How to Protect Your Pool From Freezing Temperatures

Written by Michael Dean
April 3, 2024

cold swimming pool in the winter

Winter is a risky time for swimming pools. Pool owners have to deal with the challenge of freezing temperatures, as they can damage your pool and equipment.

Whether you’re looking to freshen up your knowledge on winter pool care or are a first-timer, this article will cover the best tips against pool freeze protection, how to deal with frozen pool equipment, and how to protect your pool during a winter power outage. Let’s get into it!

Main Takeaways

  • Weather forecasts are your best bet to anticipate potential lows and highs in temperature, which will allow you to take the right preventive measures.
  • Circulation and filtration of pool water during freezing conditions are crucial to keep the water from freezing in the pipes and equipment.
  • Winterization of pool equipment requires draining water from pool equipment, wrapping exposed pipes and equipment in insulating materials, using a pool cover, etc.

Top Tips for Pool Freeze Protection

Freezing temperatures are no joke when it comes to your pool. Here are my top tips for pool freeze protection!

Watch Weather Forecasts

Weather forecasts are your best bet to navigate dipping temperatures. They allow you to anticipate potential lows and highs in temps, allowing you to implement needed preventive measures.

Circulation and Filtration

This tip is absolutely crucial! Circulation and filtration of pool water during freezing conditions is crucial to keep the water from freezing over. Modern pool systems may have built-in freeze protection activated automatically once temperatures fall below a certain point. But if you don’t have automatic freeze protection, set a timer or manually turn the pump on once temperatures drop below freezing. Even if you don’t turn on the heater, as long as the water is moving, the pool water won’t freeze.

Additional Preventive Measures

Maintain and upkeep the pool as and when possible—this involves occasionally checking up on the skimmer basket and emptying it of debris buildup and regularly backwashing and cleaning your filter for optimal water circulation and filtration. Let me reiterate: the important thing is to keep the water moving!

Cover the Pool

You should also cover the pool with a proper winter cover. This will help keep the pool warmer, and the heat will lock in, so your pool is less likely to freeze when temperatures drop below freezing.

Maintain the Water Level

When protecting your pool from freezing temperatures, make sure you maintain the water level. It should always be at the halfway point of the skimmer opening to ensure your skimmers and pump don’t run dry. If the water level gets too low, there will be no water movement throughout the pool equipment, and your pool plumbing may freeze!

The only time the pool water level can go below the skimmer opening is when you properly winterize the pool for the season.

Winterize Equipment and Plumbing

Once the cold season rolls around, it’s time to prep and winterize the equipment and plumbing to protect them over the freezing months. You should generally start winterizing when the temperatures are consistently below 65 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Winterizing involves the following:

  1. Clean and balance your pool.
  2. Add a winterizing chemical kit.
  3. Lower the water level to below the skimmer opening.
  4. Drain all water from pool equipment, such as the pump, heater, and filter, via designated drain plugs or channels.
  5. Empty and seal the return lines.
  6. Add a Gizzmo to your skimmer to protect it from freezing water.
  7. Remove and store all equipment from the pool, including ladders and handrails.
  8. Cover the pool with a winter cover.

For a more thorough step-by-step guide, check out my article on pool winterization.

Seek Professional Help 

Unsure about how to follow winterization procedures or facing a few hiccups? Talking to an expert is your best bet. A qualified professional will be able to offer guidance on your specific situation and troubleshoot any issues accurately. 

Winter Power Outage: How to Protect Your Pool

During extreme winter snaps, power outages can occur. No power and freezing temperatures can spell disaster for your pool. Here’s what to do when you are facing a sudden winter power outage.

Step One: Assess the Situation

When the outage occurs, if the temperatures are above freezing, relax. Your pool should be okay unless the outage is extraordinarily long. Keep tabs on any messages from utility providers, but otherwise, it should be fine. However, if freezing temperatures are possible, it’s time to act!

Step Two: Turn Off All Equipment

Turn off all your pool equipment at the breaker to prevent any power surges that might occur.

Step Three: Drain the Water From Equipment

Drain water manually from pumps, filters, and other equipment via designated drain plugs and filter air bleed valves. Remove any plugs.

Step Four: Store Plugs

Place all plugs and lids in a safe, dry place until the power comes back.

Step Five: Replace All Equipment

Once the outage is over, replace all the lids and plugs to your pool equipment. 

Step Six: Inspect

It’s also time to run a few checks. Look over your equipment for cracks, leaks, or other possible damage. Do not turn anything on if you notice it’s damaged. Close any drain plugs or valves you might have opened during the outage. Check the water level and ensure it’s at the halfway point of the skimmer opening.

Step Seven: Restart and Test 

Manually turn on equipment one by one, starting with the pump. Monitor for leaks, odd, unusual sounds, or other such anomalies. Test that the equipment is functioning as normal.

Step Eight: Check and Rebalance Water Chemistry

If anything has veered below or above the recommended levels, adjust it.

In case your area frequently experiences extended power outages, you could consider investing in a battery-powered pump for optimal freeze protection. That should protect your pool from the worst of the damage caused by a winter power outage. Remember, while the key to navigating an outage is to act quickly, it’s as important that you do so calmly.

Best of all, if you often experience freezing temperatures and power outages, do your best to properly winterize the pool before this occurs!

What to Do with Frozen Pool Equipment

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, pool equipment can freeze. If you find your pool equipment has frozen during the winter season, it’s best to take a calm and cautious approach to avoid causing further damage. Follow the steps below! You can also check out my separate article on what to do if your pool pump froze.

Step One: Turn Everything Off

Once you’ve confirmed that your pool has experienced freeze damage, immediately turn off all electrical components and water as soon as you can (if they weren’t off already!).

Step Two: Wait for the Thaw

Patience is key. Do not attempt to force-thaw the pool equipment by applying heat prematurely. Sudden and extreme swings in temperature can cause materials to expand, contract, and crack, leading to permanent damage. It is best to wait for natural thawing to occur—monitor the weather. Do NOT turn on any equipment while you wait.

Step Three: Inspect the Equipment

Once thawed, thoroughly inspect your equipment. Check for cracks, leaks, or any other signs of visible damage. Pay close attention to filters, valves, pump, and pipes. If you notice any issues or signs of significant damage, dial a pool professional for further assessment.

Step Four: Restart Equipment

If everything looks alright and the equipment has completely thawed, follow proper restarting procedures. This should start with priming the pump, followed by gradually reintroducing water into the system. Once this is done, start the rest of the equipment individually, and keep a close eye on any unusual activity—unusual sounds, excessive vibration, sudden spurts or leaks, sharp cracking sounds, etc.

Step Five: Next Steps

If restarting and operating pool equipment has gone off without a hitch, you can test and adjust your water chemistry levels as needed.

If this isn’t the case, get in touch with an expert for the best next steps you can take.

Of course, with all this said, prevention is the best cure against freezing pool equipment—by following proper winterization procedures (draining, insulation, circulation, freeze protection, etc.), you can significantly reduce the risk of frozen pool equipment.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do saltwater pools freeze?

They do, albeit at slightly lower temperatures, around 28 degrees rather than 32. Nevertheless, winterizing saltwater pools is crucial to prevent long-term damage to the structure and equipment of the pool. 

What temp should pool freeze protection be set at?

Pool freeze protection usually hovers between 35 to 40°F or 1.7 to 4.4°C, although the ideal temperature for your specific situation will naturally depend on your local climate conditions.

How long does it take for water to freeze in pool pipes?

It depends on several factors, such as if temperatures fall below freezing, or if the pipes are exposed (exposed pipes can freeze in under 6 hours in frigid enough conditions) and the water is still (moving water resists freezing longer)—the timeframe for freezing in pipes can thus range from mere hours to days.

Be Proactive, Be Prepared

Dealing with winter trouble when you have a pool can be tricky if you’re not prepared. But hopefully, this guide has sorted out the worst of your doubts. Remember, the key is being prepared and proactive. Keep an eye on the forecasts, winterize ahead of time, and be prepared for the possibility of a power outage. By keeping a cool head, you should be able to navigate through the worst of a tough winter season!

Any questions about pools and winterization? Drop me a message; I’ll be happy to help out.

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