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Good Pool Guy vs. Bad Pool Guy
It's hard to tell a good pool guy from a bad one. They all show up once a week, smile, and seem to be doing something to your pool. But the truth is that most pool guys do not understand the chemistry of pool water and are often doing things to ensure that your pool water is perpetually out of balance. Many pool guys have not received proper training and keep your pool out of balance inadvertently, thinking they are doing the right thing. Since your pool guy doesn't swim in your pool, he won't know that your eyes sting after a swim, and since he won't be around in a couple of years, he won't know or care that your surface is wearing out prematurely.
High pH levels: faded swimwear, stinging eyes and worse!
Eye irritation during or after swimming is so common that people have begun to think of it as almost normal. The reality is that the human eye has a pH of 7.4, so the pH of the pool water needs to hover as close to 7.4 as possible for optimal swimming conditions. The pH of most swimming pools is too high, and the pool guy is often to blame. Many things can cause the pH level of a pool to be too high, but one common culprit is found in chlorine tabs. "Tabs," as they are known in the industry, release chlorine in a slow-dissolve fashion. That sounds good, but "tabs" have a big downside. They boost the pH level of the water above the level that is normal for humans. Pool guys like tabs because they are easier to carry than big jugs of chlorine or bags of what we call "shock." There are, of course, good uses for tabs, and good pool guys do use them, although sparingly.
In addition to stinging eyes, high pH causes an assortment of other problems:
irritated skin and scalp
dull or cloudy pool water
burning nasal passages
scale-forming minerals that result in calcium buildup on the pool surface, steps, waterline and accessories
strep throat, herpes (the more common variety), and skin rashes
When you consider that chlorine's ability to do its job is directly linked to the pH level of the water, it's easy to see how imbalanced pH can lead to unhealthy pool water. A good pool guy will keep your pH at the proper level; a bad pool guy doesn't know enough about water chemistry to even know how to keep the water properly balanced.
Did you know that you can get strep throat from your swimming pool?
An out of whack pH level can lead to sickness. People get sick from swimming pool water all the time, but they never think to blame their pool (or their pool guy). It's not safe to swim in a pool that contains algae. If your pool has algae, you'll know it because you can see it. It's green, yellow, red, or brown, and if you brush it, it will seemingly disappear (for a while), dissipating into the water. Algae are actually tiny plants that grow in your pool, feeding on phosphates. It is common for people to get strep throat from imbalanced swimming pool water. You can also get skin rashes and the garden-variety form of herpes from swimming water infected with algae.
Do not blame your pool guy if your pool has algae. That's like blaming your doctor because you have a cold. Swimming pools simply get pool algae sometimes. It's just part of having a pool. However, a bad pool guy won't handle algae properly when it occurs. He'll apply a treatment, but he probably won't come back right away to check up on the pool. You see, the product used to kill pool algae eats up all the chlorine in the pool within 24 hours. If you put even one-half cup of algae-killer in the pool, almost all of the chlorine will likely be gone the next day. If your pool guy dumps in some algae-killer on Tuesday and doesn't come back to add chlorine to the pool until the following Tuesday, your pool water has been unsafe for swimming all week. A good pool guy will kill the algae and come back the next day to adjust your swimming pool chemistry.
The Lazy or Overworked Pool Guy
A lot of pool guys simply skip parts of the pool-cleaning process. Though they are supposed to brush the walls of the pool, they may skip it to save time. You might also be surprised to learn that your filter is disgusting because your pool guy has been procrastinating when it comes to cleaning it. Cleaning a pool filter is time consuming and downright disgusting. When faced with the prospect of picking out hair and other debris out of a nasty filter or just moving on to the next pool, you can bet that a lot of guys put off cleaning pool filters. Some pool guys skip parts of the pool-maintenance process out of laziness, others because their boss has put too many pools on their route.
If you have a salt system, your pool guy may have told you that it doesn't work. The reality is that 50 lb. salt bags are heavy to carry, so a lot of pool techs simply tell the customer that their system isn't working. It's partially true because if the tech didn't keep the salt level correct in the system, the system itself has to be turned off, and then the system becomes inoperable until steps are taken to restore its function. Salt systems make pool water healthier, but a lot of pool guys don't like them because they don't want to carry 50 lb. salt bags.
Wear and Tear on Your Equipment, Tile, and Pool Surface
Pools are expensive. Some of the pools I service cost as much as a small house. If your pool chemistry isn't right, your $100k+ pool investment is going to take a beating. Imbalanced pool water is hard on everything. Proper alkalinity is a must and relates directly to your pH levels. Low alkalinity can result in surface stains and will also corrode the metals in your pumping equipment. I have had pool guys tell me that they have had to reach into their wallets to pay to have swimming pools resurfaced because their pool guy messed up the swimming pool chemistry and destroyed the surface of the pool. Most homeowners just scratch their head and wonder why they have to resurface their pool so quickly, not even thinking to blame their pool guy. While pool chemistry isn't rocket science, there is more to it than most people realize, so if you want to protect your swimming pool investment, pick a good pool guy.