Starting or opening up a swimming pool for the season is pretty simple, but it does require patience and a bit of work. We recommend beginning your pool opening process at least a week before you plan to swim, as it can take a few days to restore a pool after winter, depending on how the pool was kept in the cooler months.
Regardless of whether you own an above ground or in-ground pool, the fundamentals for opening a pool are very similar. Follow these simple steps to get your pool swim-ready:
Remove all leaves, dirt and debris:
Remove them from the pool skimmer basket and pool pump basket(s). If you have a pool cover, remove all the debris before removing it. This will save all the mess just going directly into the pool and save the extra work.
Bring water level up to normal operating level:
To the middle of the skimmer, the mouth is a good indicator. At this time, it’s a really good idea to add either an algaecide to the water or a natural pool clarifier to start cleaning up the water and prepping it for the initial shock.
Starting your pump for the first time:
Be sure to ‘prime’ the pump with water. Don’t start it dry, not only can it harm the pump, but extra stress and strain are placed on the entire system. If your pump is below the water level, as on most above ground pools, priming probably isn’t necessary because the water is naturally ‘falling down’ to the pump (we call it a gravity feed). If the pump and filter system is more than 900mm above the water level, priming is an absolute must. Keep in mind that the system could take several minutes to ‘catch’ and start in this situation.
Special Note: It is very normal for lots of bubbles to come out of the pool return fittings when first starting.
Special Tip: If you have a cartridge filter, open the ‘air bleeder’ valve on the top of the filter tank when the filter starts. You will hear a big ‘whoosh’ of air as it is pushed out of the filter. When water gushes out, replace or close that valve.
Clean and vacuum the pool of all dirt and debris:
Get all of the excess stuff out of the pool before adding shock & start-up algaecide, especially if the water is relatively clear & clean. The less debris in the water, the more effective your initial shocking and chemical treatment will be. Be sure to vacuum & brush the sidewalls of the pool to remove any build-up of bio-films there as well.
Clean the liner or tile line with a good quality pool surface cleaner. Do not use household cleaners as they can affect the pH and add phosphates to the water, which will contribute to algae growth later on. This is where most of the winter’s scum has left its mark. Clean it off now while it is still ‘soft’ & easy to remove rather than when it bakes in the sun and is more difficult to clean. Prevent this scum line (also known as a biofilm) from reforming with regular cleaning.
Allow the opening or start-up chemicals to circulate for 24 – 36 hours before doing any testing or water balancing. Why wait? There are 2 reasons:
Shock and algaecide:
This will change the water chemistry and water balance. That little bit of time will allow the levels to settle back down for a more accurate reading.
Some of the chemicals already in the pool water from the prior season, total dissolved solids (TDS) will be settled toward the bottom of the pool. This is especially true of cyanuric acid, typically known as sunscreen or stabiliser. If the water is not allowed to circulate & stir up what’s on the bottom, you will end up adding a stabiliser that, more than likely, doesn’t need to be added. This is a great way to save money. By the way, never add conditioner or stabiliser unless the pool water needs it and only if the test shows a level of 20 ppm or less. Higher levels are simply wasteful and do nothing for the water balance.
Filter for 24 hours before testing water: Using test strips or a test kit. Adjust pH, Total Alkalinity & Calcium Hardness as needed.
Chemically clean the filter:
For a cartridge filter, rinse off excess dirt/grime. For stubborn dirt/grime, you can use a cartridge filter cleaner which requires 24 hours of soaking. With a sand filter, give it a good backwash, and you can also use a sand filter cleaner which requires an overnight soak and then rinsing. Chemically cleaning the filter about every 12 weeks lengthens the life of the filter media and promotes longer filter runs. Simple backwashing just rinses off excess dirt and debris but doesn't remove accumulated greases and oils.
Important note: Never drain your pool without checking with your pool builder or professional. In a vinyl liner pool, the liner will shrink, which can void the warranty and could further damage your pool. In concrete, plaster, or even fibreglass pools, the removal of the water completely could result in the entire pool structure ‘floating’ or ‘popping’, causing serious damage to the structure.
These are the start-up chemical doses for chlorine and saltwater pools using a saltwater chlorinator. Shocking must be thorough in order to break up residual chloramines (known as combined chlorines). If chloramines are not dealt with now, a lingering chlorine demand (which is an inability to maintain a solid chlorine level) problem will develop. Curing chlorine demands can be costly, so do it the right way now.
Use unstabilised sanitiser (AKA) Cal-Hypo, such as Pool Chlorine or Blended Trichlor/Tetraborate, as the preferred product on an initial spring shock. Refer to the product label for recommended doses per 10,000 litres. Do not use a non-chlorine shock with the initial start-up. You need to have a good chlorine residual. Liquid chlorine bleach is OK but is very weak (about 14%) when compared to Cal-Hypo.
Initial Algaecide: don’t hold back with the algaecide! Always use an algaecide that has at least 30% active ingredients. Be careful using algaecides with copper as an active ingredient; improper use of copper-based algaecides may lead to staining of the pool surfaces. Follow the label directions for an INITIAL dose, typically 90mls per 10,000 litres.
After adding the initial shock and algaecide, be sure to run the filter for 48 to 72 hours continually. DO NOT backwash the filter during this time. Let the filter and the chemicals do the work.
Final & continuing steps: balance the water (pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness). Using additives such as UV Block out (AKA) Cyanuric Acid and natural enzyme products like clarifiers will significantly enhance any pool chemical care system you use by reducing chlorine use and consumption, as well as better buffering the pool water making water balance all the more simple.
For further assistance with opening your pool for the season, try connecting with a technician or pool shop near you using our Dealer Locator.
pH 7.2 – 7.8 (Ideal 7.4)
Total Alkalinity (TA) 100 – 200ppm (Ideal 120)
Calcium Hardness (CH) 200 – 300ppm (Ideal 250)
Free Chlorine 2 – 3 ppm
Cyanuric Acid (CYA) 30 – 50ppm