Closing the pool for the winter is an annual autumn ritual for many Quebecers. Here are a few practical tips on the subject, to help you save money and time, limit the use of polluting chemicals, and prolong the life of your pool.
When to do the work?
For your pool-closing job list, there is no sense starting too early: wait until at least mid-October, depending on the region.
One day before your closing, get one step ahead:
- Run the vacuum.
- Do a back-flush.
- Balance your pool’s pH.
- Do a final chlorine treatment, but add more than the usual dose. If you have a salt-water system, increase the intensity of the treatment.
Tip: Because the water is colder and cleaner at this time of year, a higher dose of chlorine (superchlorination) should provide the required disinfection. This tip will save you the cost of a shock treatment!
Few people realize that all pool-chlorination products contain the same ingredient (calcium hypochlorite) as shock-treatment kits, but in a lower concentration. So all you need to do is get a high enough level to obtain comparable results.
You’re now ready for the actual pool closing and other related tasks.
Cleaning the covers
To remove a ring around the edge of the cover, clean it with a damp cloth. Avoid using cleaning products, as this can alter the chemical balance of the pool water.
If you have a solar cover, remove it from the pool, spread it out on the ground and clean it with a gentle spray from a garden hose. Once the cover is dry, fold it and store it where it won’t be exposed to rain or sunlight.
Dropping the water level
Using the drain/waste setting, drop the water level to about 30 centimetres (1 foot) below the water returns. Don’t forget to remove the return heads; to do this, simply unscrew the bolts.
Emptying the hoses and freeze management
Emptying the hoses on an above-ground pool is easy: simply detach them and let gravity do the rest.
On the other hand, as in-ground pool hoses are buried, a shop vac or leaf blower will come in handy. Here’s how to go about it:
- Attach the device to the first return hose you have disconnected.
- Temporarily seal the joint with duct tape.
- Set the device to “blow” and start it. The air pressure will blow the water out of the return like a geyser.
- Keep the pressure on until there is not a drop left in the hose.
- Empty the other return hoses in the same way.
Even if the pipe between the pump and the skimmer is empty, take the following precautions:
- From the skimmer end, pour in about ¼ gallon (slightly over a litre) of antifreeze.
- Push a foam rope (the kind normally sold as weather stripping) the entire length of the hose. Should water in the pipe freeze, the ice will compress the foam rather than put pressure on the hose walls.
- Cover the end.
In-ground pools are susceptible to water infiltration. To prevent this, screw caps to the ends of the water returns. Seal the caps by covering the threads with Teflon tape. This step is important: fall rains or a thaw could raise the water level above the returns and even up as far as the skimmer.
If your pool has a bottom drain, the pipe linking the bottom drain to the skimmer will remain full of water up to the same level as in the pool. Protect this pipe using the method described above.
- Pour in some anti-freeze (about ¾ gallon [3.4 litres] in this case).
- Push in some foam rope.
- Close the valve at the skimmer.
Tip for added protection of the skimmer
As ice and water could rise up, do not let them into the skimmer! From a pool supply store, get some polystyrene blocks designed for this purpose. First insert a rectangular block into the bottom of the skimmer, then push in a second block, trimmed to fit the top section.
Extra tip: Push one or two stiff wires through the blocks to keep them together.
Pump storage and filter winterization
After all the hoses have been removed and the power has been disconnected:
- Remove the water from the pump and clean the basket as required.
- Store the pump in an area protected from frost.
- Empty the filter bottle and place the handle in the “winterize” position.
After all the water has dripped out, do not replace the cap.
Protecting the winter cover and other precautions
Pool covers left out in the open can be damaged by UV rays. Considering their high cost (especially in the case of an in-ground pool), you want to take every precaution to extend their useful life! Cover your pool with a winter tarp until spring.
- Across the top of an in-ground pool, pull the cover taut and hold it in place using stakes stuck into the ground.
- Around an above-ground pool, use a system of cables and tie-downs (bungee cords) to keep the cover tight around the pool.
Adventurous animals can sometimes make their way onto your pool cover and end up trapped. These lost critters would love an escape route!
Tip: Place a board diagonally across the pool to allow them to make their way to the edge. Remove the plank once temperatures start to drop below freezing.
Do you have a yard full of leafy trees? Stretch a net across your winter cover during the fall, and remove it after all the leaves have fallen.
Tip: To keep the leaf net from getting wet, place a ball between the net and the pool cover. This will allow the leaves to dry, making removal easier.
If you don’t use a net, be sure to remove the leaves at the end of the fall season; otherwise decomposed leaves will hamper your efforts to achieve good water quality come spring. Don’t learn this the hard way: instead, take the appropriate precautions and your pool will be ready in no time once the warmer weather arrives!