Labor Day is traditionally the end of the summer pool season in many place, but in South and Central Florida diving, cannonballs and sunbathing on floating chairs in backyard and neighborhood pools can be nearly a year-round activity.
On the other hand, a poorly-maintained pool can lead to higher electrical bills, swimmer discomfort (red eyes, irritated skin) and even green hair. Yes, green hair.
"It is certainly going to be less expensive for a consumer to take care of pool themselves versus hiring somebody," said Brian Wells, a vice president based inOrlando andFlorida spokesperson for Leslie's Swimming Pool Supplies, one of the largest retailers in the state. "That is true no matter where you are, even in a competitive area likeFlorida."
Wells says it is not uncommon for consumers to pay between $80 and $120 a month to hire someone to take care of a pool. It's nice if you can afford it, since piece of mind comes with such service. But rolling up your sleeves, doing the work and purchasing your own chemicals can cost less than $34 a month on average.
Keep in mind pool costs depend on pool size: A general rule is that an owner of a 20,000-gallon pool may pay up to twice the amount as someone with a pool half that size.
Wells also says prevention is the best medicine when it comes to pool maintenance, especially in South and Central Florida where heat, rain and heavy-pool usage can quickly add up to problems - and higher bills.
Here is a user-friendly guide to keeping your water sparkling and your costs down, year-round.
Keep water clean: Regularly ensuring it is sanitized and properly balanced (chemically-speaking) will lower maintenance bills. "If something is wrong with water balance, fix it quickly," Wells said. "The cleaner your pools, the less problems you will have, and the less problems you have the more money you will save." Clear leaves and debris; don't allow grass clippings, which can contain fertilizer and other contaminants, to get in the pool; and clean out filters and skimmer at least once a week.
Test water often: Do this weekly during summer months, every few weeks in the winter when the temperatures drop and when pool-usage is less. You can use test strips available at any pool store or have it tested at your local store, which more than likely will provide the service for free. The strips will let you know if your chlorine, PH, phosphate and other chemicals are in balance. Tip: Too many metals in your water, such as copper, can lead to green hair or fingernails.
Use pumps properly: Think of your pool pump as the heart that keeps the system circulating, clear and flowing. "Not using the pump enough can cause problems and using it too much will run up your electrical bill," Well said. Run the pump between 8 and 10 hours per day in the summer and about 4 to 6 hours in the winter.
Invest in an automatic cleaner: Think of these as underwater vacuum cleaners that work on their own to remove leaves, small branches and other debris while you do something else. There are generally two types, random and programmed. The former vacuums in circles and can eventually get to most areas within a day; programmed are electronic versions that keep track of where it has vacuumed, hitting areas in more efficient patterns and can clean an entire pool in hours. Expect to pay from $250 to $1,000 for a quality cleaner.
Brush regularly: Algae can build up quickly, especially when water is not balanced or contaminants invade, including rain, dirt and runoff from swimmers with suntan lotion or even shampoo residue from their bodies. To keep algae and other residue at bay, brush your pull twice a week while your pump is running.
Take a class: Many pool stores offer consumers poolside service; a pool cleaning expert can visit your home and show you how all the pumps, piping and valves work make recommendations on regular maintenance based on the size, condition and location of your pool. Expect to pay about $80 to $85 for an hour's worth of education.
For instance, Leslie's pool school service sends a technician to your home to show you how to use all of your equipment, including valves, timers, pumps, filters, cleaners, chlorinators and heaters. The chain Pinch A Penny offers a similar service. Check with your local pool store for other possible options.
"Taking care of your pool on your own can be intimidating at first," Wells said. "But once you have the right person show you how to do it, you'll start saving money and learn to spend very little time each week getting it done."
firstname.lastname@example.org, or 954-356-4219, or 561-243-6600, ext. 4219. To see more columns from Daniel Vasquez, go to SunSentinel.com/vasquez.
Check out Daniel Vasquez's Consumer Talk blog for ways to spend your money wisely, use technology to make life easier and keep your family safe and healthy at SunSentinel.com/consumerblog.