One of the best inventions for pool owners is the salt chlorinator. When these were invented, they reduced the weekly cost of adding chemicals to the pool and, most importantly, they were an automatic dosing system which meant less time spent maintaining the pool.
Fact #1: These units are not fully automatic. When running, they are constantly dosing your pool, so you still need to monitor the chlorine level yourself. Most pool owners think that these automatic chlorinators are “set and forget”, but they are wrong! Checking the correct level of chlorine in the pool is critical for the health of your family.
It’s also important for the life of pool accessories too. For example, a pool cover is so efficient at reducing the amount of chlorine needed, that the chlorine production on the chlorinator should be turned down by two thirds, so it is only producing around one third as much chlorine as when the pool is uncovered. If the chlorinator is not adjusted, the level of chlorine in the pool gradually increases to a point where it starts to attack the pool cover and pool cleaner and is not healthy for swimming.Obvious signs of an over-chlorinated pool are:
- The underside of the pool cover looks bleached.
- Pieces of the pool cover start to flake off and you find them in the pool skimmer.
- The automatic pool cleaner skirt and parts get sticky and discoloured.
- Pool accessories that are in the water start to perish (like the cord attached to a thermometer).
How can you fix this? Unfortunately, once a high chlorine level has damaged your pool cover or pool cleaner, the damage cannot be reversed. But, you can easily check the chlorine level yourself with a standard test kit — or even easier, by using testing (dip) strips, then adjust the chlorine output to suit.
The good news for the future is that self-adjusting, salt chlorinators are being developed and released into the swimming pool market. These innovations check the chlorine level at regular intervals and automatically adjust the chlorine output to maintain an ideal, continuous level. Look for these in your pool shop or online, if you want the convenience of not having to check chlorine levels yourself, and to avoid damage to your pool cover and pool cleaner.
Recently, one of my colleagues suggested I review an article about water chemistry and testing which focused on the effect of un-balanced pool water on vinyl liners. It concluded that balanced pool water has a major effect on the longevity of a vinyl liner in a swimming pool. I thought it important to pass on a summary of what was learned through the testing process.
We all know that water balance is important to the performance of the sanitising chemicals used in a pool, as well as for water clarity and comfort of the swimmers. However, water balance is equally as important for the life of your pool liner.
Using standard parameters of total alkalinity of 150ppm, calcium hardness at 100ppm and the starting concentration of cyanuric acid at 100ppm, a series of tests were conducted with different types of chlorine and PH levels ranging from 2.0 up to 10.0. Here is what was discovered…….
Samples with free chlorine at 1.5ppm where the PH was maintained between 7.0 and 7.5 (the Aust Std is 7.2 – 7.6) showed no adverse effects. The lower the PH dropped below 7.0, the greater the fading, wrinkling and loss of strength in the vinyl liner, plus it increased in weight (likely from water absorption which is what causes the wrinkling). As PH increased above 7.6 the vinyl lost weight and expanded. Samples with free chlorine at 20ppm where the PH was maintained between 7.0 and 7.5 showed colour change where white turned yellow and blue faded and became dull in colour. This high chlorine concentration caused wrinkling as well.
What this tells us is, it is important to maintain water balance to maximise the life of your pool liner. However, the study also revealed that even though the look of the liner changed with exposure to extremely bad chemical levels, the vinyl still remained functional as a pool liner!
As a pioneer of Laser Measuring of Pools for Vinyl Liners, I thought I would share some guidelines on the type of measuring equipment available and where it is used. Firstly, assess what type of pool you want to measure to determine which device is required. Most pools are measured using a fibreglass tape measure which is okay for basic pools, but other devices are better when you have a lot of measurements or need to measure with more accuracy.
If you just want to use a laser device to measure A-B points and write them down, you can probably get a laser measuring device with +/- 2mm accuracy for around $200 from a trade tool outlet. This is a basic handheld device which will display the distance between two points but, in my view, is not all that useful when working with a lot of measurements. It doesn’t really save you any time because you still have to manually record each measurement, either on paper or on a computer.If you want to measure 2D style lined pools, capture the measurements on a device then download them to a PC or to liner order software. You can start with either a Leica brand “Disto” device which stores 1000 measurements to +/- 1mm accuracy, or a Hilti brand device. These handheld devices store the measurements on board so you can capture one or more pools of data and download them later onto your PC. These are a definite time-saver when working with a lot of measurements, but there are some limitations.
Let me explain…. One of the limitations of a handheld device is, exactly that, you hold it in your hand. This means your hand can move around and the laser point can easily stray off the desired target point in the pool. Ideally, you need a steady hand, or you may prefer to use a professional measuring instrument like a Total Workstation, as used by surveyors. These devices can be hired, but I recommend that you have sufficient training and experience before measuring a complex shaped pool for a vinyl liner.
For complex “3D” style pools, I suggest you engage an experienced surveyor to do the pool measuring for you. There are plenty of surveying companies around, but the key to a well-fitting liner is to ensure that the measured data points are located in the right place. This is something which requires the input from someone experienced in measuring pools for liners and cannot be left to the surveyor to decide by themselves. I recommend that you accompany the surveyor to site for at least the first ten pool measures to make sure they understand where you want the measurements taken. I suggest you mark the pool for the surveyor the first few times to help them understand where the seams on the pool liner will be located and therefore where the data points need to be. The pool liner seams are linked to the location of the data points so it is important the points are measured in the right spot, for smooth flowing lines through the pool.
You can download a 3D laser markout sheet from ABGAL’s web site which has more detailed information on what is required to measure these types of pools. ABGAL can also put you in contact with an experienced surveyor you can contract to measure complex 3D pools.
For information on handheld measuring devices please click here.
Water is our most precious resource. Using a pool cover helps conserve water as it can almost eliminate evaporative water loss. I’ve noticed in the past year, many pool covers being sold online through eBay and other web pages. I guess pool owners are attracted to this method of purchase due to convenience and price! This makes me wonder, how important is product quality to pool owners these days? Perhaps it’s no longer the driving factor behind many peoples’ purchasing decisions?
You see, the quality of a bubble type pool cover is not easy to determine at all. Even for an expert, the formulation of the plastic cannot be confirmed without sending it to a laboratory for some very expensive and specialised tests. Now, thickness is a measure that is pretty straight forward to check, but in most cases you would need a measuring tool like a micrometer to be sure the thickness is what has been stated. The final factor is the reputation of the company you are buying from, and their stated product warranty (including the fine print!) and how easily you can make a claim. So how does a pool owner decide all this when buying online?
I believe a pool owner will “take a punt” in many cases when buying online, if the price looks low enough. But do they know what this could cost them in the long run? If the brand they choose is a brand they have seen in their local pool shop, then this makes it a little easier. They may feel reassured that if their local pool shop sells this brand of product then it’s probably a good quality product – and this is a fair assumption. But if they don’t know the origin of the blanket material (ie; not Australia) and they don’t know the brand or have no rapport with the company selling it, then the only reasoning they can use to purchase is price. The statistics on pool cover evaporation performance can look good no matter what the quality of the cover. For example, you could cover your pool with “Cling Wrap” and this would stop evaporation, just like it stops food drying out in the refrigerator! It would not last too long as a pool cover, but on paper, “Cling Wrap” would rate very well on evaporation performance.
I’ve been around a long time and there is a saying that goes back as far as I can remember which is “you only get what you pay for”. When you consider this, then buying an unknown brand of pool cover, online, from a company you don’t know, is very risky in my view. I know there are pool covers coming into Australia from overseas that are very low in price, but the quality of the plastic for our climate is not good enough to make them last a reasonable amount of time. “Seven months before it started to fall apart” was mentioned to me about a pool cover that was made in China. If you do the sums, a $200 pool cover that lasts less than a year, will cost you at least five times the price of an Australian made cover, over the time the locally made cover will last. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great products made in China, but so long as they are branded and sold through known companies, you have some assurance the goods will perform. If not, you have a reputable avenue to make a warranty claim. So for my money, the choice is clear. Save money and buy an Australian made pool cover, one that has been formulated specifically for our harsh Australian climate, and is a well recognised brand. You’ll be glad you did your homework and be rewarded by years of hassle-free service.
The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) annual trade show in Las Vegas last month was focused on Swimming Pools, Spas and Backyard Living. It was obvious to me, when looking through the exhibitors’ booths, that the line between the backyard and the house is not as defined as it used to be. We are now seeing outdoor kitchens as part of our BBQ areas and back doors have been replaced with folding walls in many new home designs so the outdoor entertainment area becomes part of the house. The question this raises for me is, how too will the Australian Pool & Spa industry bridge this line between the house and backyard?
Some innovators have already started…. One thing I noticed was the number of pool and spa accessories that were available, to make the time a pool owner spends in and around their pool more pleasurable. Some of these items included light shows – not just for the pool, but for other water features. Even illuminated floating lights as part of your outdoor table display, fountain or pond. There were Plasma TV units that were in waterproof housings so they could be installed adjacent to the pool without the worry of getting splashed and damaged. Designer spa covers in fabrics that would match patio awnings and outdoor furniture cushions also caught my eye. One top of the range Spa was set up like a “home theatre” with six reclined moulded seats that were covered with jets to pamper you while you listened to music through waterproof surround sound speakers that extended from the spa deck – all this while watching a large screen plasma TV that magically elevated from within the Spa at one end. How great does that sound? The challenge for our industry is to ensure that all these accessories are functional, so they become more widely used and therefore more affordable.
I will admit upfront that I am not a great fan of automated pool covers, due to the fact that the most successful of these covers need to be incorporated into the pool design before the pool is built. I find that new pool owners often don’t plan that far ahead and therefore many of these automated covers are not an option once the pool is built, without major construction work on the pool surround. However, I did see one cover at the show which I thought was fantastic. It was a load-bearing aluminium cover in sections sized between 1200mm and 2400 mm wide. It looked like timber decking and it automatically rolled off the pool using a remote control and stacked the panels below or above the ground. The example shown had a pool with a false wall at one end and the cover magically slid underneath the wall while the pool was in use. When the pool was covered, you had a great deck area that could be used for all types of activities. How fantastic is that?
Last week I was in the U.S. at the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals annual pool show in Las Vegas. While visiting a lot of booths of vinyl liner suppliers, something became very obvious to me, Australian pool owners are lucky. I knew that installers of Inground Pool Liners in Australia were innovative and offered their customers more options than their counter parts in the U.S. & Europe, but being at the show and talking to liner manufacturing companies really highlighted some of the things we do differently (and better) here. That is fastening liners under water.
One company at the show was touting their “new” under water extrusion for liners where you can now have ceramic tiles around the water line of the pool, with the benefits of a vinyl finish over the rest of the pool. For some panel pool systems, this is an attractive option, but I have been in this industry over 30 years and I know vinyl liners have been installed in Australia under water in pools with a ceramic waterline for over twenty years.
Another company was telling me how they were trying to design a suitable measuring system to fit liners into old concrete and fibreglass pools. I developed a successful system back in 1993 to measure these complex shaped pools and then turn the measurements into CAD data to create the patterns and pieces for manufacturing the liner. This is another example where a pool owner in Australia has more options for renovation or repair.
So I have come to the conclusion that pool owners in Australia are lucky. They are lucky to have access to the best technology and systems for measuring, making and installing pool liners to their Inground swimming pools. The Australian pool owner more importantly has available the necessary skills of the installers who then fit the liner to these difficult pools. I take my hat off to the innovators and pioneers of these installation methods. They are true craftsmen that have developed their skills by tackling difficult installations and developing methods and processes to make it work.
Going forward for our industry, I believe it is important we foster these skills and take the time and effort to train newcomers to our industry so we can ensure our customers can enjoy the ease of maintenance and soft to touch finish of vinyl, no matter what the age or construction of their pool.
One of the criticisms in the past of vinyl liners for Inground pools was the seams. That’s all changed now! These necessary and integral parts of a liner cop a lot of flack from supporters of other pool finishes but they need not be a concern any more. In the past few years, the seams have been the focus of liner manufacturers and vinyl suppliers to minimise the number and make them look like they have disappeared!
Seams on printed pool liners were quite obvious due to the welding method that was traditionally used. Innovative manufacturer ABGAL pioneered a new type of welding technique for pool liners to produce a seam that was less obvious. This welding technique is called “wedge welding” and has seen an improvement in the look and even more importantly the strength of pool liners since its introduction.
A number of years later using its software design system, ABGAL offered a liner with the seams facing away from the viewing direction of the pool (usually looking from the home or entertainment area). This option meant liners could be manufactured with the seams positioned so they were “out of view” from most of the pool surround and has been a huge success.
Nylex, the only liner fabric manufacturer in Australia made changes to their printed pool liner fabric to improve the look of the seams in liners still welded using the old method. They have changed the backing colour of the PVC to blend in better after welding, giving a less obvious liner seam.
The latest innovation in seams again comes from ABGAL, they have developed what they call “Smart Seam Technology” which has reduced the width of the seams to half their original size, but retained all the strength of a full width seam, but looks so much better.
So, for a seamless view follow these 3 easy steps…..
- Choose wedge welding for the liner
- Nominate the direction of the seams when ordered
- Use ABGAL’s “Smart Seam Technology”
I often get a puzzled look when I talk to someone about a vinyl liner for an Inground Swimming Pool. Most people know that vinyl liners are used in Above Ground Pools but many have never heard of using a vinyl liner as the finish of an Inground Pool
A vinyl pool finish, is one of the most popular types in the world for Inground Swimming Pools. Why is that I hear you ask? Well there are a few good reasons, but the most important being that vinyl is low maintenance and it is flexible. From a structural point, vinyl is popular because it will accommodate ground movement as it does not crack. This means in cold climates where the ground freezes in winter, vinyl is the ideal finish as it will cope with the movement in the ground caused by the freeze/thaw process. That’s one of the reasons why vinyl is not as common in Australia as our capital cities do not get cold enough in winter for the ground to freeze. But, we do have plenty of areas where ground movement is a problem, which makes vinyl a great solution.
Now, there are plenty of vinyl lined Inground pools in Australia. Most of these pools are a pre-engineered style, where a substantial amount of the structure of the pool has been built in a factory and is then taken to site and assembled and installed. Pre-engineered vinyl pools offer much quicker installation times than concrete as they are not required to remain empty for a number of weeks to allow for the curing process. They have the advantage they can be built any size or shape, many Olympic size competition pools are vinyl lined. The pre-engineered system means they are very accurate in size (which is very important in competition) and they can be built much faster as a large percentage of the construction is already done in the factory before the panel modules arrive on site.
So, when looking to build a new pool or when you need to fix a cracked and leaking concrete or Fibreglass pool, think vinyl. It is the ideal pool finish that is thicker than 15 layers of paint, smooth to touch so it is child friendly and best of all is low maintenance, so you can have more time to enjoy your pool rather than scrubbing.
See how fabulous an Inground vinyl liner can look……..
In busy times, the trend is to spend less time cleaning and maintaining your pool finish, so you can spend more time swimming. After all, the less time spent cleaning your pool the better, right?
We all love the luxury of tiles, but most of us understand the problems associated with keeping the grout clean. Think of your shower… imagine how easy it would be to clean your shower if there was no grout to scrub? ABGAL has the solution!
One of the most popular swimming pool patterns in Europe is available here now. ‘Mosaic Tile’ will transform your backyard into the French Riviera, with this ABGAL vinyl finish in your pool….The classic ‘Mosaic Tile’ pattern gives you the luxurious look of tiles, without the expense. Plus, it’s so easy to keep clean and has the low maintenance features of vinyl.
The latest pool trends we’re seeing are use of formal or geometric shapes such as rectangles, which combine beautifully with large format paving stones. This creates a sense of spaciousness and clean lines which accentuate the geometric pattern of ‘Mosaic Tile’ – it makes for a timeless statement in your backyard. Team it with a crisp, white granite or paving stone, to experience the illusion of ‘coolness’ amid the Mediterranean tones of cool whites and vivid blues. Truly inviting…