Complete Water Testing Guide for Your Pool

Everything you need to know about pool water testing

Regular pool inspections are a vital part of owning a pool. It is essential for maintaining clear, algae-free water. Additionally, it is crucial to maintain a proper chemical balance in your pool, since improper water chemistry may damage your pool and its equipment. Improperly balanced water may cause eye pain and hair discolouration. To get an accurate reading, you’ll need a test kit, pool water testing strips or a digital tester.  Toronto Pool Supplies is here to answer any questions you may have.

How Often Do You Test Pool Water?

Test the water at least once per week, or more often if the pool is extensively used. If you are new to pool management, you may wish to test the water 2-3 times each week until you get used to the variations. It might be helpful to choose one day each week for regular water testing. This goes for saltwater pools as well.

How Long Can Pool Water Sit Before Testing?

Not long.  Letting the water sit makes the testing less accurate because the chemicals settle to the bottom.  Set aside enough time to complete the process fully.  

What Do You Test Pool Water For?

The primary pool chemicals to monitor are pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, and chlorine (sanitizer). In some instances, it may also be necessary to test for metals and stabilisers. Here are the proposed levels for maintaining a pool’s balance:

pH7.2 – 7.6
Total Alkalinity120 – 150ppm
Calcium Hardness200 – 250ppm (Concrete Pools)
Calcium Hardness175 – 225ppm (Vinyl Pools)
Free Chlorine1 – 3ppm
Free Bromine3 – 5ppm
Metals: Copper0ppm
Metals: Iron0ppm
CYA30 – 50 ppm

Which Test to Buy

There are four primary methods for testing your pool’s water, each with distinct advantages:

Pool Water Liquid Drop Tests

Test Kits

The liquid test kits consist of a testing container and reagents, which are contained in dropper bottles. They are often quite precise and test for all important substances. The majority of pool pros recommend this kind of examination.

How to Use a Liquid Test Kit

  1. Utilize the clean, empty testing container that comes with the package
  2. Remove the sample away from the vicinity of jets and skimmers.
  3. Submerge the container upside down to the elbow, then remove the sample.
  4. Add liquid reagents in droplets, as instructed per the kit’s instructions. Typically, the left (yellow) side measures chlorine while the right (red) side measures pH.
  5. Seal the container and shake vigorously. If possible, refrain from touching the surface with your hands, since acids on the surface may alter findings.

Test Strips

Test Strips

Test strips are simple and quick to use, but less reliable than liquid test kits due to their expiration date. In the long term, test strips are somewhat more costly than liquids due to their single-use nature.

The only problem with test strips is that you won’t get an exact color. You need to eyeball the color matches each time you test the water. For example, you might think the alkalinity is set to 150 ppm but the color doesn’t match perfectly to the strip.

How to Use the Test Strips for Pool Water Testing

  1. Use a clean, empty cup.
  2. Take the sample in the middle of the pool away from jets and skimmers.
  3. Dip container upside down until elbow deep, then take the sample.
  4. When it changes colour, match it to the sample in the test kit to determine levels in the pool.

Pool Water Testing Electronic and Digital Testers

Electronic Testers

The third method is the use of a digital pool water tester. A digital tester incorporates the advantages of both test strip and test kit methods. When calibrated correctly, it is incredibly precise and simple to use. A digital pool water tester is the most expensive of the three pool water testing alternatives, but the expense may be justified for you.

Pool professionals love these because they quickly and very accurately test for free chlorine, total chlorine, bromine, pH, alkalinity, calcium, and more.

How to Use the Digital Testers

  1. Calibrate the tester.
  2. Use a sample deep in the pool.
  3. Some operate by having you collect pool water samples and then having you simply dip the tester into the sample.  For others, you will collect water samples and insert them into the device itself for it to display your test results.
  4. Read the results on the tester for the chemical levels. 

With a Professional

If you are having difficulties balancing your pool or do not know how to address chemical imbalances, you should bring your water to a professional. Since a specialist will manage the diagnosis and therapy, this makes obtaining the correct chemical as simple as possible.

How to Provide a sample to a Professional 

  1. Use a clean, empty water bottle (12 oz – 16 oz).
  2. Take the sample in the middle of the pool away from jets and skimmers.
  3. Dip container upside down until elbow deep, then take the sample.
  4. Have it analyzed. 

Salt Water Testing

If you already possess a salt water pool, you should familiarise yourself with the fundamentals of pool maintenance. Checking the chemical levels of your pool on a regular basis ensures that your pool is ready for use and safe for swimming.

Even if your saltwater pool system makes the pool easier to maintain overall, you still need to understand how to correctly test the water. So, you’ll be able to detect imbalances before they become major problems, and you’ll know what actions to take to bring your pool to a safe and functional condition.

Checking the chemical levels is part of routine pool care, so when the time comes, it is an easy task. Simply buy some affordable pool water test strips, or use a digital water tester if you like.

You also have the option of having it examined by an expert. This is one option if you want the most comprehensive and accurate measurements of your pool’s chemical levels.

What are you testing for?

Free Chlorine: This level indicates whether or not the water is clean and safe for swimming. The purpose of your previous levels is to support this one. 1-3 parts per million (ppm) is often adequate in a saltwater pool.

pH:  This level indicates whether water is acidic or alkaline. When it is out of balance, the Free Chlorine in the water is unable to perform its job effectively, which may damage the comfort of swimmers and lead to scaling or erosion in the pool. Typically, 7.5 is excellent, and it is vital to maintain it between 7.2 and 7.8

Total Alkalinity: A correct amount ensures that your pH does not fluctuate rapidly.

Salinity:  This degree of salinity allows your salt chlorine generator to function properly and maintain your Free Chlorine level. The range varies per model, but the optimal amount is often between 3000 and 4000 ppm. This is the sole level of water chemistry that is “specific” to saltwater pools.

Stabilizer: This level “coats” your Free Chlorine to prevent it from disappearing as a result of the sun’s rays. However, if the amount is too high, Free Chlorine may become useless. In general, a range of 30-50 ppm is effective in the majority of situations.

Methods of testing your saltwater pool

Test Strips

When opting to test your pool’s salinity and other chemistry values such as pH, alkalinity, and chlorine, testing using pool water test strips is the most cost-effective alternative. Typical directions on test strip packaging are as follows:

  1. Dip a strip into the water, but do not let it soak; instead, dip and remove the strip.
  2. Wait several seconds for the system to “read the levels.”
  3. Match the colour it changes to the colour shown on the container or in the directions.

By observing the colour, you can determine your levels and make the necessary adjustments.

You are responsible for judging the tiny colour variations and matching them to the colour reference on the product label. Therefore, this strategy involves some generalisation and guessing.

Test Kits

Typical water chemistry test kits include chemicals and containers. This form of testing requires a chemical set and may take a considerable amount of time, but it is considerably more accurate than test strips. Depending on the quantity being measured, the precise testing procedure might vary, but normally you must count the number of drops of reagent you apply, then observe any response or colour change.

To test the water in your pool using a liquid reagent kit:

  1. Fill the provided vials with saltwater pool water samples, then add the liquid reagent according the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. After mixing the reagent with pool water samples, the samples’ colour will change.
  3. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for clarification on how to interpret the test findings.
  4. To assess the salinity of your pool samples, compare them to the supplied colour chart.

 Digital Water Testers

These electronic water chemistry analyzers are an excellent combination of accuracy and portability. Fully electronic testers will offer instant readings for six crucial pool chemistry levels. Although some electronic tests still need reagents, they are exceedingly exact and simple to use.

When using a digital water tester to determine the salt concentration in a pool:

  1. You will dip a test strip deep into the water of your pool.
  2. Hold it in place, then put it into the designated location on the digital water tester.
  3. The digital water tester will provide many values, including the salinity of your pool water, within 15 to 20 seconds.

Pool Water Testing Tips for Every Pool

  • Sample deep in the pool.
  • Ensure that the pool has been operating for at least fifteen minutes. An hour is perfect.
  • Ensure liquid kits are filled to the “fill” level on the column.
  • If possible, mix the solution using a cap; acids from the hands might alter the findings.
  • Rinse in a sink, not the swimming pool. 
  • Testing strips must be kept in a cold, dry location.

How to Add Chemicals Safely

  • Always read and adhere to the chemical’s instructions to guarantee its safe usage.
  • Wear safety gear and equipment, including gloves, boots, and glasses.
  • Handle chemicals in an area with adequate ventilation.
  • When transferring or measuring chemicals, use separate metal or plastic measuring cups for each substance. Never use wood scoops.
  • Protect chemicals from water and moisture, such as a cup of coffee or water. Even returning the wet scoop to the pail may trigger a reaction.
  • Always dilute chemicals by adding them to water, never the other way around unless instructed to do so on the container’s label.
  • Do not combine different chemicals.
  • Do not return spilt chemicals to their original containers.
  • Do not smoke when working with chemicals.
  • Do not expose to fire or heat.

Toronto Pool Supplies

Learning how to be your own pool guy or gal has never been easier. What’s even better is all featured products in this article are available to be delivered to your doorstep. So, sit back, relax, and get started with our super simple DIY pool water test guide, then visit our store and buy water testers for your pool!

Tips to navigating a Chlorine shortage

We are ready to open our backyard pools for a second summer of the covid19 pandemic.  Last year saw more new pools built than the last decade of construction. Families are trading their vacations for staycations and using their backyards as playgrounds to burn off energy. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that with the increase in backyard pool use, there will also be shortages of pool parts and chemicals.  Everyone needs chlorine and the supply is having trouble keeping up with the demand.

Consider upgrading your sanitation system

If you’ve been contemplating upgrading your sanitation system this may be the final push that makes you commit.   Perhaps the cost has been one of the factors keeping you on the fence. Consider the price of chlorine is likely to increase sharply to reflect the demand on the now strained supply. If you are building a new pool, these new state of the art systems – salt generators, UV, and Ozone sanitizers – require less chlorine that a chemical feeder system does. 

Install a salt generator system

Salt generators reduce your chlorine demand by nearly 50% and they produce clean water that is gentle on the skin and eyes.  Instead of the chemical chlorine, salt (NaCl) is added to the pool water and as it passes through an electrically charged cell the sodium (Na) and the chlorine (Cl) is separated. The naturally produced chlorine is used to kill off any harmful bacteria and keep your pool water clean and clear. 

Don’t shy away from UV and Ozone systems

UV and Ozone systems have been around just as long, but have often been regarded as complex, expensive and even unstable.  These systems have undergone major advances in the last 2 decades, now built as single vessel systems that makes it easy to install and replace as needed. These systems can reduce your demand for chlorine by up to 50% on their own as well. 

How an Ionizer can help

Adding an Ionizer to any existing sanitation system will also help reduce your chlorine demand – by up to 90%! Ionizers help stabilize the pH of your water, which is one of the most common issues that backyard pool owners encounter with salt water sanitation systems. By keeping your pH well balanced, the chlorine is able to do its job more effectively.

Invest in a variable speed pump

Whether you decided to upgrade to any of these systems or not, a variable speed pump will also reduce your chlorine demand.  Salt generators, UV and Ozone all require continuous circulation, making it necessary to use a variable speed pump.  But a chemical feeder will also run much more efficiently with a VSP because the water will never be stagnant. Stagnant water permits bacteria growth almost immediately. Running a single or dual speed pump for 8-12 hours a day means there are 12-16 hours of downtime in which these harmful bacteria start to grow and build up. 

Plan ahead and order early, don’t get caught in the chlorine shortage of 2021.  If you can, consider purchasing a larger supply that you typically do and store it in a dark dry place.  Taking care of your pool water – ph, total alkalinity, chlorine and algae – to ensure that it runs as efficiently as possible will save you money and lost swimming time.  Reach out to your pool professionals today to make your plan for the 2021 backyard pool season.

Mistakes Pool Owners Make when Converting to a Saltwater Pool System

A saltwater pool is an incredible luxury that any homeowner is lucky to have access to. Instead of dealing with the scent of chlorine, dry hair and skin, and irritated eyes, swimmers are left in silky smooth water that is clean and comfortable to swim in. In recent years, converting to a saltwater pool system has become easier and more affordable than ever, and more Canadians make the choice to move to saltwater each year.

Changing to a saltwater pool is a convenient and recommended choice, but the chemistry in a saltwater pool is a bit different than the chemistry in a standard chlorine pool. Before you decide to make the change to a saltwater chlorinator, it is very important that you keep this difference in chemistry in mind.

Saltwater can be very destructive to certain pool appliances and fixtures, and many pool owners make the mistake of converting to saltwater before doing their homework. Before installing a saltwater pool system, do an inventory of your pool equipment and appliances to be sure your system is ready for saltwater.

Saltwater pool systems and your pool heater

If you have a pool heater installed with your pool, it is essential that you determine that your heater is compatible with saltwater before making the change to a saltwater pool. Saline water is corrosive to most pool appliances, and can quickly destroy a swimming pool heater, particularly older models.

If you’re considering making the change to saltwater, you’ll need to take a look at how your swimming pool heater was designed and built. Older heater headers can corrode very fast (sometimes within a season) if exposed to saltwater, but many newer heaters have been designed to withstand high-salinity. Cupro-nickel or copper headers are the best heaters to have in a saltwater pool.

If you discover that your heater is not suited for use in a saltwater pool, you’ll have some choices to make. You may want to consider updating to a new heater, removing heat from your pool, or postponing your conversion to saltwater until the time comes to buy a new pool heater.

Ensuring fixtures are saltwater-safe

Because salty water is so corrosive to metals, it can pose a problem to the small fixtures and hardware around your pool that you don’t often consider. When small fixtures and screws are exposed to saltwater, they can corrode rapidly. This can leave you with rust stains on your liner and fixtures that can be difficult to remove.

When fixtures and hardware are damaged, you also run the risk of experiencing damage to your liner or pool fixtures after water-tight seals are loosened.

If you’re planning to make the change to saltwater, make sure you evaluate all of the hardware associated with your pool, inside and out. Replacing these small parts with salt-resistant hardware will save you time, money and frustration long-term.

Ladders, diving boards, and other pool equipment

There are many additional parts of your pool that you might not consider when making the change to saltwater, but it is important that you keep these parts in mind before making your choice. Ladders, diving boards and other pool additions all have specific and essential hardware that can corrode rapidly when exposed to saltwater.

Before making the change to saltwater, be sure to review all of the additional components of your pool, and change your hardware to titanium fittings that can withstand salt. This will prevent you from having to deal with tough rust stains, and hardware that is stuck in place.

Neglecting chemical maintenance in a saltwater pool

Many people are lured in by the promise of a saltwater pool because they think that there will be no maintenance involved, but that is not the case. Saltwater chlorinators provided added convenience because they allow you to self-produce chlorine rather than purchasing and adding your own, but a saltwater pool is certainly not maintenance-free.

After you make the transition to a saltwater pool, you’ll still need to keep an eye on salt levels, chlorine levels, pH and alkalinity balance in your pool. Many pool owners have made the mistake of thinking that the installation of a saltwater chlorinator means they can neglect their pool for the summer. Neglecting to maintain your pool in all of the usual ways will result in costly damage and a lot of frustration.

Doing your homework before making the change to saltwater

Anyone who has a saltwater pool at home is usually quick to praise their new sanitation system. But, it is important that you do your homework before installing a saltwater chlorinator in your swimming pool, especially in existing and older pools. The change to saltwater can be cost-effective, comfortable and enjoyable for your whole family. But, there can be barriers to a smooth installation that you should consider before making your decision.

Making the change to saltwater is a decision that pool owners rarely regret if they have done their research and have prepared well for the transition.