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Enzymes to Ease Water Maintenance

By Chris Marcano

Enzymes for aquatic facilities have evolved over the years to a point where there are now specific products based upon the needs of each and every body of water. Today, there are two different types of enzyme products available for use in the pool and spa industry: broad-spectrum, produced through a fermentation process; and limited capacity commercially manufactured then blended enzymes are another. Both provide visible results, but they work differently based on how they are made.

For instance, a manufactured then blended enzyme focuses primarily on fats and oils. One benefit to using these enzymes is they can reduce the time and effort needed to maintain the cleanliness of the waterline in a pool or hot tub. When choosing between the two, however, broad-spectrum enzymes are the way to go.

Broad-spectrum enzymes are made using a fermentation process (similar to how alcohol is made) and are capable of accelerating or catalyzing thousands of chemical reactions in pools and hot tubs. These naturally based enzymes break down things such as non-living bather waste, lotion, sunscreen and oils. They break down these unwanted additions piece-by-piece until there is little left—other than water and air.

Where Should Enzymes Be Added?

Enzyme products should be selected based on the body of water for which they are formulated. For example, a hot tub can have somewhat different needs than those of a pool. Hot tub water is mainly affected by non-living bather wastes, such as makeup, hair products and lotions. Therefore, enzymes formulated for these bodies of water target the most commonly experienced non-living organic waste, which can build up in hot tub water. That said, it is important the same enzymes for hot tubs are not used in pools.

Much like hot tubs, pool water is affected by many types of non-living organics (e.g., non-living bather waste, lotion, sunscreen, etc.) in addition to many environmental factors such as pollen (which is heavy in the spring), bird waste, and even jet fuel that may be dropped by planes landing in the area. "We always choose the commercial-strength enzyme when treating a public pool—especially those with high bather loads," said Chris Corney of Aqua-Don Pools in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Corney is so confident about the results his customers will see that he suggests they try a bottle and if they do not like it, he will provide a full refund. "To this date, I have not had to give a customer their money back," he said.

Reports on the amount of non-living waste left behind by bathers are quite shocking. It is a commonly accepted standard in the pool and hot tub industry that each bather leaves behind approximately 16 ounces of non-living waste in a body of water after a 45 to 60 minute swim. Enzymes formulated for pools and hot tubs are designed with this in mind.

When Are Enzymes Added?

Enzymes can (and really should) be used primarily as a maintenance product in addition to the regular sanitizer and balancing efforts. Enzyme maintenance products are formulated to be administered in weekly doses (the dosage amount and product used is different for pools and hot tubs).

"Enzymes are a big part of our pool service success, and I include them into the service process automatically because I know the client will be happy with the resulting water quality," said Joe Koch of Blue Wave Pools in Audobon, N.J. "We add enzymes in to the pool on every service visit to help break down the non-living organics in the water so the filter doesn't need to work as hard."

When using an enzyme maintenance product weekly, pool professionals can actually take it one step further by splitting the dose up to daily feed amounts (this works well in commercial pools). Enzymes work while bathers are swimming, so think of it like cleaning up in the midst of a party. As non-living organics are being added to the water via bathers, enzymes can be used to break them down at any time, rather than waiting for them to build up and cause filter problems, water clarity issues or stains along the waterline.

"I always suggest the use of enzymes on a weekly basis—from pool opening to closing," Rullo said. "I have been offering these products for more than 13 years, and I wouldn't have as many happy customers without the use of enzymes to clarify water."

Corney also points out to his customers that enzymes should be added at least six hours after shocking their pool. If they are added too soon, there is a risk the shock will reduce the effectiveness of the enzymes. "We prescribe our customers a custom water maintenance formula in which we instruct them to shock on day one and introduce the enzymes on day two," Corney explained.

Enzymes can also be used in a pool or hot tub as a problem-solving product. In extreme cases, such as vandalism (or other accident), enzymes have saved the day. For example, they can even break down motor oil.

"We had a situation a few years ago at a commercial pool in which there was an old chemical feed pump and the diaphragm of the pump had an oil fill chamber that was leaking," Koch said. "Unfortunately the feed pump was mounted on top of the chlorine vat and no one realized the oil was dripping into the chlorine vat … obviously not a great installation and one which we did not do ourselves. But the facility called us when they opened the pool and discovered the oil all around the surface of the pool water. We went in that evening and administered a lot of enzyme products and by morning, 95 per cent of the oil had dissipated."

With this in mind, one can see how commercial pools can benefit from the use of these products, Koch said.

"For our commercial pool accounts, we put the enzyme on a metered feed so the pool gets a small dose seven days a week," he said. "Not only does this keep the water clear, but because enzymes break down non-living organics they don't turn into smelly byproducts.

"Enzymes are particularly effective in large outdoor commercial pools that are filled with the sweat, body oils, and sunscreen from bathers, in addition to being exposed to a lot of animal waste. The patrons of the pools always comment how the water feels nicer when the water is treated with enzymes."

Facility managers are a bit apprehensive at first because of the cost of using enzymes, but many quickly change their minds and find room in their budgets after they see how the filters work more efficiently, unpleasant odors are reduced, and the water clarity improves.