Understanding Pool Systems

All swimming pools share the same mechanics--a combination of filtration and chemical treatment continually cleans the water. Typical components include:

  • basin
  • pump
  • filter
  • chemical feeder
  • drains
  • heater
  • returns
  • PVC plumbing connecting all of these

At a high level, pools pump water in a continual cycle, from the basin through filtering and chemical treatment systems and back to the basin. This mechanism keeps pool water free of dirt, debris and bacteria.

During normal operation, water flows to the filtering system through the main drains at the pool’s bottom and skimmer drains around the pool’s top. Main drains are usually located on the lowest point in the pool. Dirt and debris that sinks exits the pool through these drains. The skimmers also draw water, but they suck only from the very top of the pool. Floating debris leaves the pool through the skimmers. Water flows first through the strainer basket, which catches any larger debris. Whether drained thru the main drains or skimmer, water is pumped through the filtering system, cleaned, and pumped back out to returns, which are inlet valves around the pool’s perimeter.

The water pump is the heart of your pool’s systems. An electric motor spins an impeller inside the pump housing, pulling water from the drains through the filter and heater, and back out to the inlets. Just before it flows into the pump, the water passes through a metal strainer basket that catches leaves and other large debris that might clog up the pump, before continuing to the filter.

Pool filters commonly employ a filter bed of specialty sand, although diatomaceous earth filters and cartridge filters are also available.
Dirty water from the pool comes in through the filter's inlet pipe, and is pulled down through the sand, where these tiny sand particles catch dirt and debris. At the tank’s bottom, the filtered water flows out the outlet pipe. Over time, the collected dirt and debris in the filter bed impedes water flow. Pressure gauges at the filter inlet and outlet give an indication of blockage levels inside. When resistance to flow becomes too great, it’s time to backwash the filter to remove accumulated debris—or to rinse or replace cartridge filters.

Outdoor pools in Colorado typically have heaters to keep the water at a preferred temperature. After passing thru the filter, water enters a heat exchanger, which is typically gas-fired, to raise its temperature before being forced thru the return in the pool basin.

It's important to carefully maintain the chemical balance in pools:

  • Dangerous pathogens including bacteria thrive in water. A pool filled with untreated water would be a perfect place for disease-carrying microorganisms to thrive.
  • The wrong chemical balance can damage the various pool components.
  • Improperly balanced water irritates the skin and eyes.
  • Improperly balanced water can get cloudy.

Eliminating pathogens in the water requires a disinfecting agent that will kill them. The best pool disinfectant is the element chlorine, in the form of a chemical compound such as calcium hypochlorite or sodium hypochlorite. When added to water, chlorine reacts to form various chemicals that kill bacteria and other pathogens. Chlorine is typically prepared in liquid, powder, tablet or gaseous form and can be added to water anywhere in the cycle, although adding it just after the filtering process, using a chemical feeder, is preferred.

The water's pH is a measure of its total acid-alkalinity balance -- the relative proportion of acids and alkalis dissolved in water. Water that is either too acidic or too alkaline causes undesirable reactions. If the water is too acidic, it will corrode metal equipment, cause etching on surface materials and skin irritation. If the water is too alkaline, it can cause scaling on the pool surface and plumbing equipment and can cloud the water.

Platinum Pools of Colorado recommends a pool pH between 7.2 and 7.8. To raise or lower pH, additional acids or alkalis are added to the water.


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