The Edge - Q2 2011 - (Page 31)
WATER CHEMISTRY | by Joe Sweazy
Back to Basics
A BASEBALL COACH whose pitcher can’t find the strike zone will tell his player to focus on fundamental mechanics of the throwing motion. A basketball coach whose team is struggling will focus on protecting the basketball and playing tough defense. Yes, sometimes it is good to get back to the basics. For pool and spa service professionals, it does not get any more basic than testing. Often, the biggest pool problems can be diagnosed with some basic water chemistry testing. After all, accurate water analysis helps protect the swimmers in the pool or spa from harmful bacteria and microorganisms, and it will help preserve the investment in pool or spa equipment. Ultimately, testing is a key tool for your customer’s satisfaction. The most basic of pool and spa tests is also the most important – the sanitizer. Typically chlorine or bromine, it is critical to keeping the water clean and clear and preventing waterborne illnesses. You should test the sanitizer levels in a swimming pool a minimum of twice weekly; daily testing is ideal. In addition, check the sanitizer level after any significant change in the environment, such as a pool party, a rainstorm or a high wind that deposits dust and leaves. Keep in mind that the conditions in a hot tub can change more rapidly due to the smaller size and the relative bather load. Your customers may need to test the hot tub more frequently – ideally, before and after each use. measure free chlorine, not just total chlorine. Total chlorine by itself is deceptive. Free chlorine is “good” chlorine that is still able to keep the pool fresh and clean. When free chlorine comes in contact with contaminants, such as ammonia, soap and bacteria, it neutralizes them and becomes combined chlorine (also called chloramines). In this combined form, chlorine has very little sanitizing ability. It also may have a strong odor. Total chlorine is the sum of the combined chlorine plus the free chlorine in your water. If all you measure is the total chlorine, you won’t get an accurate picture of the status of the pool. You won’t have any way to know whether your total chlorine reading reflects a greater proportion of free chlorine or combined chlorine or worse, no free chlorine at all. Bromine, on the other hand, should be measured in its total form. Combined forms of bromine do not cause foul odors and do have some sanitizing ability. It is still preferable to have more free bromine than combined bromine, but not as critical for protecting against bacteria and microorganisms. Therefore, when maintaining bromine pools or hot tubs, you should test for total bromine. Swimming pools and spas also require a delicate chemical balance. The pH, total alkalinity and hardness (often referred to as calcium hardness) are the big three in protecting a pool or spa and its expensive equipment. You may also need to keep tabs on the cyanuric acid or stabilizer. The most critical of the factors affecting water balance is pH, which is an index of how acidic the water is. The lower the pH becomes, the more acidic the water will be. Balancing the pH prevents corrosion and/or scale buildup on equipment, and it helps protect
the bathers’ skin and eyes from irritation. This is also important for the efficiency of your sanitizer.
MEASURING THE ALKALINE BUFFERS
Total alkalinity. This is the measure of the alkaline buffers in the water that prevent pH from fluctuating suddenly. You can think of it as having training wheels for your pH. Always check and adjust the alkalinity before you balance the pH. You should measure the pH and total alkalinity every time you test your sanitizer, normally at least twice a week. Water hardness. When the hardness level gets too high, ugly scale deposits and cloudy water can develop. If the hardness is too low, the pipes and fixtures will become damaged and corroded. You can test the
USE A TEST KIT THAT MEASURES SANITIZER
Because we are talking about the basics, remember that you need to use a test kit that measures the sanitizer in a way that allows you to make meaningful treatment decisions. Consider this when picking out a test kit: you need to
etting back to testing basics can save you time and energy (and, therefore, money) by helping you avoid ugly water chemistry issues. These testing basics can also help protect your reputation because you’ll have fewer problems and be on top of them when they do occur. This year, be your own quarterback coach and get back to the basics for pool and spa testing success.
THE EDGE 31
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Edge - Q2 2011
The Edge - Q2 2011
The President’s Message
Letters to the Editor
Delivering Retail IMPACT
Are Your Suppliers Giving You the Tools You Need to Succeed?
Smart Tips to Boost Profi ts Today’s pool and spa professionals know how to survive a tough economic climate.
Succession Planning for Your Pool and Spa Business
Service Excellence Done Right Pools & Spas knows the secret.
Water Testing – Back to Basics
Promoting Your Business with Email
Index of Advertisers
The Edge - Q2 2011