Between the chemical balancing and cleaning, every pool owner is well aware of the challenges that are entailed in the task of opening a pool up for the season, and even harder if setting up a pool for the first time. In most parts of the world, pools are seasonal, with climates necessitating their closure for winterization during the colder periods of the year. Reopening them ends up being a big to-do even for the most seasoned pool owner.
To keep pool water clear and pH balanced requires at times taxing pool maintenance every week. If maintenance is a challenge, revitalization of dormant pools ups the effort necessary to another level. When the pool is initially filled with water, getting it suited with the right chemicals from the start is essential. If you start successfully, weekly maintenance becomes less burdensome. But if the chemical balance is not achieved from the get-go, the weekly work becomes a challenge to fix the water rather than simply maintain its levels.
Before you decide on what chemicals your pool needs, you need to figure out a few things, primarily what type of water your pool will contain. You can get all of the information you need by testing the water thoroughly. Let’s discuss the start-up chemicals you need to get your pool started right.
Pool Start Up Chemicals
As noted earlier, your first objective is to study the water that will be filling your pool. Presumably, before filling it with water, you took the time to clean your pool. Doing so will reduce the number of potential contaminants that your will need to concern yourself with during the process. You can also schedule a pool maintenance service to confirm that the water in the pool will be chemically balanced to being with.
If you have any aspirations of filling the pool with entirely purified water, we urge you to abandon the notion before you attempt it. It would be costly and absurdly ridiculous to even try it. Even filling the water from a fresh-water source is not going to result in perfect water. No matter how you slice it, your pool water will require treatment.
Before you know how to treat it, you need to know what you are treating. For that, you have to test your water. While this can be done with a small test, performing a full water test is the better option. That way, you are aware of everything that needs to be addressed in order to set the pool up correctly.
Your “Perfect” Chemical Balance Goals
Not all aspects of the pool water may be off-target, but those that are will need chemical treatment. To know what chemicals you need to use to balance the chemicals of your pool water at the start, you will need to know the target ranges you want to be inside of for the various categories. Anything outside of these ranges will need to be addressed.
- pH (ideal range between 7.2 and 7.6)
- Alkalinity (ideal range between 80 – 120 ppm)
- Chlorine (ideal range 1 – 3 ppm)
- Calcium Hardness (ideal range 180 – 220 ppm)
- Cyanuric Acid (ideal range 30 – 50 ppm)
If your pool water hits inside of all those ranges right away, you have some serious luck on your side and you should grab a lottery ticket immediately. If you are that lucky, congratulations, your pool is ready to go without any effort. However, this is very unlikely to happen. In most realistic situations, it is a very good idea to make note of the actual readings that you get upon testing your water and keep a record to help you figure out what chemicals will be needed later.
What Chemicals Do I Need to Start My Pool?
Once you have the necessary chemical data, you can begin to address your pool water’s chemical needs. Dumping every chemical in the water will solve nothing and only create more problems. Every chemical added should be making a significant push to get the chemical levels into their desired ranges. If you add too many chemicals or too much of certain ones, you can cause a chemical interaction.
Now, let’s discuss the chemicals you might need to add to your pool’s water depending on what chemical range you are seeking to adjust.
If your test showed that the water’s alkalinity was out of range, regardless of whether it was too low or too high, you will need particular chemicals to adjust it. This chemical should be added to the water first after start-up, assuming it is necessary because it can have severe effects on the water’s pH level. If you do not address the alkalinity first, you may balance your pH only to ruin it with the alkalinity chemicals, and have to spend more time and resources on it later.
If your alkalinity levels are too low (under 80 ppm), you will need to use an alkalinity booster. This should be added in safe increments, as you test the water to make sure that the alkalinity is within range. If the problem is that the alkalinity is higher than 120 ppm, you will need to apply a pH reducer to lower it. Obviously, this will lower your overall pH, so as noted earlier, this adjustment should come first.
To keep your pool in working order, keeping your pH balance is pivotal. When the pH is off, the chlorine will not work properly, leading to excessive chlorine and the water being unsafe for use. The pH level should be the second thing to be adjusted, and you are looking to have the pH land between 7.2 and 7.6, as that is the ideal range for safe water and the subsequent chlorine addition.
You can use the same pH reducing agent as you did to lower the alkalinity earlier if the pH is too high. If it’s too low, you simply need to add a pH booster to your pool. When the pH is over 7.6 it is too acidic, which means that the pool’s water is not suitable for swimming as it is too corrosive. If you take too long to adjust the pH problem, your pool’s maintenance will be impacted.
Regardless of the increase or decrease of the pH, you will need to regularly test the water and adjust the pH if necessary.
Once the pH and the alkalinity are adjusted, the calcium levels (hardness of the water), need to be addressed next. Calcium hardness does need to be included in your pool start-up chemical maintenance, and should also be regularly assessed to see if it needs adjusting during your weekly checks.
If your calcium levels fall below 180 ppm, you will need to add a calcium hardness booster. The one benefit of calcium adjustment chemicals is that they don’t interact with or counteract some of the other chemicals, but you should certainly aim to get the calcium in the right range into your ideal range.
If the calcium is too high, you will need to use muriatic acid to lower it. However, this chemical requires caution as it not only alters the calcium, but also the pool water’s alkalinity. That means that once your calcium hardness is in a good place, you will want to test the water to make sure the alkalinity is still at the desired levels. While it is a nuisance of an activity since you already adjusted the alkalinity earlier, in the long run, it is worth the effort.
4. Cyanuric Acid
The next step is actually a bit of a rarity in terms of the chemical composition of pool water to be tested but is a good idea to test when setting up your pool: cyanuric acid. New pools are likely to not be affected by cyanuric acid as it is something that forms as a byproduct of chlorine being added to pool water over time. Once it does accumulate, it does affect the water quality though. While you are unlikely to have to deal with this at the start, it doesn’t hurt to test for it just in case.
The chemical treatment depends on what type of chlorine you use as well. To adjust the chemical standing of cyanuric acid you will need to add stabilizer, but only doing so if you are using free chlorine, which isn’t the type that most people use these days anyway. If you do need to add it, remember to bring the levels of 30ppm to protect the quality of the chlorine. Not doing so will result in free chlorine reacting to sunlight, which will degrade its efficacy and cause the pool to get dirty quickly.
Finally, there is chlorine, the most important chemical that you will use to keep your pool water safe and clean for swimmers to enjoy. However, over chlorinating your pool is unsafe as well, as excessive chlorine will sting and damage the skin of those who swim in the water, so it is something you should be cautious to avoid. Yes, chlorine is not the nicest smelling chemical, but the tolerance of its smell is worth it to have a pool full of clean water.
Application of chlorine to raise its levels should be done quickly. It is a shock treatment approach that cleans your water without throwing off the levels of the other chemicals in the process and degrading their effectiveness.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for chlorine dosage when adding it, and make sure you are well versed in when additional chlorine is needed. Chlorine is very effective at its job, but only when used correctly.
Chemical Balancing Is Essential For Pool Start-Up
Chemical treatment of pool water may take time at start-up, but it is nowhere near as long as it would take to start needing to fix the water quality if it isn’t done (or not done properly). You can save yourself a lot of headaches by cleaning your pool before filling it. The cleaning process removes a significant amount of contaminants, so when you test your pool water, your chemical balances will likely not take too long to balance.
Testing pool water could be taxing work and too complex for some people, which is why they take advantage of pool specialty services when they start up their pools at the beginning of the season and close them down at the end. This helps the pool start off with the right chemical balancing work and only require routine maintenance in that regard throughout the season. Other pool owners take on the task themselves. It is not rocket science, but it does take accurate testing and precision to balance things out right in order to enjoy a safe and fun summer pool experience.
About the Author
Stefan Schulz is the founder and owner of PV Pool Cleaner. He spent his college years working at Niagara Pools and Spas, one of the largest Swimming Pool and Hot Tub Dealers in the Eastern United States.
Today, he utilizes his background, experience as a pool owner, and the resources of his digital marketing agency, Orpical Group, to generate informative and engaging content for pool owners everywhere.