Swimming pools don’t need as much care during the off-season, but that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore them. If you have a pool heater, you can extend the swimming season, but you should consider closing your pool as soon as it gets too cold to swim. Following some basic maintenance tips during the winter will ensure an easy and effortless opening when summer comes around.
Here is my winter pool care routine to keep your swimming pool in great shape until the snow melts and the weather starts to warm up.
- If the temperature stays below freezing during the winter, it is a good idea to unhook and store your pump and filter system to prevent the pipes from freezing.
- It is important to keep your winter pool cover clean and to prevent snow or water from building up on it during the off-season.
- Drain your pool slightly during the winter to prevent the jets and skimmer lines from freezing.
- A winterizing kit will usually include all the chemicals you need to close your pool during the winter and will typically come with direct instructions on how to use them.
Why Is Winter Pool Care Important?
It is easy to forget and neglect a pool during the colder winter months when it is not in use. But this is one of the worst things you can do in terms of pool maintenance. If you don’t properly care for your pool during the winter, the water will turn green, your equipment may corrode, the pool surfaces may get damaged, and it will be much more difficult to open up the pool when you are ready to use it.
Properly winterizing the pool, treating the water, and regularly checking and testing the water are very important winter pool maintenance tasks. The last thing you want is to uncover your pool in the summer to find a filthy green swamp waiting for you!
Alright, let’s dive into maintenance action items for winter.
Remove Pool Accessories And Equipment
Remove any ladders, diving boards, pool heaters, automatic cleaners, and other equipment and accessories from your pool during the winter to prevent them from corroding or getting damaged by unbalanced pool water or cold weather conditions.
You should also care for your pump and filter system. During the winter, as the temperature drops and freezes, water left in your pump and filter can freeze and destroy these expensive pieces of pool equipment. Drain and unhook your pool pump and filter and cover the equipment with a tarp, or if possible, store all the equipment in a dry shed. Before you turn off your pump and store it, allow it to circulate the winterizing chemicals.
Do NOT turn off and remove your pump if it doesn’t get below freezing for an extended period during the winter. If it stays above freezing, you should keep your pump installed and run it occasionally to circulate the water. Head to my complete guide on winterizing a pool pump and filter for all the steps.
Clean Your Pool Thoroughly Before Fitting The Winter Pool Cover
This tip may seem obvious to some, but it’s very important not to overlook! Before you put on your winter pool cover and officially end the pool season, you want to ensure the pool is clean. Empty the skimmer basket, remove any debris in the water, brush the surface, and vacuum the pool. This is also a good time to clean out your filter if needed and essentially ensure your pool is in the best condition possible before it goes into “hibernation.”
Add Algaecide and Chlorine
Algaecide and chlorine are essential to help prevent the buildup of threats in your pool while the water is stagnant for a few months. The exact amount of algaecide to use depends on the product, and you should always follow the manufacturer’s directions, but about one quart of a good algaecide is enough for a 20,000-gallon pool over the winter.
However, don’t rely exclusively on algaecide and ignore your pool. It’s still good practice to check your pool every week or two to be sure it’s still clean. If you spot any algae growth in your pool, shock your pool and clean your pool as soon as possible to prevent stains and damage. After all, algaecide is used to prevent algae, not get rid of an existing infestation.
When it comes to chlorine, test your chlorine levels before closing your pool for the season and top up as necessary throughout the winter season. You should regularly pull back your pool cover and test the water to ensure that the chlorine level is sufficient and your pool chemicals are balancedm.
Drain Your Pool to Prevent Freezing
Specifically, you should drain your pool water about four to six inches below your pool skimmer system. This gives some room for rainwater to seep in, which can raise your pool’s water level. And most importantly, this ensures that all pipes and systems are protected from potential damage from freezing. Removing excess water will prevent your pipes from cracking or bursting when water freezes and expands in the winter.
Don’t forget to empty the lines, remove them if possible, and let them dry before you store them.
Do not completely drain your pool. The water that’s still in the pool helps protect the interior liner and provides safe, constant pressure.
Keep Your Pool Cover Clean and Remove Debris
Your pool cover is necessary for winterizing your pool (if you don’t have one yet, read my guide on the best winter pool covers). Keeping it clear of debris helps avoid damage and protects your pool cover.
Regardless of the type of cover you’re using, you should clean the cover regularly. Remove snow from your winter cover, clean off stagnant water, and use your rake to remove debris rather than wash the pool cover, as the water may get into the pool itself and alter the chemistry more than you want it to.
You should also use an air pillow to help keep snow off your cover and prevent it from bowing in too much.
Beware of sharp objects that could damage weaker pool covers. A thicker pool cover may not be as prone to damage, but the leaves, rocks, branches, and other debris can still discolor the pool cover over time. Keeping the pool cover clean not only helps with the cover’s longevity, but also helps make your job much easier when you open your pool again.
Make Sure Your Pool Cover Has a Snug Fit
Ensuring your winter pool cover has a snug fit around the entire pool is also vital for keeping things safe during the off-season.
The main issue here is the pool shape. Rectangular pool covers are easy to find in almost any size you can imagine, both thin and thick. In contrast, oval and irregularly-shaped pools are much harder to get high-quality covers for. A good cover goes entirely across the pool and slightly up the sides, with no more than a small amount of creasing as needed.
You want a fit that’s as snug as possible, but it’s hard for manufacturers to predict every possible pool size. So, if you have an irregularly shaped pool, you might need to buy a custom pool cover.
You should also take into consideration the type of pool cover you have. For example, mesh liners don’t offer much support, so it’s best that this cover is as taut as possible across your pool. However, a solid pool cover may need a little more give to allow the material to expand and contract with the temperature changes.
Don’t forget to find a dedicated storage area for your pool cover. Keeping it clean, dry, and away from sunlight when not in use will help you avoid rips and tears.
Use Enzyme Chemicals
Enzymes are helpful molecules when you’re trying to manage a pool. Although perhaps best known for their functions within the body, enzymes are also handy in pools because they can break apart many organic molecules and ultimately convert them into carbon dioxide.
The result is a gas that bubbles away after using the chemicals. While enzymes break down organic matter, note that it is not a replacement for chlorine and should rather be used in conjunction with chlorine. By using enzymes to break down the organic matter, the chlorine will be much more effective at its job, making it easier for you to maintain proper pool chemistry.
You should use enzymes as often as the manufacturer recommends for the off-season, which is usually monthly. You can generally use less in the winter because the pool is not in use, and the pool cover helps prevent organic matter from entering the pool.
Use a Winterizing Kit
A winterizing kit is a complete set of chemicals for closing a pool. These kits usually include algaecide and pool shock.
Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the winterizing kit. This can include the proper order for adding the chemicals and allowing a specific amount of time between adding each chemical before putting your pool cover on.
If you have a saltwater pool, the winterizing process is slightly different. Read my article on how to close a saltwater pool for the season for more information. I also have a primary article on closing your pool, which covers inground and above ground pools.
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.
Don’t Ignore Your Pool The Entire Winter
A common mistake many pool owners make during the winter is to forget about the pool after setting it up for the off-season. Just because it is cold outside and you’ve added a winterizing kit doesn’t mean something could go wrong. You should still check the pool every so often and test the pH and chlorine levels to ensure the water is in good health. If your pH is unbalanced, fix it. If your chlorine is too low, add more. Keeping your pool clean and sanitary during the winter will make opening your pool much easier.
Open Your Pool Early
Finally, the best way to care for your pool is to open your swimming pool as early as you can. If you ignore your pool for too long as the weather warms up, your pool can become a breeding ground for algae and bacteria. To resolve this, open your pool as soon as the weather permits. Open your pool as soon as the weather is consistently above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once your pool is open, you can rebalance all the chemical levels and avoid any problems that may spring up from ignoring a pool when the warmer weather comes along – notably, algae.
When Should You Open Your Pool?
There is no strict answer to this question. While the unofficial opening weekend for pools around the country is Memorial Day weekend at the end of May, the right time to open your pool really depends on your region, your local climate, and how quickly the temperatures warm up.
Should You Close Your Pool During The Winter?
Not every pool owner needs to close their pool for the winter. If you live in warmer regions such as Florida, Hawaii, California, or Texas, you may be able to keep your pool open all year. The general rule is that you should close and winterize your pool if the temperature drops below freezing for an extended period during the winter.
If the temperature goes above 70 degrees in the winter, don’t even think about winterizing! Algae can easily survive and thrive at this temperature. When you are no longer using the pool, the pool will obviously need fewer chemicals and less frequent cleanings. However, you’ll still definitely need to keep your pump and filter running and frequently clean, test, and check on the pool water in regions with winter temps over 60-70 degrees.
Questions about winter swimming pool maintenance? Let me know; always happy to help protect your pool during the cold winter months and keep your pool ready for summer.