.

UV System:
UV is a very popular add on in a spa. It enhances the sanitation of the water and will allow you to use less chlorine and bromine. UV light systems work by irradiating the water, as it passes by a UV lamp the specific wavelength UV spectrum (254 nm) hits the water. When exposed to UV light of this specific wavelength, living particles have their DNA rearranged and become unable to reproduce, thus destroying algae, bacteria, and viruses. They are highly effective and are included with many new spas sold on the market today.

Ozone Systems are another way to enhance your Hot Tub sanitation. An Ozonator system duplicates the natural oxidation process that exists in nature and produces ozone safely and in controlled amounts. When used with bromine or chlorine, ozone can reduce the amount needed to sanitize the water and you can run your Hot Tub with as little as 1 ppm of each. An Ozone System destroys microorganisms and breaks down harmful chemicals that cause total dissolved solids to gather, thus increasing filtration of the water. The water will stay cleaner and clearer with an Ozone System running in your Hot Tub.

Low pH or low Alkalinity - Sodium Bicarbonate:
If the pH or Alkalinity falls below the ideal levels you can easily raise both with sodium bicarbonate. The most familiar product on the market and one you can readily use is Baking Soda. Sodium bicarbonate is also sold under the label as Spa pH Up, Spa Alkalinity Up, pH Increaser and any common name that indicates the product raises the pH and Alkalinity. So look for a product with the active ingredient of sodium bicarbonate or just purchase a bag of Baking Soda and use that to raise the pH and Alkalinity in your Hot Tub.

High pH or high Alkalinity - Sodium Bisulfate:
If the pH or Alkalinity gets above the ideal levels, you can easily lower it with dry acid or sodium bisulfate. It is sold under the label of, Spa pH down, pH down, pH Decreaser, Dry Acid or anything with the active ingredient of sodium bisulfate. Remember a little goes a long way so do not overdo it or you will soon be adding sodium bicarbonate to bring the level back up.

High or Low Calcium Hardness  - Drain the Spa or add Calcium Chloride:
The calcium level in your Hot Tub will pretty much match your fill water. So, if you have hard water in your area your spa will likely have high calcium also. The only way to lower it is to drain the spa. So you may need to drain your spa more often to keep the calcium hardness in range. If your calcium hardness is low you can add a small amount of calcium chloride to raise it up.

If the water starts to exhibit any of the following it is time to drain it and refill it with fresh water. A green or blue tint to the water indicates metal ions in the water. Drain and refill and add a metal sequestering agent like Leisure Time Metal Gon. If the water gets foamy this indicates that there are contaminants in the water or the Total Dissolve Solid (TDS) levels are high. Drain and refill if excessive foam persists. The water is cloudy and doesn’t clear up after adding a sanitizer and running the spa. Drain spa and clean or replace the filters. At any point in the water quality is compromised simply drain and refill.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ducks, Raccoons and Rodents and your Swimming Pool

Critters using your swimming pool as their own personal water hole is a common problem. Whether it be ducks, raccoons or rodents, these critters can be hard to get rid of once they have made your pool their home. But there are some ways to rid your yard of them and not bring any harm to them in the process.

Ducks can really make a mess of your swimming pool. I have a lot of first-hand experience of this in my service area. Within a few days, a perfectly balanced crystal clear pool can become a swamp with just two ducks swimming in it. The problem is the waste. They are constantly excreting, and their waste is very acidic so if your pool is a brand new construction just filled, I have seen some bad stains from ducks in new pools. The waste will use up the chlorine in the pool and very quickly the water will look more like a pond than a pool.

Dogs are pretty useless in getting rid of them and they have little fear of humans. If you do get them to fly away they will return within minutes. But it is not hopeless. I have had very good success with keeping ducks out of a pool using a $12.00 Alligator Float. The ducks just don’t like the looks of it and will not go into the pool in most cases. Other pool guys also have said that Swan floats are also effective. If the floats do not work the next step up is Floating Glazing Balls or Pond Orbs. These are stainless steel balls that are 10-12” in diameter and you would simply put 4-5 of them in the pool. As they float around the ducks will soon leave, one customer said that the ducks don’t like their reflection. Whatever the reason the floating stainless steel orbs are very effective. They are a little pricey though at $30 apiece but if the floats fail the floating orbs will succeed.

Raccoons are a very big problem in my service area. For some odd reason, they like to wash their food in the pool or spa water. They will enter the first step of the pool or spa and usually will also defecate in the water. So you will wake up the next morning and see Raccoon poop on the first step of the pool. This is not only unsanitary but very annoying as it will happen night after night. The solution is unsightly but effective.

Simply lay large pieces of plywood across the step area of the pool. Make sure the steps are completely covered. The Raccoons can’t get into the pool now and soon will leave. They generally will not jump in a pool but walk in on the steps. Cover the steps in your attached spa also, or they will move from the pool to the spa. After 2 or 3 weeks they will leave and find another watering hole. You may also have some success with placing a realistic-looking plastic snake near the pool step area. I have one account that has had great success with a rubber snake also.

Raccoons also tend to bite your suction side pool cleaner hoses. Why they do this is a mystery, but I have found countless cleaner hoses with Raccoon bites in them, ruining the hoses and causing the system to suck in air. To prevent this you will have to remove the cleaner from the pool and leave it out for a few days.

Rats are a big problem for your pool and it is not just finding a dead one in your pool now and again. They chew just about any wire they can get their teeth on. They really like the warmth and safety of your pool heater. Once they get into your heater they will chew all the wires. I have seen them destroy a control board, temp sensor, and other vital parts. To prevent rats from entering use metal screens around any opening larger than a coin the size of a quarter. Traps with peanut butter in them work very well also. It is not much you can do to keep them out of your yard, but keeping them out of your heater is essential.

If your pool or equipment are gets invaded by any of these critters, try these tips to get rid of them safely. I have found them effective on my pool route in the past.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Pool Pump Humming and then Clicking Off - Easy Fix!

So your pool pump won’t start. You go to turn it on and you hear a brief humming coming from the motor and then a loud click sound. Is it time for a new motor? Maybe, but maybe not just yet. It could be just the Run Capacitor or Starter Capacitor.

There are ways to test the Run and Starter Capacitor with a multimeter (see below), but it is often a very simple process of listening to the pump as it tries to start. It sounds similar to when there is a jam in the impeller and this also can produce the humming and clicking off. So check the impeller also for any debris jammed in there. Also, if you have a Pentair Wisperflo pump I have also seen the seal plate warp and rub against the impeller and jam it. But more commonly it is a bad capacitor.
They are relatively inexpensive and very easy to change so it would not be a bad idea to just purchase a new one and swap it out with the old one to see if that does the trick. If you do the math a $10 or $20 part vs a $400 motor, it is very worth a shot. Of course, if the motor has been making loud grinding noises or getting very hot and clicking off it would not be the capacitor but the motor burning out. So you will have to know the difference and in this case, you may need a new motor.

The Run Capacitors and Starter Capacitors are motor specific so you will need to get the correct replacement for your motor. There are several ways to do this. The best way is to turn the power off to your pump and remove the old capacitor. You will find the Run Capacitor on the top of the motor in a metal casing held down by 2 screws and most Starter Capacitors are located on the back of the pump. Both are held on by just two wires and the swap out is very simple and easy. Just make sure you have one wire on each of the two separate terminals and not both wires on just one.
Keep in mind that if you change the Capacitor and the motor does not start, it is most likely burned out. The clicking noise is a safety feature so if you put in the new Capacitor and it still just clicks or no sound is produced, the motor is probably burned out and needs to be replaced.

You can also test the Capacitor with a Multimeter but there is some danger of it exploding so I only advise this to be done by a service professional. It is easier and safer to just swap it out in my opinion. But here is how you would check it courtesy of

“Testing the Capacitor with a Multimeter
Remove the cover at the back of the motor or on top of the motor to expose the capacitor. How To Test A Pool Pump Capacitor
The capacitor will store an electrical charge. It will need to be shorted out by placing an insulated screwdriver across the leads of the capacitor. CAUTION: Capacitors have been known to explode when shorted out. For this reason, wear eye protection and place a cloth over the capacitor before shorting it out.
Remove the leads to the pool pump capacitor. Note the placement of the leads so that you can restore them to their correct positions when you reconnect them.
Set the multimeter on ohms to 1K.
Slip a heavy piece of paper between the points on the switch.
Attach one probe to each terminal. On an analog meter, the needle should move rapidly to right then slowly drift to the left. If a digital meter is used, readings should start low and rapidly increase to the maximum value. If the needle or number starts at zero and doesn’t move, the capacitor is bad and  therefore needs to be replaced.”

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Salt Water Swimming Pool Fails

If your salt system is not producing chlorine you will want to work down this list of steps to find the solution. Here is what I do if I find a salt system is not producing chlorine in a pool.

The salt level is a critical factor and if the salt level is too low in your pool the SWG will not be able to produce chlorine. Most systems need at least 3000 ppm of salt in the water except for the Hayward Aqua Rite and the Pentair iChlor which can operate with as little as 2600 ppm. They will not produce the full amount of chlorine at the lower salinity level but they will still function at a reduced output. So, the first step is to check the pool's Salinity level or salt level of the pool with either test strips or a good digital salinity meter. Once you establish that there is enough salt in the pool you can move on to the next step if the system is still not producing chlorine.

Another common mistake along these lines is that you are not running the pool long enough for the SWG to produce enough chlorine each day and that is why it is at zero when you test it. So, increase your pools run time if that is the case. For example, if you have a 20,000-gallon pool and you run your pump for 3 hours a day, I can tell you that is not long enough to produce enough chlorine.  Increase the pool run time to at least 12 to 14 hours a day to rule out the run time as the issue.

Next, if you have a Variable Speed pump make sure you are running it at least at 2000 RPM, 
preferably higher for a good part of the day. At the lower RPM, the SWG will need a longer run time to produce the same amount of chlorine as a standard one-speed pump running at the full 3450 RPM. A pool with a VS pump needs to have the proper RPM as well as the proper run time each day. At 2600 RPM you will need to run the pool a lot longer to produce chlorine each day.

Another issue may be that the salt cell output is set too low for it to generate enough chlorine each day. This is one thing that I often see on my route. Some salt systems will be set at 40% output and the pool will not have chlorine week to week. The manufacturer has an output chart in the manual and this chart is usually for the salt system set at 100% production running 24 hours a day. So, if the manual says your cell will produce 1 lb. of chlorine set at 100% running 24 hours a day if you set the output to 50% and run it 24 hours it will produce ½ lbs. of chlorine. Then set at 50% output and run only for 12 hours per day will give you ¼ lbs. of chlorine each day. So I always suggest starting your cell output at 100% and then dial it down if the pool has too much chlorine in it week to week.
Check to see if the salt cell has any calcium build up on it. Calcium build-up will stop the chlorine production right away. As the plates in the cell cake up with calcium you will usually see a warning light on your system indicating that the cell is dirty. Simply take it off and clean it with a mixture of Muriatic Acid and water. A 6-part water 1-part acid mix is effective. Once the cell is clean it should start to produce chlorine again.

Other causes would be the salt cell is getting old and not producing anymore. If your salt cell is over 4 years old this may be a possibility. Also, if the system is very old the power unit or control board could be bad. As the cell ages, it loses the ability to produce chlorine.

And last it could be as simple as not having the right amount of Conditioner in the water and the Sun is just burning off the chlorine each day. You should have a Conditioner or CYA level of 30-80 ppm in the water. Too little Conditioner in the pool will cause the chlorine to burn off rapidly and production cannot keep up with the amount being destroyed by the sun.

These are the primary reasons why a salt system stops chlorine production. Going through these steps will lead you to the solution in most cases.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Piranha II Nets Overview by the Smart Company

The Piranha II nets are becoming my favorite leaf rake for my pool route and after you use one you will see why. They may look like a simple upgrade over their original Piranha Leaf Rake but there is more engineering to it than just a color change to the plastic lip.

Before I go over these changes here is a list of the different models available.

Complete net (frame included) with a standard black bag. The bag is 17.5” deep/long
Frame width is 17”

Complete net (frame included) with a deep black bag. The bag is 23.5” deep/long.
Frame width is 17”

Wide-mouth Complete net (frame included) with a wide-mouth black bag. The bag is 21.5 deep/long.
Frame width is 19”

Complete net (frame included) with Quick-Flip bag. The bag is 19” deep/long with an extra layer for added protection. This is soft polyester material which allows you to easily flip the bag inside and out without the use of your hands.
Frame width is 17”

Complete net (frame included) with fine mesh bag. The bag is 22” deep/long with an extra layer for added protection. This fabric has a very tight weave and is for removing tiny fine debris from the pool. Ash, pollen, small bugs, sand, etc…
Frame width is 17”

The first upgrade that you will notice is the beefed-up leading edge or plastic lip of the leaf rake. It is made from very durable plastic and the edges that will rub on the bottom corners of plaster or Pebble Tec pool have been extended out to give the leaf rake a very long service lifespan. One thing that often happens over time is that the edges wear and the metal frame will show through leading to the possibility of scratching the pool surface. With the Piranha II Net you will get months of use out of it before the edges start to wear down. And if the plastic lip does wear down, the part is easily replaceable.

The material of the nets is another improvement and you will notice that it is also very long-lasting. I am partial to the PA2-533 Quick-Flip Bag which is known also as the Rag Bag or Easy Empty Net. The PA2-533 is made from a softer material that allows for you to simply flip the leaf rake upside down and the net will turn inside out, and the debris will fall out. There is a slight resistance in the water but otherwise, it works just like a standard net. When the net does wear out it is also very easy to replace.

The handle is about the same as the one found on the standard Piranha Net except for a reinforcement bolt. It is designed to easily snap in and out of your pool pole with ease and is compatible with all of the poles on the market. The aluminum handle also makes the Piranha II Net very light and easy to handle making it ideal for pool service where we are swapping out the leaf rake continuously.

The next question is where to get a Piranha II Net. If you do service for a living and have an account at PoolCorp (SCP/Superior) they stock the Piranha II Leaf Rakes. You can contact the parent company of the Piranha II the Smart Company and ask for a local retailer near you who stocks the product.

I also found them online at this store which I am not affiliated with but they stock the leaf rakes.