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Pool Maintenance 101 Back


The Pump
The Filter
      Sand filter
      D. E. Filter
      Cartridge Filter
Vacuuming Your Pool
Regular Maintenance
Water Chemistry


To enjoy ownership of a swimming pool you must first understand and feel comfortable with how everything works. The workings of the basic swimming pool are not as complicated as you may think. The following information will help you identify with the workings and equipment of your swimming pool.

The Filter Pad:

The filtration system consists of several basic components; a pump, a filter, some valves and an occasional heater. First let’s start with heart of the system.

“The Pump” Bigger is not always better

Water flow to the suction intake at the pump basket comes from two general locations; the drain fittings at the bottom of the pool and the skimmers at the sidewall of the pool. Water flow from these fittings to the pump basket relies on the vacuum draw of the pump. A series of in-line valves are usually installed in front of the pump to separate the skimmers from the bottom suction fittings to give you total control of water leaving the pool.

Starting the Pump:

Before you flip on the electric switch to your pump motor you must first “prime the pump”. With the pump motor in the off position, remove the pump lid by turning the locking ring counterclockwise. Remove the lid to expose the basket/housing. Never run the pump dry. Using a bucket or garden hose fill the pump housing with clean water. Allow some excess water to flow into the plumbing lines at the front of the pump. The housing does not need to be filled to the top to prime the pump, ¾ full is fine. Be sure the basket is seated properly and free of all debris. Before you close the pump lid, be sure the lid’s o-ring is in place. To assure that you get an air tight seal, it is a good practice to keep this o-ring lubricated with silicone o-ring grease. Place the lid on the pump housing and turn the locking ring clockwise to seal.

Final Check List before starting the pump:

  • Make sure the pump housing is ¾ full
  • If you are drawing water from a skimmer line, the water lever in the pool should be half way up the skimmer opening.
  • Be sure that the filter valve (sand or DE filter) is not in a closed position
  • At least one of the suction lines (skimmer or bottom drain) is open
Turn the pump on. Looking through the clear pump lid, water flow should start to trickle into the basket housing and progressively get stronger after 2-3 minutes. The distance between the pump and the pool as well as the elevation of the pump above water level may increase the time and effort for the pump to pull full prime. If, after 5 minutes water flow is not present, turn off the pump, refill the housing and try again. If you continue to have trouble starting the system, contact your local Fox dealer.

Tricks of the trade:

  • Start the system with only one suction line open
  • Use the closest suction to the pump
  • After water flow is present, very slowly open the other suction lines one at a time.
After the water is discharged from the pump it becomes pressurized as it flows throughout the filtration system and back to the pool. This pressure is measured by the pressure gauge mounted on the filter.

The Filter: Sand – Cartridge – DE Diatomaceous Earth

There are three basic types of filters available for both pools and spas. Each type has several variations in terms of features and operation as well as its pros and cons. No matter what model you choose to filter your pool water it is very important that the pump and filter are sized to handle the pool.

The Sand Filter:

Sand filters are generally the most popular choice because they are low maintenance, simple to use and very reliable.

Sand filters work by forcing the water through a bed of pre-washed silica sand to a set of fingers at the bottom of the filter tank called laterals. The pre-washed silica sand used in most pool filters is sized between .35 -.55 media. It is also identified as #40 filter sand. One cubic foot of sand is equivalent to about 100lbs of sand.

The laterals are a series of ridged tubes that have numerous “V” shaped slits across the underside of each lateral. The “V” shaped slits hold back the sand but allow the filtered water to pass. As the volume of dirt increases in the sand so does the pressure on the filter gauge. The starting and normal operating pressure for a properly sized new sand filter system will usually run between 8-10 PSI. Over the years the normal or clean operating pressure may increase due to dirt that will not expel through normal backwash cleaning.

The valve used to operate this filter is called a multiport valve. This valve may have as many as eight settings and can be located on either the top (top mount) or the side (side mount) of the filter tank. The water flow works the same on both of these systems.

Before operating the multiport valve you should always turn off the pump.

When your pressure gauge reads 10 PSI over your normal running pressure, the filter should be backwashed.

To backwash or clean the filter sand, pushdown and rotate the valve handle to the backwash position. When the valve is in this position, the water flow reverses inside the tank to force water and the dirt out of the sand from the bottom to the top of the tank.

On one side of the valve you will find a clear/plastic reservoir that will show you the color of the water leaving the tank. Threaded onto that part of the valve you may have one of two options for discharging the backwash water. Your installer may thread a ridged pipe and connect it to an underground drainage system or as in most applications, a flexible backwash hose may need to be unrolled before starting up the pump. When ready, turn on the pump.

View the water as it flows past the reservoir. The water will start out clear then discolor with the amount of dirt leaving the sand. Let the pump run until the water in the reservoir turns clear again. At this time turn off the pump and place the multiport handle into the rinse position. Turn the pump back on for about 10 seconds to re-settle the sand in the tank. In the rinse position, the water flow moves from top to bottom inside the tank. This is the same flow as the filter position but the water is discharged as the sand settles. Turn off the pump once more and rotate the valve back to the filter setting. The sand is now clean and ready to filter.

The re-circulate position will allow water to enter the multiport then bypass the filter before returning to the pool. The closed position will not allow any water to flow though the valve. Never operate the pump in the closed position. Waste will simply discharge water from the pool and the winterize position is a resting place for the valve during winter shut down.

Tricks of the trade:

  • Follow the 10lbs. over rule. When your pressure rises 10lbs. above your normal running pressure, backwash the filter.
  • If you notice very fine dirt specks passing through the filter and back into the pool, add a pound of Diatomaceous Earth to the skimmer with the system running. The Diatomaceous Earth will coat the top of the sand and filter out these fine particles. You will see your pressure rise slightly when the Diatomaceous Earth is applied. The Diatomaceous Earth will be flushed out during the backwash cycle.

The Diatomaceous Earth Filter: DE

Diatomaceous Earth filters may require the most maintenance of the three pool filters but it also has the reputation of filtering the tiniest dirt particles. This type of filter will usually have some type of internal grids or fingers which are covered with screen like material. When the DE powder is added to the incoming water at the skimmer, it enters the filter and coats these internal grids or fingers. This action is sometimes referred to as “charging the filter”. The Diatomaceous Earth is the actual filtering component in this system.

As the Diatomaceous Earth collects dirt from the pool, the pressure on the filter gauge will rise. When the pressure rises between 6-8 lbs. above your normal running pressure the filter needs backwashed. Follow the directions for your specific brand or model of filter and valve for backwash instructions.

After backwashing this filter you must recharge the filter with Diatomaceous Earth. This can be done by pouring the DE powder into a flowing skimmer. Please read and follow the instructions for your specific filter size.

Tricks of the trade:

  • Be careful handling the DE power. It could cause respiratory problems if inhaled.
  • Dismantle the filter and clean the grids inside at least twice a year.
  • Diatomaceous Earth does not dissolve. Deposits of the backwashed powder will collect at the end of the discharge hose. This could make an unsightly mess in a high traffic area of your property.

The Cartridge Filter:

The use of the Cartridge filter has increased rapidly over the last couple of years. There are many advantages that this filter has over the other types. The biggest is that there is no backwashing involved in the cleaning of this filter. Backwashing costs you money with the loss of water and chemicals from your pool. In some areas, there are restrictions that prohibit backwashing onto developed areas or public sewers.

Cartridge filters are second in line to the DE filter for filtering small dirt particles. These filters may consist of a single or have a series of pleated paper cylinders to filter out the dirt. As long as the filter is sized properly and the water is chemically balanced, the maintenance on this filter system is minimal. There is no valve or backwash control on this filter.

After inserting a clean or new cartridge (‘s), identify the pressure on the filter gauge. When the gage rises 10 lbs. over that pressure reading the filter (‘s) should be cleaned or changed. Spraying the cartridge with a high power garden hose will remove most of the dirt but not oils. Soaking the cartridge elements in a diluted Tri-Sodium Phosphate solution will help to break up any oil build-up on the cartridge.

Tricks of the trade:

  • Ask your dealer to install an in-line valve to discharge water. Because there is no multiport valve with a cartridge filter, there is no way to drain water out of the pool with the pool pump.
  • Purchase a second set of cartridges. This way you can have a clean set of cartridges ready to go at any time.
  • The second set of cartridges will also help if you have an algae problem. This way you can filter out the dead algae faster by switching the filters with less down time.

How to vacuum your pool:

Items needed: Telescopic Vac Pole – Vacuum Brush – Vacuum Hose – Vacuum Adaptor Plate

Vacuuming your pool is not much different than doing it in your home. The only real difference is the equipment needs to be filled with water before it will work. Other than that, just take your time. Going too fast will just move the water and push the dirt into suspension.

The first thing you should do is to check your equipment for any broken or sharp edges that could cause damage to your liner. Collect the items listed above and take them to the skimmer in the shallow end of the pool. When cleaning the pool you want to start in the shallow end so that any dirt that becomes suspended will float into deeper water.

Remove the skimmers deck lid and the basket below. If your skimmer has a floating weir (cylinder that bobs up and down in the center of the basket) remove it from the basket and place the clean basket back into the skimmer. The next step is to attach the vacuum brush to the telescopic pole. Ask your dealer about getting quick disconnects to make vac-pole equipment changes easier.

Attach the swivel end of the vacuum hose to the nipple on top of the vacuum brush. Holding the telescopic pole, slowly lower the vacuum brush to the bottom of the pool. Place the hose on the surface of the water but keep it in arms reach. Grab the vacuum hose at water level and pull it hand over hand under the water until you get to the other end of the hose. The hose will uncoil as it floats on the surface of the water. When you get to the end of the hose you will see that it is completely filled with water.

Attach the skimmers vacuum adaptor plate (flat disc with a 2” nipple in the center that fits over the basket) to the end of the hose and place your hand over the opening on the under side to keep in as much water as you can. As quickly as possible lift the vacuum adaptor, with hose attached over the edge of the pool and place it on top of the skimmer basket. The skimmer suction will now take over and start drawing water from the vacuum brush at the bottom of the pool. Slowly push the vacuum brush along the bottom of the pool where dirt is present. Some pressure may need to be applied to the brush for more stubborn stains.

Tricks of the trade:

  • Adjust the valve (‘s) in front of the pump to increase the suction on the skimmer being used for vacuuming.
  • Where leaves are present, just tilt the brush to allow them to pass under the bristles of the brush.
  • Adjust the valve (‘s) in front of the pump to decrease the suction on the skimmer for easy removal of the equipment when finished.
  • If you ever need to siphon water from the pool, you can use the vacuum equipment and set-up procedure mentioned above. Just eliminate the vacuum adaptor, place your hand over the end of the vacuum hose (or use a winterizing plug) and walk the end of the hose to a location below water level before releasing the water.

Regular Maintenance:

  • Always check your cleaning equipment. Look for broken parts on your vacuum head, brushes and nets that could cause damage to your liner
  • Test and monitor your water. Keep a log of your test results and look for trend changes and chemical demands. Add what is necessary to balance the water.
  • Check and empty all baskets, skimmer (‘s), pump (‘s), pool cleaner, chlorinator, salt chlorine generator …
  • Check the pressure gauge on the filter and clean the filter if necessary.
  • Keep the water level up to the middle of the skimmer opening.
  • Take a water sample to a professional to be tested

Water Chemistry:

Proper water chemistry is the most important factor in caring for a swimming pool. Unbalanced water not only looks bad but it can be hazardous to you and your equipment. It can also be expensive to correct if it gets out of hand.