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Why Water Balance?

Yes, pool water balance is that important!

Our customers ask, "why do I have to worry about testing & balancing my swimming pool water?  If it looks clear, everything must be good. Right?"


The answer is, "Usually not."  The short answer is if the water isn't properly balanced, you're not safe, the pool & its components (filter, pump, heater, pool surfaces, fittings, etc) just won't last long, and finally, you'll be wasting your money! Let's take a look at:


  • Why pool water balance is so important
  • pH
  • CYA (Cyanuric Acid, stabilizer, conditioner)
  • Total Alkalinity
  • Calcium Hardness
  • TDS

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Importance of Water Balance

Everything about Pool Water Balance

Our customers ask, "why do I have to worry about testing & balancing my swimming pool water?  If it looks clear, everything must be good. Right?"


The answer is, "Usually not."  The short answer is if the water isn't properly balanced, you're not safe, the pool & its components (filter, pump, heater, pool surfaces, fittings, etc) just won't last long, and finally, you'll be wasting your money!


Here's what we mean:


Pool Water balancing for you & your body:  When the pH & Total alkalinity are out of balance, your chlorine, bromine or other sanitizer don't work as efficiently as they should.  When the sanitizer doesn't work efficiently, bacteria & other stuff you don't want in your pool or spa start gaining control.  You could easily end up with  skin rashes and eye irritations at least. 


For further information & a true but extreme story on pH  and your body, please  click here


Pool Water balancing for your pool: Without  proper chemical maintenance, you can get water line scum build-up, much shortened heater life (the heater either corrodes away due to low pH  & Total Alkalinity; we've seen people buy 2 heaters in one season because they don't think they need to balance their water!) or scale build-ups (high pH, high Total Alkalinity, high Total Hardness) prevent  efficient heating (scaling of the thickness of just 1 sheet of paper can  easily cause you to use at least 10% MORE electricity or gas), clogged  filters and shortened filter life.  Left completely alone, we've even seen the pool liners become faded & brittle & other damage  because of it's constant contact with out-of-balance water. Pool chemicals are important, but you didn't install your pool for that mess!


Remember that the source water for filling your pool can have certain properties that can cause chemical changes as you top off your pool; especially pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, metals & minerals.  If your tap water is "soft" or "hard",  those chemical make ups, make a difference.  The use of water softeners makes a difference.  PLEASE tell us this information when you contact us  so that we can better help you.


Rain water can dramatically effect your water balance, depending on its pH & obviously the quantity of rain.  The pH of rain varies across the country generally becoming more acidic as you go from west to east.  As rain falls, it carries down particulate matter that is suspended in the air.  This suspended particulate is dust, dirt, soot, chemicals, even bird droppings.  


Also keep in mind that rain water (especially when heavy or copious) can add to chlorine demand as many organic wastes are naturally dropped into the pool putting a dramatic strain on the sanitizer (chlorine, bromine, etc.).


Wasting money:  I think you're beginning to understand the reason why water balance is so important from the above information.  You'll be purchasing more chemicals when you don't need them.  Your filter will require more frequent changes (proper cleaning of the filter cartridge should  give a life of 2 to 3 years minimum, sand media 5 to 6 years, DE elements, 6 years as a minimum).


Improper water balance can and does lead to a much shorter heater life from either corrosion (as little as 1 month) or scale build up. And we haven't even began discussing the toll poor water balance takes on your pool's plaster, paint, fiberglass or vinyl liner finish.


PoolSpaGuru wants you to have fun!  Proper water balancing, testing & care shouldn't take more than 15 to 20 minutes per week on average.


If there is a question you need answered, please contact us, and we'll help you out as quickly as possible.


Most of the questions you need answered are found on these pages. A special thank you to BioGuard for their excellent education over the years. Please choose the category that best fits your question. Thank you for asking!  

"Acid rain" map across the USA
"Acid rain" map across the USA

Total Alkalinity

Not just "Total Alkalinity" but ADJUSTED Total Alkalinity

Total Alkalinity is sometime called the "ham in hamburger". Well, we all know that there is NO "ham in hamburger", but this sort of explains why we need to know about Total Alkalinity (TA). In fact, it's almost more important than the pH because "supports" the pH.


Essentially, Total Alkalinity serves as a buffer for the pH in swimming pools and spas. If the Total Alkalinity is LOW, the pH will have a tendency to "bounce" or to be unstable, to the point where even small additions of almost any chemical (even tap water) can cause a rapid or sudden change to the pH.  Not only that but the pH will always tend to drift lower and lower. Low TA can cause difficulty in bringing and keeping pH in its proper range as well as contribute to corrosion of pool plumbing, surfaces and heater degradation. High TA, on the other hand, leads to scaling of those sames surfaces plus a difficulty of being able to keep the pH in range because it constantly wants to drift higher. 

 

Hopefully by now we understand the importance of maintaining a proper level of  alkalinity in pool water. Maintaining a proper Total Alkalinity level is important for everything in your swimming pool or spa. 

TA is a measure of  all of the alkaline products in the pool water - essentially the total of carbonate, bicarbonates and hydroxides in the water. TA is defined as the "water's capacity to resist changes in pH..."  In fact, maintaining TA is critical to more easily maintaining a good  and proper pH level. Maintaining proper (TA) helps prevent 'pH bounce"  when in a range of 80 - 125 ppm.


But now we want and need to be more specific. With continuing pool water technology and real science comes a better understanding of what will  affect the TA. It has come to light over the past several years that  Cyanuric Acid (chlorine stabilizer or conditioner) can and does directly affect the TA level. An UN-adjusted TA is not the correct TA. You have to adjust it to be correct.


The Cyanuric Acid (CYA) level directly affects the Total Alkalinity (TA)  level & therefore an adjustment is required in order to obtain the correct TA level. An adjusted TA is the measured TA minus 1/3 of the  measured CYA. For example if the CYA measures 60 ppm, 20 ppm (1/3 of 60)  is subtracted from the TA level; measured TA is 100 ppm, minus 20 ppm equals a correct adjusted TA of 80 ppm. Adjusted TA is the most widely accepted and correct measure of TA used by laboratories and all commercial water care.

Read more about CYA below.


A special thank you to BioGuard for their excellent education over the years.  

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cyanuric acid - Cya

Cyanuric Acid or CYA, helping you cover your...

Cyanuric Acid - CYA - is often better known as chlorine stabilizer, pool water stabilizer, water conditioner. What CYA does is binds with chlorine to prevent the chlorine from being broken down by sunlight (UV rays).  At a level of 30 ppm to 50 ppm (ideal level is  40 ppm), CYA does the job it is supposed to do. Levels over 100 ppm will or can adversely the overall water balance. Although CYA is helpful, it will accumulate or build-up in the pool water.  


Once CYA is added to the swimming pool, it does not break down. CYA can only be lost through dilution (adding fresh water), splash out and/or backwashing. In other words, CYA must be physically removed from the swimming pool. Since all stabilized chlorine (also know as "organic" chlorine) does  indeed contain CYA it is almost completely UN-NECESSARY to add full or starting doses to a swimming pool unless a significant drain & refill has been done (new liner, new pool, acid wash of plaster pools, etc). 


The other reason to be concerned about CYA is that it will directly affect TDS. Read more about TDS below.


 It is important to know the correct CYA level! High CYA levels are  primarily due to past use of isocyanurates in pool water treatment.  Isocyanurates include all stabilized slow dissolving chlorine tablets,  sticks (Trichlor), and quick dissolving chlorine granules (Dichlor).   High CYA may cause or lead to a condition known as “Copper Cyanurate”  which results in a purple stain at the water line. This condition is  completely treatable and preventable by following these instructions.   


Tips: 

  1. NEVER add CYA (stabilizer, conditioner) until a proper water test is performed. Unless the CYA level is UNDER 30 ppm, DO NOT ADD CYA. Your regular slow-dissolving sticks or tablets or di-chloro shock treatment will automatically increase that level over time.
  2. Be sure to thoroughly circulate the pool water (4 to 6 hours) before taking a water sample. CYA will tend to "sink" to the pool bottom (water is more dense) and so a surface sample will test with a false "low".
  3. When adding CYA, add it SLOWLY through your swimming pool's skimmer as it takes a LONG time to dissolve. Do NOT broadcast it into the pool.


A special thank you to BioGuard for their excellent education over the years.  

The higher the concentration of CYA, the slower chlorine can kill bacteria.
The higher the concentration of CYA, the slower chlorine can kill bacteria.
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Tips when adjusting TA...

When adjusting the Total Alkalinity, be aware of potential sudden algae blooms, especially when re-adjusting in mid-season. If the pH AND Total Alkalinity are both low AND the water temperature is over 80 degrees, be sure to add algaecide AND shock the pool to prevent the TA adjustment from "fertilizing" the "hidden" algae. Adjust TA first, wait 6 to 8 hours, retest, then finish adjusting the pH as needed.

Calcium or Water hardness

Calcium Hardness: one water balance piece people tend to ignore...

Calcium Hardness is one item that most pool or spa owners tend to ignore but is very important to water balance. A simple chemical fact is that water is always trying to balance itself.


Remember that the source water (tap water or trucked in) for filling  your pool can have certain properties that can cause chemical changes  as you top off your pool; especially calcium hardness & metals &  minerals. 


Even if using  trucked in water, have a proper chemical analysis done of that to determine what & how much balancing needs to be done. Unfortunately, many believe believe that the "pool water" that is trucked in has been treated with pool chemicals. That just isn't so.


Trucked in water can be from a variety of sources including wells, fire hydrants, ponds, streams,  etc. Before adding chlorine, bromine or any oxidizer, have that water  professionally tested. You'll save yourself time, money & potentially a lot of aggravation.


A special thank you to BioGuard for their excellent education over the years.

Green - Extremely Hard, Tan -Very Hard,
Blue - Hard, Red - Moderately Hard,
Yellow - Slightly Hard
Green - Extremely Hard, Tan -Very Hard, Blue - Hard, Red - Moderately Hard, Yellow - Slightly Hard
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Tips when adjusting CH...

When INCREASING Calcium Hardness, add the total amount over 1 to 2 days. The ingredient, Calcium Chloride, will dissolve best in COOLER water. DO NOT PRE-DISSOLVE. Broadcast directly into the pool. Brush any product that may not readily dissolve.

Total Dissolved Solids

Yup, TDS... and we care about it!

You should care about Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in your swimming pool because that is an excellent measure of ALL of the stuff (good, bad, or otherwise) that is dissolved in the pool water. Remember that water is the "universal solvent" and so basically, EVERYTHING dissolves or becomes a solution in water!


Swimming pools can typically tolerate a lightly higher TDS than spas or hot tubs because of the relatively lower water temperature and lower bather load. Here's the contrast between a spa and a pool: a spa is a relatively small body or vessel of water (way under 1,000 gallons) being used by a relatively large number of people; 4 people in a 300 gallons spa would approximate to almost 300 people in a 20,000 gallon pool. 


What contributes to TDS? Everything! Bathers' waste, make up, body lotions, plus whatever sanitizers or treating systems are being used will have a DRAMATIC effect on the TDS of your water. SALT. Salt pools are a special problem in and of themselves, so we have to take that salt level into consideration.


As you can see by the picture, the higher the TDS, the more "crowded" the water becomes and that can slow down the reaction time (and thus the effectiveness) of the sanitizer.


When the pool's TDS reaches about 1000 ppm OVER the starting or freshly filled TDS, that's typically a good sign that the water is getting "old" and fresh water should be added to dilute it down. If you're in a "soft water" location (see the water hardness map above), "dilution" rarely has to be done (taking into consideration winter "partial drain downs" followed by springtime top ups.


A special thank you to BioGuard for their excellent education over the years.

The higher the TDS in the water, the more saturated it becomes with stuff that you don't want...
The higher the TDS in the water, the more saturated it becomes with stuff that you don't want...