Pool Chemicals Explained
1. Free Chlorine (FC) - This chemical is a sanitizer that keeps your water safe and clear of bacteria. As you already know, it is crucial to keep a balanced chlorine level at all times. If your FC is too low, then you run the risk of developing algae, and no one wants to clean that! If you measure FC and discover it is in fact below 0, or you can visibly spot algae in the water, we recommend that no one swims in it until it is properly cleaned. If you have an automatic feeder you have the option to test it every few days. This chemical needs to be both tested and observed on a regular basis.
2. PH (Acidity/Alkalinity) - This chemical needs to be balanced at all times to prevent irritation and erosion of your pool equipment. We recommend keeping your pH level here: 7.5 to 7.8. PH indicates how acidic or how basic water is. It needs to be tested daily to insure the safety of your swimmers. As time wears on, you might not need to test it as often, although it is always a good idea to double check it. If you notice your pH levels are below 7.2, this might cause your eyes to sting and burn. If it dips below 6.8, it can damage metal pool equipment- especially pool heaters and/or copper heat exchange coils. The higher the pH level climbs, it can eventually lead to calcium scaling.
3. Total Alkalinity (TA) - This chemical works hand in hand with your pH levels to keep them in balance with one another. Abnormally high levels can cause pH to rise (60-120.) When you measure your pools TA, what you are really doing is checking the water’s ability to buffer any changes within its pH levels. For example, if your TA is lower, then the pH swings out of control. If your TA is higher, this simultaneously increases the pH level. It is essential to keep both in balance at all times.
4. Calcium Hardness (CH) - When maintained at appropriate levels, this chemical can prevent plaster damage. However, higher levels can cause calcium scaling (220-350 vinyl lower.) CH measures the amount of calcium in your water. If your water has lower calcium levels it might dissolve calcium out of plaster, pebble, tile, stone, concrete, and sometimes even fiberglass surfaces. You can prevent this by saturating the water with calcium. With vinyl lined pools, you do not need calcium to maintain it. If you have a plaster pool the CH levels should be 250-350. A fiberglass pool is the easiest one to deal with out of the three; calcium actually prevents fiberglass pools from staining and scaling. If you need to increase your CH use calcium chloride.
5. Cyanuric Acid (CYA) - This stabilizer will protect chlorine from the damaging rays of the sun, and can also determine the appropriate FC levels. If outdoors, 30-80 is recommended; if indoors, it should be between 0-20. CYA not only protects FC from sunlight, it also lowers the strength and holds it in reserve. If your CYA level is higher, your FC level needs to match accordingly. If you don’t have a SWG or high levels of sunlight in your area, the CYA needs to be kept somewhere between 30 and 50. However, if you have a SWG or high levels of sunlight the CYA needs to stay in the 70-80 range.
6. Salt- If you already have a SWG, then salt is a necessity. If you do not, it can be added to your pool to change the ‘feel’ of the water itself. To check the salt levels in your pool just read the salt level recommendations for your SWG unit. Typically, it should be at 3000, but it depends on the model you have. Feel free to add solar salt (used in water softeners) also known as sodium chloride.
7. Borate- This is an optional enhancement to your pool water. It controls pH drift, balances algae issues, and can provide a unique ‘feel’ to your water supply. If you would like to add this chemical to your already pristine pool water, feel free to do so. There are no necessary recommendations to test it, but you might want to keep it between 30-50 ppm.
8. Phosphate- This one is entirely your choice. Although this chemical can keep algae levels down, it isn’t necessary for your pool water. Chlorine is absolutely required, and in all honesty is easier to maintain. Phosphate remover is too expensive and can often times be difficult to use.