Count not having to open and close a backyard pool every year among the many benefits of living in Florida. • In Northern states, most pools spend the winter months under heavy canvas covers held firmly in place by sandbags. • Here, pools are more likely to be used year-round, though this past winter kept all but the hardiest of swimmers on the deck. • Such little activity makes it easy to maintain a pool, said Toni Spagnoli, who owns Florida Lifestyle Pools with her husband, Rob Sigman. • "Brush down the sides, scoop out the leaves; that's about all you have to do," she said. • "But there is more maintenance as the weather warms up." • The heat and more people in the pool increase the demand for chlorine, Sigman said.
Add more if you have a chlorinated pool or, if you have a saltwater system, turn up your salt cell setting so it makes more chlorine, Sigman said.
This is also when you should have your chlorine stabilizer level checked, he said. "It's like putting sunscreen on your pool." (It's also the first advice he gives to customers who have algae in their pools.)
"You should also clean the filter real well," back-washing or hosing it off, depending on the system.
As pool traffic increases, so should the number of hours the pool filter runs.
"Pools should run six to eight hours a day as opposed to the four to six they run in the winter," Sigman said.
And about that nasty calcium deposit ring on the pool tile at the waterline: Use muriatic, or hydrochloric, acid — but be careful.
"It won't eat plastic, but it will eat your fingers off. Wear gloves," Spagnoli said.
Spagnoli said she dilutes muriatic acid with equal parts water. She puts the solution in a plastic cup and uses a stiff brush to scrub the waterline mark. Carefully. "Don't get it on the pool deck," Sigman said.
Pool owners also could use this time to convert from a chlorine to a saltwater system, Spagnoli said. The end product — chlorine — is the same but saltwater systems start with salt instead of other chemicals.
"Everybody thinks it's a big deal but it's just the addition of one piece of equipment to an existing system," she said.
"For about $1,200, you can change over your system and get rid of chemical costs, which are about $100 a month."
Reduced costs aren't the only benefit, she added. "It's easier on the skin, the water and the eyes."
Plus, it eliminates having to transport and store chlorine.
"All you have sitting around are bags of salt, not hazardous chemicals."
Patti Ewald is a freelance writer in Gulfport. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.