Preventative Maintenance & Swimming Pool Leaks

April 18, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Posted in Pool Chemistry, Swimming Pool Repair | Leave a comment
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Leaking equipment on your swimming pool is costly and wasteful, but a good deal for pool repair folks!  In other words, lack of good swimming pool water chemistry helped me buy a nice sports car.

The most common leak in pool equipment is found at the pump seal–the weakest link in your pool’s system.  Why?  The pump seal is one of the few wear-points in your system–meaning that when the motor comes on and runs 8 to 10 hours a day, the pump seal wears down and degrades itself just by the friction

Pump seal

 of the carbon on ceramic.

Now, include improper water chemistry, and that pump seal’s life takes a dive.  If this leak continues, it will eventually ruin your motor’s bearings and burn out the motor’s windings.  Now we’re swimming in high repair and replacement costs.

How do you know when you have a pump seal leak?  It’s easy to detect.  Look for water or dampness where the motor bolts on to the pump.  Severe pump leaks will show calcium build up, or your motor will make a high whining sound–like the sound you will make when you get that $400 repair bill.

What can you do to prevent this?  First, there is a life expectancy on every pump seal.  You can, however, extend this life with proper water chemistry.  Meaning, if your pool water is acidic (below 6.8 ppm) the acid water will attack the pump seal.  Conversely, if your pool water is alkaline (pH over 8.0 ppm, total alkalinity over 140 ppm) the alkaline water will grind away at the pump seal.

The next most likely leak in pool equipment is anything that is metal.  When you have two dissimilar metals plumbed together chances are a leak will occur.  This can also be a water chemistry issue, but is usually attributed to electrolysis. 

Where will you find two dissimilar metals plumbed?  Check for galvanized pipe from the heater attached to copper plumbing.  The only cure is to replumb to all copper or copper and plastic.

Leaks are also common in your pool’s heat exchanger.   About 80% of a  heat exchanger leak is mismanaged pool water chemistry.  However, other reasons for leaks here are: 

 1) If you have an off-line chlorinator, be sure that the return line from the chlorinator is plumbed after the heater.  The reason is that tablet-form chlorine is acidic. 

 2)Also be sure there are check valves on your chlorinator so that when the pumps shuts off the chlorine is held in the lines and does not return to the heater.

3)  Check for dissimilar metals at the heater’s plumbing inlet and outlet.

4)  High TDS (over 3500 ppm)  will scour the inside of the heat exchanger and thin out the exchanger’s copper tubes, to the point of creating a leak.

So everytime your pool repair dude drives by in his or her shiny new sports car, make a note to go check your swimming pool’s water chemistry so that you can enjoy your pool as you thought you would when the pool was just a dream.

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If you are ready to drop chlorine and salt from your swimming pool water, and sanitize your pool with the most efficient and eco-sound method possible, I’m offering my Riptide Pool Disinfection System http://www.riptidealchemy.com/poolandspas.php  for only $999 (not including tax and freight).  This is a limited time offer for Pool and Spa Master readers.  Email me at riptidealchemy1@aol.com to take advantage of this special offer.

To Drain or Not To Drain (Your Spa)–That’s the Question

January 7, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Posted in Hot Tub Chemistry, Spa Chemistry | 1 Comment
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“When is it time to drain the hot tub?”  I think this question hit the millionth-time mark in my pool-dude world. 

Following that query is, “Well, the guy at the spa store said to drain my hot tub every three months.  My brother-in-law drains his twice a year and my neighbor drains his spa every month.”

First, while spa companies recommend quarterly drains, there’s some misinformation in that answer.

Barring no real problems with green water or some other nasty water issue, the only parameter to drain a hot tub is Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). End of story. 

TDS measures all the solids that are in the tap water, not including what happens to hot tub water every time you use your spa.  In other words, when you are in the hot tub at 104 degrees, that steam is distilled water–lacking any minerals–leaving the minerals behind in the water. 

 Think of your hot tub like a giant tea pot.  When you use the hot tub and distill the water the TDS raises incrementally.  When TDS reaches 1500 ppm that’s when it’s time to drain the hot tub.

Why?  High TDS lessens the effect of your chemicals. That means disinfectants are less effective, as are all the other chemicals used.  And when minerals fall out of solution your spa’s innards will look like the inside of your teapot.  It’s okay for the teapot, but not for motors, pumps, heaters and plumbing. Think expensive repair bills.

When to drain your spa is not a time issue–not drain every 3 months, or whatever.  It’s how many times you use your hot tub combined with the natural TDS of your tap water.  And to complicate this issue is tap water TDS measurements can change weekly.  From the same water spigot I’ve measured TDS at 500 ppm and then 900 ppm several weeks later.

High TDS symptoms: You can’t keep your chemicals in solution, no matter how much you add, your spa has no water quality, bad smells, etc.

You can purchase a TDS meter usually for under $25.  I sell them for less.  Yeah, that’s a blatant bit of self-promotion, but, hey, I’m just another pool dude trying to make a living ;-)!!!  E-mail me at riptidealchemy1@aol.com

Spa Water 104, Clear, No Foam, Please

November 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Posted in Spa Chemistry | Leave a comment
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Yikes! You turn your spa jets on, and suddenly your spa becomes a giant foam machine–or a latte gone wild.  First, you scream at the kids asking who dumped soap into the spa.  But you don’t have any kids and your spa doesn’t smell soapy.

Spa water should be clear and without foam when the jets run.1) Now ask yourself, how long ago did I drain my spa?  Why?  High Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) will cause foam.  If your TDS reading (which you can have tested at your local spa shop) is over 1500 ppm, it’s time to dump the water, clean your spa, and start anew again. 

2) Have you cleaned or replaced your spa’s filter in recent memory?  If you draw a blank on this question, go directly to your spa’s filter, check it out and if it is anything but lilly white, it’s time to clean it.  You can hose it off, but I recommend purchasing a filter cleaning solution from your local spa dealer, like Leisure Time Filter Clean.  

Also if your filter has been servicing your spa for over 18 months, it may be time to replace it.

3)  Calcium hardness is another cause of foam in your spa.  If the calcium hardness is less than 200 ppm, bring it up with a calcium increase product, like Leisure Time’s Calcium Increase. 

4)  Have you diligently shocked your spa’s water?  If not, the foam can easily be reduced with a good shock treatment using a non-chlorine shock, which you can find at your spa dealer.  Shock your water, at the very least, once a week.

5)  If you are missing a container of dish soap–well, it’s time to deal with the gremilins gone wild.

Blue, Green, Yellow, Brown–All The Pretty Spa Water Colors

August 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Posted in Hot Tub Chemistry, Spa Chemistry | 2 Comments
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All the pretty colors.  Great when in a rainbow.  Bad when in your spa.  Spa water should be crystal clear. So when your spa water is yellow, what does that mean?

 Here’s a quick synopsis of what these colors mean:

Cloudy Green

Dude, you got  algae in the water. 

Treatment: Shock your water with chlorine.

See-Through Green or Emerald Green

Acidic Water.  The metals in your heating elements are being stripped. The average cost for a replacement heating element–$200-$250 big green dollars (includes labor).

j0438606

Treatment: Try a product like Metal Gon by Leisure Time–then balance your chemistry. 

Total Alalinity  80-120, pH 7.2-7.6, .  If this fails, drain and start all over.

Yellowish

 Indicates low total alkalinity and low pH.  It’s also  the precursor to damaging the spa’s heating element. 

Treatment: Balance your  total alkalinity and pH.  Also check your calcium hardness — should be over 250 ppm.  

Treat with calcium increaser.

Blue

Blue rarely happens in above ground spas.  But in-ground gunite spas– with gas-fired heaters–can experience bluish/turquoise water, as well as the same color stains on the plaster. 

Treatment:  Get the total alkalinity pH,   and calcium hardness balanced.  Also check  total dissolved solids (TDS) –not over 1500 ppm–  because that can also begin striping your heater.

 

Brown

Rare, but happens.  Usually indicates iron in the water. 

Treatment:  Metal Gon should cure it.  If it continues, drain, refill and add a bottle of Metal Gon when you refill.

Cloudy Spa Water Is Like a Cloudy Day-Depressing

May 27, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Posted in Hot Tub Chemistry, Spa Chemistry | Leave a comment
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Cartridge filters require regular maintenance

Cartridge filters require regular maintenance

Stan from Philadelphia asks:  No matter what I do, my spa water is cloudy most of the time, even after I have added bromine to it. I’m getting depressed with my spa. What am I missing?

Cloudy water means turbid water—opaque or murky.  You spa’s water should be clear and glistening.

So I’m assuming that your bromine reading is 2 to 3 ppms.  If it’s below that, double the shock and bring the bromine reading up to 2-3 ppms.  Inadequate disinfection is a common cloudy water cause.

However, I’d bet that you haven’t taken a peek at your cartridge filter for a while.  I’m not psychic, but after near 40-years of hearing “My water’s cloudy no matter what! You need to fix my water now,” I’m betting on your filter’s health.

What does that mean?  The filter strains your spa’s water.  It traps organic wastes like your hair, skin, and other yucky body stuff.  If it isn’t regularly cleaned the filter becomes your water’s most likely pollutant. 

If your filter harbors a grey or brown tinge, soak that disgusting thing in a cartridge filter cleaner (a product you can find at your pool and spa store designed specifically to deep clean polyester filters) to remove the debris that is entrapped in the filter’s fibers.

Good filter maintenance requires at least a monthly soak in a cartridge filter cleaner.  Rinsing your filter with a hose is okay, but not sufficient.

Your filter could also be worn out.  Most filters last about two years with regular caretaking.  So, if your filter’s fibers are the first thing you notice, it’s time for a new filter.

Now, if your filter maintenance rates an A+, then you need to check your TDS (total dissolved solids).  1500-ppms means drain the tub.  High TDS will not allow your bromine to properly disinfect.  Most hot tubs require frequent draining.  It depends on the size of the tub and how often it is used. 

If you have crossed off the funky filter and high TDS, then be sure to check the standards:  total alkalinity and pH.  See TOTAL DISSOLVED SOLIDS AND YOUR UNRULY TEENAGE MOMENTS: TOTAL ALKALINITY & pH posted below.

Also be mindful of regular shocking. 

If your spa is new to your household, you are probably using it more than you will next year.  This means that your water is under more stress and requires above average attention.

Scale Build-Up On Pool Tiles–A Case of Mini-Stalagmites & Elbow Grease

March 20, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Posted in Pool Chemistry | Leave a comment
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Dateline Brian.   Please, help! I’ve tried everything to remove hard water build-up from the tile around my pool. I’ve had no luck, and I’m at a loss.  Thought you might have an answer for me.

Well Brian, the Pool and Spa Master does have an answer–actually several answers.  Sadly, they all involve the age old cure for most issues—elbow grease.

The reason for the scale build-up is either high TDS (over 3000 ppm) or your chemistry  (our friends, total alkalinity and pH)  has been off the mark for a while. 

First get your TDS tested.  If your TDS is high, you might have to consider draining your pool. You can also do a half-drain and refill.   Remember: If mini-stalagmites are building up on your tile, your plumbing is likely seeing the same evolution. You must also get that total alkalinity and pH balanced. 

Scale Build-Up On Your Pool's Tiles Can Also Develop Within Your Pool's Plumbing

Scale Build-Up On Your Pool's Tiles Can Also Develop Within Your Pool's Plumbing

Once this is done, get  a pumice stone, and a product from your pool store called, Bio-Dex 300 Tile Cleaner.  Once at your pool, grease up your elbow, offer your buddies some free beverages, and provide them with the same grease for their elbows.  Engage those now-greasy elbows and begin scrubbing the tile crud in 2-foot sections. 

Do you use liquid chlorine?  This can also contribute to scale build-up on your pool tiles.  Why?  Just one-gallon of chlorine contains a whole bunch of salt, which will add to your TDS issues.

Now let me slip in this purely self-promoting note:  My chlorine-free pool sanitization system found at www.riptidealchemy.com, will alleviate the chlorine business and also keep the salt out of your water and make your swimming experience much healthier.

E-mail me back if you need additional information.

Spa’s Sludgy Green Water and Halitosis Is Bad for Spa Tech’s Job.

March 7, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Posted in Hot Tub Chemistry, Spa Chemistry | Leave a comment
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In the spirit of keeping our economy going, we’re going to blog a near-live time problem.  Here’s today’s email from a Midwestern spa tech.  Her job is on the line.  Can the Pool and Spa Master help her keep her job?  We’ll see. 

“I stumbled on your website trying to find a solution to an icky mess of a problem I’m having with a spa at my current job.  I say current because I am afraid if I don’t figure this out it may not continue to be my place of employment!  I work at a shop that sells spas and what not, chemicals, blah, blah…  SO I believe I may have caused the pH to go wacky or something on a couple of different occasions.  I used to think there was no way I could have caused these problems.  I had been listening carefully to what I had been taught about chemicals, following directions on the bottles and so forth.  But there have been a couple of occasions where it seems that by my trying to adjust the balance, the chemistry has gone nuts.  The water stinks like halitosis, has a green sludgy look and gets a bit foamy as well.

This Hot Tub Water Is An Ewwwww

This Hot Tub Water Is An Ewwwww

  This has occurred after adjusting the pH, waiting a bit and adding sanitizer.  It seems at first like it will be okay and then it just…turns.  Like it’s rotting or something.  After about a day, I added some shock.  Didn’t help.  In fact, it just caused the sanitizer level to read off the charts, the water to get greener and stink worse!  Man, I don’t want to lose my job.  No one else seems to know what exactly I could have done to cause this problem and how to fix it.  Can we fix it without having to dump it out?  This would be the 4th time we’ve had to empty and refill a tub! (in 4 months)  Awful, I know.  Please help me!  I need a paycheck!”

 

Clearly, the Pool and Spa Master needs more information, so here’s my reply to our frazzled spa tech:

“A few questions first,

1) What is the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids)?
2) What is the Total Alkalinity reading?
3) What is the Calcium Hardness reading?
4) What is the chemistry of the fill water and the makeup water (from the spigot)?
5) What is the source of that water?
6) What kind of disinfectant are you using in the spa?

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Our spa tech got back to me, and noted that the tub was drained when she got back to work. 

However, let’s discuss the reasons why I asked some of the questions.

 

TOTAL DISSOLVED SOLIDS AND YOUR UNRULY TEENAGE MOMENTS: TOTAL ALKALINITY & pH

 If you’re a pool or spa dude, there’s nothing sexier than asking, “What’s your spa’s TDS?”  It’ll rope ‘em in every time. I mean, talk about an ice-breaker!  (How do you think I met my wife?)

BTW, TDS is leftover minerals from your spa’s evaporation process.  Remember distilling water in high school chemistry?  Your local water will have a natural TDS to begin with.  As your use your spa, not only are hard bits and pieces left behind, but the tub is distilling as well—AKA TDS.

Now take an 8-ounce water sample to your local pool and spa shop, and ask them to test it for you.

High Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)—which is any reading over 1500 ppm–will interfere with your sanitizer’s ability to perform as designed.  If your spa’s water reads over 1500 ppm, dump the chump.  Trust me; it’s your only alternative.

 “But the guy at the spa shop said my water was only 800 ppm, and my spa’s water still looks and smells like a rank pond.”

So, cross off TDS as a contributor, and move on to my next question “What is your total alkalinity reading?” 

Why?  If your total alkalinity is unbalanced (not within 80-120 ppm) it’s likely that your pH is off the scale and not under control.  This scenario, again, affects your sanitizer’s ability to perform.  Sanitizers work best in a perfect world.

A pH fluctuation by 2/10 of a ppm can make your disinfectant 70-80% less effective. 

Remember those unruly teenager moments?  Just think of your spa’s unruly total alkalinity and pH as a teenager that needs measured control.  Always, always, always balance your total alkalinity FIRST (between 80-120 ppm).  Once your total alkalinity is perfect you will then balance the pH (between 7.2 to 7.6 ppm). 

 Yes, like teenage moments, you may have to use a LITTLE bit of sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate and sodium bisulfate to get your total alkalinity and pH balanced, but it is the first step to preventing all the calamities that our friend with her job-at-risk experienced.

…To be continued.

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