Enzymes Make Water Maintenance Easier

By Chris Marcano

Enzymes have evolved over the years to a point where there are now specific products based on 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. Both provide visible results, but they work differently.

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.

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 enzymes naturally break down non-living organics, such as bather waste, lotion, sunscreen and oils. They break down these unwanted additions to water piece-by-piece until there is little left—other than water and air.

Enzymes are commonly discussed in many other industries, including health and wellness (in the digestive system), beauty products (in facial peels) and even home maintenance (in septic and drain cleaners). Enzymes are used everywhere, so why not include them in pools and hot tubs as part of a maintenance program?

Interestingly enough, consumers are quite aware of the concept of enzymes, according to Chris Corney of Aqua-Don Pools in St. Catharines, Ontario. "I was shocked at how much consumers know about enzymes when we first started introducing these products to our customers five years ago," he says. "It was a familiar concept because many consumers are aware of their benefits as a digestive aid, so it wasn't a stretch for them to understand how they are a naturally based way to obtain clearer water in their pool or hot tub."

Where Enzymes Should 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. Enzymes formulated for these bodies of water target the most commonly experienced non-living organic waste.

Much like hot tubs, pool water is affected by many types of non-living organics (e.g., 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," Corney said.

"I personally recommend naturally based enzymes. As consumers are not experts, they rely on our professional recommendations of products with proven effectiveness and ease of use," said Amy Rullo, the residential division manager at Premier Pool Renovations in Pennsylvania.

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. That said, enzymes formulated for pools and hot tubs are designed with all of this in mind.

When to Add Enzymes

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.

"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 Audubon, 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," said Rullo. "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," explained Corney.

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," explained Koch. "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 so they don't turn into smelly byproducts like chloramines.

"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 wild 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, the chloramine odor disappears, and the water clarity improves.

Why Use Enzymes?

Enzymes make pool or hot tub maintenance easier. When using them as a part of a routine maintenance program, they work hard so aquatic facility managers do not have to.

Additional benefits include:

Increased filter run cycles

Filters need to be cleaned less and work more efficiently because enzymes are working constantly to break down non-living waste in the water before it has a chance to build up on the filter.

"Those using enzymes on their pools are much less likely to have really bad filter cartridges at the end of the season," Koch said.

In fact, Corney said that using enzymes has reduced the number of filter backwashes by 50 percent. "Customers really like the idea of backwashing less, because they realize they are saving water."

Further, Corney said his service team has to work less at keeping the pool and water clear since they started using enzymes. "We are even using an enzyme that is formulated for cold water so we can use it for winterizing," he said.

Enzyme products make pool or spa systems much more efficient, Rullo added. "By breaking down non-living organics before they get into the pipes, the filters do not have to work as hard to keep the water clear, thus the filter media stays cleaner longer."

Reduction of scum lines

Reducing scum lines means less scrubbing for pool professionals. When non-living organics partially break down, one of the places their remains like to stick is at the tile line. All maintenance professionals have seen this unsightly buildup at times, and enzymes will work to prevent it from coming back.

"We never have the issue of 'ring around the pool' with enzyme use," Koch said.

Before using enzymes, it was a given when opening pools in the spring, there would be a ring around the perimeter of the pool at the waterline. Because the water level is dropped for winterizing, the ring would be even more pronounced and visible than during the season—more at the mid-point of the tile line.

"It's natural to get a ring with the organics accumulating at the water surface, however, by using enzymes, my service crews are more efficient because they don't have to work as hard and spend time removing the ring manually," said Koch. "Sometimes scum lines can be really tough to remove because organics can actually edge themselves into porous surfaces."

Superior water clarity

When there is less "stuff" (non-living gunk and grime) in the water, it will show in its appearance.

"We recently dealt with an aquatic facility for seniors that had problematic water—it was also cloudy and wouldn't hold the required chlorine readings; we couldn't figure out what to do," Rullo said. "As a result, the pool was put on an enzyme-based water treatment program. It took approximately two weeks to resolve the problem, but eventually the enzymes removed the byproducts in the pool water and pipes."

Much like the rest of the world, the pool and hot tub industry—in this case water treatment—has evolved significantly. That said, considering a proactive pool and hot tub maintenance program as an alternative to the traditional "put out the fire" approach, service professionals can be much more productive.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Marcano is the director of training and education for NC Brands, a manufacturer of pool and hot tub specialty chemicals in Norwalk, Conn., and Campbellford, Ont. Marcano has 16 years of experience in the industry and is a Certified Pool/Spa Operator (CPO) instructor, and a member of the education committee for the National Plasterers Council (NPC). He is also active on the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals' (APSP's) board of regents and is a local APSP chapter president.


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