Opening a pool can be a tedious task to say the least. Depending on factors such as type of winter cover, time of season, and the landscape of the area, it may be a relatively clean and easy job or a rather difficult and dirty one. Our technicians can certainly take the pain of opening your own pool away with our pool opening services, but I thought we'd publish a post on how to open a pool for the summer in case you want to try and do it yourself or if you want to have a fundamental understanding of the operations we perform when opening your pool.
The first step taken in opening a pool is to determine the type of winter cover. With a lock-in cover or a tarp and water-bags type cover, you will need to pump out the trash water that has developed on the surface of the cover. This involves using a gas-powered pump to drain the water from the top of your pool cover. If you have a safety cover, you won't have to worry about draining the water deposit from your pool cover because there won't be one. The advantage of having a safety cover is that its mesh or vinyl material allows for water to seep into the actual pool and keeps large debris like twigs and leaves out of the water. Skip down to the third paragraph if you've got a safety cover.
Although we use a high-powered gas pump, the draining of your fitted vinyl or tarpauline cover can be done with a submersible pump as well.. It will just take a lot longer that way! Expect to spend a good portion of the day draining the water from your pool cover if you plan on using a submersible pump. Once you have drained all the water from the cover it is important to rinse the cover with a garden hose while removing any debris such as leaves and sticks with a pool brush and net.
After draining and cleaning off the cover, find a partner to help you remove the cover from the pool and fold it into a neat and compact cylinder. This applies to lock-in, tarpauline, and safety covers. For safety covers it is worth noting that you will need to use a safety bar to remove the springs from the brass anchors around the perimeter of the pool. You'll then use an allen key to screw down the anchors so they are flush with the ground. We find it best to fold covers in an accordion pattern. In the case of a snap-in vinyl cover you'll really need to make sure to fold up your cover nice and tight so you can fit it inside the garbage pail used for storing the cover over the summer. In the case of every cover-- whether it be a safety cover, tarpauline, or snap-in cover-- you'll want to fold the cover as tightly and compact as possible. This makes it easier to store, move, and keep together.
There are two types of lock-in covers: vinyl and tarpauline. If you have a tarpauline cover, you'll need to fold it, roll it up and store it in an empty garbage pail with a lid. If you have a vinyl snap-in (beaded, lock-in) cover, make sure to store it in a garbage pail with a mixture of warm water and algaecide. This is to ensure that the cover doesn't shrink and also to ensure that the water doesn't become rancid over the summer months. It is recommended that you replace the water and algaecide mix halfway through the summer just to be safe. Nothing is worse than removing a fitted vinyl winter cover and realizing it has shrunk, or that it's covered in algae. If your cover is loaded with algae when you close your pool the following season, you can pretty much guarantee it will be opening green in the spring.
Once you have removed and stored the winter cover for the season, you can begin removing the skimmer gizmo and expansion plugs from the pool and installing the return fittings. The Skimmer Gizmo will typically be a green water-bottle-shaped device that is screwed into your skimmer lines. Your return plugs/ expansion plugs will be plugging the return lines of the pool. Once the return plugs have been removed, you can install the return fittings. These are the various jets that screw into the pool returns and control the direction of water flow going into your pool. They're typically stored inside the skimmer basket inside the pool shed during the winter. In addition to the return fittings, you'll also want to install any ladders or hand rails that you may have. Once this has been achieved, you can install the additional equipment pieces that have been stored over the winter in your skimmer basket-- namely, your filter drain cap, heater plug(s), pressure gauge, sight glass and pump plugs.
Now that you have installed your equipment parts into the pool equipment, the system is ready to be turned on. It is important to note however, that if you have a lock-in cover or tarp and waterbags cover you'll need to add water to the pool because the water will be below the skimmer basket after removing your winter cover. Since a safety cover allows for water to seep through the mesh or vinyl drain holes, the pool's water level will likely be at an appropriate level for starting up the system. If you don't have a safety cover, take a garden hose and manually add water to the pool until the water level reaches halfway up the skimmer box.
Now that your water level is at an appropriate level, you can turn on your pump and get the system running. Before turning on the pump, you will need to prime the suction line going to the pump adding water into the pump basket with a garden hose. Start the system up and if you have a safety cover, set the filter to "waste" for a few minutes to lower the water level of the pool if it's overly high. You may even want to give it a backwash to clean out the filter for the initial start-up of the summer.
Your pool should be circulating water now that you've set the filter to "filter" mode and turned on the pump. The only thing left to do is balance the water chemistry of the pool. Using test strips can allow you to get a rough guess of the chemical levels of the pool but it's really best to take your water to a pool shop and have it tested. If you don't want to get your water tested, use the test strips to determine the pH, alkalinity, and chlorine levels of the pool. If the pool is green your pH and alkalinity levels will likely be quite high and your chlorine levels will be low. Shock the pool with chlorine to kill off any bacteria/ algae that may have developed over the months that your pool was closed. This can be done with liquid chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) or granular chlorine (preferably calcium hypochlorite). Determine the pH and Alkalinity of the water and add the appropriate amount of pH Decreaser. Test the water every few days during the initial start-up of the pool to ensure a consistent water chemistry. Once you have achieved a balanced water chemistry, we recommend that you test it at least once every 2 weeks during the summer months to ensure that it stays balanced. Remember: it's easier to keep a pool blue than to get it back to blue once it has gone green!