Winter water

It's time get your pool ready for winter

October arrived wearing sunglasses this year, with temperatures in the low 90s and not a cloud in sight. With the kids back in school, the in-ground swimming pool in your backyard clearly did not get the use it did in August. But even though cold nights put a chill in the water, it still was hard to admit that swimming season was over.

But now it's nearly Halloween, Thanksgiving is right around the corner and only transplanted Alaskans — maybe a few Minnesotans — would think about jumping in, so it's past time to get realistic. It's time to put the pool to bed for the winter.

But what does that mean, exactly?

For most people, it comes down to two options, says George Gleim of Sunrise Pool Service in Medford.

You can do a thorough cleaning, then shut it down, drain the filter and pump, put them someplace they won't freeze, blow out the lines, cap the returns, dump some winterizing chemicals in the water and cover the pool over until spring.

Or keep the pool pretty much like it is, which means letting the pump circulate the water all winter, though you won't have to run it for as many hours as in the summer.

Gleim recommends keeping pools going.

"My preference is to keep the motor running all winter and keep it clean," says Gleim, who has been servicing pools in the area for 14 years.

The downside of running it all winter is still paying for the electricity. But covering it over and draining the equipment has its own price, says Gleim.

Pumps are made to run, so you always run the risk of bearings drying out and getting rusty, which can reduce the life of the pump. And because everything's made of plastic these days, there's always a chance the pump or filter could freeze during a cold snap and crack.

If you do a complete shutdown, says Reid Richey, of Clearwater Oasis on Barnett Road, plan to peel back the cover in February and test the water's chlorine levels.

If you have one of those bolted-down, super-tight, safety covers that look like a trampoline, you can just blow the leaves off of it as they collect. But if you're using the kind that looks like a big tarp, and the winter rains decide to flex their muscles, "you'll have a pool on top of your pool," says Richey.

Excess water on the cover can press down and displace the water in a pool, so you'll need to pump it off before removing the cover, and you'll have to run a hose to bring the water levels back up.

Those are some of the reasons Richey recommends keeping the pump running all winter.

"My personal opinion is that I like pools open," says Richey. "I like water circulating."

He recommends running the pump for about four to six hours a day, during the coldest hours, from about 4 to 8 a.m. or so. In a prolonged cold snap, you may want to run it 24/7.

You can use a timer to set the cycles and, if your pool doesn't already have one, install a thermostat-controlled device that will kick the pump on as the temperature approaches freezing.

"You have a beautiful pool in your backyard; you may as well look at it," says Richey, "even if it is winter."

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