Swimming Pool Supplies Buying Guide
Swimming Pool Supplies Buying Guide
Using the right swimming pool products and supplies will help you to maintain a clean, healthy and comfortable swimming environment. However, with thousands of swimming pool supplies now available, knowing how to choose the right ones may seem like a daunting task.
Pool Supplies can be broken down into four main groups, Pool Chemicals, Pool Accessories, Pool Covers and Pool Equipment. We hope that by familiarizing yourself with the various types of pool products you will find it easier to choose the right chemicals, accessories, covers and equipment to fit your pool.
Swimming pool chemicals are some of the most important supplies for both above ground and in-ground swimming pools. Proper swimming pool maintenance requires the use of several different chemicals which can be purchased individually or in swimming pool chemical kits. Pool chemical kits are available in 3 types; Startup Kits, Season Supply and Closing Kits. Many pool owners find pool chemical kits to be more convenient, as they are pre-measured for specific pool sizes, and discounted in price.
When shopping for pool chemicals, there are certain chemicals that must be on your list if you are going to maintain clean, crystal-clear pool water. Whether purchasing your seasonal chemicals separately or in a chemical pack, some of the most important products to look for include sanitizers, shocking chemicals, algaecides and balancing chemicals.
Swimming pool sanitizers include chlorine and bromine tablets, which kill bacteria and other contaminants for a healthier and cleaner swimming pool. From the day the pool is opened, you need to maintain a consistent and constant level of sanitizer in the pool, of at least 1 ppm. This is done by using tablets in a chemical feeder or chlorine floater. Bromine has advantages, and is preferred for spas, hot tubs and covered or indoor pools, but cannot be stabilized with cyanuric acid, or protected from the sun like chlorine. Chlorine tablets are available in 3 sizes; 1” tab, 3” tabs and sticks, in 10, 25, and 50 lb buckets. Most pools use about two (2) of the 3-inch chlorine tablets per week, per 10,000 gallons of pool water.
Pool Shock comes in two forms; chlorine pool shock and chlorine-free pool shock. The granular powder is used to oxidize the water and burn off impurities, remove combined chlorine molecules, and kill bacteria and algae. Use for pool openings and closing, and every 2-4 weeks during the season, to be sure the water is sanitary. Used to kill algae, bleach plaster stains, or raise low chlorine levels quickly. Chlorine pool shock is available in 3 types; as a Calcium, Lithium or Sodium based powder, in various strengths, listed as % of Available Chlorine. Pool shock is sold in 1 lb. bags, or sold loose in 25 and 50 lb. buckets.
Algaecides are swimming pool chemicals formulated to prevent algae growth. Pool Algaecides are available in 3 types; Quats, Polymers and Copper algaecides, sold in different strengths or formulations. There is a fourth group of pool algaecides made with sodium bromide, often called chlorine accelerators, and are the only type used together with pool shock. Pool Algaecides control algae by preventing reproduction, damaging protective outer layers or penetrating the cell nucleus. They are a good supplement or back-up, against low chlorine or pump and filter problems. For established algae blooms, pool shock is used to kill algae; followed by a pool algaecide treatment, after the chlorine level drops below 5 ppm. Algaecides deplete after a few days or weeks, depending on the type; follow bottle instructions for the recommended Initial Treatment and Maintenance Doses.
While it is necessary to use pool chlorine to kill algae, bacteria and other contaminants, it's also important to maintain balanced water chemistry. For chlorine potency, stain prevention, surface protection and swimmer comfort, test and balance your pH (7.2-7.8), Total Alkalinity (80-120 ppm) and Calcium Hardness (180-220 ppm) on a regular basis. Water balance adjustment chemicals include pH increaser and pH reducer, alkalinity increaser and calcium hardness increaser. These are used to correct and maintain water balance, very important for clean, clear and safe pool water.
Pool clarifiers are a liquid pool chemical that acts as a coagulant for suspended contaminants, algae, scale or dirt. The positively charged polymer is attracted to almost anything that is not water, and soon the particle becomes large enough for your pool filter to remove. Use pool clarifiers when opening the pool to help your filter perform spring clean-up faster. Also useful in-season, to assist sand or cartridge filters that are undersized or underperforming, and to help correct cloudy water conditions from heavy use, rain or hot weather.
Pool Stain Chemicals
Pool stains are often caused by poor water balance, in the presence of metals or minerals. To protect against these kinds of stains, use a sequestering agent like Stain Away to keep metals and minerals locked-up in solution, so they can’t come out of solution and cloud the pool, or worse, stain the pool surfaces. Other pool stains are caused by organic materials, and rust stains can occur from metal items brought into the pool. For existing stains on pool plaster, plastic steps and ladders, or in vinyl pools, we have many pool stain remover chemicals.
Pool Filter Media
Pool Filter Media is what’s inside of the filter tank, the material that traps the dirt. Over time it loses the ability to catch small particles and will need replacement.
- Sand Filters are 2/3 full of pool filter sand, which lasts about 5 years on average. There are filter sand alternatives like ZeoSand and FilterBalls.
- Cartridge pool filters use replacement filter cartridges made from a woven and pleated polyester, which should be replaced every few years, or after 12-15 cleanings.
- D.E. pool filters use fabric coated DE Grids, which last about 10 years on average, and are coated with DE powder, or DicaPerl perlite, replaced after every backwash.
Filter Media can be rejuvenated with a deep cleansing, using a pool filter cleaner to remove oils and scale deposits. Choose the pool filter cleaner that is made for your filter type, then soak and rinse clean to improve flow and increase usable filter surface area.
Pool Cleaning Tools
To keep your pool looking it’s best, you’ll have to do some type of regular cleaning, and keep a small inventory of pool cleaning tools. Even if you have an automatic pool cleaner, you may need a pool vacuum hose and vacuum head on occasion, and you’ll certainly need a skimmer net to clean the surface and a pool brush to brush the pool walls and floor. For heavy leaf debris, tools like leaf rakes, leaf gulpers and in-line leaf strainers are helpful. To connect these tools you’ll need a good telescopic pool pole. Cleaning tools like nets, hoses and brushes tend to last about 5 years before they become worn out.
Sealants & Lubricants
The most common lubricant for pool o-rings is a Teflon-based (PTFE) clear pool lube. Used on pump lid and filter lid o-rings, valves, unions or anywhere there is a rubber seal or gasket. Protects the rubber and helps create an air-tight seal. In addition to pool lube, you may also need sealants like EZ Patch Silicone Rubber for various repairs or self-leveling Expansion Joint caulking for the edge of the pool. For threaded plugs, fittings and pressure gauges, wrap Teflon tape around the threads before installing.
Winter Pool Supplies
If you live in the snowbelt, we have a separate category of products known as winter pool closing accessories. Winter pool chemicals, winter plugs and antifreeze, and winter covers and cover accessories. Most winter pool products tend to last about 5 years on average, before needing replacement, although pool safety covers will last up to 15 years. Closing your pool properly requires the proper winterization supplies and a sturdy pool cover, to avoid staining or damage to your pool during the off-season.
Other Pool Accessory Items
There are other products that straddle the line between Equipment and Accessories. Pool products like underwater pool lights, pool slides, pool fountains, pool alarms and pool fencing, steps and ladders, toys and floats and replacement pool liners. And of course, you need to have a pool thermometer, and a good pool water test kit.
Winter Pool Covers
Winter pool covers are made from strong woven PE tapes, coated in winter resistant laminar for resistance against ice, snow, branches and small animals. For above ground pools, round and oval covers are available in 20 sizes to fit most pools. Order by ‘Pool Size’ or inside dimensions of your pool for a perfect overlap. Inground pool covers are rectangle shaped, order by ‘Pool Size’, or the longest length and widest width, for a perfect size and fit. There are many winter pool cover accessories, like water tubes and Aqua Bloks for holding down inground pool covers, and air pillows and cover clips for installing an above ground pool cover. Solid pool covers will collect rain water and snow melt; remove regularly with a pool cover pump. Keeping your cover mostly dry will prevent stress on the cover, and prevent leaks from contaminating your pool water underneath a winter pool cover. For pools surrounded by large deciduous trees, Leaf Catchers are a lightweight mesh net that you place on top of your pool cover. After the leaves have fallen, remove them all in one easy motion, and drag them off to another area.
Safety Pool Covers
For inground pools, a safety pool cover represents a large upgrade to a floating winter cover. The benefits to safety pool covers are numerous beyond the obvious safety benefits; they look great, require no maintenance, and last for 10-15 years. They allow rain water and snow melt to pass through the fine mesh, no need for a cover pump. Prices for rectangle safety covers, called stock covers, begin at under $500, but the cost for a larger custom safety covers can reach several thousand dollars. Safety covers are available in several grades of mesh fabric, and also available in solid material, with or without center drain panels. Safety covers are held in place by straps and compression springs, connected to small brass anchors that sit flush into holes drilled into a concrete or wood deck.
Solar Pool Covers
Solar covers reduce evaporative water loss by 95%, saving water, and solar pool covers can raise water temperature up to 15° F, by transferring heat from the sun into the water, and stopping most heat loss on the surface. Reduces reliance on gas or electric pool heaters, and saves energy. Solar pool covers are available in round and oval sizes for above ground and as rectangles for in-ground pools. Also available are solar cover reels for easy, one-person cover removal and safe storage while off of the pool.
Truly the heart of the pool circulation system, pool pumps pull water from the pool and push the water through your pool filter. The moving water distributes pool chemicals to all parts of the pool, to prevent dead spots or stagnant areas. When the pool pump is not working, filters, heaters, cleaners and chlorinators won’t work, and as such, pump problems need to be quickly discovered and solved. Pool Pumps are available in 3 types; as single speed, dual speed or variable speed pumps. Inground pool pumps are self-priming, but above ground pumps are designed to be installed below the water level. The average pump motor lasts for about 10 years, at which time the motor and seal can be replaced, or you can replace the entire pump. Replacement pool pumps need not be the same make and model, but should produce similar flow rates, to match the ‘design flow rate’ of your pool filter. Pool pumps are designed for ‘continuous duty’, however using a pool timer will save energy and reduce wear and tear on pool equipment.
Pool filters trap contaminants and organics, for clean and clear pool water. When a pool filter is not operating properly, or is not run long enough each day, water quality quickly suffers. Filter run time, the size of the filter and the condition of the filter media (sand, carts, grids), determines the filter effectiveness. Old and undersized filters need frequent cleanings, and require longer pump run time and more pool chemicals, to compensate for poor filtration. Pool Filters are available in 3 types; sand filters, cartridge filters or D.E. filters, which use diatomaceous earth powder. The type of filter used is much less important than the size of the filter; for best results, choose a pool filter that is over-sized, in relation to your pool size. Although D.E. filters can remove particles as small as 2 microns, an oversized sand filter is a better choice than an undersized DE filter.
Pool heaters take the chill off the water during the shoulder months, and allow you to extend your swim season beyond the hotter months of the summer. Depending on your need, pool heaters can be sized to add 10-20° F to the pool, or for attached spas or winter use, larger heaters can add 30-40° F to the water and keep the pool warm all year long. Pool Heaters are available in 3 types; gas heaters, electric heat pumps and solar heaters. Each has their own pros and cons in terms of installation cost and heating cost, and in speed of heating. Gas heaters work all year long in any condition, but are the costliest to operate. Pool heat pumps don’t work below 50° F, but operate very cheaply when air temps are warmer. Solar heaters are cheap to install and free to use, but don’t work on rainy days, or during the night.
Automatic pool cleaners vacuum and scrub pool floors and walls, a simple convenience that can save you from manually vacuuming the pool. Pool Cleaners are available in 3 types; suction, pressure and robotic. Suction cleanersare the least costly, and they attach to the pool skimmer, bringing debris into the skimmer or pump basket, and dirt into the pool filter. Pressure cleaners attach to a pool return line on above ground pools, and inground pools use a booster pump and a dedicated pipe. Pressure cleaners capture debris and dirt in their own bag, and are truly automatic. Robotic cleaners are completely independent of the filter system and have no hoses, just a floating low-voltage power cord, and they also capture debris and dirt in their onboard bag or filter. Above ground pool cleaners are designed for small pumps and flat bottom pools, and in ground pool cleaners are more powerful, to navigate deeper shapes and slopes.
Pool chlorinators are a way to introduce slow dissolving chlorine tablets to the pool water without harm to pool pipes and equipment, or pool surfaces and swimmers. Don’t put tablets into the skimmer basket, which can cause damage over time. Pool Chlorinators are available in 3 types; chlorine feeders, salt chlorine generators and chlorine floaters. Chlorine feeders are installed on the return line, either glued into the pipe, or connected off-line with hoses, and filled with tablets. Salt chlorine generators use electrolysis to create chlorine automatically, by passing slightly salty pool water through the salt cell. Chlorine floaters are filled with tablets and float in the pool, with adjustable baffles to allow water circulation.
There are many more pool supplies available beyond these above products for very specialized use or treatment. You won’t need all of these pool supplies, but at some point or another, you will need some of these pool chemicals and accessories, summer or winter covers or replacement pool equipment.