Keeping up appearances

Summer is on its way and as the temperature rises to thoroughly uncomfortable levels, thoughts inevitably turn to the swimming pool. Yet the joy of owning a swimming pool can turn into a nightmare in the blink of an eye, which is more or less the amount of time it takes an untended pool to go from sparkling to primordial soup.

Chlorine or salt
There are two main systems for keeping a pool clean. The one is uses chlorine, while the other uses salt. However, it is not quite as simple as taking the salt shaker from the dinner table and sorting out your pool.

A salt water system still has some chlorine in the water, but not nearly as much as a normal pool. The system itself generates chlorine from the salt added to the system.

The major drawback of a saltwater pool is that it requires a specialised installation, which is more expensive to install.

Unless this is done during the original design and build phase of the pool, the expense may be more than many pool owners consider worth their while, and they would rather keep adding the occasional scoop of chlorine to their pool. However, the water in a saltwater pool feels a lot different from a standard chlorinated pool and is easier on the eyes of swimmers as well.

Getting the balance right
As with all things in life, when it comes to pools, balance is everything.

However, in this case it is not work-life balance, but pH balance.

The pH in a pool should be between 7.0 and 7.6, as anything above or below these numbers could have a number of negative results.

Should the pH drop too low and the pool becomes acidic, the surface of a plaster pool can become rough, making it much harder to clean and providing a perfect place for algae to grow. Metal parts like ladders and fittings can also start to corrode, which in turn can stain the pool. Chlorine is also lost more quickly and does not work as effectively.

If the pH rises and the pool becomes too alkaline, a whole different set of problems can arise.

The calcium in the water can start forming scale in the pool, which not only builds up on the sides but also turns the water cloudy. The calcium can also limit the efficiency of the sand filter in a pool.

Both high and low pH pools can cause burning eyes and itchy skin in swimmers as well.

It is best to test the pH of a pool at least once a week, and more often it the pool is in constant use.

The pH of a pool is adjusted through the use of acid if the pH is too high, or alkali if the pH is too low.

Of course, for those who would rather just enjoy sparkling pool rather than work at it daily, there are a number of companies that specialise in pool cleaning and maintenance.

Pool safety
Of course, no matter how attractive a pool is, it can still pose a danger.

The most important part of keeping a pool safe is to limit unauthorised access to the pool. A fence with a gate including a child proof latch is a good start, as this will prevent children from finding their way into the pool area unattended.

Adult supervision is always a good idea when children and water come together and the adult involved should preferably be able to swim to prevent one disaster from turning into two during a botched rescue attempt.

It is also important to check the inlets on a pool. More modern drain covers are designed to prevent entrapment, which has been the cause of serious injuries and death elsewhere in the world. A flat drain is relatively easy to block, and even more so with a missing cover. The suction can trap the unwary should someone block the inlet, leading to drowning. More modern covers are more three-dimensional in design, making it virtually impossible to block the drain completely.

Pools should preferably be designed with multiple drains spaced far enough apart that both cannot be blocked by the same person. This limits the amount of suction any one drain will exert, limiting the likelihood of entrapment. Newer pool pumps also include safety features including pressure release valves which will prevent suction from becoming too strong.

It is important to bear in mind that water does not have to be very deep for drowning to take place – a child trapped by the drain in a Jacuzzi is in just as much danger of drowning as someone in a swimming pool.