Before I owned a pool I always thought that pool maintenance was going to be a real pain and troublesome. I had heard many horror stories from friends and acquaintances about all the problems they had in keeping their pools clean and balanced.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that after our inground pool was installed, that maintenance of it really wasn't a problem. How did I achieve this? I don't know -- but this is what I do.
First we never invested in a pool cover. Since we live in SC we have a few months of 'cold' temperatures but the remainder of the winter isn't too bad. We don't swim much from October to March but we don't cover it either. We simply leave the pump and filter running. During the colder weather we don't have to leave the pump run as much as when it is warmer, but the pool runs about 4-5 hours a day during the dead of winter. If the temperature drops below about 40 deg F, the pump automatically comes on to keep things from freezing. So, the first thing we don't have to do is to cover the pool.
By not covering the pool, you save hundreds of dollars by not having to buy a pool cover every couple of years. But, in the long run, you might potentially pay more for electricity to run the pump all year than a new cover would have cost. However, keep in mind that covers tend to age fairly quickly, and you might have to buy a new one every few years anyways.
By not covering the pool you also save the hassle of 'opening the pool' every spring. First, you don't have to mess with the debris of leaves and the murky water that accumulates on the top of the cover. As you know, after a while these water soaked leaves that accumulate on the cover, start to decay and send all this decaying rot into your pool where it contaminates the water and may even stick or attack your pool liner. So, by not covering your pool during the winter you save the hassle of dealing with all this rotten leaves and stuff. On the flip side, if you do cover the pool, do yourself a favor and skim the debris off the cover every so often. Don't try to remove all the water, though, as there is going to be at least a little water in the center of the cover. As I remember, water from the under side of the cover will actually seep through to the top layer. By trying to drain it too much, you may actually drain water out of the pool.
To combat the problem of debris, we have a Polaris automatic pool cleaner which runs at least 2 to 3 hours a day. This keeps the pool clean of leaves, worms, bugs, and other similar yuck.
By not covering the pool but running the pump all winter long, you don't have to contend with the stagnant green algae infested water that develops when it sits idle for months at a time. Everyone has probably heard of the horror stories of trying to shock a pool and get the chemistry balanced after a long winter. Thankfully this is not a problem when you run the pump throughout the winter.
By not covering the pool, you can take a quick dip anytime you please since the water is always pretty darn clean. While few people would ever take a quick dip in the winter, the point here is that the cleanliness and clarity of the pool stays so good that you could swim in it, but more importantly, getting it balanced is as simple as taking a sample to be tested and learning what chemicals to add. In other words you can be swimming in a day without any serious effort or exhaustion.
The only other things that I do are 1.) Keeping the chlorine reservoir full (or nearly full) with chlorine sticks and 2.) Cleaning the Polaris and filter trap every week.
Occasionally, during windy weather, we may get a lot of leaves blown into the pool. The Polaris does a good job of sucking them up, but sometimes you get so many in that it can't get them all picked up. In that case, I manually scoop as many leaves out as I can with my leaf net or skimmer, and then I run the Polaris a little longer every day until the pool is clear again. Once it is clear, I turn the running time of the Polaris back down to one or two hours a day and all is well.
One note on what I could do to prevent bunches of leaves from blowing in is to put up a wire chicken mesh fence around the base of our wooden privacy fence. If this was up, very few leaves would get into the pool area. Of course, this is a to-do project for the future.
Lastly, the only other thing that I have to do is watch the water level. If we get a lot of rain, the water level will rise enough to hinder the skimmer. In those cases I simply pump some water out and drop the level back down to an appropriate height.
Please keep in mind that we live in South Carolina. This type of pool care may not be appropriate for much colder climates. If you live in the north and have an inground pool, please contact your local pool company and they will be able to recommend something appropriate for your colder climate.
To read about the next steps I take in getting the pool ready please go to Swimming Pool Covers???