Every year, and often before we realize it’s happening, there’s a sudden chill in the air just before the weather goes from summer to bummer. For most pool owners, it’s also a time for closing their pool: which mean heavy sighs, phone calls to friends who owe a favor, and lugging equipment inside. But if you don’t live in a place that gets blanketed by snow or a place that is basically a tropical paradise, you’re actually at an advantage this winter—with no need to move that heavy equipment indoors. I’ll explain when you can get away without closing your pool, how to save money by adjusting how long your run your pool pump, the importance of covering your pool, how to maintain the perfect chemical balance, and how to make the most of this time. Trust me, it’s a walk in the breezy park from here on out.
Too Warm for Closing, Too Cool for Swimming
Who needs to be on a conventional path, anyway? If you’re opting not to close your pool down, but you aren’t just continuing the maintenance routine required during the swim season, then you have special circumstances that allow you to have the best of both worlds. It means your climate both: (A) never reaches anywhere close to freezing during the winter, and (B) gets too cool for swimming during the winter.
If your climate does reach freezing, you should absolutely be preparing your pool for those cold temperatures, including blowing out your pool lines and adding winterizing chemicals to your pool water. If your climate is warm enough to keep swimming as usual, you’ll want to continue to run your pump for the perfect time every day, usually around eight hours, and continue with your weekly doses of pool shock and other checkups.
But if you’re in this comfortable middle zone where your climate is too warm for closing, too cool for swimming, you can take another course entirely. The steps below will help you both save money and save yourself a hassle—and frankly, would be my ideal way to manage a pool during the winter anyway. This DIY maintenance path is the least extreme option, and hardly requires any heavy lifting. Just don’t brag about it to your friends calling from the Midwest, deal?
Since we’re keeping your life easy, here’s a friendly reminder that as of 2021, the switch to variable-speed pumps will virtually be federal law. Thankfully, the Blue Torrent 2 HP Variable-Speed Pump is ultra-powerful, comes with a lifetime warranty, eligible for rebates, and pays itself off in under a year by energy saved. As customer Bill Britton says, “Runs great. Super quiet.”
The Saving Secret Is in the Pump
Your pump isn’t just the heart of your circulation system—it’s also the heart of what distinguishes this maintenance style from all the rest. Pool owners who live in cold climates usually have a schedule where their pump is running during the swim season and off for the winter. Owners who live in tropical, warm climates adhere to a schedule where their pump is running all year long—swim season for them isn’t just a season, since they’re the lucky ones. But people who live in climates that are too cool for swimming but never reach anywhere near freezing have another option: running the pump about half the regular time.
This means that if you typically run your pump for about eight hours during the swim season—that’s the usual number, though it might vary based on your pool specifications, the specifications of your equipment, or if you have a variable-speed pump—then you would run your pump just four hours a day.
Why Your Pump Time Should Differ from Swim Season
So why, if the pool is open and running, is it okay to only turn your pump on for half the usual time? Why not do it during the swim season, too, and save money? Well, the answer to that one is simple—and it has to do, in part, with you. When swimmers enter a pool, they bring organic and inorganic matter along with them: sunscreen, hair products, and even the natural oils of the body enter the pool, which then require a certain amount of sanitizing chemicals and filtration to tackle—both of which are powered by your pump. If nobody is swimming in your pool, there’s less of a mess for your pump to manage.
Another part of the answer has to do with algae, which only grows in warm places of about sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit and above. If your temperatures are consistently under that temperature, your pool will need less sanitizer, pool shock, and algaecide to circulate. Although if you do get a bloom, you’ll need to kill it with shock and run your pump for eight hours to make sure it’s properly circulated. As you might already know if you have a consistent algae problem, pool shock is doubled or tripled when it’s tackling that mean green problem. That’s a high volume of chemicals, and around four hours of circulation probably isn’t going to cut it.
The Benefits of Running Your Pump Less During the Off-Season
If you’re the type who tracks your energy bills, I might not need to tell you this—after all, it’s no secret that running your pump the proper amount of time every day can spike your monthly cost of energy like almost nothing else. It’s one of the reasons why I always recommend pool owners get variable-speed pumps, which do a lot to reduce operational costs.
Running your pump for half the time under the right conditions during the off-season will keep your pool just as clean as it does during the summer. And it’s going to cost you half as much. Plus, if you have a surprisingly loud pump, that’s hours more of silence. (And by the way, you should probably figure out why your pump is so loud—since that could be a sign that your pump is costing you more than is necessary.)
A Covered Pool is a Happy Pool
You might be thinking, “Wait a minute. I thought I wasn’t going to close my pool!” And that’s totally valid—but pool closing is more than just using a pool cover. It also involves shutting down your equipment, possibly draining your pool, and storing away a few of the parts for the winter. We’re not doing any of that here. But a winter cover? It’ll make your life a lot easier.
When debris like leaves or twigs fall onto your pool, your sanitizer and other chemicals attack it in attempt to neutralize it—but that trying is in vain, since as wonderful as chlorine is, it’s not going to dissolve an entire leaf. If your pool is covered in debris, you’re going to have to keep using a skimmer on a net and cleaning out your skimmer baskets on a daily basis—and running your pump half the time is not going to be enough. To minimize clean up and maintenance, you should cover your pool. And in order to minimize any chance of accidents or creatures falling into your pool (which will also wipe out your sanitizer on top of being tragic), you’d better make it a pool safety cover.
Of course, throwing a winter cover on your pool without anything to keep it dry is just as bad as leaving it uncovered. A cover keeps out rainwater and debris, but it can only take so much weight. Eventually, it’ll collapse and bring all that gunky water right into your clean pool. Sound like a nightmare, right? Well, it can easily be avoided with a pool cover pump like the BLACK+DECKER 800 GPH Automatic Pool Pump. To minimize your time switching it on and off, I recommend getting an automatic model over a manual model. There are better things to do this winter, like drinking hot toddies in front of the fireplace. Winter isn’t all bad!
If you are going to have a manual cover pump, you’d better make sure it works fast—so you’re never waiting around for it to finish the job. The powerful and heavy-duty Brute Force 1250 Pool Cover Pump is my top recommendation. According to customer Eric Zimmerer, “Love it! Saves so much time.”
Keep Up That Chemical Balance
When pool owners typically close their pool, they usually achieve the perfect pool chemical balance for closing, add a few winterizing chemicals, and pray to whatever higher power they believe in that it sticks. Since you’re not taking down or drying out your circulation system, you have a heightened ability to keep your water in a good, healthy place—and you don’t have to expect a major clean up or needing to prime your pump on pool opening day, since you’ll be doing a soft opening anyway.
So what is the ideal chemical balance for maintaining your pool off-season? It’s exactly the same as it is during the swim season. You’ll want to make sure your sanitizer is 1-3 parts per million (ppm), alkalinity is 80-120 ppm, pH sits between 7.2 and 7.6, and calcium hardness is 150-400 ppm. Since you’re not dealing with swimmers, you can add shock to your pool every other week, instead of on a weekly basis. If your pool is covered all winter long, you can probably reduce the frequency of adding pool shock even further. Shocking, right?
Skip the Winterizing Chemicals... Kind Of
Pool owners in colder climates can expect to reach for about three different extra chemicals when they close their pool: pool antifreeze, pool enzymes, and algaecide. You can probably already guess that you can cross antifreeze off your list of needs, and pool enzymes usually attack organic matter, which you’ll have less of this winter thanks to a shortage of swimming—not to call out your organic matter or anything.
Algaecide, however, you’re going to want to have all year round. Since your temperatures might reach higher than 65 degrees, your pool will be especially susceptible to this pesky invader. Make sure you’re adding a dose of algaecide to your pool continuously this winter. Although it’s pretty terrible at actually getting rid of algae—a powerful pool shock does the job much, much better—it’s great at preventing tiny, microscopic algae from growing into blooms. Prevention, as always, is key.
Another chemical that you don’t want to overlook this winter is a metal sequestrant, especially if your water comes from a water source high in metals, like a well. If you’ve already experienced metal stains, be on guard for them this winter—unlike algae, metal stains aren’t stifled by cooler temperatures.
It’s Not Just Your Pool That Needs Cleaning
You might not be breaking down your equipment for the winter, but you’re not going to be using your yard in quite the same manner as you were during the summer—that’s just how it is. Take this time to clean up any pool furniture, pool toys, and any other materials that would be better served in storage for the moment. When the first big storm of the winter comes, you’ll be glad you did.
Since algae is one thing you might be fighting in warmer temperatures this winter, I recommend tried and true shock like the Super Premium Sanitizing and Fast-Acting Pool Shock. Not only does it work fast in your water, but its conveniently packaged in one-pound bags, so you never have to worry about measuring yours out again.
Any Maintenance on Your List?
Here’s another part of your privileges, thanks to a climate with mild winters. Although many pool owners in places where it gets freezing during the winter opt for maintenance in early fall—or even during the swim season—you have the ultimate flexibility. And since it’s better for your pool that it’s never drained during hot, sunny days, you’ll be able to cross a task off your list and keep your pool healthy, too. Just make sure that you know all about the pool pop up and how to prevent it when you drain your inground pool.
The swim season is over, but there’s no need for mourning—unlike other pool owners, you’re experiencing the easiest transition possible, and still saving yourself a chunk of cash. And although it might be too cold for a swim this winter, it’s almost as good as a swim to know your pool isn’t festering under the surface of that winter cover. And yes, you’ll need to check up on it every so often, but you’ll hit your flow sooner than you can say “butterfly stroke.” In the meantime, enjoy.