7 Tips for Eco-Friendly Pool Maintenance

By Vernon Trollinger, June 23, 2014, Energy Efficiency, Green, Save Money

Frolicking in a swimming pool in the summer can be great family fun. Cleaning and maintaining the pool? That usually isn’t as much fun. Dirty pool water contains microorganisms and bacteria that can cause infections. While tossing in cupfuls of chemicals will clear the water, it could also create a pool too painful to skin and eyes to use.

7 Tips for Eco-Friendly Pool Maintenance

Consider the typical 15-foot diameter vinyl collapsible above-ground pool. They are relatively inexpensive and fit well in a modest backyard. These can hold up to 3200 gallons of water. At the end of the season, these pools are drained and their chlorinated waters (plus whatever else the owners have dumped into them) head for the ground water supply.

Using fewer chemicals when cleaning your pool is good for our environment, especially the water supply. Depending on where you live, your town may be drawing water from groundwater wells.

With that in mind, here are 7 pool maintenance tips that will help you reduce your labor and chemical usage to help you keep your pool water safe, sparkling, eco-friendly, and above all — fun.

1) Develop a morning pool maintenance routine.

Early morning is a good time to clean your pool because winds are often calm and the water is still and (hopefully) clear. These conditions help you get a good idea about the water’s condition.

2) Know what your chemicals do.

  • Free Chlorine kills algae and sanitizes the pool. Although there are alternative systems (such as ultraviolet or ionizing systems) these work best as secondary systems to reduce algae in the water, they don’t produce long-lasting or enough residual material to treat thousands of gallons of water.
  • Cyanuric acid is used to help fix or stabilize free chlorine by bonding with it in pool water because sunlight evaporates free chlorine from the pool water. Too much cyanuric acid, however, reduces the chlorine’s effectiveness against algae. Cyanuric acid also accumulates in pool water as a waste product and can’t be filtered out. Dichlor and trichlor contain both chlorine and cyanuric acid. If you use a salt water chlorinator, you will need to add cyanuric acid. If you need to add chlorine (or “shock” your pool), add it towards evening.

3) Monitor and balance the pool’s levels.

7 Tips for Eco-Friendly Pool Maintenance

We recommend the following:

  • Total Alkalinity: 100-150 ppm. Total alkalinity works as a shock absorber to prevent against spiking the pH levels.
  • pH: 7.2 – 7.6 Too low causes irritation. Too high causes calcium scaling.
  • Calcium Hardness: 180-220 ppm. A neutral level helps preserve concrete or plaster lined pools.

4) Use a pool cover for when your pool is not in use. Pool covers reduce evaporation; reduce the amounts of large piece of debris, reduce pollen, dust, and other particulates; reduce the amounts of pool chemicals you use, and reduce the amount of maintenance. It will also help your pool retain heat.

5) Skim your pool every morning.

7 Tips for Eco-Friendly Pool Maintenance

Remove bugs, leaves, and other debris that fall in during the night. Also empty the skimmer basket as well. Once a week, scrub the walls and vertical surfaces. Programmable robot pool cleaners can do an excellent job cleaning the bottom while saving you time.

6) Run your filtration system when no one is using the pool. Water will circulate better for the filtration system when nobody’s splashing about in the pool. Change out paper cartridge pump filters regularly. You can make these filters last longer by washing them out with a hose and soaking them overnight in a bucket of white vinegar or bleach. If you use a sand filter system, be sure to back flush these according to the manufacturer’s recommendations (more if your conditions require it).

Extra tip: Fill your pool at the start of the season by using a metal trap sand filter to reduce the amount of dissolved metals in the water. This will lower the reliance on chemicals to remove iron and manganese dissolved in in the water. While they can be expensive, over the long run, it reduces chemicals and maintenance time.

7) Invest in a salt water chlorination system. These can also be an expensive initially, but over time, they are cheaper to use and more eco-friendly. Saltwater pools use salt to make chlorine through electrolysis directly in the water. The salinity needed to treat effectively is about “3,200 parts per million, roughly the amount of salt found in a teardrop.“. A 40-pound bag of pool salt sells for about $7 and can treat a pool for 6 to 12 months. Salt water pools may not be for everyone because they use low-levels of chlorine and so require extra attention and monitoring.

Hopefully, these 7 eco-friendly tips will prove helpful this summer as you work to maintain your pool properly while still caring for Planet Earth.


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A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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