What the Color of Your Pool Water Tells You And How to Troubleshoot it

Hey there, fellow pool enthusiast! It's your friendly pool maintenance buddy here, ready to dive deep into the world of pool watercolors. You know, a well-maintained pool isn't just about crystal-clear water; it's also about keeping an eye on the color of your pool water. Yep, your pool water can actually tell you a lot about its health and what might be going on beneath the surface. 

But that's not all – we're also going to explore how variable-speed pool pumps can affect the color of your pool water, the health of your pool, and even the enjoyment of swimmers. So, grab your pool net and let's wade into the colorful waters of troubleshooting pool water hues!

1. Crystal Clear Blue: The Pool Perfection

Ah, the classic blue hue we all love! Clear, vibrant blue water is what we strive for. If your pool water is crystal clear and inviting, give yourself a pat on the back - you're doing an awesome job! Keep up with regular skimming, filtration, and proper chemical balance to maintain this perfect pool paradise.

2. Cloudy or Dull Water: The Filtration Fumble

Is your pool looking more like a glass of milk than a refreshing oasis? Cloudy water is often a sign of poor filtration and circulation. This is where a variable speed pool pump can be a game-changer. Unlike single-speed pumps, variable speed pumps allow you to adjust the speed and flow rate, providing more efficient filtration. This means you can run the pump at a lower speed during quieter times and crank it up when your pool is getting lots of use. This not only improves water clarity but also saves on energy costs.

3. Green Goo: Algae Attack!

Oh no, the dreaded green pool! Green water is usually caused by an algae invasion. But did you know that a variable speed pool pump can help prevent this? By running the pump at a higher speed during the hottest part of the day, you can enhance water circulation and reduce the likelihood of algae growth. Just remember to balance this with lower speeds during off-peak times for energy efficiency.

4. Murky Brown: Dirt and Debris Dilemma

Brown or murky water can be a result of dirt, leaves, and other debris. Your variable speed pump can come to the rescue here as well. Run the pump at a higher speed while you skim and vacuum the pool. This increased flow rate will help lift debris from the pool bottom and make your cleaning efforts more effective.


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5. Cloudy Gray: Chemistry Conundrum

Gray, cloudy water might indicate improper chemical balance or high levels of minerals. With a variable speed pool pump, you can customize the filtration process to run longer at lower speeds, which can help improve water circulation and distribution of chemicals. This contributes to a more uniform chemical balance and reduces the likelihood of gray, cloudy water.

6. Cloudy Blue: Potential for Algae

If your pool water looks cloudy with a touch of blue, you might be dealing with early algae growth. Adjusting your variable speed pump to higher speeds during peak sunlight hours can help disrupt algae's ability to thrive. Combine this with regular chemical maintenance and brushing to keep those potential algae problems at bay.

7. Pink or Red Stains: Metal Mayhem

Pink or red stains on your pool surfaces can be caused by metals like iron or copper. While a variable speed pump won't directly affect metal content, proper circulation and filtration can minimize the likelihood of metals settling on surfaces. Additionally, using a metal sequestrant and considering a pre-filter for your hose water can help prevent these stains.

8. Foam Party: Detergent Dilemma

Is your pool suddenly turning into a foam party? This might be due to the presence of detergents, oils, or even certain lotions. Your variable speed pump can help here too. By running the pump at a higher speed, you'll enhance skimming and filtration, helping to remove these substances and reduce foam.

9. Black Spots: Ominous Omen

Black or dark spots on your pool surfaces could indicate the growth of black algae. While a variable speed pump won't directly eliminate black algae, proper circulation is essential for effective chemical distribution. This, combined with targeted algaecide treatment and vigorous brushing, can help you conquer those pesky black spots.

10. Milky White: Calcium Chaos

Milky white water is often caused by high calcium levels. A variable speed pump won't directly affect calcium content, but it plays a role in preventing calcium buildup. By maintaining consistent circulation and chemical distribution, you can avoid excessive mineral deposits and keep your water looking clear and inviting.

How Do Variable Speed Pumps Differ?

Variable speed pumps are the newest technology when it comes to swimming pool pumps.  Unlike the induction motors we chatted about above, VSPs have a permanent magnet motor. If you are thinking, “Hey!  Electric cars use those!”, you would be correct.  A permanent magnet motor is a type of electric motor that in addition to windings, uses a permanent magnet,

Variable speed pumps allow you to run it on varying speeds, or, different RPMs.  The lower the RPM, the less energy is consumed.  They allow you to draw only the amount of power you actually need at a given time.  If you are using the spa or vacuuming, you would use a higher speed.  

If you are just circulating the water to keep the chemicals active and accomplish your desired turnover rate, slower is better.  Not only is filtration more effective, but you actually put less strain on your plumbing and filter, extending their life span.  

Variable speed pumps come with a fan-cooled, self-contained motor.  They are also digital.  The programming and time clock are all on the pump itself.  So your intermatic timer no longer decides the time.  Some variable speed pumps even come with a relocation kit that allows you to wall mount the keypad.  VSPs are also much quieter than single speed pumps.  Even on a higher speed setting.

How Should My Variable Speed Pump Be Programed?

There is not a one answer solution to this.  Your options are endless.  I have customers that run their variable speed pumps for 24-hours a day at a very low speed.  I have customers with water features that run their pump on a higher setting when it is on. 

What I suggest to most customers is a combination on the two.  First and foremost, you want your varaibke speed pump to run when you most need your chemicals.  This is the hottest part of the day.  The chemicals only mix and work effectively when the water is moving.  

Remember, moving water is happy water.  Think of a flowing river versus a stagnant pond.  One is clear and inviting and one is murky and green.  This is because of movement or lack thereof.

I suggest running your pump on a higher setting for an hour or two. This would be somewhere in the high 2,000 to low 3,000 RPMs. This starts the day strong to make sure the pump is fully primed and this will allow a good mixture of your chemicals, your automatic pool cleaner to run around, take care of skimming any overnight debris, and get a good portion of your pool water through the filter. Then, I suggest dropping it down to a low-to-medium speed. 

This would be in the mid 1,000's to low 2,000 RPMs depending on the size of your pump relative to the size of your pool. Let it run at this speed for 8+hours. This is an incredibly energy efficient operation speed and will provide the bulk of your daily filtration and should provide at least one turnover. 

A turnover is when the amount of volume of pool water you have makes it through your filter to be cleaned. We want to aim for 1-2 turnovers per day at a minimum. We can then run a couple of hours at a medium-to-high speed in the mid-to-high 2,000 RPM range to take care of any debris that may have been blown into the pool during the day. 

After that, we can finish our daily schedule with a few hours at an ultra low speed in the low-to-mid 1,000 RPMs to finish the day out. At this point, we just need the water to trickle through. We are keeping it moving to keep the chemicals active and also keeping it what? Happy.

Turnover Rate and Flow Rate

Ideal turnover rate for a single speed pump is 6-8 hours.  Since we have a variable speed pump, we are running it slower.  Our pool size , however, has not changed.  We still need to move the same amount of water, it just takes longer.  8-12 hours is a common turnover rate here in California.   You’ll need to know the gallonage of your swimming pool for determining these.  

Turnover Rate (TR) = Gallons Divided by Flow Rate (FR) Divided by 60

Don’t know your flow rate?  

Show Me the Money!

Let’s talk about the financial advantages of having a VSP.  You may receive a rebate from your utility company if certain criteria is met such as the pump being Energy Star Certified.  If you live in a state like California, you are required, by law to install a variable speed so you would save money on fines.  

The most savings come from the operation of the pump.  Variable speed pumps pull less energy, so even if you were to run your VSP at 3,400 RPMs like your old single speed ran on, it would still use less energy!  As homeowners, you will find few opportunities that will arise where that high of an RPM is needed.

Keep in mind when upgrading to a variable speed pump, our pool size hasn’t changed.  What I mean by that is we still have to get every drop of water through the filter (known as a turnover).  If we are running our pump slower it moves less water so therefore we have to run the pump longer to move the same amount of water.

Most people balk when they see the prices of variable speed pool pumps.  They can be significantly more money than a single or a 2-speed pump.  But that is because of all the features and benefits.  Plus, I can’t think of another thing you can buy that pays you back.  That’s right.  Most people see their money returned in the form of lower electric bills in just a year or two.  On average, you will be saving approximately $70 a month on your power bill.  Maybe more in your neck of the woods.  Variable speed pumps are 90% more efficient than old school single speed.  So there is value in this investment.

Remember, my pool-loving friend, maintaining a beautiful and inviting pool is all about vigilance, regular care, and utilizing the right equipment. With the power of a variable speed pool pump in your corner, along with the knowledge of pool water colors, you're well-equipped to handle any color-related challenge that comes your way. Happy swimming and happy pool maintenance!