Water Hardness

When filling a pool, always test the hardness of the water coming out of the tap. Too many services techs assume the hardness levels of source water in their area never change. However, regional demand and water restrictions often result in the redistribution of source channels, changing the make-up of the water. These potentially drastic changes in hardness can have a significant impact on the water balance in a new or freshly plastered pool.

Pump Repair

Corrosion and calcification can add difficulty when taking a pump apart. To remove the seal plate, use a ratchet (or socket wrench) instead of a regular wrench for better leverage on the bolts. However, if the bolts still refuse to budge, you may want to use an extension on the ratchet for additional torque. You can use a piece of smaller PVC as a breaker bar to achieve this leverage. Note that you may have to physically break apart the corrosion on the bolts with a hammer or wrench to successfully remove them.

Salt Chlorine Generator Cell Installation

Poorly balanced water could be responsible for a damaged salt chlorine generator cell, but a sloppy installation can create problems as well. Generally speaking, you’re suppose to allow enough PVC to cover a distance of five-times the pipe diameter in and out of the salt cell to decrease turbulence. For example, using two-inch PVC would require 10 inches of straight pipe in and out of the cell. Without that allowance, nearby 90’s can cause vortexes and air bubbles that will prematurely wear on the unit. A proper flow through the cell will ensure a longer product life.

— Jason Bonser, owner of The Water Connection in North Richland Hills, Texas

Working with Adhesives

For new techs or anyone who supervises new techs, pneumonic devices can help make the job a little easier, especially when it comes to replumbing. Whether changing out a filter or installing an SVRS, you’ll need to correctly apply adhesives. To remember which adhesive goes with each insert, just remember two letters: T and S. Teflon goes with threaded inserts and silicone goes on smooth. It’s an easy way to make sure your fittings stay tight and leak-free.

Adding Acid

Pouring acid directly into the pool may not compromise the water chemistry, but it could hurt your finish. There’s a common myth that says pouring acid in one spot will lower the alkalinity more than spreading a diluted acid solution around the perimeter. However, the acid will have the same effect on the pool alkalinity no matter how it is added. Still, adding undiluted acid in one spot is not without consequence. Acid is heavier than water and will sink to the pool floor, potentially etching the plaster bottom of the pool. As such, never add undiluted acid in one spot.

— Kim Skinner, co-owner, Pool Chlor, Livermore, Calif.

Purple Stains

When diagnosing stains, most techs associate the color purple with magnesium that has come out of solution. However, this isn’t always the case. Copper cyanurate can leave a purple residue along the water line and steps of any pool. Copper cyanurate is formed with a high level of cyanuric acid and any copper that has come out of solution, likely from low alkalinity and pH. If magnesium isn’t in your source water, make sure the copper in your pool is protected from corrosion to avoid these unsightly purple stains.

Payment Strategies

With pool openings in full swing, you can add to your cash flow by offering customers the opportunity to pay for their seasonal service upfront. Instead of separate charges for opening, closing and monthly services, give customers an option for an overall discount — around 2- or 3 percent — by paying a single bill at the start of summer. The single-bill method cuts down on accounting and ensures your work is paid-in-full by the homeowners. The client may also be more comfortable with a single number rather than five or six separate charges.

Jonathan Broga, owner, Potomac Pool Service, South Riding, Va.

Personal Service Calls

Regardless of the situation, avoid trying to talk your customer through a pool problem on the phone. In most cases, they don’t know the equipment well enough to accurately describe the problem, and giving them a step-by-step solution could just lead to more confusion. Worse yet, if they are injured in the process, you could be liable. Instead, make a personal service call to diagnose the problem on-site. In addition to collecting a service charge, you’ll leave knowing the pool is operating as designed.

Vinyl-Liner Stains

Staining on vinyl-liner pools can be a result of poorly chosen products. Adhesives and coatings used during installation can cause stains from behind the liner if they’re not compatible with the material. Make sure any products used for vinyl-liner replacements are made specifically for pool applications. Similarly, some acid-based cleaners can cause premature deterioration in the vinyl. If you do choose an acid-based cleaner, make sure the vinyl surface is completely rinsed off after application.

Vehicle Maintenance

At a time when saving every penny counts, make sure your truck is getting the best gas mileage possible. First, make sure you’re only carrying what you need for the day, and try to avoid driving on a full tank. The extra weight will reduce your MPG. Also, be diligent about checking your tire pressure. You can save 3.3 percent on gas mileage by maintaining a proper psi reading for your tires. Also, if you have an older truck, cleaning the air filter is a simple way to improve your MPG. Although these may seem individually insignificant, an eye toward fuel efficiency will put extra money in your pocket.

Filter Cleaning with a Pump Upgrade

When upgrading your customers to a two-, multi- or variable-speed pump, give them advance notice about the potential need for a filter cleaning. The new energy-efficient pumps reduce flow and allow for significantly improved filtering. With all the new dirt and debris being captured at a lower flow, a filter may need to be cleaned in as little as a week after the new pump is installed. Warning your customers about this potential expense ensures they aren’t surprised about any unexpected costs on the way to a lower electric bill.

Plaster Dust

Plaster dust (mostly calcium carbonate) is not only a sure ingredient for cloudy water, but an imminent danger to elements in the pool heater. Plasterers recommend waiting two- to three weeks after a new plaster job before firing up the heater. This gives the system ample time to filter out any particulate matter, and it allows a service tech to properly balance the water. Before starting the heater, you should clean or backwash the filter to remove any dust that has become trapped. Also be aware that aggressive water will remove calcium from the plaster and cause the same kind of problems.

Galvanic Corrosion

If you notice corrosion on metal objects in the pool — such as on light fixtures or steel rails — galvanic corrosion may be at fault. Try putting a zinc anode ball in the skimmer basket. Zinc is one of the least noble metals, meaning it will be the first to absorb any damage should galvanic corrosion appear. You also can reduce the risk of galvanic corrosion by lowering the amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) in the pool.

Selling Energy-Efficient Pumps

A great way to sell energy-efficient pumps to consumers is by using a wattmeter. In many cases, the pool pump can be the single most energy-consumptive appliance in the home. By calculating the current, voltage and power factor of an appliance, a wattmeter shows exactly how much electricity is being used. Showing your customer this readout should make the pump sale more convincing, especially in a time when people are looking to cut costs.

Jeff Farlow, program manager for energy initiatives for Pentair Water Pool and Spa in Sanford, N.C.

Cleaning DE Filters

DE filters can suffer significant damage every time they are cleaned if a tech is in a hurry to remove the element. To avoid unnecessary wear and tear, make sure to lift the element straight upward when removing it for cleaning. If it is angled against the filter’s frame when lifting, the element will bend and eventually break. While a waterlogged filter element can be extremely heavy, keeping it perfectly vertical when removing it is key to preserving the product life of any DE filter. Adding Chemicals

Every beginning service tech is drilled with the mantra, “add chemicals to water — never add water to chemicals.” However, techs also should know never to add chemicals to chemicals. Muriatic acid and liquid chlorine can combine to create dangerously toxic fumes. Putting trichlor and calcium hypochlorite tablets together in a chlorinator can create an equally unsafe environment. To ensure your customers’ safety as well as your own, separate different classes of chemicals with rigid partitions, and regularly check for damaged containers.