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Saltwater Pool Maintenance for Everyone (Dummies Included!)

Homeowners often opt for saltwater pools because of the lower levels of chlorine, which is gentler on the skin and eyes. Saltwater pools are a large financial commitment in the beginning because they require special heaters and liners, as well as other specialized equipment. However, saltwater pools produce the chlorine they need to disinfect. Therefore, saltwater pool maintenance is easier than you might realize.

Even though saltwater pools are less costly in the long run, they still require daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal maintenance.

Why Is Saltwater Pool Maintenance Vital?

Saltwater pools are much easier to maintain compared to pools that require adding chlorine. Pools with saltwater require minimal adjustments or modifications to continue working.

However, that does not mean pool owners are free from the chore of maintaining the pool; it is merely easier.

For instance, salt water is corrosive. Therefore, if the concentration of salt is off, there is the potential for damage to the pool liner and other pool gear. In the end, not doing maintenance is costly.

Saltwater Pool Daily Maintenance

There are a few good habits to develop that make maintenance of a saltwater pool easier. These daily habits will save you money and time in the long run. Plus, they only take a few minutes.

Clean Debris with a Skimmer

Make a point of looking for visible debris on the surface of your pool and skim it out with a skimmer net. By doing so, you are preventing problems before they can start.

Debris tends to sink to the bottom of the pool eventually, and it is easier to skim out all the leaves, trash, and other items when you see them.

There are a couple of options when you look for skimmer nets. Some are flat, which may not hold very much, but the debris is easier to flip out of the skimmer. The other option is a skimmer with a bag. These fit more but are a nuisance to empty.

Pump Basket

In addition to skimming your pool, be sure to check the pump basket for debris, as well. The drain can suck up debris from the pool, and this basket helps keep these items from getting further into the pump system.

You may only have to check the pump basket weekly, but it becomes a daily task in certain situations. For example, during the fall, there are many more leaves with which to contend. Storms tend to turn up the debris that ends up in pools, as well.

Finally, if your pool is in heavy use during the summer, there is a larger chance of items left behind and your pump baskets needing attention.

When it is time to check the pump basket, be sure to turn off the power to the pump system. Next, remove the basket and clean it out. After cleaning, replace the lid and turn back on the power to the pump.

Saltwater Pool Weekly Maintenance

While some tasks are daily, there are also weekly tasks to complete to ensure your saltwater pool is always ready to use.

Water Chemistry

Your salt water pool does not use chlorine the same as a traditional pool. However, there is some chemistry involved.

You can buy test strips to test your saltwater pool’s pH levels every week. You want to see a chlorine level of one to three parts per million. Also, the pH should sit at 7.2 to 7.6.

If you find the levels are off, it is an easy adjustment to your generator. However, if you find your chlorine is off by a lot, retest every day to ensure proper saltwater pool maintenance levels.

Chlorine Generators

Instead of using chlorine to sanitize the pool, a saltwater pool uses a chlorine generator.

These generators eliminate the need to add a chlorine chemical in the pool because the generator will make it, instead.

The swimming pool water should already have a salt concentration established. The salt concentration should be 3,000 parts per million, and as the saltwater circulates, it goes into the salt cell of the generator.

In the generator, the saltwater is exposed to the current for electrolysis.

The generator takes the water from the pool, and it works to turn the chloride ions into chlorine gas. This gas dissolves in water, and what is left is called hypochlorous acid, which sanitizes the pool.

This item is often called an in-line generator. However, there is also an offline generator that uses a large tank to make a saltwater solution. This solution is released into the pool as needed.

When you test your water, you go to your generator to increase or decrease the output until your levels are correct.

Saltwater Pool Monthly Maintenance

While the daily and weekly tasks to maintain a saltwater pool are relatively simple, the monthly job is a little more involved. There are four crucial levels to consider every month.

Also, you can buy a testing kit for the levels of your pool, or you can bring a water sample into a pool dealer for testing.

Balance is Vital

When water is your saltwater pool is balanced, it does not cause scaling, and it will not corrode the equipment or the materials around the pool. Your pool dissolves and holds on to the minerals that make up the water and having the right amount of minerals is what keeps your pool water clear and the water easy on the skin and eyes.

Calcium Levels

Calcium hardness is how hard or soft the water is in the pool. The calcium level is a measure of dissolved calcium in the water. If the calcium is out of balance, the water can become corrosive or cause scaling.

The proper level of calcium is 150 to 400 parts per million.

High Hardness

If you have a pool with a high calcium hardness, the water will be cloudy with the dissolved particles. Also, the water will start to scale on the pool equipment. Scaling is the mineral deposits. There is even the potential for the scaling to clog up so water can’t flow properly.

Low Hardness

If your calcium levels are below 150 parts per million, you risk the water being corrosive. In this case, you need to add more calcium into the pool. The absence of calcium will cause the water to lech minerals from the plater, tile, stone, and even metal around the pool.

If you begin to notice the grout eroding or the pitting of surfaces, you may have a problem with your water being too soft and, therefore, corrosive.

Adjustments for Calcium

If you have low hardness, add calcium chloride to your saltwater pool. However, if you face high levels of calcium, your best option is to drain some water from your pool and add fresh water.

Alkalinity

The alkalinity of a saltwater pool is how a pool can buffer against sudden pH changes. It helps keep your pool stable.

The alkalinity level of a pool should be around 80 to 120 parts per million.

Low Alkalinity

When a saltwater pool has low alkalinity, the overall pH of the pool becomes unbalanced. You won’t notice the same type of corrosion as you would with low calcium, but you may experience itchy skin and eyes telling you the alkalinity is low.

Furthermore, if your saltwater pool shows low alkalinity, it impacts the efficiency of your chlorine. If you notice your calcium levels are off, be sure to test for the alkalinity levels before proceeding.

High Alkalinity

If you notice your water is cloudy, you may have a problem with high alkalinity. High alkalinity allows for particles to float around freely, thus the cloudiness. Also, this problem leads to issues with the circulation of water and clogged filters.

Adjustments for Alkalinity

To raise your alkalinity, add baking soda to your pool. If your problem is high alkalinity, look for acid to add to your saltwater pool to bring your levels back in line.

Salinity

Salinity is how much salt is in your pool water. Salt cleans the pool water.

If you have too much salt in the pool means you will have to use chemicals to adjust, which can become expensive. However, if you have too little salinity, you face the growth of bacteria and algae.

Since you are already watching your generator weekly, you likely already have a handle on your salinity. However, when you check your chemicals monthly, you want to take the time to ensure your salinity is in balance, as well.

You can add salt to raise your salinity. However, if you need to lower your salinity, consider adding fresh water to your pool.

Stabilizer

A healthy pool is stable. Stable means all the chemicals need to balance, including cyanuric acid.

Cyanuric acid keeps the free chlorine protected from damage from the sun and high temperatures.

If you live somewhere there is less light and lower daily temperatures, you may find you need less cyanuric acid compared to someone who lives in a hotter climate. The rays of the sun absorb chlorine in the pool, which leads to an unbalance.

You want your free chlorine to be between 1 and 3 parts per million. Also, the cyanuric acid levels are between 30 and 80 parts per million.

If your stabilizer is at the correct level, you will have an easier time keeping your pH level in line. Also, you will not worry about bacteria building up in your saltwater pool.

Seasonal Maintenance

As the weather warms up, it is time to get your saltwater pool ready for the season.

Fortunately, the task of opening your pool is relatively easy.

Saltwater Pool Maintenance at the Beginning of the Season

Your first step is to check the plugs for the drains and the filter. You want to make sure to add Teflon tape to the threads and lubricate the gaskets on the plugs.

Ensure your lines and skimmers are plugged in and check your pressure gauge on the pool’s filter.

Also, the salt cell for your generator might need replacing. Make sure the o-rings are lubricated and check the generator for loose clamps and connections. Open the valves so water can flow through the system.

Next, start up your pool system by filling the pump with water and make sure your backwash hose has no buildup. When you let your pump run, you can flush the pump of any gunk and water you do not want in your pool.

Before the generator can make the chlorine, your pool water should be in balance.

The testing you are used to doing monthly should occur when you open your pool for the season, as well.

Once your levels are in line, your salt cell in your generator can get to work. It is time to turn on your generator and adjust your sanitation levels to what you know to give you consistent readings for the summer.

Saltwater Pool Maintenance at the End of the Season

When the weather becomes colder, there are steps to take to ensure your pool is ready for the winter. The week before you close your pool for the season, make sure your water is balanced. Your pH, alkalinity, calcium should be in balance, and your water well-circulating.

Be sure to clean your pool very well before closing it up for the season. If you do not, you are likely to face a more challenging time cleaning it in the spring.

Be sure to skim your pool, brush, and vacuum the residue on the sides of the pool, as well. You want your pool clean as possible when you close it up.

You will remove your pool equipment at this point. The ladders and rails can all be stored. Also, if you have a diving board, that should come down, as well.

In some cases, you can cover these items if removing them is difficult. However, leaving them could cause damage to your pool cover.

After removing equipment, you must shock your pool to address any possibility of bacteria and algae hanging around during the winter.

Next, you will add winter chemicals. There are kits available that have a pre-determined amount of winter chemicals to protect your pool further.

The next step is to remove the salt cell from your generator for the winter. Be sure to turn off the circuit to all the pool equipment first. Inspect your generator for any damage, and clean off any scaling and residue.

Also, you need to drain the water form all the pool’s equipment, including the pump, filter, and heater, if you have one. Be sure to lubricate any o-rings, so they do not crack or warp in the cold weather.

Lastly, cover your pool for the winter.

Making Saltwater Pool Maintenance a Habit

Maintaining a saltwater pool is not challenging. However, it does involve developing good habits for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.

The daily work involved in a saltwater pool covers cleaning and removing visible debris. By doing this work, you save yourself time and money down the road. Also, daily cleaning makes weekly and monthly maintenance tasks easier to manage.

You also need to keep your chemicals in balance for your saltwater pool. If you do, your skin and eyes will not be irritated, and your water will remain clear instead of murky and cloudy.

At the end of the season, there are a few extra steps to get your pool ready for the winter. Also, you repeat the process in reverse in the spring to begin to use your pool again.

Featured Image: Image by Pexels from Pixabay


A teacher by trade, Victoria splits her free time between freelance writing, her camping blog, and (frantically) guiding her teenagers into becoming functional adults.

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Your Guide on How to Keep Your Pool Open in Winter

While everyone understands that diving into cool water during the summer is refreshing, not everyone knows that swimming pools can be equally enjoyable during cooler weather. The truth is that you can keep a pool open in winter, even in cooler climates.

And before you dismiss the idea because swimming is strictly for summer, it might surprise you to learn about the benefits of swimming in the winter. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

Why Would You Want to Keep a Pool Open in Winter?

Sure, you understand the benefits of swimming in the warmer months, but why would anyone keep a pool open in winter?

Surprisingly, you will gain both health benefits and practical benefits from keeping your pool open all winter long. And it’s not only for those who live in moderate climates.

It’s good for you

There are many health benefits to swimming in cooler months. For instance, swimming when it’s cool outside can:

Boost your immune system

When you put on your suit and dive into cold water, it causes the white blood cells in your body to increase because of the drastic temperature change.

And all those white blood cells work to improve your immune system.

Get things circulating

Swimming when it’s cold makes your blood move to the surface, which warms your limbs. Once that happens, your arteries, capillaries, and veins get flushed out, which improves your circulation.

Help you lose weight

Another benefit of swimming in cold water is that it helps boost your metabolism. That’s because your heart will pump harder, and your body will have to work harder to keep you warm.

All that extra work for your body means it will burn more calories.

Relax you

Swimming in cold water has a calming effect on people and can make you more relaxed.

Up your libido

If you’re looking to boost your testosterone or estrogen, swimming when it’s cold outside may do the trick. And when your body increases these hormones, your libido surges.

Here’s a quick video with some tips to help you swim safely in a swimming pool filled with cold water:

It’s practical

In addition to the health benefits, keeping your pool open in the winter has some practical benefits, too. For instance, by not closing up your pool, you will:

Keep your view

One of the reasons you have a swimming pool is the view. There’s nothing quite like looking out your windows to see a shimmering blue pool in your yard.

When you close your pool for the winter, you cover up all that beauty. But when you keep the pool open in winter, it’s always there.

Spend less money

The costs of opening and closing your pool can add up. But when you keep a pool open in winter, you can avoid those costs.

Just think, no pool cover, extra chemicals, or extra service charges from your pool professional.

Keep swimming

Whether you swim in cold water to reap the health benefits or install a heat pump, you won’t have to stop enjoying your pool just because the weather changes.

Have less to do

Maintaining a pool throughout the cooler months is easier because it’s more difficult for algae to grow.

Also, the plants and trees that surround your pool won’t shed leaves and branches. That means your pool pump will do most of the work for you in the cooler months!

Consider This

Before we tell you how to keep your pool open during the winter, we want to give you some key considerations to think about.

After all, keeping the pool open when it’s cold outside isn’t for everyone. Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether or not it’s the right move for you.

How cold is it?

People who live in the west or the southern areas of the country sometimes wear shorts during the holidays, making it easy to keep a pool open during the winter.

One of the things you should consider is the average temperature in your area. That knowledge will help you determine how often you can swim during the colder months.

For instance, if your area is frozen much of the winter, it might be smarter to close down your pool.

If you plan to practice cold swimming, this question isn’t important because you will likely swim no matter what the weather does!

How much do I want to spend?

When you close your pool for the winter, your energy bill goes down because you don’t have to run all the pool equipment. But when you keep pool open in winter, your pool pump should run whenever the temperature nears freezing.

If it doesn’t run, the freezing temps could damage your pool equipment. So, your energy bill will go up in the colder months, which may or may not stretch your budget.

On the other hand, you won’t have to buy as many chemicals throughout the winter because they last longer during the colder months. Also, you won’t have the extra expense of a pool or safety cover.

What’s the point?

People think about keeping the pool open during the winter months for various reasons, and you should pinpoint yours when making the decision. For example, are you considering it because you want to look at a beautiful pool all winter? If so, weigh that against the added energy expense.

If you want to keep your pool open during winter because you plan to swim year-round, then the added expense will likely be worth it to you.

How to Keep Pool Open in Winter Months

Now that you’ve decided that keeping your pool open during the winter months is right for you let’s talk about the steps you need to take.

You will be able to enjoy your pool throughout the cold months, but you will have to take some precautions to ensure your pool — and the equipment that runs it — stays safe and functional.

Here’s what you need to know.

Install a wingman

If your pool freezes, it can cause equipment and pool damage unless the pump is running. That’s why it’s important to install a sensor that automatically turns on the pump when the air or water temperature reaches about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your pool has a controller system, you likely have a freeze sensor. If not, you can purchase one to install on the controller.

But, if your system doesn’t have a controller system, you have a few options. You can install a freeze sensor on its own or a speed pump that comes with automatic freeze protection control.

Watch your features

Do you know all those gorgeous water features that surround your pool? You will have to winterize them until the spring in order to prevent any damage from occurring.

For example, the pumps and pipes for water features, such as jets, fountains, waterfall, or cascades, should be winterized if you live in an area where it snows.

If a freeze hits your area, you should run deck jets or fountains that spray all day and night until the freeze passes.

Don’t close them off

To best protect your pool and its plumbing during the cold months, you should take steps to keep the water moving, so it doesn’t freeze.

That means you should slightly open all valves, pipes, vacuum lines, waterfall lines, cleaner lines, drains, returns, and skimmers. And if you have an attached spa, keep the spa drain open, too.

Don’t forget the pumps

In addition to opening the lines so water can run through them, you should also run all of your pumps.

As long as your valves and pipes are partially open and your pumps are running, even water that is at the freezing level won’t freeze in your equipment or plumbing.

Take it easier

During the warm summer months, you put a lot of energy into cleaning your pool. But once cooler temperatures hit, you can slack off a little on the cleaning, but not too much.

During the winter, you won’t have the same amount of debris falling into your pool because the trees and vegetation are bare. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to clean your pool, although you won’t have to do it as often.

Because you won’t use your pool as much as you do in warmer months, coupled with shorter filter runs due to shorter days, your pool could become stained unless you stay on top of the cleanings.

Watch the pool, and if you begin to see stains or buildup, vacuum and brush it to remove any debris or stains.

It’s smart to create a regular pool maintenance routine just like you do in summer, although you won’t have to do it as often.

Keep a good balance

Just because it’s winter, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay attention to your pool’s water balance. In fact, because your pool’s water will be open to the climate all winter, you will have to pay as much attention to it as you do in hotter months.

One chemical that won’t require much attention is chlorine because it lasts a lot longer in cooler weather, as does algaecide.

But you should consistently check your calcium, cyanuric acid, pH, and alkalinity levels to ensure they stay balanced. If you don’t, the unbalanced pool water could lead to wall and floor surface staining.

If This Happens

Leaving your pool open in winter is a great idea and will afford you many more days of enjoyment. But you should be aware of a few things that could go wrong.

Help, my pool is frozen

Don’t panic if you see that the top portion of your swimming pool water is frozen. As long as your pool pump and filter are running and your valves and pipes are partially open, it should be fine.

But if it bothers you, buy a pond heater that floats on top of the water to thaw it out.

My pump failed or the power is out

If your pump fails or you experience a power outage while the outside temperatures are freezing, go immediately to the equipment pad.

There, take off the drain plug on the pump, heater, filter, and all other equipment. If you cannot get the equipment running the same day, winterize your pool to protect it from damage.

My equipment is frozen

If you find that your pool equipment has already frozen, it’s time for drastic measures. You should quickly shut down the pump power and then arrange heavy blankets over the pump and the pool filter.

Next, remove all drain plugs from the filter, pump, and heater. Using a small space heater, place it underneath the blanket, ensuring that the area has adequate air ventilation.

Then, wait until the equipment is thawed out and drain it. Finally, check it to see if it still works.

Don’t forget that you can add an extra layer of protection by wrapping your exposed plumbing with a heating cable. This will provide some protection if your equipment fails, or you forget to turn on your equipment during a freeze.

You Can Keep a Pool Open in Winter

Enjoying your swimming pool year-round is just one of the benefits of owning a backyard swimming pool.

When you decide to keep your pool open in winter, don’t forget to check with your local pool professional to determine whether you need to do anything specifically for your climate or area.

After that, enjoy the many benefits of swimming in cooler weather!

Do you have a habit of leaving your pool open in winter? If so, we would love to hear about any tips or tricks you care to share with us! Just leave them in the comment section below.