After attending pool sites for over 30 years and following up after a pool is opened there are a few things that I commonly run into that almost always cause pool owners some type of aggravation. By opening your pool yourself and looking out for these items you may just save yourself a service call and maybe a few grey hairs. Read more for common pitfalls during a pool opening and some tips from the technicians tool box to avoid these!
Pool pump priming and start up
Winter is a long season. Long enough for mechanical issues to develop by moisture seeping into parts of your pool pump and pool pump motor. Most pool owners have self-priming pumps but before priming that pump it is very important to check your pump impellor to be loose and not stuck from sitting all winter. Simply take a flat head screwdriver approx. 6″-7″ in length. Open your pump lid cover, insert the screwdriver in the pot housing and direct the slotted end of the screwdriver towards the back of the pump motor. With some inward pressure push on the handle of the screwdriver while trying to spin the driver counterclockwise. Kind of like cranking the drive on an old Betsy automobile or and old style crank propeller air plane. You should be able to feel and hear the impellor rotate. If the impellor is stuck you normally won’t feel much movement and if you apply electrical power to the motor you will likely just hear a buzzing noise from the pump motor. Once the impellor has been loosened by your screwdriver go ahead and inspect your pump basket. If it is in good condition install the basket, fully prime the pot housing with a bucket of water or your garden hose until water is overflowing from the lid. Install the lid and turn your pump on to prime the circulation system. Keep in mind the most important aspect of priming a pool pump is patience and persistence. If the pump does not prime immediately, turn the pump off and repeat the priming sequence until it does. It’s not uncommon to prime a pump 3-4 times for the first time in the spring. Leave the weir door out of your skimmer at poolside until the pump has a full prime. Once the pump has a full prime go ahead and install your weir door.
Air in your pump basket or no prime
Although it is common to first think the worst about broken underground plumbing when it comes to swimming pools there is one thing I have learned after all of these years and that is most no prime or air in pump situations are 99% of the time caused by a deficiency above ground usually right close to your equipment pad or poolside at your skimmer. If you have air in your basket or cannot prime your pump you first want to check all your pump O-rings and gaskets. Both drain plugs on your pump have an O-ring or gasket. As the pool pump gets older these O-rings deteriorate and they can cause the pump to cavitate or not prime at all in some extreme cases. Check your pump lid O-ring that it has no major cracks or breaks. If any of these O-rings are in questionable condition, replace them before trying to prime your pool pump. A good rule of thumb when checking O-rings and gaskets is to take your fore finger and thumb and pinch the edge of the O-ring. Run this same O-ring between your finger and thumb. If you are left with a black residue on your thumb and finger then you know the O-ring should be replaced. Although it is not bad to have a small container of non-petroleum based O-ring lubricant on hand to lube up a questionable O-ring this should only be considered a Red Green fix until you can install a new self-lubricating O-ring. If you have any isolation ball or gate valves in the plumbing inline of your suction line you will want to open up the union of the valve to inspect this O-ring. Check all gear clamps on your suction line that they are tight. A loose gear clamp can also cause you some grief when it comes to proper prime and air in the pump. One other thing. Make sure your pool water level is at minimum ½ to ¾ of the way up your skimmer faceplate and that your skimmer basket is free of leaves and debris. Low water level and or a plugged skimmer basket will cause your pool pump to have air or cavitate.
Pool heater start up and operation
Most pool heaters in this day and age have a natural gas supply tied into them. Most have an electronic ignition. Properly inspected maintained and cared for they should give your pool all the heat it needs for several years. Before turning on your heater. Open the cabinet up. The cabinet usually has 4 screws holding the two halves together or on some models a front door that can be opened with a flat head driver. Once the cabinet is opened and you can peer inside the cabinet, shine a flashlight inside to check for the integrity of the inside of the unit. Winter is a long season and critters love to make this area a home over the colder months. If you see any debris or nest buildup inside the cabinet, use a shop vac and hand held corn broom too clean it out before test firing the heater. By performing this simple check you could save yourself a service heater light error code or worst case scenario a backup of natural gas and blow back explosion. Once the cabinet area is clean and good to go check all the wire connections. Make sure there are no breaks or crimps in the wires. Make sure all stake connectors are snug. Once all your wires are checked and in good shape make sure the gas valve inside the cabinet is in the ON position. Make sure the valve on the gas line outside of the cabinet is in the ON position. If you have any other valves on the gas line other than the one just outside of the cabinet make sure it is in the ON position. If you have an underground gas line you typically will have a valve just outside of the cabinet and then you will have another valve where the gas line comes out of the ground to connect to the gas meter. Making sure all of these valves are in the ON position could save you a service call and a few grey hairs.
And there you have it, folks… your no fail guide to a perfect pool opening! Remember, if you don’t feel comfortable playing around with your pool equipment, leave it up to the experts and call Aqua-Tech today!