Avoiding Maintenance Problems in Commercial Pool Care

Four areas to keep in mind

By David Rouse

Today's managers of recreational facilities have a lot to worry about. Not only are they responsible for maintenance, safety, supplies and other employees, but often they are responsible for managing more than one facility.

Keeping in mind that the upkeep of a recreational venue is rarely limited to just the swimming pool and related equipment, it's understandable that things come up, and the pool may be neglected for a short period of time. However, by conducting proactive pool maintenance and being mindful of four basic areas of maintenance concerns, commercial pool managers can avoid major maintenance issues that cost time and money and create unhappy patrons.


Ensuring proper filtration and circulation throughout the whole pool is critical to maintaining water clarity. Without regular maintenance of the filter and filter components, poor filtration will eventually require more chemicals and maintenance time. There are three typical kinds of filters that a pool may be operating under: sand filter, cartridge filter or a diatomaceous earth filter (D.E. filter). No matter what type of filter the system has, it is important to follow manufacturer's guidelines for chemical and physical cleaning of the filter media.

Additionally, to ensure proper filtration, inspect the filter elements regularly to check there are no additional problems such as channeling in the sand bed of a sand filter or holes in the D.E. filter grids.

Turnover rate is another critical factor to maintaining a clear and inviting swimming pool. Check your local health-department codes for guidance on turnover rates. Be sure to take into account any special characteristics or demands the system will have.

Sanitizer level

A second problem is not maintaining an acceptable sanitizer level. Too often commercials pools have peaks and valleys for their sanitizer level due to high bather load and improper water balance.

Low levels of sanitizer will not effectively kill bacteria in the water, which can cause swimmers to become ill. On the other hand, high levels can bleach bathing suits and cause irritation for swimmers' eyes and skin. High or low sanitizer levels also may cause the health department to close the pool, costing you valuable down time and potential damage to the pool surface or equipment.

Chemical controllers should be used to maintain proper sanitizer levels with minimal maintenance. Controllers offer completely automatic measuring, control and dosing capabilities. Advanced chemical controllers with multiple inputs will allow you to measure pH and ORP (oxidation reduction potential) and control dosing for pH increaser, pH decreaser and sanitizer. These advanced controllers also offer proportional dosing controls, decreasing wear and tear on equipment by tailoring chemical application to the actual swimming pool needs.

Wireless monitoring systems also are available and will greatly reduce maintenance time. You can check pH and ORP readings from a PC or PDA and even receive alarms to your cell phone if desired. This is particularly important if you have several properties or facilities to manage.

Other technologies, such as commercial electrolytic chlorine generators, offer an alternative to traditional pool care maintenance and can be an ideal treatment solution for almost every commercial application.

Commercial pool industry experts predict that this emerging technology will replace a large portion of the traditional chemical feeder technology because the ability to produce hypochlorous acid on-site within the feeder reduces the risk of direct contact with chemicals. With an electrolytic chlorine generator, consistent chlorine generation can occur without direct application by a pool-care professional.

Probe fouling

As bather load increases, more pollutants such as sweat, lotions and other body oils infiltrate the water. These contaminants collect in the water and form a microscopic coating on the probe, reducing the probe's accuracy—known as probe fouling. The effect is a delay in the probe's ability to detect changes in sanitizer level, as well as causing the controller to display a lower than actual ORP value.

Several automatic cleaning systems have been developed to keep ORP probes free of contaminates and coatings. These systems are readily suited to large commercial applications. Automatic probe cleaning systems clean probes at a preset time interval, such as weekly or daily. However, after physical or chemical cleaning, the ORP probe takes a while to stabilize and forms an oxidative film on the metal sensing surface that allows it to read the electrical potential of the sanitizer and oxidizer in the water. This can result in hours of inaccurate readings and inefficient use of sanitizing and balancing chemicals.

The solution to all these problems is a technology known as continuously cleaning ORP probes, which resolves the problems experienced when using an automatic probe cleaning system. This method cleans the ORP probe constantly, eliminating the need to develop an oxidative film between cleanings and thus allowing ORP probe reading to be consistently accurate. The continuous cleaning probe system solves most ORP probe-fouling problems, even in high bather-load environments and in pool water containing higher levels of cyanuric acid (CYA). It is not a question of whether probes will become fouled with any type of sanitizer used in any type of pool—it is a question of when. With continuous cleaning, this is no longer an unknown variable.

Routine water testing

Pool water testing should be performed routinely to make sure pH, chlorine and other water-balance parameters are balanced. On large-capacity commercial pools, a complete water analysis should be performed at least once a day, including free chlorine residual, total bromine residual, pH, acid and alkali demand. Total alkalinity, CYA, calcium hardness, iron and copper should be checked at least monthly. Check your local health-department codes for guidance on water testing. Keeping the water balanced is essential for proper pool-care maintenance.

As was discussed previously, automatic controllers make maintenance much easier for pool operators as it constantly monitors and displays the chemical levels. A 24-hour monitoring program also can aid in alerting the pool operator through an alarm system in case of a major imbalance.

Four for thought

The lack of correct pool water maintenance can cause commercial pool operators and public-health officials great concern. To avoid situations that might close a pool, operators need to stay mindful of the above four maintenance concerns at all times. Neglecting the pool, its maintenance systems and the chemical levels of the pool can cause major problems, including down time and chemical imbalances that can be costly to correct.

David Rouse is manager of technical services for BioLab Commercial Pool Care and BioLab, Inc. in Lawrenceville, Ga. He can be reached at drouse@biolabinc.com or visit www.commercialpoolcare.com.

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