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Pool Water Testing: Why, What & How

Posted on July 6, 2012 by Brett

Woimage of LA pool being testedrking at In The Swim as the Call Center Trainer, I hear it all the time.

“My Pool Is Cloudy. Why?”
“My Pool is Green. Why?”
“My eyes are red, my skin is itchy and my hair is dry. Why?!?”


Why test your pool water?If it’s not a pump or filter issue, it almost always comes down to water chemistry and the easiest way to prevent these problems is by routinely testing your pool water.

Every pool has a “chemical personality”, or unique trends in water balance that you will begin to notice. By having a schedule and recording your water levels you will actually be able to see how your pool’s chemistry fluctuates.

If you don’t want to go so far as to keep pool test records, I understand – but you still should keep a schedule of testing because this is the best way to make sure that you don’t have a pool that turns green or cloudy and uncomfortable for your swimmers.

Earlier in the year, I posted about 5 Ways to Extend Your Chlorine Dollar and I spoke about the easiest way to extend your chlorine dollar. The secret is testing your water chemistry on a daily basis (or at minimum, 2-3 times per week).

A huge reason for proper water testing is swimmer comfort and safety. Red eyes, rashes, ear infections and viruses are the result of poor pool water management.

what should I test for in my pool water?There are 5 Water Balance levels that should be checked and chemicals added to raise or lower these levels.

1.   Free Chlorine 1-3ppm
This is the chlorine that is “free” to sanitize your pool. There is also a second test for combined chlorine, which is no longer an effective sanitizer. Shocking the pool removes combined chlorine.

2.   pH 7.2-7.6
Measures how acidic or basic your water is. This is the most important level in your pool because it affects almost all other levels if not maintained. pH is the most likely culprit for skin and eye irritation.

3.    Alkalinity 80-120ppm
The buffer that serves the pH and helps keep it between 7.2-7.6.

4.    Calcium Hardness 200-350ppm
Too much Calcium will cloud you water, too little can damage pool surfaces and equipment.

5.    Stabilizer/Conditioner 30-60ppm
Works like a sunscreen to protect the chlorine from the effects of UV Rays. (Outdoor pools only.)


So now that we know what levels we should test for, the big question becomes HOW do we test for these levels? Simple, there are three different types of pool water tests with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Test StripsTest Strips
Pro: The main advantage of test strips is time. In under a minute you can test all five of your water balance levels.
Con: Unfortunately, while test strips are the easiest to use, the ranges that they display are rather wide and this can make it more difficult to balance your levels.

Liquid Test KitsLiquid Test Kits for pools
Pro: More accurate than Test Strips and do not require calibration like Test Meters.
Con: These take the longest to get readings. Liquid Test Kits require drops to be counted and colors to be matched to measure chemical levels.

Test Meters
Electronic pool water testing is fairly new, very accurate and easy to use. Two different types of meters – stand alone or combination.

Standalone meterstest meters for pools
Pro: These have the quickest use. Just dip the meter in the pool or testing cup and with a click of a button you have your reading(s).
Con: Meters are costly, ranging $100-$300 each. Some are also limited in the tests that they perform. Additionally, some of these meters require a calibration fluid to retain accuracy.

Combination Metersawesome test kit for pools
Pro: These are an accurate way to test your pool. Combination meters combine a test strip, liquid or tab with computerized test analysis and readout.
Con: Cost of combination meters. These meters range $75-$180 to purchase, plus replacement reagents when you run out.

Who? I guess that is You? You are the key ingredient to maintaining proper water balance, and avoiding water problems and swimmer complaints. The best thing you can do to maintain your pool is to test the water regularly.

How you test it is not as important as actually doing it. Oh, and of course, adjusting your chemical levels after testing – also important! Test often and adjust your pool accordingly and you can have a safe and fun swimming season.


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