There are several ways that you can test your swimming pool water or spa each week. The most common methods are test strips and reagent test kits. Not as common but growing are the photometer testers or digital testers. Here is an overview of the different testing methods.
Test strips are not only popular but very easy to use. Many different manufacturers make them like AquaChek, Taylor, and LaMotte to name a few and you can find them just about everywhere from your grocery store, hardware store and local pool store. You can purchase them online as well and there are many different types of strips available for testing everything from chlorine, borate to copper in the water. The ease of use of test strips makes these great for beginners. Just dip them in the water sample and match the color of the strip to the guide on the back of the bottle. I find that the color matching is accurate, and it will give you a good range of the chemistry level in your pool or spa.
The drawback of the test strips is that you will not get an exact color match every time. So, it is open for user interpretation and this can sometimes give you the wrong results. For instance, you may think the color indicates the Alkalinity is at 160 ppm but it at 120 ppm because you didn’t match the color correctly. Basically, you are only getting a ballpark reading with a test strip and not a spot-on reading that you would get with a Photometer tester which I will cover later.
The Reagent Test Kits use a drop test and when the reagent solution is entered into the water sample a color change takes place. Taylor is the leading manufacturer of these reagent test kits and you can also purchase a basic Pool Master Kit at your local pool store. The reagents can test for all of the basic test factors like Chlorine, Free Chlorine, Total Chlorine, Bromine, Alkalinity, pH, Calcium Hardness and CYA (Conditioner). These kits are easy to use and a great way to test your pool and spa water each week.
The drawback of the reagent test kit is user error. If you don’t add the correct number of drops, you will get a false reading. If the reagents are expired, you will also get a false reading. Like test strips, you are matching colors to get your reading so if you are not good at distinguishing colors you will have trouble reading the correct results. But these are minor drawbacks and as you gain experience with the Reagent Test Kits you will get better and reading the correct results. Some popular test kits are the Taylor K-2005 and K-2006 which I use on my pool route.
Photometer Testers are gaining popularity and they are the only test kit that will give you a spot-on reading of the test factors. The LaMotte Color Q Pro7 is a very popular photometer test kit and the new Pool Lab 1.0 is also a great test kit. These kits operate when an electronic photometer is used to read the color spectrum of the reagent or tablet color in the water sample. Since the photometer is able to read the exact color of the water sample it can give you an exact digital reading of the test factor. If you are doing a pH test, for example, it will give you the pH down to the exact level, like 7.5. This can’t be done with either the test strips or the reagent test kits. These are great for Commercial accounts or for the homeowner who struggles with color matching.
The drawback with the photometer testers is the price point. Since they are more advanced the price point is typically 3-4 times that of a premium reagent test kit. But if you are looking for the most accurate test results without having to guess at the actual reading a photometer tester is right for you.
One of the most advanced Photometer Testers is the LaMotte Spin Touch Mobile which does 10 test factors in one minute! The price point is close to $1,000 and each disk is $2.50 but it can do all of these tests in less than a minute and give you a digital readout of all of them: Free Chlorine (DPD) 0-15 ppm, Total Chlorine (DPD) 0-15 ppm, Bromine (DPD) 0-33 ppm, pH 6.3-8.6, Calcium Hardness 0-800 ppm, Total Alkalinity 0-250 ppm, Cyanuric Acid 5-150 ppm, Copper 0-3.0 ppm, Iron 0-3.0 ppm, Salt 0-6000 ppm, Phosphate 0-2000 ppb
Digital Testers can also be used to give you readings that are unavailable with test strips and reagent testers such as Salinity, TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) ORP, Temperature, pH as well as other factors. These are a great and accurate tester and can expand the different test factors you can do in your pool and spa.
So do your research and see which testing method is right for your pool and spa care needs.
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