The swimming pool industry has been struggling for the last year and those struggles often affect the pool owner in several ways. Due to Covid-19 restrictions many of the manufacturers and suppliers of pool and spa products are significantly behind the market demand. Homeowners have been using their pools and spas more because they have been staying home more, pools are becoming the primary source of outdoor recreation. Last summer, Hurricane Laura caused a massive fire at the Biolab manufacturing plant in Lake Charles, LA. That plant produced approximately 40% of the United States chlorine tablet (Trichlor) usage annually. Trichlor has been the most commonly used form of chlorine to disinfect backyard pools. The resulting shortage of chlorine tabs has prices to skyrocket, 80 to 100% increase in price for homeowners. The biolab plant is not expected to be back online for another year possibly. The following items are things pool owners can do to minimize the increase in disinfectant cost and the shortage of maintenance equipment.
1. Maintain Good Water Balance.
That means keep your pH levels between 7.2 – 7.8, preferable 7.2 – 7.6. As pH rises above 7.5, the disinfecting power of your chlorine decreases. For every part per million (ppm) of chlorine you need to add, you want to get the maximum benefit out of that chlorine molecule. Secondly, maintain your Total Alkalinity between 80-120 ppm. By maintaining a good range on your alkalinity, you are helping your pH stay in a better range. Acceptable range for total alkalinity is 60-150 ppm, but the tighter the range you can maintain, the less overall disinfect will be needed and the better quality water for the bathers. Total Hardness ideally needs to be between 200-400 ppm. In soft water markets, you can add calcium chloride to keep that hardness levels adequate. In hard water markets, the problem is much more difficult. Getting scale forming minerals out of water is more costly. If the city water is above 400 ppm, it becomes more important to add scale inhibitors such as Crystal Clarity’s Non-Phos Stain and Scale Control. Scale build up on the pool tile /water line is unsightly, but the real problem is what you don’t see, mineral build up on the filtration media, which can cause excessive backwashing or filter cleanings, slower flowrates and even hurt the filters ability to remove debris from the water. Running the pump cost money, so optimizing the efficiency of the system saves both energy cost and chemical cost.
2. Control Nutrient Load that Feeds Algae Growth.
Phosphorous and Nitrogen compounds are key nutrients that algae, which is an aquatic plant, like all plants need in order to thrive and reproduce. Everything from toxic algae blooms, to red tide stems from excess nutrients in water. Controlling phosphate (technically orthophosphates) is generally considered “the growth limiting nutrient” because nitrogen is available in too many forms to remediate in your pool. Products are available on the market to bind up the phosphates causing them to become insoluble which creates clouding, as though you poured milk into your pool. While it is temporarily unsightly and you would not want to use the pool during a treatment, it is a highly effective way to filter out the phosphates from your pool so the algae cannot use them to grow. Super strong products like Crystal Clarity’s Phosphate Remover 10000 is one of the most economical ways to remove the Phosphates. Lower algae growth can mean lower demand for disinfectant. If you want to help your filter remove the clouding and clear up the pool faster, Crystal Clarity’s Chitosan Clarifier is an All Natural clarifier that works to trap the phosphate complexed material faster. Or you can add Crystal Clarity’s Self-Clarifying Phosphate Remover which can remove the phosphates and add clarity all in one.
3. Reduce Oils and Lotions.
Most parents coat their children and themselves with lots of sunscreens to protect their skin from UV radiation, as they should. However, those oils and lotions bind with the chlorine in the pool, limiting its disinfecting power. Bathing prior to pool use will reduce the amount of shampoos, conditioners and body lotions that get introduced into the pool water, leaving the remaining oil load just from the sunscreens. Overall, that can help, but realizing the practicality of that is difficult to maintain, using the Chitosan Clarifier in your chlorinated pool water can trap and allow your filter system to remove those excess oils & lotions that can cause higher chlorine consumption. Not to mention, it helps keep the tile and water line looking better and the clarity of the water is more appealing to use.
4. Oxidize the Water with Non-Chlorine Oxidizer.
The most common type of non-chlorine shock oxidizer used is potassium peroxymonosulfate or Monopersulfate for short. Oxidizing burns off organic matter that may be bound to your chlorine molecule, inhibiting its performance. Ozone systems are also highly effective methods of oxidizing. Keeping your chlorine free so it can properly disinfect saves money and eliminates burning and itching eyes that are caused by combined chlorine or chloramines.
5. Monitor, and if necessary, Reduce the Cyanuric Acid (CYA) Levels in Your Pool.
If a pool has been using Trichlor chlorine tablets for years and haven’t drained or done long backwash cycles, then it is highly likely that your CYA levels are greater than 100 ppm. Many commercial pools are required to drain and refill their pools if they exceed 100 ppm levels, but backyard pools don’t have health inspectors coming to their house to see if their water quality is out of range. CDC sponsored research shows that, at 100 ppm of CYA, chlorine can only get an 84% reduction of Crypto using 20 ppm Cl (normal is 1-5 ppm) in 6 DAYS! Target removal rate should be in excess of 3 log (99.9%)
Crystal Clarity has three products that help reduce / control CYA levels in swimming pools:
The products work by breaking down or complexing the CYA, which enables reduction over time. The complexes cause cloudiness similar to phosphate removal, so adding the Chitosan Clarifier helps or the Self-Clarifying version and the Weekly Control products include the Chitosan Clarifier. The following graph shows a field trial at a backyard pool in Phoenix Arizona. The pool used a bucket of trichlor tablets in 2019 and saw CYA rise from 30 ppm to 160 ppm over the year. The total test cycle was over a half year, but further research determined the first several months were not as effective because the water was less than 60 degrees F.
Additional testing in Arizona showed with water temp above 60 deg F, the results shown in the above graph were over 52 days. Controlling CYA can minimize the effects high CYA has on your chlorine disinfecting power, as the CDC sponsored research shows.
6. Alternate types of disinfection.
Chlorine generators or sometimes called “salt pools’ ‘ use Sodium Chloride in the water along with an electrolysis unit “generator” separates the Sodium from the Chloride and creates Chlorine. The Chlorine disinfects then recombines with the sodium. The process repeats if the system is functioning properly and within manufacturer’s guidelines. This is an attractive way to disinfect, but it does have some things the pool owner needs to be aware of. First, the plates inside the generator will build up with scale formation thus reducing effectiveness. Like mentioned in the first point, using scale inhibitors can prevent/minimize this issue. Backwashing or draining a “salt pool” depending on local code, may not be allowed except into the city sewer because of high salt content. Check with your local regulations before installing any new system. Metal Ionizers use copper or silver metal ions to control algae and disinfect the water, with or without supplement. There is numerous types of systems some requiring electricity and other not. Talk with your pool professional prior to starting a program. Ozone or Ultraviolet systems are highly efficacious technologies; however, they only disinfect while the system is running, thus may require a supplemental disinfectant that will continue to disinfect even when the pool equipment is not running. Liquid Chlorine (Sodium Hypochlorite or ‘bleach’) one of the types of chlorine that has been in use the longest. Unlike the bleach that you buy at the grocery store for cleaning your laundry (3%), pool liquid chlorine is 10-12.5% typically. Sodium hypochlorite will burn off in sunlight, so a low dose of CYA (30 ppm or less) will help extend life in the pool water or using a feeder that adds the liquid chlorine to the pool over the week can help ensure your pool has proper disinfection when needed.
There are other technologies in the market, this article is not inclusive of all technologies, just the most common ones. Please always reach out to industry professionals if you have questions or concerns. Hope you have a fun, happy and safe swim season!
Frank Kneib, is a pool industry consultant with over 25 years experience. His companies manufacture the Crystal Clarity line of pool products, the Hidroklear line of products for the Professional Pool companies (Service, builders & commercial facilities). They also manufacture chemicals for treating stormwater in the construction, mining and oil & gas industries. Frank can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org