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Spring opening tips and conversion advice for saltwater pools

Scooping Leaves from Pool
The opening process typically involves removing the cover, cleaning the pool and filling it to its optimum level, getting equipment operational, initiating water circulation and shocking and balancing the water.

By Bob Harper

Spring is here, which means opening season for swimming pools is just around the corner. The proper spring startup sets the tone for the entire season. For saltwater pools, spring startup is even more critical if problems such as chlorine (Cl) demand, algae, staining and scale were experienced during the prior season and not dealt with adequately.

The opening process typically involves removing the cover, filling the pool to its optimum level, getting equipment operational, initiating water circulation, shocking and balancing the water and performing some housekeeping chores.

Basic opening procedures

While saltwater pools have unique water chemistry parameters and use specialized equipment compared to traditional pools, the process for opening them is relatively the same, with a few key exceptions:

  1. Remove any debris and standing water from the top of the cover (if a solid type). Use a leaf net to keep any solid matter out of the pool and pump water off and away from the pool before removing the cover. Mesh safety covers are much easier as they are simply removed and stored.
  2. Remove any debris from the pool, brush the pool and adjust the water level to about halfway up the skimmer face.
  3. Remove all plugs and replace the return fittings.
  4. Check the pump and filter to make sure they are working properly and turn on the equipment.
  5. For saltwater pools, put the electrolytic chlorine generator (ECG) back in place, but do not turn it on until the last step. (Many models with built-in temperature sensors are programmed to turn off or run partially when water temperatures drop below a certain point, generally between 10 to 15 C (50 to 59 F). Therefore, it is important to make sure the water’s temperature is warm enough for the ECG to operate.
  6. Run the pump for at least 24 hours to circulate the water thoroughly. This will help filter out any remaining debris in the pool, as well as help to clear hazy water. During the winter, chemicals can stratify or concentrate in deeper water; therefore, in order to obtain a true reading it is important the water is thoroughly circulated prior to pulling a water sample for testing.

New shocking recommendations

Shocking traditional pools with chlorine is standard practice; however, it is now also a relatively new recommendation for saltwater pools. During the season, as long as the pump is running, the ECG will produce a constant amount of chlorine, so shocking the pool is not typically necessary. However, since the ECG has a fixed chlorine output, it may not produce enough chlorine initially to overcome the demand created by organic material in the pool at spring opening. Therefore, a supplemental chlorine product should be used to help overcome any initial chlorine demand.

Levels of cyanuric acid (CYA, [CNOH]3) can help determine which chlorine product to use. If CYA is low, use dichlor (C[O]NCl)2(C[O]NH). If CYA is adequate or high, use an unstabilized chlorine such as bleach, calcium hypochlorite (Ca(ClO)2) or lithium hypochlorinte (LiClO).

After the water has been shocked, saltwater pools should be given a dose of treatment products to protect against scaling, staining and corrosion. Be sure to only use products specifically designed for saltwater pools, as they will hold up against the extreme conditions within the ECG.

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