Unfortunately in many parts of the world, the winter months are simply too cold to keep an inground pool open, whether that be a chlorinated pool or a salt water pool, so if you happen to be a salt water swimming pool owner, knowing how to winterize your salt water pool is vital!
Shutting down your pool for the off-season is essential because you want to avoid water freezing and expanding in your pool’s plumbing system and causing damage to the pipes.
Saltwater pools do have a few differences from chlorinated pools, but the winterization process is very similar. The sanitizing agent in a saltwater pool is the same hypochlorous acid (HClO) as you would find in a conventional chlorinated pool.
Saltwater pools typically use generators that produce chlorine from the salt in the water, and this is what needs protection from mother nature when temperatures get very low, as even salt water can freeze if it gets cold enough, and cause expensive damage to your pool’s hardware.
In this post, we discuss how you can avoid these potential costs and keep your pool in the best condition possible for when spring comes back around.
Table of Contents
- Why You Should Know How To Winterize Your Salt Water Swimming Pool
- Step 1: Manually Test the Salt Level
- Step 2: Balance the Chemicals
- Step 3: Add Winterizing and Anti-Staining Agents
- Step 4: Add Enzymes
- Step 5: Winterize the ECG, Skimmer, Filter, and Plumbing
- Step 6: Cover the Pool
- Final Thoughts On Winterizing Your Salt Water Swimming Pool
Why You Should Know How To Winterize Your Salt Water Swimming Pool
Saltwater pools typically use the same filtration systems as regular pools, and they should also have a similar chemical balance. The main difference between saltwater and a regular pool is that a saltwater pool typically has an electrolytic chlorine generator (ECG).
This is an electrolysis cell situated on the pressure side of the filtration system. The ECG creates hypochlorous acid so that you don’t need to add chlorine to the water.
Once outside temperatures begin to drop during the winter, the ECG starts functioning differently which can affect the pH level of the water. Because of this, it’s essential to balance the chemicals in the pool before shutting the generator off and putting the cover over the pool.
ECGs typically feature sensors to measure the conductivity of the water, which alerts the person maintaining the pool when more salt needs to be added to the water.
When the outside temperature decreases, the conductivity of the water also decreases. This means the sensors may cause an alert and more salt than what’s necessary might be added to the water.
The excessive addition of salt raises the pH level of the water and causes it to become corrosive. This may not be realized until the pool is uncovered in the springtime.
With this information in mind, follow the steps below in order to avoid this issue. We’ll take you through everything you need to do in order to decommission your saltwater pool before winter.
Before starting the winterization process, it’s essential that you thoroughly clean the pool. Saltwater pools require the same amount of cleaning and maintenance as regular in-ground swimming pools.
Be sure to vacuum the pool’s floor to remove any debris that might be lurking around the bottom of the pool. Additionally, use a skimmer net too to remove any debris floating around the surface.
Next, use a nylon pool brush to scrub the pool’s walls and floor, making sure to get into every little crevice. Run the filter for about an hour, and then clean out the filter.
Getting your pool as clean as possible will leave it in great condition for the following spring. You’ll thank yourself later for putting in the effort.
You can also shock the pool to get rid of any algae spores, bacteria, or other organic matter that’s lingering in the pool.
Most pool closing kits will come with some granular shock, although make sure you’re using the correct amount for the size of your pool.
If you think it’s necessary before closing the pool, you can remove any ladders, diving boards, handrails, slides, and such things that might interfere with your pool’s winter cover.
Additionally, you should clear the water of any floaties, toys, or pool cleaners that have been left in the water. Now, lets break down the 5 steps to properly winterizing your salt water pool!
Step 1: Manually Test the Salt Level
The salt sensors on the ECG become less reliable once the temperature gets colder, so it’s essential to test the salt levels manually by using testing strips.
Testing strips will be more accurate than the salinity level readings on the ECG as they are not affected by temperature. You’ll want to avoid overdosing your pool with salt as this will be a pain later on. The salt level in the pool water should be around 3,200 ppm.
If the salt level is too high, do not add any more salt to the water until the levels are back to normal. When closing the pool for the off-season, don’t worry if the salinity level is a bit lower than normal.
Salt can potentially react with contaminants in the water and leave stains on the walls of the pool. To avoid this, avoid adding extra salt into the water in the weeks before closure.
Step 2: Balance the Chemicals
Before closing the pool for the winter months, you need to first test and balance the chemicals in the water. You should pay close attention to the pH levels, which need to be between 7.2 and 7.8 one week before the closing date.
The total alkalinity should be between 80 and 120 ppm and the calcium hardness should be between 200 and 400 ppm. Adjust the water chemistry as needed, and allow the water to circulate.
If the pool chemistry is unbalanced in your saltwater pool, mineral scale will likely begin to form. If the pH, calcium hardness, and alkalinity are off-balanced, it will lessen the effectiveness of the winterizing agents in the following step.
If the calcium hardness is higher than 400 ppm, you should keep the pH level under 7.6 in order to prevent further scale formation.
Step 3: Add Winterizing and Anti-Staining Agents
A scale and stain sequestrant specifically for saltwater pools should then be added to the water. Minerals tend to settle on the pool floor and walls during the off-season.
Pool closure kits will normally include these winterizing chemicals designed especially for saltwater pools to prevent the growth of algae. You can buy closing kits especially for saltwater pools, but all winter closing kits are safe to use in saltwater pools.
These kits should include some or all of the following: pool shock, algaecide, stain and scale preventer, a winter float with an oxidizer, and an oil-absorbing sponge.
Turn the swimming pool pump on to circulate these chemicals through the water for at least 8 hours. Winter algaecide is normally added last before covering the pool.
Doing this at the end will keep the algaecide more concentrated, so it should be added after the water level has been lowered and all equipment is disconnected. After adding the algaecide, you can disperse it by agitating the water using a pool brush.
You should check your water chemistry one final time before adding in the winterizing agents. If the chlorine levels in the pool are high, this can break down algaecide and cause damage to the winter cover.
By this point, the pool should have been shocked and cleaned fully, and chlorine levels should be in the normal range of 1 – 3 ppm.
Step 4: Add Enzymes
Before closing the pool for the winter, you need to add some slow-acting enzymes to the water, especially if the pool has a solid or mesh cover with a drain panel.
These enzymes will digest any contaminants such as oily residue that may get into the water during the off-season. This will keep your pool cleaner during the months where it is not in use.
Step 5: Winterize the ECG, Skimmer, Filter, and Plumbing
Following the addition of the enzymes, you should now unplug your chlorine generator and check the manufacturer’s instructions for how you should winterize it.
Sometimes you can just remove it and store it indoors, but some manufacturers require you to drain all the water, while others recommend leaving a mixture of water and non-toxic antifreeze inside it.
In any case, you should start by turning off all circuits to the pool equipment, including the pump. After this, unscrew the unions to disconnect the generator cell from the pool lines.
It’s a good idea to clean out the salt cell of any scaly deposits. This can be done with a high-pressure hose or a wooden or plastic tool to gently scrape away the scale buildup.
You must do this with care not to damage the coating on the plates. If the scale build-up is proving too stubborn to shift, you can use a dilute solution of muriatic acid to soak in the cell. Once it is all clean and dry, you can store it indoors.
You should also screw a plate onto the skimmer opening and screw a plug into the return fitting in order to isolate the filtration system. This will prevent the internal components from becoming damaged from the buildup of ice.
You should also use a shop vac to blow out any remaining water in the pipes and heating system. Additional sanitizers, salt water pool chlorinators, or solar covers should also be drained and cleaned.
Remove all plugs from the various equipment and leave them open to allow them to drain entirely. Make sure to store the drain plugs safely so as to not misplace them.
Winterizing the pool lines will lessen the chance of getting cracked pipes. You can use a Cyclone blower to force out the water from the intake and return lines.
Once this water has been cleared, you can plug the skimmer with a collapsible skimmer guard, and plug the return lines using threaded pool plugs or expansion plugs.
Once the skimmer and returns have been plugged, you can turn off the blower. When done properly, no water should be able to get into the plumbing.
If you are unsure if the water has been fully drained, then you should use a non-toxic pool antifreeze just in case of a faulty plug or remaining water in the pipes.
Antifreeze should not be left in pool equipment as it can damage o-rings, gaskets, and filter media.
The filter cartridges should be removed and cleaned thoroughly using a hose. You can also soak these in a filter cleaning solution to get them nice and clean.
During this process, you may want to take the opportunity to lubricate the o-rings. This will prevent them from cracking over the winter, and they will end up lasting much longer.
Lower your water level to around 12” below the skimmer line, which allows enough space for rain and melted snow. For those with solid winter covers, the water should be about 6” below the skimmer.
To prevent damage to the swimming pool cover, the water level should never be below 18” from the pool’s edge.
Step 6: Cover the Pool
Prior to covering the pool, it’s a good idea to place a couple of air pillows on the surface of the water. This supports the cover and stops it from sinking down into the pool.
They will also prevent ice sheets from forming on the surface of the water, which will stop ice from damaging the pool liner.
After covering the pool, you can either weigh it down with water bags or cover it with a couple of inches of water to prevent it from blowing around and flapping in the wind.
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your covered pool throughout the winter months and clear off any ice that builds up over the off-season. If any unwanted water builds up on the cover, you may want to use a pump to keep it clear of excess water.
You may want to consult some professionals to help with the maintenance of your saltwater pool throughout the winter in order to ensure that your winterization goes according to plan. We at least recommend you be familiar with how salt water pools generally work, even if you do decide to hire out the maintenance and winterizing of your salt pool.
This could potentially save you some stress and money in repairs despite the cost of maintenance.
Once spring comes back around, you’ll be thanking yourself for taking the extra care to winterize your saltwater pool in the proper way.
Final Thoughts On Winterizing Your Salt Water Swimming Pool
Winterizing your salt water swimming pool is a vital step that all pool owners need to be familiar with. Here are a few final tips concerning maintaining your salt water pool over the winter months.
- Clear any debris off the swimming pool cover
- Use a pump to drain off excess water from melted snow and ice
- Check the water chemistry every 6 to 8 weeks
- Monitor the water level closely in case of leakage
- Balance the pool chemicals when necessary
My name is Denise and I am an Analytical Chemist located in the Kansas City metro area. Some things I am passionate about are gardening, science, swimming, and blogging. I am happy to be part of the All About Pools team & contribute my knowledge & expertise to help swimming pool owners and backyard enthusiasts!