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4 year's Experience


Simon

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After 4 years of pool ownership I thought I would share my thoughts on this forum, hopefully so that others may benefit from my experience.  I’m not a professional pool expert, but did do a lot of research before deciding on what type of pool and what type of equipment to get installed.  The pool is in-ground, 10mx5m vinyl liner and is in the Var region so has hot summers and cold winters.  I’m not going to focus on what type of pool we chose and why, but on the key issue of keeping the pool clear and refreshing – especially as this is a Holiday Home and we are not there for many months at a time and also as this seems to me to be one of the most contentious areas (certainly going by this forum).

For sanitation, it came down to an automatic “Salt Water” Pool or an automatic electronic “Chlorine” dosing pool.  This was not an easy choice, but I am glad we went for an automatic electronic Chlorine dosing pool.  As this forum attests, there is a lot of information (and emotion) out there – particularly regarding “Salt Water” Pools and “Chlorine” Pools.  So this is where I’m going to spend a few moments sharing my thoughts and experience on this.

First of all let me say the Chlorine dosing system we have is electronic and fully automatic.  That is, there is an electronic probe that determines the Chlorine content (ppm) and a pump that will operate if the Chlorine is too low by injecting small quantities of Chlorine (Javel/bleach which is sodium hypochlorite) until the level of Chlorine is correct.  This is not a system that uses Chlorine Tablets and/or Choc, and as such is more expensive initially to install.  It is this system I am comparing with a “salt water” pool.

Now for an important fact: a “salt water” pool does not sanitise the pool by having salt in it (if it did then you wouldn’t need the additional equipment required).  One of the (IMHO) myths of much of the debate between these two systems is that they are different in how they sanitise the pool.  To be clear, both “Salt Water” and “Chlorine” systems sanitise by using Chlorine – in the case of a salt water pool by converting the Salt (NaCl) into Chlorine (Cl) to get to the right level of Chlorine and in the case of a Chlorine Dosing system by pumping small quantities of Chlorine directly to get to the right level of Chlorine.  Both systems, if working correctly, will provide the correct level of Chlorine in the pool (I run my pool at 2-4ppm).  So why did I choose a direct Chlorine dosing system?  Ultimately my rationale for choosing the direct Chlorine dosing system was the KISS principle – if each system provides Chlorine to sanitise the pool why choose a system that is more complex (IMHO) by taking a chemical (salt) and converting to Chlorine when one can just apply Chlorine directly?  I also had some concerns that a Salt Water system might not produce enough Chlorine and whilst this was unsubstantiated it was a niggle in the back of my mind.

Now there are those who claim that a “Salt Water” Pool feels better or is better on the skin than a “Chlorine” Pool.  I cannot comment on whether this is true or not, but if it is true then it is definitely not due to Chlorine (or the lack of it) as both are present in both types of pool at the same levels using these systems.  It is also claimed by some that with high temperatures and/or high bather load the “Salt Water” pool equipment that produces Chlorine from Salt just cannot keep up with the Chlorine doses required – again I cannot comment.  My rationale was, as stated – Keep it simple.

I should also say that the system I have has automatic pH control.  This uses a probe to test pH and if it gets too high (Chlorine will raise the pH) it doses Sulphuric Acid to bring the pH down.  I did try Hydrochloric Acid but this is horrible stuff that gives off noxious fumes – at least Sulphuric Acid is fumeless – or appears to be.

(Yes - a pool does requires nasty chemicals but at the low concentrations in the pool will not cause harm, just don’t spill any or let children and (some) adults near them!).  Again these nasty chemicals are required with the “Chlorine” system whilst a “Salt Water” system would not require them so this is a definite advantage of the “Salt Water” system.

Another area is Total Alkalinity.  In the first year the pool had 0 TA which is way too low (should be about 100).  However, it didn’t appear to make any difference to the quality or look of the pool, although someone suggested that I was getting through too much Javel (i.e. Bleach/Chlorine) as a result.  I’ve since added Sodium Bisulphate to raise TA to around 100 (buy it in the UK from a Chinese Supermarket for a few quid rather than a Pool shop for £20+) but I have to say I’ve not noticed much difference with the amount of Javel I get through – and the pool is still crystal clear.

The final pool chemicals area is Stabiliser (Cyuranic Acid - CYA) – and this is where it does get a little more complicated – but the bottom line with stabilizer is you want some, but not too much.  The reason for this is that at low levels CYA helps to reduce Chlorine loss caused by sunlight (hence “stabiliser”), but that at very high levels will “lock” the Chlorine rendering it useless and your pool turning green!  And this is where the “gotcha” is – because if your system fails (as ours did – see below) using Chlorine Tablets (Gallets or Choc) will add CYA every time and the CYA eventually becomes too high, the Chlorine locks and the pool turns green (as ours did – twice!).   We therefore “choc’d” using Javel directly into the pool to get to a high level of Chlorine (16ppm)without adding CYA and as you can only get CYA down by dilution, emptied some of the pool and refilled.   

We also have a good circulation system with a Hayward 1.5HP pump and separate sand filter.  We do clean the pool regularly and back-wash regularly as well.  When we change the sand then we will probably go for Zeolite, but I can say that at the deep end (1.8m) I could read the details of a Euro coin on the bottom so the sand filter appears to be working fine too.   

So, does my pool work? – In a word yes.  There is no chlorine smell or taste.  The water feels nice and refreshing and looks refreshing too.  That’s not to say that there have not been problems (as indicated above), but these are to do with a couple of feeder pipes splitting and therefore the doser pump couldn’t get the Javel to pump.  Once this was addressed (long story but not really relevant to this post and a breakdown could happen with Salt Water systems too), then all was back to normal and a nice clear, easily maintained pool.

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It's good to hear a real second home owner's experiences of a pool - thank you. If possible could you enlarge on what you need to do before you leave the house and return to UK and what, if anything, happens when you are away.

Simply put, the second home owner's ideal situation is to turn up one day in mid-summer, take the cover off and dive in to a perfectly clean pool. Then, when leaving, just pull on the cover and go home. I'm sure it isn't quite like that though !
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[quote user="Nearly Retired"]It's good to hear a real second home owner's experiences of a pool - thank you. If possible could you enlarge on what you need to do before you leave the house and return to UK and what, if anything, happens when you are away. Simply put, the second home owner's ideal situation is to turn up one day in mid-summer, take the cover off and dive in to a perfectly clean pool. Then, when leaving, just pull on the cover and go home. I'm sure it isn't quite like that though ![/quote]

Yes! It's possible.

But it can never be guaranteed, just the like the electricity supply in France is never ..........;;;!!!

But equipping a pool for this is objective very doable, and is done for many owners like Simon every year. His experience is not untypical of the pool owners who takes pool ownership and water quality, seriously. Learning how to do it is not difficult, but its also not published on the back of each Corn Flakes Packets - it has to be learned from someone who knows how to do it in the first place (which rules out most pool shops in France).

I'm not really sure why Simon thinks that the subject is ‘contentious’; there has been a lot of discussion about it over the last 5 years to be sure. But nearly all obfuscation has come from sources where real knowledge is not in abundance, whereas the more learned comments from Teapot, Chemgeek, mine a few others are all treading the same path by an large, albeit with some minor technical skirmishes over minuté.

Still I sure we are all grateful to Simon for presenting his valuable experience.........which is on the whole correct I pleased to say,.......... makes a change!

Andrew

 

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Very interesting article , from another second home owner who has struggled initially but now after 6 years am just starting to feel confident in opening , maintaining and closing the pool.

Just one observation , you state " I should also say that the system I have has automatic pH control. This uses a probe to test pH and if it gets too high (Chlorine will raise the pH) it doses Sulphuric Acid to bring the pH down. I did try Hydrochloric Acid but this is horrible stuff that gives off noxious fumes – at least Sulphuric Acid is fumeless – or appears to be."

I thought that increased cholrine levels will reduce the pH.

Anyway its good to see someone get to grips with the complexities of pool maintenance.

Well done.
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[quote user="Simon"]

After 4 years of pool ownership I thought I would share my thoughts on this forum, hopefully so that others may benefit from my experience.  I’m not a professional pool expert, but did do a lot of research before deciding on what type of pool and what type of equipment to get installed.  The pool is in-ground, 10mx5m vinyl liner and is in the Var region so has hot summers and cold winters.  I’m not going to focus on what type of pool we chose and why, but on the key issue of keeping the pool clear and refreshing – especially as this is a Holiday Home and we are not there for many months at a time and also as this seems to me to be one of the most contentious areas (certainly going by this forum).

For sanitation, it came down to an automatic “Salt Water” Pool or an automatic electronic “Chlorine” dosing pool.  This was not an easy choice, but I am glad we went for an automatic electronic Chlorine dosing pool.  As this forum attests, there is a lot of information (and emotion) out there – particularly regarding “Salt Water” Pools and “Chlorine” Pools.  So this is where I’m going to spend a few moments sharing my thoughts and experience on this.

First of all let me say the Chlorine dosing system we have is electronic and fully automatic.  That is, there is an electronic probe that determines the Chlorine content (ppm) and a pump that will operate if the Chlorine is too low by injecting small quantities of Chlorine (Javel/bleach which is sodium hypochlorite) until the level of Chlorine is correct.  This is not a system that uses Chlorine Tablets and/or Choc, and as such is more expensive initially to install.  It is this system I am comparing with a “salt water” pool.

Now for an important fact: a “salt water” pool does not sanitise the pool by having salt in it (if it did then you wouldn’t need the additional equipment required).  One of the (IMHO) myths of much of the debate between these two systems is that they are different in how they sanitise the pool.  To be clear, both “Salt Water” and “Chlorine” systems sanitise by using Chlorine – in the case of a salt water pool by converting the Salt (NaCl) into Chlorine (Cl) to get to the right level of Chlorine and in the case of a Chlorine Dosing system by pumping small quantities of Chlorine directly to get to the right level of Chlorine.  Both systems, if working correctly, will provide the correct level of Chlorine in the pool (I run my pool at 2-4ppm).  So why did I choose a direct Chlorine dosing system?  Ultimately my rationale for choosing the direct Chlorine dosing system was the KISS principle – if each system provides Chlorine to sanitise the pool why choose a system that is more complex (IMHO) by taking a chemical (salt) and converting to Chlorine when one can just apply Chlorine directly?  I also had some concerns that a Salt Water system might not produce enough Chlorine and whilst this was unsubstantiated it was a niggle in the back of my mind.

Now there are those who claim that a “Salt Water” Pool feels better or is better on the skin than a “Chlorine” Pool.  I cannot comment on whether this is true or not, but if it is true then it is definitely not due to Chlorine (or the lack of it) as both are present in both types of pool at the same levels using these systems.  It is also claimed by some that with high temperatures and/or high bather load the “Salt Water” pool equipment that produces Chlorine from Salt just cannot keep up with the Chlorine doses required – again I cannot comment.  My rationale was, as stated – Keep it simple.

I should also say that the system I have has automatic pH control.  This uses a probe to test pH and if it gets too high (Chlorine will raise the pH) it doses Sulphuric Acid to bring the pH down.  I did try Hydrochloric Acid but this is horrible stuff that gives off noxious fumes – at least Sulphuric Acid is fumeless – or appears to be.

(Yes - a pool does requires nasty chemicals but at the low concentrations in the pool will not cause harm, just don’t spill any or let children and (some) adults near them!).  Again these nasty chemicals are required with the “Chlorine” system whilst a “Salt Water” system would not require them so this is a definite advantage of the “Salt Water” system. (Salt pools still require PH adjustments so you would still require the PH sensor,pump and acid if you want it automated. Using Co2 is another option)

Another area is Total Alkalinity.  In the first year the pool had 0 TA which is way too low (should be about 100). (with vinyl liner pools you can run with lower TA as you will then often need less acid to adjust the PH, concrete/plaster/tiled pools require a higher TA to protect the pool structure) However, it didn’t appear to make any difference to the quality or look of the pool, although someone suggested that I was getting through too much Javel (i.e. Bleach/Chlorine) as a result.  I’ve since added Sodium Bisulphate (I think you meant sodium bicarbonate, sodium bisulfate is dry pool acid and will lower your TA as all acid additions do) to raise TA to around 100 (buy it in the UK from a Chinese Supermarket for a few quid rather than a Pool shop for £20+) but I have to say I’ve not noticed much difference with the amount of Javel I get through – and the pool is still crystal clear. (TA is only to buffer the water against PH fluctuation with the addition of chemicals and needs to be balanced with water hardness)

The final pool chemicals area is Stabiliser (Cyuranic Acid - CYA) – and this is where it does get a little more complicated – but the bottom line with stabilizer is you want some, but not too much.  The reason for this is that at low levels CYA helps to reduce Chlorine loss caused by sunlight (hence “stabiliser”), but that at very high levels will “lock”(chlorine lock does not exist, you simply need to run at a higher chlorine level as almost all of your chlorine is chemically bound to the CYA and not enough is readily available to sanitise the pool hence the problems. Despite being able to measure the free chlorine there isn't enough active chlorine available). the Chlorine rendering it useless and your pool turning green!  And this is where the “gotcha” is – because if your system fails (as ours did – see below) using Chlorine Tablets (Gallets or Choc) will add CYA every time and the CYA eventually becomes too high, the Chlorine locks and the pool turns green (as ours did – twice!).   We therefore “choc’d” using Javel directly into the pool to get to a high level of Chlorine (16ppm)without adding CYA and as you can only get CYA down by dilution, emptied some of the pool and refilled.   

We also have a good circulation system with a Hayward 1.5HP pump and separate sand filter.  We do clean the pool regularly and back-wash regularly as well.  When we change the sand then we will probably go for Zeolite, but I can say that at the deep end (1.8m) I could read the details of a Euro coin on the bottom so the sand filter appears to be working fine too.   

So, does my pool work? – In a word yes.  There is no chlorine smell or taste.  The water feels nice and refreshing and looks refreshing too.  That’s not to say that there have not been problems (as indicated above), but these are to do with a couple of feeder pipes splitting and therefore the doser pump couldn’t get the Javel to pump.  Once this was addressed (long story but not really relevant to this post and a breakdown could happen with Salt Water systems too), then all was back to normal and a nice clear, easily maintained pool.

[/quote]

Sorry Simon just a couple of points that required clarification.

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Thanks for sharing - very encouraging and informative. Since I also have an automatic chlorine dosing pool and I too spend several months at a time away from the house and pool I would be very interested in any tips you may have for closing the pool down especially over the winter period. I don't trust mine to maintain a sufficient water level to have the pump running whilst I am away. How about you?
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