Pool maintenance and security in winter
Keeping your pool in good condition and ensuring pool area safety is as essential in winter as it is in the warmer seasons. We look at general procedures to keep your pool clean, as well as important pool safety standards and features.
A backyard pool brings relief on hot summer days and weeks of fun for the kids on school holidays. However, when winter rolls around, the pool is literally left out in the cold! Even though it's not being used, it's essential to keep the pool in good condition.
Pool maintenance over the cooler months can prevent the growth of micro-organisms and bacteria that can cause serious illnessi. You'll be able to spot any problems when they happen, and avoid a big clean up when the hot weather returnsii.
While the pool may not be in use, it's still vital to ensure that adequate safety and security measures remain in place. Swimming pools are more likely to be unattended in winter than in summer, which may increase the risk of accidental drowning (particularly for young children). Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that between 1999 and 2003, accidental drowning accounted for 19% of all injury-related child deathsii.
Tips to keep your pool clean
Every pool requires maintenance, but different pools require different maintenance regimes.
General cleaning: All pool equipment should be regularly cleaned and kept in good condition. Removing debris from the grout and corners will prevent algae build-up. To prevent bacteria breeding over winter, backwash the filters, ensure hair and lint is removed from pumps and baskets, and keep all O-rings in tip-top condition with a silicone-based lubricantiii. Regularly empty the skimmer basket where debris collects, and use a skimmer net or leaf rake to remove debris and bugs from the water. Run the filter regularly over winter to keep water moving and to prevent the water from becoming stagnantiii.
Check that pipes, filters and motors are in good working order. All pool equipment should be serviced according to the manufacturer's instructions and any electrical repair work should be performed by a professional electricianiv.
Shock dosing: 'Shock dosing' (also known as 'superchlorination') is the process of adding a high dose of pool cleaning chemicals, usually chlorine, into the water. This process helps prevent the build-up of chloramines in a heavily used pool (which can cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system)v. Remember to store all pool chemicals out of children's reach.
Water properties: Regardless of whether the pool is being used, it's important to test the water to ensure chlorine, pH, and alkaline levels are within normal range. In winter, it's advisable to check the water balance once every two weeks, using a reliable pool test kitvi.
'Free chlorine' is the term given to indicate the amount of chlorine in the water that is effectively killing bacteria. The free chlorine level in a pool should range between 1.0 to 3.0 mg/Lvii. The ideal pH level of the water should range between 7.0 and 7.8viii, while the total alkalinity range should be 60 to 200mg/Lviii.
Cover the pool: A pool cover is a simple and effective way of keeping dirt, leaves, and debris out of the water. Over winter, it is recommended to cover your pool completelyvi.
Your local pool shop professional will be able to give specific advice on what you need to do to keep your pool healthy and safe throughout the year.
The importance of pool safety
Australian states and territories, by law, require swimming pools and spas on private residential properties to be securely enclosed by safety barriers (fences and gates)ix-xvi. This, coupled with caution and vigilance, is the best method for preventing drowning deaths in home swimming pools. There are also various pool safety devices, such as gate and pool alarms, which can provide an additional element of safety in and around the pool. To find out more about the specific requirements in your home state or territory, contact your local council or visit the Building Commission website.