Game of Thrones fans, feel free to say this next part with me: Winter is Coming. For those of you in Southern California, this might simply be a welcome relief from scorching temperatures. But for the rest of us, winter is something to prepare for. Freezing temperatures mean different things for different yards. For pool owners, knowing how to prevent your pool water from freezing can be the difference between a swimming pool that is easy to reopen next season, and a complete and total disaster.
Winterizing your swimming pool means investing in the right pool equipment. Whether you’re dealing with a concrete, inground pool, or trying to extend the life of your above ground pool, here are some steps you can take this fall to protect your pool from pool freeze damage and cold temperatures.
Run Your Pool Heater
At the end of the day, all you need to do to protect your pool from freezing is to maintain a constant water temperature that is above 32 degrees. If you can do this, you are golden. Cold water isn’t pleasant to swim in, but as long as it isn’t ice, it’s nothing your system can’t handle.
If you have a pool heater, and are confident in your city’s power grid, run it. Keeping your pool heater running and heated water flowing, even on an intermittent schedule, will keep the water warm and prevent issues. Still, this isn’t always a perfect solution.
Many pool owners to do not have a pool heater, want to save energy, or do not want to deal with the cost of running it year long. We’ll touch on some no-power options a little later on.
Run Your Pool Filter Pump
This option goes hand in hand with the above note. It’s largely effective for homeowners who are confident in their access to continual power. Obviously, you can’t mind paying the bills that continuously running pool equipment can cause.
Keeping your pool pump running will keep the water flowing. Assuming you are also running your pool’s heater, you have great freeze protection. This combo ensures that your pool pump will circulate this warm water keeping your pipes, filter, pumps, and pool warm.
Again, the continuous power method can be risky if a winter storm or bad weather creates a power outage in your home. But if you aren’t expect a blizzard to knock out your power lines this December, this method will keep your pool safe until spring rolls around again.
If you have a variable speed pump, run it at higher speeds when freezing weather is looming. Think about the length of time it takes for a river to ice over compared to a small lake. The faster your pool water is moving, the less likely it is to freeze.
Keep Your Pool Covered
One of the most important pieces of pool equipment that every pool owner should have regardless of climate is a great winter pool cover. Pool covers protect your pool from more than just cold temperatures. They shield against debris, and guard against incidents of drowning during the off and on season. And they also are some of your biggest allies in preventing freeze damage.
During the winter months, preventing unnecessary heat loss is critical. A winter pool cover is designed to prevent the temperature of your water from freezing rapidly. This is great for climates that might not always dip below freezing in the winter months, but still run the risk.
A few icy nights could be enough to freeze an uncovered pool’s surface, but the additional of a winter cover will help prevent this until temperatures rise again. For cold but sunny climate, a solar cover can go the extra mile in maintaining warm water.
Pool Skimmer Bottle
Remember your pool skimmer? No? Well, let us remind you. Your pool skimmer is the unsung hero of your outdoor swimming pool. It traps the debris during the winter months, and helps keep your pool water moving during the winter. It is generally made of out thin PVC, and can crack easily, so make sure you take care of it!
Skimmer faceplate covers will prevent your skimmer from retaining water that can freeze and damage the pool wall, especially in raised or above ground swimming pools. We recommend you buy one.
If you’re shutting down your pool and pool equipment completely, then a skimmer bottle or Gizzmo can help you protect it. This device will help to absorb pressure and relieve pressure from possible freeze expansion.
To create your own swimming pool skimmer bottle, take an empty water bottle and will about a third of the way with pool antifreeze. Screw the cap back on, and place into the skimmer.
Set Valves to Open
Help your pool pump help you by making sure that you keep your pool system primed to evenly distribute circulating water. To do this, make sure all of your pool valves are set to open. Closed valves don’t allow water through, which means closed valves will work against effort to keep water from freezing.
Even if you believe all your valves are open, go ahead and check again. This step is even important for those who don’t plan to keep their pool open or running during winter months, as it allows water to escape. Check air relief valve, Jandy valves, and in floor system water valves.
Maintain Proper Water Level
It may not have occurred to you, but winter is the most important time to ensure your pool’s surface is at the right level. And the right level depends on whether or not you intend to shut down power or keep your pool open / running this winter.
If you are keeping water circulating through your pool pump and pool heater, then you must ensure that your water line is exactly at mid skimmer level. At mid line, water flows freely through the pool system and creates more stable water temperatures.
On the other hand, if you are closing your pool fully for the season, keeping your pool level at skimmer level can allow surface ice to damage the skimmer if it were to form.
To prevent this, keep your pool’s water level below skimmer level in fully closed and winterized pools.
Point Pool Jets Up
If you have pool jets, make sure they are pointed up and away from the bottom of the pool. If your pool is running, pointing the jets towards the surface will send the warm water up towards the top. When an ice sheet does form, it begins at the pool’s surface and makes its way down. The pool jets create much needed movement that break up ice before it forms and helps with the water circulation.
Protect Your Pool Equipment
If you shut down your pool completely, then don’t forget to protect your pool equipment during th long, cold winter season. Even completely drained and shut down, it’s never a good idea to let a layer of ice form on your pool parts.
Cover pool pumps and pool filter, stow any pool cleaners or chemicals, and clear layers of snow and ice off of the pool deck if possible. You are the freeze protector in your own home, so don’t let the weather get the best of you.
What is Swimming Pool Freeze Damage?
Just for a moment, let’s talk about what we mean when we say “freeze damage”. We know for some people, the idea of keeping their pool open all year is alluring. After all, your winter pool cover is probably not a looker, and going through all this effort to make your backyard uglier is an unappealing proposition.
But freeze damage is real, and it will destroy your pool if you don’t take the steps to keep your pool from freezing. Let’s talk about some of what can happen if you choose to ignore the proper freeze damage prevention steps.
First of all, frozen pool pipes equal broken pool pipes. Freezing water expands, and its path of destruction can be ruthless. Ice expansion will do a number on pool plumbing in ways you’ve never thought possible. If you don’t love the idea of burst pipes in your own home plumbing, you don’t want burst pipes in your pool plumbing, either.
Pool Pump & Heat Pump Damage
Freezing temperatures will take no victims. Swimming pool pumps and heat pumps are not immune from the damage brought on by freezing weather. And while replacing a pipe isn’t always incredibly expensive, there is no way to cheaply replace pool pumps or a pool heater after it has been broken.
Our seasonal friends know about the joys of concrete and freezing water. One unlucky year and even the best poured concrete driveways can become a victim the forces of expanding ice and freezing and thawing cycles.
So think of your pool deck as an extension of your inground pool. Unprepared, freeze damage will first freeze and burst your pipes. This is bad enough as it is, but once this ice expands underground, it also causes shifts in the ground around it.
Some materials may be more prone to cracking than others. Concrete, stone, and other porous material will let moisture in and can crack in big sheets, or become incredibly uneven.
Your pool deck was likely built carefully on a level surface. When the ground beneath it changes, this surface will no longer be level, and cracking, flaking, and splitting become real and immediate issues. Preparing your pool for winter also means you are creating a freeze guard for your pool tiles and pool deck as well.
In the long run, winterizing your pool is an investment not only in your pool and your swimming pool equipment, but in your hardscaping as well.
Above Ground Pools
Last but not least, pool freeze damage is perhaps most deadly when it comes to a standard above ground pool.
When inground pools freeze and crack, it is likely to cause more contained damage. Ice can only push so far against the ground. When water freezes in an above ground pool, all bets are off.
Your above ground pool is well equipped to contain the water that is inside of it–in liquid form, that is. Turn that water pressure into pressure from ice, and outward stress immediately begins to build against the walls. Once this ice sheet freezes against the skimmer, all bets are off.
At this point, any movement of the ice, any slipping or heaving or the sheet, can result in an above ground pool that simply crumples. Freeze protection is always important, but in this case, it can be the difference between opening your pool in the spring, or dragging its lifeless shell to the curb.
Don’t Risk Freezing Temperatures
If you live in a climate that even comes close to experiencing freezing temperatures, don’t risk it. Cold temperatures may be uncomfortable for you, but they can be harmful or even destructive for your swimming pool.
Freeze damage is real, and it doesn’t discriminate. Concrete, vinyl, PVC piping, concrete decks, a pool pump or above ground set ups all can be ruined in a few weeks of winter weather.
Cracked equipment is expensive and stressful to replace. Your pool’s system is one big eco system, and damage that effects one area of your pool will be seen in other areas as well.
Thankfully, this destruction is entirely preventable.
Winterize Your Pool
Take the time to learn about how to winterize your pool and what you can do to minimize freeze damage to your system. Pool antifreeze, drain plugs, air pillows, solar covers…if it needs to be protected from freezing weather, there’s a product on the market designed to help.
Remember, winter is coming. But you don’t have to be caught off guard when it arrives. Whether you’re keeping your pool running, or shutting things down, taking the right steps to freeze guard your pool will pay off.
So don’t wait. Winterize your pool, and get ready to ride out those winter storms.