Do I need a Polaris?

"Do I need a Polaris?" is the original question I got asked inspiring this blog post, but I figured some of you reading this might not actually know what a Polaris is, so I'm changing the question to "Do I need an automatic cleaner?" I'm going to do a quick overview of what an automatic cleaner actually is and what it does inside of a swimming pool.  

An automatic cleaner, if you happen to not already know, is anything in your pool that automatically cleans the pool.

Not too complicated right?

A "Polaris" actually refers to the most popular brand of automatic cleaners, made by a company named Pentair called “the Polaris”. They are so popular, in fact, that they're becoming an industry standard when it comes to building new swimming pools. Almost every one of the pools we service on a weekly basis either has a Polaris or has something comparable made by another brand. I’m going to do a blog post later that will dive deeper into automatic cleaners, but for this post I'm simply going to answer if you need one or not.

No.

You do not need an automatic cleaner. An automatic cleaner is nice to have but it’s definitely not needed. Especially if you're using a pool cleaning company, because technically, they will be your automatic cleaner and trust me, they work way better.

The problem with automatic cleaners of any type is that they can usually only clean about 60% - 70% of the pool and there are many cleaners who don't even clean that much. Automatic cleaners come in two types.

 

  1. The cleaner will use the water being shot back into the pool to move the cleaner around, and vacuums your floor in the process by shooting some of that water returning to the pool up and into a net, creating suction.

  2. The cleaner will use the pools own suction to move the cleaner around and vacuum everything directly into the filter.


The Polaris is the first type, and in order to get a Polaris you will also have to purchase what is called a booster pump, which boosts the return pressure so that the Polaris can run properly.

 

Polaris' also need a special port to plug into that is built into the plaster of your pool. This means that unless someone intended your pool to run a Polaris when they built it, you're about to spend a good amount of money installing one. If you're really dead set on getting an automatic cleaner, in the next blog post I'll talk about some of your options that don't involve installing everything needed for a Polaris.
 

What pool cleaning equipment do I need?

"What pool cleaning equipment should I buy?" I love this question, compared to most of the questions we get, this one is pretty straight forward. The type of equipment you need to clean the pool doesn't really vary on your system, except for maybe size, but at the heart of it, everything is the same. If you don't feel like reading this blog post, just scroll all the way to the bottom to view the links and prices to equipment I would recommend buying.

1) A pole

You need at least one pole in your arsenal because the pole is how you use everything else. Pool poles have holes on the end that the brush, net and vacuum head click into, which allows you to clean the pool. You could probably spend between $30 to $100 on a pole but the difference in price will get you an obvious difference in quality. This is important if you have a really deep end on your pool, your pole won't bend and be ruined when its extended all the way. Bending a pole can damage them very quickly. Another thing you will get with spending a little more money on a pole, is that the extension feature that enables the poles to telescope and become longer. On more expensive poles that piece lasts much longer. If I was going to recommend a pole, I would definitely recommend the Piranha pole. Its what all our pool cleaners use and it is probably the best pole I have ever seen. It's also the most expensive. 

Tip: Don't buy a fiber glass pole, when the fiber glass splinters you will be miserable.

1) A net

The net is how your going to get things like dead animals and leaves out of your water. It's pretty basic, but there are some differences in nets that you should know about. First, a cheap net will cover the basics and remove debris out of the pool. If you are on a budget, this is all you need! More expensive nets have a more durable netting which important for professional pool cleaners who are cleaning about 60 pools a week.

Tip: Don't buy the square flat net shown in the picture on the far right (above), they are specialty nets used for getting things floating in suspension in the middle of the water line. Its a waste of time trying to get that stuff. Just go inside, watch some TV and wait for it to settle. You will drive yourself nuts trying to get it!

3) A brush

Buy any brush that has white bristles. In my opinion, they all work the same. The only thing I do recommend is getting a brush that doesn't have metal bristles or metal bristles mixed in.

Tip: When your storing your brush, keep it out of direct sunlight. The sunlight will destroy the brush by causing the bristles to become brittle and fall out.

4) A vacuum head and hose

The vacuum head and vacuum hose are both essential. Together they will probably run you around $100 if you buy middle quality. Vacuum heads will all work the same regardless of price. What you're paying for in a more expensive head is durability and weight. The more expensive ones have lead weights inside the vacuum, helping you keep the head on the bottom of the pool, which is actually convenient. Now hoses on the other hand don't vary between price points. Quality may get a tiny bit higher in the more expensive ones, but it really doesn't make a difference unless your a professional pool cleaner. Size is what you will be most worried about. If you have a bigger pool you'll need a longer hose, meaning you will pay more, simple as that.

Tip: I also want to mention that vacuum heads with bristles on the bottom are specifically made for pools with vinyl liners. If you are vacuuming a vinyl liner pool you have to use a head with bristles or else you will ruin the liner. If you have a regular plaster or pebble tech pool, don't buy one with bristles.

5) Leaf master (Non essential)

The leaf master isn't really essential unless you have a ton of trees around your pool that are constantly dropping leaves in your pool, and when I say constantly, I mean daily. A few leaves are normal and the leaf master could be nice, but it doesn't become essential until leaves falling in your pool becomes the bane of your existence. If this is a real problem for you, a leaf master will help you out a lot. The way it works is by using pressure from a water hose to create suction that carries leaves up into a net on the top the device. The better your water pressure, the better the suction. The worse your water pressure, the worse the suction.

Tip: If leaves in your swimming pool are a frequent battle you fight, I would also recommend upgrading your pump so that the suction from your skimmers will get stronger. Better suction will cause the leaves to get sucked in more efficiently, keeping the pool cleaner. Another option would be to purchase a robot cleaner. They are expensive but great, and if either of those options doesn't sound appealing you could also just rent a chainsaw from Home Depot and cut all the trees down!

5) A skimmer plate

Skimmer plates sit on top of the rim in your skimmer, the one where the basket sits. The skimmer plate creates a seal with a hole in the middle that you plug your vacuum into. You only need a skimmer plate if the hole at the bottom skimmer is for some reason inaccessible, but this is pretty rare. Most pools allow you to plug right in. If you do end up needing one of these, you're probably going to have to shop around to find one that fits correctly on your pool. If your skimmer plate doesn't fit right and you don't achieve a seal, you wont be able to vacuum.

6) A way to test your chemicals

Your going to need a test kit for your chemicals, either strips or a drip kit. Both work, but you can get a lot more precise with a drip kit. I took care of pools for years with only strips and everything worked great. We eventually switched because the more spot on your chemicals are, the more efficient the chlorine works, which results in saving us money in chemical costs. The benefit of a drip kit is accuracy and the benefit of strips is speed and ease of use. The drip kits are fairly complicated to understand, but if your willing to learn they really are the better choice in the end.

This covers all the basic equipment you would need to purchase to maintain your pool. Below I've added some links where you can buy the equipment. I hope this was a useful resource, and remember to write in if your have any questions. Good luck!

1) Pole (cheap and expensive) $25 - $95

2) Net (cheap and expensive) $13 - $55

3) Brush $13

4) Vacuum Head (cheap and expensive) $25 - $75

5) Vacuum Hose (30' and 50') $30 to $60

6) Leaf Master There are a couple of different brands with slightly different names, but they all do the same thing $35 - $50

7) Skimmer Plates You will have to find which one will work on your pool $10 - $60

8) Test Kit (Strips and Drip kit) $20 - $55


How can I make my equipment last longer?

"How can I make my pool equipment last longer?" This should be a concern for most pool owners, and for most of our customer having to spend $1500 on a broken pump is going to hurt. If you own a pool and something breaks, it absolutely has to get fixed, and as soon as possible or else the cost will simply keep rising. If you wait to fix your pool because of budgeting issues, your pool is definitely going to turn green, and green pools are not the frugal option. They can have all kinds of adverse side effects on your pool causing the costs to rise later down the road. For starters, the costs to degreen a pool isn't cheap, whether you do it your self or pay someone. Also a sitting green pool could stain your plaster, meaning once you degreen the pool, there are going to be all kinds of green stains all over. Your system wants to run, if it doesn't, the seals on equipment dry out and the pool usually become more acidic through neglect, hurting your equipment and plaster even more. I saw one person get sued by her home owners association for her pool being out of code. When her equipment broke she decided to just turn the pool into a pond. We were back about sixth months later degreening the pool and fixing the equipment, which ended up being much more expensive.

So how can you make your equipment last longer? Well, you can take some precautions, but most of that is to just following proper pool care procedures in the first place. Unfortunately, pool equipment breaks, and I've been doing this long enough to see that it breaks pretty impartially. Pools are like cars that drive 6-12 hours per day. Most of keeping your pool equipment from breaking is just keeping your fingers crossed. In this post though I am going to emphasize a couple specifics to make sure that when something does break, it wont be because of something you could avoid, it will be because the bad luck fairy visited. 

1) Turn valves properly

Whether it's your multiport valve or simply a regular valve meant to divert water to your spa, you need to turn these properly. For a multi-port valve, the proper way to turn it is to first turn the equipment off, depress the valve all the way, and then spin in only one direction. Multiport valves are extremely notorious for breaking, the spider gasket and springs inside the stem are extremely finicky. For regular valves, simply turn them slowly to play it safe. Turning a valve too fast can cause whats called a 'hydraulic hammer effect', breaking your equipment.

2) Keep your PH level within normal range

If you constantly have low PH, the acidity of the water can hurt your equipment and your plaster. So make sure your PH is consistently around staying around 7.5. Also make sure you buy an inline chlorinator if you don't have one already. Ive seen a ton of customers who simply just throw tabs in the skimmer causing the dissolved tabs to flow straight into the motor. Dissolved tabs create very acidic water, which is bad for equipment. This is why inline chlorinator are at the end of your water flow timeline, meaning the acidic water flows straight into the pool diluting it.

Also, if you do have an inline chlorinator, make sure its plumbed correctly. Something else I see all the time is the pool builder will put the inline chlorinator right before a booster pump (The booster pump is a small motor that runs your polaris), making newly dissolved tabs flow straight through booster pump, literally defeating the point of having a chlorinator in the first place.

3) Make sure your motor is the right size for your pool and filter

A mismatched motor size is very common. There are tables when installing a motor that a builder or repair technician is supposed to follow that come straight from the manufacturer. A larger motor will create more pressure, and the filter needs to be able to handle that pressure. Some customers get sold the biggest and best motor because its the most expensive, but if it doesn't match your filter, you can break the equipment. On the contrary, if your motor is to small for your pool, you will just end up having to let it run longer to circulate the pool. This will cause the motor to wear out more quickly and your electricity bill to rise.

4) Build a cover over the pool equipment

This one isn't do or die, but the sun does cause things to wear out faster. If your pool equipment is being hit by direct sunlight its going to cause greater temperature swings on all the plumbing and parts. Temperature swings mean more stress on the equipment, and more stress causes an increase in damage. If the sun heats up the equipment, and then all of the sudden cool water runs through the pipes, it is going to change shape.

5) Make sure your pump doesn't run dry

This is very important. Keeping the correct amount of water in your pool and your skimmer and pump baskets empty. If you let the water level get to low, and your pump runs without water for too long, its going to break. If you have a pool cleaner, low water levels will also cause him to not be able to vacuum or clean your pool properly.

Tip: If your going out of town, turn the pool to run off the main drain only. That way in case the water level falls below the skimmer line, the pool will still have water.

6) Buy timers if you don't have them

A timer will not only just save you money on electricity, it will also save your equipment from wearing out as quickly because you can minimize the run times. This is the best, most efficient way to run your system.

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