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Matth Gohlke / Pools

Pools need a modicum of winter care

It would be great if we knew exactly what the weather was going to be this winter. But unfortunately, we do not.

The best that we can do is look at long-range weather forecasts and then base our decisions on these forecasts. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2013, following is the weather forecast for the Texas-Oklahoma region:

“Winter temperatures will be slightly colder than normal, on average, with precipitation and snowfall near or a bit above normal. The coldest periods will be in early to mid-February and early March.”

Although we can’t yet confirm the accuracy of this forecast, last year’s forecast by the same source was “milder than normal,” which was accurate.

In addition, area farmers whom I have talked to agree that it will likely be a colder, wetter winter than usual. They are basing this on the cool fronts that September brought as well as the unseasonably cool weather we have been experiencing.

Regardless of the weather, there will soon come a time when pool owners will need to decide what to do with their swimming pool this winter. Depending on several variables — number of trees surrounding the pool, location, whether the pool is heated, etc. — there are basically four options for winter pool care:

•  Continue to operate the pool. For the past 15 to 20 years, this has been the most popular option. One of the main reasons is that pools have become more aesthetic and many are now the focal point of the backyard. The advantage of not covering a swimming pool is that you get to visually enjoy the pool over the winter.

The disadvantage is you will still need to run the pump and chemically treat your pool, both of which cost money. In addition, if you have trees that drop leaves, you will have six to eight weeks in the fall when maintaining the pool will be a job — it can be a daily chore to remove the leaves from the pool. Once the leaves have fallen, pool care once again becomes manageable and pump run time can be cut back substantially.

If this is the option that you choose, be sure that the pump is running when the air temperature is freezing. This will prevent freeze damage to the plumbing and the filtration system.

If you decide to continue operating your pool and you really enjoy swimming, you might consider having a pool heater installed. Pool heaters allow you to swim at least nine to 10 months out of the year, as opposed to approximately six to seven months without a heater. When the weather is extremely cold, typically in January and February, even pool owners who have heaters usually surrender to the weather.

•  Cover your pool using a mesh cover. Because of the number of trees— especially oak — in the Denton area, mesh covers have become increasingly popular in recent years. Mesh covers allow water to get through but catch the leaves. A cover keeps leaves and other debris out of the pool, but allows rainwater to pass through, so you will still need to run the pump periodically and add chemicals as needed. A properly installed mesh cover — stretched trampoline-like over your pool — sometimes even allows you to blow the leaves off of the cover.

•  Cover your pool with a solid cover. While a very popular option in the past, because of the mild winters we have been having, this method is being used far less often in recent years. It is a good method to use if you do not want utility or chemical costs over the winter, as the filtration equipment is drained and turned off for the winter.

•  Drain the equipment and do not cover the pool. This is the worst option. Draining the filtration equipment does protect the pool from freeze damage, but without any chemical treatment and with rain, leaves and other contaminants entering the pool, the pool turns into a swamp. Debris, if not cleaned out, can cause staining on the pool surface. This method usually calls for a big cleanup in the spring.

North Texas area pool owners have used all of these winter pool care options, but the best method is the one that fits you and your pool. Should you have any other questions about pool care, contact your pool professional.

MATT GOHLKE, certified building professional, is the owner of Gohlke Pools and a member of the National Spa & Pool Institute, Aquatech and the Better Business Bureau. His firm has received national awards, certifications and recognitions in the swimming pool industry. He may be reached at 940-387-7521.