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1. Balance the water chemistry:About a week prior to closing the pool, adjust your water balance within the ranges below:
Alkalinity: 80 - 120 ppm
Calcium Hardness: 180 - 220 ppm
pH: 7.2 - 7.4
Several days before closing, shock the pool with a chlorine shock or non-chlorine shock, at least 2lb per 10,000 gallons (follow package directions). Allow the chlorine level to return to 1.0 - 3.0 ppm before adding any winter algaecide and your pool cover. Very high chlorine tends to break down both algaecides and pool covers. Never add chlorine shock and algaecide at the same time and not right before covering it. At the very least, shock the night before you plan to close the pool, and run the filter all night long.
2. Remove skimmer baskets, wall fittings, cleaners, solar blankets, ladders from the pool.Put these in a safe location during the winter. Don't coil pool cleaners hoses tight, and be sure the cleaner and hose is completely drained.
3. Lower water level in pool.Using the filter pump, or a submersible pump, lower the level 12" - 18" below the skimmer for mesh covers, and 3" - 6" below the skimmer for solid, floating covers. If you are using an Aquador skimmer cover on aboveground or inground pools for some vinyl lined pools, the water level will not need to be lowered. For pools with a separate main drain, close off the skimmers and drain to waste (DE and sand filters), out the waste line. For cartridge filters, or systems with no main drain, use a submersible pump or self-priming pump on the deck, to lower the water level. If your method of lowering the water will take several days, cover the pool to keep it clean.
4. Clean pool.Skim pool, vacuum pool, brush pool. Leaf rake (bag) types skim nets are best, and are useful for scooping large amounts of leaves/debris from pool floor. If the pool is especially silty or has lots of algae, vacuum the pool to waste. This means to bypass the filter, and vacuum dirt from floors/walls out the waste line. This prevents constant clogging/cleaning of filter. Place the multiport filter valve on drain to waste position (usually 2pm, if viewed as a clock face) If you have a push-pull filter valve, or a cartridge type filter there is no easy way to vacuum to waste, except for cutting the pipe coming out of the pump and then reconnecting afterwards with a union or valve. Brush the pool thoroughly after vacuuming. The pool should be as clean and clear as possible before covering, so give it one more skimming right before putting on the cover. If possible, give your pool some extra filtering before closing and run it 24 hrs/day for a few days.
5. Drain all pumping, filtering, heating and chlorinating equipment.Most every pump, filter, heater and some chlorinators have drain plugs or caps to allow water to drain out. All water must be drained or blown out or it will freeze and crack. After draining, D.E. filter grids or Cartridge filters should be removed and cleaned thoroughly. If the filter and pump is small enough to remove it and store it indoors, this may be desirable. If not, using a small amount of air from a shop vacuum, compressor or Mighty Vac is used to blow out any water that may still be in the equipment. Keep the drain plugs removed during winter (store them in the pump basket), in case any pipes become un-winterized.
6. Lubricate.Fall closing of the pool is a good time to lubricate the pump lid o-ring o-rings with Magic Lube. If you have a push-pull valve (also known as a slide valve) on the filter, lubricate the plunger o-rings as well. If you have a gas heater with cast iron headers and brass plugs, lubricate these threads or leave the plugs in after draining to prevent rusting. Filter belly band o-rings or union connection o-rings can also be lubed for better sealing and weather/chemical resistance.
7. Add winterizing algaecide and other floaters.Remember not to add algaecide and chlorine shock at the same time (Non-Chlorine shock is OK). Walk your liquid chemicals around the pool for best distribution. Vinyl pools should not use chlorine pool floaters, but can use non-chlorine winter floaters instead. For plaster pools, use a chlorine floater large enough to hold 8 tablets (for pools up to 30000 gals). To reduce the chance of a floater tipping over, or coming to rest on a step or swimout, tie it off in the center of the deep end, with a long string or twine. Algaecide and floaters are the typical sanitizers used to winterize pools. Enzymes can also be used to reduce sanitizer demand, and are popular for pools with mesh safety covers. If you have a warm early spring, or wish to prevent a green pool opening, plan to add more algaecide, and/or refill the floaters in mid-spring.
8. Winterize the plumbing to and from the pool.If you have an inground pool, you should blow out the lines using a Mighty Vac to blow air from the skimmer, through the equipment, and back to the pool. Then plug the lines at the pool using expansion plugs. If you don't blow the lines, add Swimming Pool Antifreeze into the line (follow package directions). Above ground pools usually just need to disconnect the hoses to and from the pump and filter, and plug the wall outlets, but if hard PVC pipe is used, either blow out and plug the lines, or use pool antifreeze to prevent freeze damage.
9. Cover the pool.A tight fit of your pool cover is essential. Your cover should not have holes or gaps where leaves and debris may enter the pool. A safety cover provides the highest protection and safety. Solid pool covers are not safe and will require a cover pump or siphon to remove rain water and snow melt. Water bags or Aqua Bloks are used to secure an inground solid pool cover. Above ground pool covers use a cable / winch device to secure the cover around the pool. Air pillows are used in above ground pools to absorb the expansion of ice inside the pool. In areas of high wind, an above ground pool owner will find wall bags or cover seal to be useful products. A leaf net is very useful if you have a lot of trees surrounding your pool.
In areas where it rarely gets below freezing temperatures, many people simply reduce the amount of filtration time per day, and also will find that the pool needs fewer chemicals. Covering the pool, even if not winterizing, will reduce cleaning and chemical and filtering demand even further.
Many southern pool owners find it simpler to winterize the pool, so they have no worries about it at all for 4-6 months. In those areas that freeze only rarely, a partial winterization can be done to close the pool for months, without worry about damage or water problems.
The steps are essentially the same, except without the need for blowing the pipes:
Balance the water and shock the pool.
Clean the pool and lower the water.
Drain the pump, filter and other equipment.
Add winter pool chemicals.
Cover the pool tightly.
If you don't cover the pool, the partial winterization is doomed to failure. A safety cover is the best looking, low maintenance solution, but you can also use a floating solid cover with cover pump. Without a cover, the pool will become stained, and develop algae growth.