With swimming season just around the corner, you and your family can’t wait to jump into the water. Not so fast! First, you’ll have to make sure the time is right. The general rule of thumb is to open your pool once daytime temperatures are in the 70s because bacteria and algae begin to flourish in warm weather. However, if there is still a possibility that temperatures will dip below freezing at night, hold off until the risk of frozen pipes is eliminated. In much of North America, this is around the end of May, but may be as early as April 1 in the southern United States.
When the time comes, you’ll need to prep your pool by getting it cleaned up and balancing the various chemicals so it’s healthy and sparkly. If you don’t want to do all that work yourself, you could spend the money to have someone else do it. Or you could give your pool a brain.
Okay, maybe not exactly a brain, but with today’s technology, it’s possible to make your pool smarter by automating some of the more tedious tasks of pool prep and maintenance. Of course, there’s really no escaping the need for a bit of elbow grease to get your pool ready for that first swim. Make that part easier by asking your spouse, a friend or your teenager to assist with those aspects your brainy pool can’t do for itself.
Here’s a breakdown of the tasks you need to tackle and which ones you can hand over to intelligent gizmos, gadgets and the Internet of Things (IoT).
- Clean off your pool cover. You can’t do anything to your pool until you get the cover off! You’ll need to clear off leaves, debris, and standing water that have gathered on your pool cover before you remove it. Otherwise, some of it is likely to wind up in your pool, no matter how careful you try to be. Use a long-poled broom with soft bristles to brush off solid materials. Then use a pool cover pump to remove any standing water.With the help of your assistant, move the cover to an open area and lay it flat. If it’s damaged, replace it now so you have a fresh cover ready when swimming season is over. If it’s still in good shape, scrub it with a nonabrasive cleaner and a soft brush. Be sure to rinse and dry it well, and then store it away.
- Skim the surface. You and your teenager could argue over who should skim the pool with that inexpensive net. Or you could bond over glasses of lemonade while you watch your automatic skimmer do the job. At less than $100, OAI’s SkimmerMotion skimmer is probably one of the “dumbest” smart skimmers. It attaches to your bottom pool vacuum and rides above it to eliminate small debris (under 1”) from the surface. At the other end of the smart pool technology spectrum is the Solar-Breeze NX2 pool skimmer that sells for just under $500. According to its manufacturer, Solar Pool Technologies, Inc., this technological wonder is solar-powered and incorporates proprietary software and artificial intelligence – plus a low-tech removable debris tray.
- Get it connected – and unplugged. Be sure to remove the plugs in your drain and filters, check that your filtration system is clean and securely connected and let the system run.
- Fill ‘er up. Now get out your hose (yes, by hand), and top off the water in your pool until the level reaches the middle of the skimmer.
- Scrub and vacuum. Scrubbing the sides of your pool is no easy task – unless you automate it with a suction pool cleaner like the Hayward Pool Vac XL at $300 with rebate; the Maytronics Dolphin Nautilus Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner at $549, which boasts smart navigation; or the highly rated (and high-priced at nearly $1,149) AquaCal’s AquaClean Plus that includes an internal timer and is also programmable with your external timer so you can preprogram it to run when you’re away. These devices clean both the bottom and the sides of your smart pool, although their effectiveness along the walls will depend on the shape of your pool.
- Give it a shock. After a long period of inactivity, it’s a good idea to “shock” your pool with a high dose of chlorine. Let the filtration system stir the water up for at least 24 to 48 hours.
- Test the water. Take a water sample to your local pool pro, or use an IoT-based smart pool water monitoring system to automate the process. Most of these truly smart products function similarly, staying on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to predict your water chemistry. At a minimum, they measure alkalinity, pH and free chlorine, notify you when it’s time to add chemicals and will even place your order for you when you’re running low.Initial cost is around $300, and you pay a monthly fee to use the cloud-based monitoring service. Among the services available are pHin, Sutro and cFloat. pHin, for example, has an app that will then let you know which of their custom chemical pods you need to add to your pool and when.
- Program lights, temperature and more. There are lots of options today for app-driven systems that will allow you to maintain your smart pool temperature and lights from anywhere! You can control the lights and heat while away from home and turn them on so the water is perfect for your return. The Jandy iAquaLink, for example, can control temperature and lights as well as features like waterfalls and jets and basic functions like your pool cleaner. iPoolLight’s app controls color-changing LED lighting in your pool, and Pentair’s EasyTouch systems offer app control of a variety of pool systems.
- Take the plunge. The moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived and the necessary steps leading up to it were well worth it, right? And with all that technology, your pool maintenance should be a breeze. So grab a raft, a noodle or your goggles and enjoy your smart pool!