Winterizing your pool in warmer climates looks a bit different than getting your pool ready for icy conditions in other parts of the country. Maintaining your winter pool chemicals is important, whether you use your pool during the colder times of the year or not, because leaves and other debris which fall into your pool affect your pH levels.
When it comes to maintaining your pool during the winter in the South, you have a few options. With our typically mild winters, some pool owners prefer to maintain their current regular service throughout the year or switch to fewer visits per month. Others simply lower the water level of their pool to just below the tile line and pull the drain plugs on their equipment. Most people don’t even put on a pool cover during this time, although some do.
In this post, we’ll explore what you can do to protect your biggest outdoor investment during the chilly times of year, including how to close a pool for winter in ground, the implications of not covering your pool in winter, what pool maintenance you should do in the winter and how to reopen your pool when springtime comes if you do choose to close it.
How to Close a Pool for Winter: In Ground Pool Recommendations
In ground pool owners in cold climates typically have to completely shut down their pool for winter, which includes an involved process consisting of partially draining their pool, plugging all the returns, adding antifreeze, draining the lines and other steps. However, those of us who own a pool in milder climates don’t usually choose to close the pool for the winter. After all, there are some winter days when it’s 80 degrees outside and we can wear shorts and it’s warm enough for a dip in the pool.
If you do choose to close your pool for the winter, the trick is knowing your water temperature. The water in your pool needs to be consistently below 65 degrees to keep algae from growing. These conditions exist when the outside temperature is typically in the mid-60s to low 70s during the day and in the 40s at night. If you put a cover on your pool before temperatures drop, you run the risk of having to deal with algae overgrowth.
To close a pool for winter, follow these steps:
- Clean Your Pool. By cleaning your pool thoroughly, you remove any debris and protect against algae growth and any other chemical imbalances.
- Remove Phosphates. Add anti-phosphate compound to your pool one week before you plan on closing it.
- Reduce The Water Level. Since frozen water expands, and your pool’s equipment can sustain damage from ice, pool owners who are closing their pool will generally drain the water level to four to six inches below the tile line. This is not a big concern in southern climates where the chances that your pool will freeze are very low.
- Manage Your Pool’s Chemistry. Critical for any time of year, frequently monitoring the chemistry of your pool is an important step to maintaining your investment and the proper pH of your water. It’s a lot easier to maintain when the chemical balance is slightly off than trying to get things back under control when your pool looks more like a science experiment gone wrong. When you close your pool for the winter, you’ll want to check and adjust the pH, which should be between 7.2 and 7.6. You also need to check the water hardness and adjust it if necessary so that it is between 175 and 225. Next, check the alkalinity and ensure that it is between 80 and 125 ppm. Finally, check the chlorine levels and adjust if needed. The stabilizer level should be 30 ppm and the chlorine level should be between 1 and 4 ppm.
- Shock and Chlorinate. Doing so will kill all bacteria before you put your pool cover on.
Choosing to close your pool during the winter can help with keeping debris out, but remember you still need to follow the pool closing steps we mention above and shock your pool. Between the chemicals, cold weather, protection from debris and dark conditions, algae will be unable to grow. Although in some cases pool owners see algae grow at near-freezing temperatures, development slows to almost nothing when temperatures drop below 50 degrees.
As we mentioned earlier, because we do have mild winters and even a few shorts-weather days in the winter here in the South, some pool owners choose not to close or cover their pool during the winter.
Not Covering Pool in Winter: Pros and Cons
Most pool owners in mild climates don’t close or cover their pool in the winter. Some of the more common reasons people leave pools uncovered in winter include:
- Many people don’t like how pool covers look.
- Some pool owners don’t have space to store a pool cover.
- Other pool owners like to have the option of being able to just run and jump into the pool on those rare warm winter day.
- Some pool owners don’t want the added hassle of having to roll off their pool cover.
- If you have a saltwater pool, you may go through more salt if you cover your pool.
- It can be difficult to find a suitable cover for irregularly-shaped pools.
- Covers are costly.
- Some pool owners want to use their pool year-round.
Do keep in mind that one warm winter day won’t be enough to change your water temperature to make it comfortable for a dip. If you do decide to take the plunge, be prepared to feel more like a polar bear than a summer swimmer.
All that said, some pool owners do choose to use a cover year-round, or simply just during the winter. A cover also offers an added precaution if a pool owner has young children. Pool covers can also be an energy saver by reducing heat loss if you decide to heat your pool through the winter, saving you an estimated 50 to 70 percent on your pool heating costs. A cover can also keep falling leaves and debris from getting into your pool and reduce evaporation. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that pool covers can reduce evaporation by 70 percent. Since chlorine degrades under UV light, a pool cover offers protection from UV, which means you will need to add less chlorine over time.
Standard pool covers, which range in price from $75-$250, are typically made of a tarp-like material, which means that if someone tries to walk on top of it, they will get wet or even worse, trapped. Rainwater can also get trapped on top.
Security pool covers, which range in price from $1,200-$3,000, resemble a trampoline cover and are held in place with spring-loaded straps like a trampoline. These covers are great for keeping out leaves and other debris and can support the weight of an animal. Because security pool covers are made of mesh, you don’t have to worry about having a pump to remove rainwater, because it flows through the cover into the pool. The downside is that your pool’s pH becomes unbalanced from the added rainwater.
Automatic covers, which range in price from $5,000-$15,000, can be manually operated or run by a motor. Your cover stays poolside for easy access. One advantage of this type of cover is that they can be customized to suit your aesthetic style. Automatic covers do keep leaves and other debris out of your pool and can help with reducing maintenance. However, since they have so many moving parts, they tend to break down.
The decision about whether or not to cover a pool in winter generally depends on the homeowner, what the specific needs are and how often the pool is used year- round. If you do decide to leave your pool open for the winter, there are some pool maintenance tasks you will need to perform during the winter.
Pool Maintenance: Winter Tasks For Pool Owners
The majority of pool owners in warmer climates continue their pool service throughout the winter. Some switch to every other week instead of every week because of less frequent pool use. The decision about whether your schedule should change can depend on the potential for falling leaves and other debris to accumulate in your pool during the colder parts of the year.
If this is your first winter with a pool, or if you aren’t sure whether you have been performing proper winter pool maintenance, consider these guidelines:
- Continue to maintain pH levels to keep algae from growing. Your winter pool chemicals should be the same or very similar as during the summer, so continue with your testing, treating and adjusting as needed.
- Keep your pool clear of debris. Similar to how you would maintain your pool during the summer, dirt, dust and debris can affect your pH levels. If you continue to have leaves that fall all winter, this may mean you’ll need to increase the frequency of your skimming.
- To ensure that your pool doesn’t have any problems on those few nights where temperatures drop below freezing, we recommend that you have a freeze guard or freeze switch. This device will override the pool pump when it gets too cold. Set it to run at night to save money. Moving water won’t freeze.
- Just like checking your heater in your home is a good idea before a big freeze, checking the heater in your pool is also a wise precautionary maintenance task. Make sure your pool heater comes on and works properly. If there are any issues, call a professional to come take a closer look. Also, remove any leaves or other debris from your pool that could get clogged in your filter.
If you follow these few maintenance tips, your pool will be ready when temperatures climb and you want to enjoy a swim more frequently.
What Do I Need to Know About Inground Pool Opening?
If you chose to close your pool for the winter, there are several things you should do when you decide to reopen it.
Check out our 10-step checklist for you to follow, which includes the following:
- Checking filter pumps
- Inspecting your cleaner pump
- Evaluating the performance of your filters
- Ensuring the pool cleaner unit is operational
- Looking at the skimmer baskets and covers
- Testing the pool heater
- Looking at lights and electrical systems to make sure everything is working correctly
- Making sure water is flowing through the chemical feeder
- Adjusting pool chemicals
- Performing basic safety checks
After you perform this comprehensive inspection, your pool will be ready for another enjoyable swimming season.
Need Help With Your Pool During the Winter?
The professionals at ABC Home & Commercial Services can help you keep your pool clean and operational during any time of the year. Whether that means performing regular cleaning, repairing broken parts or making upgrades, ABC can take the hassle out of owning a pool so you have more time to enjoy your backyard oasis.