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I'm Steve Litt. I created the Universal
Troubleshooting Process (UTP). I create and license UTP courseware,
as well as teaching the UTP onsite. I've written four books on
Eight Tales of Troubleshooting, "Troubleshooting:
Tools, Tips and Techniques", "Troubleshooting
Techniques of the Successful Technologist", and "The Manager's Guide to Technical
professions include software development, electronic repair and
I've never been a pool professional. I've had a pool only 5 years, and until autumn of 2004 it was maintained by a pool professional. So what gives me the authority to write this web page? In May and June 2005 I brought an almost dead pool to life. Here's what happened...
August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley hit our house. We suffered no apparent damage, but looking back, it's possible that Charley softened up our roof. Then, on September 5, Hurricane Frances passed within 50 miles of our house, tearing off about 600 square feet of our roof. From that moment on, my top priority was tarping the roof and making the tarps solid. My work took second priority, and the pool became a non-issue.
|Your pool has a circulatory
system, as shown in the diagram to the left. The pump is it's heart,
water from one pipe and pushing water through another. The point I'm
making is that water is moved either through vacuum or pressure,
depending on which side of the pump it's on.
In the diagram, the red arrows represent the direction of water flow. The green arros simply point to components. The thick blue lines are pipes.
Note that multiport valves are used only with filters requiring backwash -- DE and Sand filters. Cartridge filters have a much simpler valve, but it's still in the same basic position.
|The photo on the left shows
my Polaris brand pool cleaner at the bottom of the pool. The
concrete pool wall shows at the lower right, with a diving board on the
Pressurized water comes in through the hose on top, and blows through some jets sucking water from the bottom and blowing it into the mesh bag on top. The pressurized water also operates a little motor that turns the wheels, thereby moving the machine around the pool. The rubber tubing at the back squirts water out its end, thereby making it move like a snake and brushing the bottom of the pool.
The instructions on my bag of Fiberclear say that you can put Fiberclear in your sand or cartridge filter for finer filtration. It also says that if you do, you need to check the filter pressure frequently. I don't know what side effects or risks you would encounter doing this. Ask your pool store or pool professional.
Fiberclear is a substitute for diatomaceous earth powder. The cost per reload is roughly the same, but you use half as much powder, resulting in an easier, cleaner and safer job. The Fiberclear package makes this claim about Fiberclear:
"Unlike D.E., it is environmentally friendly, non-toxic and biodegradable...and it filters better than D.E.! It will not clog drains or sewers and is harmless to fish"
I've heard from others that it's safer, and in my experience it's easier to use. I use Fiberclear exclusively.
Throughout this article I use the word DE or diatomaceous earth powder. If you're using Fiberclear, just substitute the word Fiberclear for "DE".
Never mix Fiberclear and diatomaceous earth powder. If you switch from one to the other, your filter grids must be cleaned of all the former powder before loading the latter. My experience in mixing the two was that it clogged the filter in a way that backwashing could not fix, requiring a manual grid cleaning a couple weeks after purchasing the filter. There may be other problems with mixing them. Don't mix them.
The manufacturer of Fiber Clear told me the following:
"Fiber Clear is ground wood fiber which has been sized to work optimally in septum (DE) filters. This same cellulose fiber material is used in the pharmaceutical and food processing industries, and the chances that you have ingested some today are quite good. Cellulose fiber is used as a 'filler' in breads, cereals, cookies, etc. It is also used as a 'binder' in the pharmaceutical industry to bind drugs into pill form (aspirin, etc.). Therefore, Fiber Clear is truly non-toxic and is certainly biodegradable (DE, on the other hand, is a Class 1 carcinogen)."
In addition, you can see the Material Data Safety Sheet for Fiber Clear at http://www.fiberclear.net/images/msds_091405.pdf, which clearly identifies Fiber Clear as 100% "Celulose, Wood Pulp" and is classified as the least possible health risk.
Under those circumstances, I'm a lot less likely to use a mask with Fiber Clear. Of course, even if I were working with cooking flour, if lots of powder were in the air I might wear a mask anyway, but the manufacturer's information makes me a lot more confident using Fiber Clear, with or without a mask.
|To the left is my multiport
valve. You can click the image to get a full sized image, but be aware
the full sized image is 121K (takes several seconds to a minute over
The handle is wide where you put your hand, and comes to a point at the other end. The pointed end points to the function. For instance, in the photo to the left the pointer on the valve's handle is in the 6 o'clock position. This is the filter setting, which is the setting for normal operations.
To the immediate left at 8 o'clock is waste, which you might use to get rid of excess water before a storm, or get rid of excessively dirty water while vacuuming the bottom with a suction vacuum.
At 4 o'clock is rinse, which you use after backwashing. Speaking of backwashing, the 12 o'clock setting is backwash, and is therefore covered by the wide part of the handle in the photo to the left.
At the 2 o'clock position is recirculate, which you'd use if your filter is broken but you still want to move water. At the 10 o'clock position is closed, which you'd use only in rare, special occasions, and never with the pump on.
Be VERY CAREFUL when turning the pump on or off, because on most setups the only switch is in the timer, and if you place your hands wrong, you can get a 120 volt shock from the live wires in the timer. This is especially dangerous because the ground around your pump and filter are typically wet, and because people are often barefoot when turning the pump off or on.
NEVER operate the switch on the pump while looking elsewhere -- death could easily result. If in doubt, use the pool's circuit breakers to turn off power to the timer. Toggling the circuit breakers shortens their lives and causes the timer's time to become inaccurate, but that's much better than getting a 120 volt shock.
NEVER let children touch anything in the timer, including the pump switch.
|Basket filled to top with water, and has
turbulence near the screw knobs
filled to the top with water, but has major turbulence.
|This is almost perfect. Ideally
there would be no visible turbulence or air, but the pictured condition
probably will not
be problematic any time soon.
||This bears watching. Right now
there's plenty of water, but there's also quite a bit of air, as the
turbulence shows. If the air air intake increases, this could lead to
of prime and pump damage.
is and what it does
||This is how much mineral
material is disolved in your pool water. Too much and you get "lime
deposits" on your pool surface and other hardware. Too little and your
pool surface starts to disolve.
||There are agents you can add to
change the hardness of your water.
30-50 is ideal
|This is the chemical that
prevents your chlorine from "burning off" on sunny days. It's
often called "pool conditioner" or "chlorine stabilizer". Too little and you lose chlorine
in a day or two. I'm not sure what happens when it's too much, but I've had it up to 100 without perceiving ill effects.
||Add more when you run low. If
you accidentally add too much, it will decrease over time. If you add
WAY too much, ask your pool store.
||1-3 ppm for a pool, 3-5 ppm for
||This kills algae and germs. It's
what makes pools a safe place to swim. If it gets too low you get algae
buildups and probably bacterial buildups. If it's low for too long the
pool turns green. If it's too much it irritates you eyes, or possibly
other body parts if it's REALLY too high.
In a heavily used pool, or when algae is visible, you'll occasionally need to go above these levels. This is called shocking the pool. If you shock the pool, don't let anyone swim in the pool for at least 24 hours, and then only if chlorine levels have returned to a reasonable level.
|To increase the free chlorine
level, first make sure your cyanuric acid is adequate, and then
add chlorine. Powdered chlorine is the most economical, and also does
not lower the PH like liquid chlorine.
If your free chlorine level is too high, you can either wait until it comes down, or put in sodium bromide to bring it down. I use Suncoast "Stop Yellow" brand sodium bromide. Sodium Bromide releases the algae killing potential of your chlorine. Therefore, be sure to brush the pool before adding sodium bromide. If you want to shock the pool, add both chlorine and sodium bromide.
Be sure to check your chlorine level the day after adding sodium bromide. I've found that three capfuls of Suncoast Stop Yellow in my 30,000 gallon pool will bring the chlorine level almost to zero the next day, so you might need to add enough chlorine to bring it back to 3ppm.
To help minimize free chlorine variation, use chlorine tablets (sometimes called "hockey pucks") in your chlorinator, or if you don't have a chlorinator in a floater tied up in such a way as to keep it away from the skimmer. Do not put chlorine tablets in the skimmer, as that will send concentrated chlorine into your pump and filter, reducing their life.
||Should approximately match the
||If total chlorine is
significantly different from free chlorine, it usually indicates that
you should add chlorine.
||See free chlorine above.
||pH is a measure of how "acid"
your water is, with lower numbers being more "acid". If the pH is too
low it can burn your eyes, and oxidize the pool coating and components.
If it's too high it can burn your eyes and deposit "lime" on your pool.
Liquid chlorine tends to reduce your pH.
||To increase pH, add sodium
carbonate or sodium bicarbonate. To decrease it, add muriatic acid.
||I don't know the effects of
this. Ask your pool store.
||I don't know how to adjust this.
Ask your pool store.
|Phosphates||Below 125||Phosphates are food for algae, so high phosphate levels promote algae blooms, even in very high chlorine levels. On the other hand, phosphates below 125 minimize the likelihood of algae, even if chlorine falls low.||If phosphates are high, use a phosphate|
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