If you own a pool and live in an area that dips below 65-degrees F. in the winter, then you know that you need to properly winterize your pool each year. Winterizing helps protect your pool equipment from damage. It also makes the pool safer when it’s not in use, keeps it cleaner and more sanitary, and helps it last longer with fewer repairs. Winterizing properly also means that it’s easier to open when the weather gets warmer as well.
While it’s possible to close your pool temporarily for vacations or other periods of time away, this isn’t the same as winterizing. A temporary closing typically means turning off the pumps and heater and covering the pool while winterizing, however, is a more involved process with several steps. This article is designed to be a helpful reference with step-by-step instructions on how professionals winterize a pool.
How to Winterize a Pool in 7 Steps
1. Remove, Drain and Clean Accessories
When winterizing your pool, all of the equipment must be removed and winterized. This means that the first step is removing and draining all pool accessories including skimmer baskets, wall fittings, ladders, and other removable parts. These will all be drained, cleaned, and stored for the winter. Because every pool is different, this step can involve just a few things or multiple parts, so it can range in terms of time, as well as in how much storage space you may require. These items need to be removed so that they don’t become damaged during the freezing temperatures of winter.
2. Shock the Pool
Once accessories are removed, the pool water needs to be shocked. This is done about two to three days before the rest of the pool is closed. Shocking the pool means adding a large amount of chlorine to the water to kill off any algae, bacteria, or bugs. The amount of shock that is added will vary depending on your pool size, but it needs to raise the amount of “free chlorine” in the pool to a high enough level that it will kill off any organisms in the water. This can vary depending on the starting chemical levels of your pool. Ideally, you will need to test the water first, and get your combined chlorine level. Your pool is considered shocked when it has reached a free chlorine level of 10 times that of the starting combined chlorine level. This can vary by pool, so testing is crucial to this step.
3. Deep Clean the Pool
Once the pool is shocked, and all bacteria and algae have been killed, it’s time to clean the pool. A well-shocked pool should have crystal clear water as well as clean walls. You may have some sediment build-up on the bottom of the pool, some debris such as leaves or grass on the surface of the pool, or there may be some sediment or dirt on the pool walls. Deep cleaning will involve vacuuming the bottom of the pool, removing debris from the top, and scrubbing the walls of the pool. Remember not to leave anything in the pool that could contribute to bacteria growth over the winter. You also want to ensure that the opening of the pool can go quickly in the spring, so leaving it as clean as possible will help ensure that little cleaning is necessary at opening.
4. Lower the Water Level
Once the pool is clean, you will need to lower the water level. The exact amount will vary depending on the type and size of your pool. Typically, your pool professional will be aiming to lower the water levels between 6” and 18”. If you have a tile water line on your pool, the water must be lowered to beneath the tile. Leaving the water touching the tile could cause it to crack or come loose if the water freezes. If there is no tile, you may be able to lower the water less.
5. Lubricate and Store Pool Equipment
Your pool equipment including your filter, pump, heater, and any water features such as waterfalls need to be removed. Lights also need to be removed from the pool, if you have interior or underwater lighting. Make sure the electricity is turned off and all equipment is properly drained. Once drained, the fittings, valves, and plugs will be removed and lubricated. Water plugs are added to help keep things clean and dry. At this time, equipment should also be inspected to make sure it’s in good working condition. This can let you plan ahead for the next season, if you find that something may be ready for repair or replacement. Once the equipment is lubricated, it should be stored with the rest of your pool accessories for the winter.
6. Test and Balance Pool Water
The pool has been shocked and cleaned, and all the equipment is off. Now is the time to balance the remaining chemicals. This takes place two to three days after the pool has been shocked. The water should be taken in for professional testing with a chemical analysis. Depending on what the current levels are, it will need to be adjusted. Before closing, the alkalinity must be between 80 and 120 parts per million. The pH is brought to between 7.2 and 7.6 once the alkalinity has been balanced. The chlorine levels should be between 1 and 3 parts per million. You can also choose to use stabilizers as well as algaecide if you have a mesh cover.
7. Cover and Secure the Pool
The final step to closing the pool for winter is to cover it. There are many types of covers that can be used. These include solid covers, which do not allow sunlight to penetrate, but which do allow water to collect on the surface, and mesh covers, which do not allow water to collect, so may be safer, but which do allow debris and sunlight to enter, meaning that algae growth can be a concern. Covers may be placed manually, or they may be retractable, meaning that they are stored at the end of the pool and can be extended automatically. Once the cover is in place and secured, take the time to inspect the pool deck and surroundings, as well as the cover fasteners for any signs of damage or need for repair.
Alternative: Have Your Pool Closed by a Pro
The national average cost to have your pool winterized is between $200 to $300, and while pool closing can be undertaken DIY by the homeowner, it’s always best to have a professional do the work. Professionals know the right timing, chemicals, and steps to take to make sure your pool is properly winterized. Consider that proper winterization helps protect the pool and equipment from damage that can be caused when pipes freeze or pressure from the frozen ground rips out the liner of the pool.
Some steps can be taken by homeowners working together with professionals, however, to help you save money. Speak to your pool professional about their pool closing process, and what role you may play. Make sure your pool gets winterized properly each year to ensure a safe winter and a fast and easy opening come spring.