How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Chlorinating, maintaining the right chlorine levels,
chlorine problems. Dichlor, trichlor, cal hypo, bleach,
granules, chlorine pucks and chlorine sticks.
jackson911

How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Postby jackson911 » Fri 24 Sep, 2010 15:27

I pay an extra $50.00 on my rent per month for my landlord to pay for pool service every month, which I understand is very reasonable for weekly service. But I pay for chemicals twice a year for a total of $150 a year. I have always assumed that liquid chlorine and all of the other chemicals were very expensive.

Our pool guy told us that we are low on chlorine every time he comes so he asked that we put in chlorine whenever we're low, so we put it in every day and still cant keep the levels up(I think he thinks that we don't add any since every time comes it's low). Our kids and dogs swim everyday and when they get out we add liquid chlorine and we have the floating chlorinator with 3 tabs in it fully open. Chlorine is still always low.

Just since he started service in April he has been getting paid for his monthly service by our landlord and we have already had to pay for chemicals twice($42.00 for April and May, and $174.75 for June through September) and an extra $65.00 for an extra filter cleaning because of the dogs swimming.
My father in law says that it would be easy enough for us to take care of our own pool, but I am wanting some additional opinions on this.
Any info would be great!
Thanks


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How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Postby duraleigh » Fri 24 Sep, 2010 17:16

Managing your own pool is simple if you are willing to commit to learning. Pool water chemistry is a great place to start and it'll help you understand why your chlorine is low all the time.

Checkout Pool School @ troublefreepool.com and read the first few articles, especially The ABC's of Pool Water Chemistry.
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How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Postby Poolnoob » Wed 17 Nov, 2010 18:22

Hey,

I am having the same problem, I can't seem to lower the chlorine costs for my pool. How big is the pool? It seems we are spending much more than we have to. I will continue researching let me know about your pool specs.

Best of luck,
PN
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How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Postby dalehileman » Wed 24 Nov, 2010 15:12

Jack that's really a good question. Participating in several pool forums I've noted huge numbers complaining how difficult to sustain Cl. But after maintaining my own pool for some 13 years I'm almost willing to guess levels typically endorsed by the "experts" might be exaggerated. However I state this with some trepidation because on other boards I have been banned for similar skeptical observations

For what it's worth I'm in the Mojave Desert, Ca and mine is 35kgal in-ground of course. I use a half gallon of Kem-Tek Algicide and Clarifier once a week and four tricolor tabs placed in skimmer basket every few days. Recently having switched from conventional pump to Intelliflow vf, Running at low speed 6 hrs a day seems to work just fine

Successfully corrected a period of some greenishness at the suggestion of our Friendly Local Bill's Pool and Spa by tossing in 16 lb All-Clear Granular Swimming Pool & Spa Sanitizer in the hope of allaying further algae. Since been adding 1 lb K-T granular Shock Quick once a week and so far so good. Notwithstanding a fortuitous one-time dose of sanitizer, it should cost you far, far less than $50/month to do it all yourself

Pace Dual-Purp 3" Chlorinating Tabs at CostCo $84 for 40 lb. One tab weighs about 8 oz. Go figure

Every few years you ought to replace the water to cope with buildup of bad stuff from your additives

Using a typical oto kit I find Cl between 0.5 and 3 ppm depending on day of the week, time of day, state of my tabs, etc, and whom I enlist to make the color comparison. Incidentally thanks to circulation you'll probably get a higher Cl reading putting the tabs in the skimmer basket than in the usual floating dispenser

Incidentally if you go vf you should be warned that programming gets pretty complex. For instance we have found it necessary to run full speed a few minutes at the start to prime the system, then half speed one hour a day to accommodate our Polaris booster
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How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Postby Poolnoob » Wed 24 Nov, 2010 15:39

dale,

I completly agree that the "experts" make everything more difficult and complicated than what it actually is. I also have a pool thats close to 40k gallons, and i was wondering, don't all these chemicals you add make the pool smell at all?? also, that sanitizer sounds good, which did you use?

Thanks for everything,
PN
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How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Postby dalehileman » Thu 25 Nov, 2010 11:27

......., and i was wondering, don't all these chemicals you add make the pool smell at all??

Not that I can detect

.....also, that sanitizer sounds good, which did you use?

Not sure what you're asking, PN, see third para of my post, but how can I further clarify

All-Clear is shipped by Aqua Tri 17872 Mitchell, Irvine, Ca 92614-6034
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How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Postby chem geek » Thu 25 Nov, 2010 14:12

All Clear Granular as shown in this MSDS is Dichlor. For every 10 ppm Free Chlorine (FC) added by Dichlor, it also increases Cyanuric Acid (CYA) by 9 ppm. This is absolutely NOT the type of chlorine one should use on a regular basis since the higher CYA level will require a higher FC level to prevent algae growth. The added CYA does not go away except by water dilution so it builds up over time. It's bad enough to use Trichlor tabs since for every 10 ppm FC they increase CYA by 6 ppm, but using Dichlor is far worse. If you want to shock the pool with chlorine, then use chlorinating liquid or bleach, but if you must use a granular chlorine product, then Cal-Hypo would usually be a better choice since the Calcium Hardness (CH) level will be raised proportionately less (i.e. normal target CH is around 300 ppm while normal target CYA level is less than 80 ppm).

Unless the Trichlor pucks are specifically designed to be placed in the skimmer (such as BioGuard Smart Sticks ) or unless you have the pump on 24/7, then you should NOT put Trichlor pucks in the skimmer. When the pump turns off, the tablets continue to dissolve and are very acidic. This acidic water can damage plaster or vinyl near the skimmer and when the pump turns on the blast of very acidic water can corrode metal such as copper in heat exchangers or damage pump seals. This is why there are floating chlorinators and inline chlorinators.

For more information on the side effects of various chemicals and how you can properly maintain your pool, see the Pool School .

I have a 16,000 gallon pool shown here and here that costs $15 per month in 12.5% chlorinating liquid added around twice a week (around 14 cups per week) and in some acid added every month or so (a couple of cups per month). The pool has a mostly opaque automatic electric safety cover, but is open and used 1-2 hours every weekday by my wife and longer on the weekends by the two of us. Average daily chlorine usage is somewhat less than 1 ppm Free Chlorine (FC) per day.

If you don't have an opaque pool cover and your pool is in direct sunlight, then you will be using more chlorine. It is fairly typical for such chlorine use to be 1.5-2.5 ppm FC per day though this depends on the amount of sunlight and on the Cyanuric Acid (CYA) level and your target FC level and will be higher in pools that get a lot of use. In very hot sunny climates, one can use a higher CYA level where having it at 80 ppm usually results in around a 20% daily chlorine loss so if one starts with 7.5 ppm, then this drops to around 6 ppm but would require daily chlorine addition unless you were OK with larger FC swings. The risk of a higher CYA level is that if you miss chlorine doses and start to develop algae, you need much higher FC levels to get rid of the algae. At 50 ppm CYA, the daily loss is higher at 1/3rd to 1/2 the FC level (depending on the amount of sunlight) so you could go from 6 ppm FC to 3-4 ppm FC.

If you wanted to target a lower FC level, then you may need other supplemental products (at extra cost) to prevent algae growth. Such products include using 50 ppm Borates, adding PolyQuat algicide weekly, using a phosphate remover, or using copper ions. However, some of these methods don't always work effectively or have side effects. Phosphate removers will not remove organic phosphates so while taking the edge off of algae growth, won't be very effective in some cases. Copper ions can stain pool surfaces if their level gets too high or if the pH gets too high and is also what makes blond hair turn greenish.

The weekly use of PolyQuat or a phosphate remover would cost around $2-4 per week for a 15,000 gallon pool (based on 2-4 ounces per 10,000 gallons per week at $20 for 1 quart), but costs proportionately more for larger pools. The borates are a one-time larger cost plus whatever is needed to make up for water dilution. The copper ions are least expensive, but have side effects as I've noted.

In my own pool, I've had 3000+ phosphate levels and prevented algae growth using chlorine alone making sure the FC level stayed above around 7.5% of the CYA level. However, such an environment was very reactive to algae growth if the chlorine level got too low -- only happened twice by accident in 7 years, once during spring startup when the water was warming up faster than I had thought. A couple of years ago, I added 50 ppm Borates to the pool and noticed that it was far less reactive even when I intentionally let the FC drop to test how the Borates were working. While the Borates don't completely stop algae, they significantly slow down the growth providing some insurance from low FC and time to recover. Weekly use of PolyQuat should provide similar benefits. Lowering phosphate levels can also take the edge off of algae growth, but may require a large initial dose if the phosphate level is high and that can be expensive -- also weekly maintenance is needed especially when the fill water has phosphates (mine has 400 ppb phosphates used for corrosion control by our water district). So you have options, though they are not necessary and should be seen more as insurance.

Every pool is different since the amount of sunlight and nutrients varies and the FC at 7.5% of the CYA level recommendation is to prevent algae in pools with a failure rate on the order of 1 in 5000 pools. You can always target a lower FC and take a chance or can use supplemental products as you desire. It's your pool and you can do whatever you want with it.

Richard
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How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Postby Poolnoob » Fri 26 Nov, 2010 10:24

whenever I shock my pool all the chlorine starts to smell and my towels smell too...do you use a ton of chemicals? is your pool see through? how often and how much chlorine do you put in?
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How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Postby dalehileman » Fri 26 Nov, 2010 12:40

Hi PN: After Rich's post above I'm compelled to backtrack a bit when calculating cost the tabs might run over $30/mo. And while Bill's Friendly Local Pool and Spa discounts claims about the supposed dangers of CYA, I understand that the buildup of this substance can vary widely from one pool environment to another so indeed you might have to replace your water (or at least half of it) every couple of years. Given these considerations and maybe an occasional gulp of sanitizer, the entire megillah could thus average over $50/mo

As for the corrosive effects of the tabs situated in the basket, in fact I once had the main pump serviced whereupon Bill's advised me that the impeller had evidently corroded away to nothing. Also I had noted my solar cover shredding more at the shallow end where the Skimmer is located and so owing to the need for increased Cl I resigned myself to these prospects. If you go vf, incidentally, you surely might derive a side benefit from that 5-minute surge we instituted for prime as it should move the pollution more quickly thru your pumping station

Also Rich is probably right about the advantages of bleach over the likes of granulated tri- or dichlor but when I had presented the possibility to my Better Half she rejected it out-of-hand, a position I respect because she's much smarter than I
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How expensive is it to maintain your own pool?

Postby chem geek » Fri 26 Nov, 2010 13:20

Unless one has a lot of water dilution from backwashing a sand filter weekly and from rain overflow even in the summer, then the CYA level will build up a lot even in one season. Again, for every 10 ppm FC added by Trichlor, it also increases CYA by 6 ppm. This means that even with a very low 1 ppm FC per day chlorine usage, after 6 months of Trichlor the CYA would increase by over 100 ppm ( 6*30*0.6 = 108).

When I first got my own pool 7 years ago, I used Trichlor pucks in a floating feeder and at the time since the pool wasn't used as frequently the daily chlorine demand was around 0.7 to 0.8 ppm FC per day (remember I have a mostly opaque electric safety cover). We do not get summer rains and during the winter I used a pool cover pump and we have an oversized cartridge filter so no backwashing and only once a year cleaning. So we had minimal water dilution and after 1-1/2 seasons of use, the CYA climbed from 30 ppm to 150 ppm and the water started to get dull, then cloudy, as algae started to develop in spite of my using an algicide, though I was only using the algicide every other week instead of every week.

So do not be lulled into thinking that the CYA level won't climb quickly when using stabilized chlorine products (i.e. Trichlor or Dichlor). If you have a smaller pool, lots of backwashing, summer rain overflow, then the CYA can be kept somewhat in check especially if the daily chlorine demand is relatively low, but otherwise it can climb fairly rapidly and lead to algae growing faster than chlorine can kill it.

As for shocking, if one properly maintains a pool with sufficient FC relative to the CYA level, then one does not need to regularly shock the pool. Oxidation of bather waste occurs continuously in a properly maintained pool. Residential pools typically have such low bather load that there is no need for shocking unless there is an unusual event such as very high bather load (say, from a pool party) or excessive organics entering the pool (say, from pollen and leaves creating high Combined Chlorine levels) or from a dead animal or fecal accident, etc. I didn't have to shock my pool at all this season and usually only need to do so once or twice at most. Commercial/public pools should use supplemental oxidation to handle the higher bather load such as using non-chlorine shock, ozone, UV or enzymes. This helps to reduce disinfection by-products which would otherwise be much higher from the higher bather-load.

Read the Pool School for more info on how to maintain your pool.

Dale,

Regarding you putting Trichlor tabs/pucks in your skimmer, you note that your pump impeller had corroded and your solar cover near the skimmer was more adversely affected, yet you say you have resigned yourself to these prospects owning to the need for increased Cl. It isn't higher chlorine levels alone that caused these problems as much as it was the very low acidity specifically from Trichlor tabs, perhaps in combination with concentrated chlorine but not the chlorine alone. So why don't you use a floating feeder or get yourself an inline chlorinator? Why do you insist on going against recommendations and putting the Trichlor pucks/tabs in your skimmer? Also, when you say you won't use chlorinating liquid or bleach because your wife doesn't want you to, that's not because she's smart but rather because you want marital harmony by doing what your wife tells you to do. That doesn't make it the right thing for others to do. There are tens of thousands of pool owners who primarily use chlorinating liquid or bleach as their chlorine source as described at The Pool Forum and Trouble Free Pool and who prevent algae growth using chlorine alone with no algicides, clarifiers, flocculants, shocking, metal ions, etc.

Poolnoob,

40,000 gallons is a large pool for residential. Even at 1 ppm FC per day, the chlorine cost will be roughly $35 per month assuming you use chlorinating liquid or bleach at reasonable prices. If your daily chlorine demand is 2 ppm FC, then that's around $70 per month. What are you currently paying for chemicals each month and how does that break down between your chlorine source vs. the other chemicals you are adding? As was noted above, you can eliminate all the other chemicals (for regular addition, that is) and use chlorine alone if you maintain the proper FC relative to the CYA level. However, with such a large pool, that's a lot of chlorine to add regularly so would be a lot to purchase and carry -- chlorinating liquid and bleach are heavy since they are mostly water. So you might consider getting a saltwater chlorine generator system since it will produce chlorine least expensively, though there is an up-front cost and a cost of cell replacement, though for your larger pool it will probably be worth it. Just note that if you have soft-stone around your pool, you may need to seal it to prevent damage from splashed-out salt if it doesn't get diluted from rains or hosing it down.

Richard

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