At some point along the line, Frugal Scholar remarked in passing that the swimming pool sounds like a royal pain. And there’s something to be said for that.
But it also has to be said that if you like to swim and you live in a hot climate, a pool has so many redeeming qualities that you can see why people build them. At this time of year, I’m in the pool two or three times a day, every day. And I’m so spoiled to it I can’t remember how I managed to get through an endless succession of 115-degree days without a puddle of Clorox water to dive into. Every time I jump in the pool, I think aahhh! this makes it worth all the work and hassle.
However and on the other hand… When something happens to render the pool unusable, one’s memory is jogged; especially when dealing with the “something” requires a great deal of work, worry, or both.
The acid level in the pool’s water has been slowly climbing since the middle of last winter. I haven’t added any acid since early spring (normally one adds acid pretty regularly to a plaster-lined pool), but the pH keeps dropping. You recall high-school chemistry, right? Low pH = high acidity. Well, the pH has been at 7.2 for quite a while; that’s on the far low side of sort of OK. In other words, the acidity was a bit too much but nothing to panic over. The Leslie’s guys said if I just left it alone, eventually the pH would rise.
Au contraire, by Friday the pH had dropped to 6.8, the “add pH stabilizer” level. It was low enough that even the Leslie’s guys had to allow that the acid level was out of control.
So, come Saturday morning, Biker Phil, the Harley-ridin’ Leslie’s sales guy, says to me, “You need to add 30 pounds of soda ash.”
“Give me a proverbial break,” say I. “I can’t lift 30 pounds!”
“Well,” says he, “then add 20 pounds, wait four hours, test the pH, and if it’s still too low, come back and get another 10 pounds.” With that, he sells me two 10-pound containers of soda ash: that’ll be $48, thank you very much.
Biker Phil advises me to administer the entire 20 pounds of this stuff to the pool by walking around the perimeter and sprinkling it in, as evenly as possible. He says it will cloud the water, but in four hours or so the water should clear and be swimmable.
Okay. I go forth and do likewise.
Instantly, and I do mean instantly, the filter pressure gauge shoots over 20 psi.
Sumbitch. I backwash; recharge the filter with diatomaceous earth; go on about my business.
An hour later, I look out the window and notice a glass-smooth surface on the pool. “That’s odd,” think I. “The pump must have shut down.”
Oh, nooo. The pump was laboring away. Filter pressure had topped 30 psi! The filter was so clogged the pump, which is one tough little fellow, couldn’t move any water at all through the plumbing system.
The water, so lately sparkling like a mountain spring in a Coors ad, is opaque. Shut down. Major backwash. Recharge filter. An hour later: PSI is up to 30 again.
On the phone to Biker Phil. He can’t figure out the problem. “It can’t be the soda ash,” says he. “It’s dissolved. It can’t clog the filter.”
Phil. Phil, Phil, Phil. Were you not paying attention in your chem class? Or were you, like me, gathering wool from the clouds outside the window? What’s happened here is that when we deposited 20 pounds of soda ash into 18,000 gallons of water, we got a supersaturated solution. Think of the time you added several spoonsful of salt to a glass of warm water, to gargle your sore throat: what you got was a glass of salty water with a layer of salt crystals on the bottom. That. is. what. we. have. here.
Soda ash dunes.
Soda ash dunes, precipitated out of the saturated water, cover the steps, the seat, and the floor of the pool. I do not know how many pounds of soda ash is not dissolved, but I’ll bet it’s a lot. And, I figure, that’s what’s clogging the filter. Since Bob the Wonderful Leslie’s Guy was over here last week to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the filter, and since it was working so well the effervescent pool could’ve been used as an ad for Leslie’s Swimming Pool Supplies and Service, I associate the soda ash episode with the gagged filter.
Having followed Biker Phil’s instructions and met fiasco, I belatedly google the function of soda ash in pool chemistry. At site after site I learn that one should never, ever, nooo never add more than two (count’em, 2) pounds of soda ash to a pool at a time. Biker Phil has had me add ten times the standard amount to the pool. Is there a question why the system has run amok?
The specific scientific details of the problem explained and comprehended, Phil recommends that I “bump” (a very short backwash) the pool every time the pressure threatens to move into the 30 psi range and says he thinks in time the problem will dissipate.
This requires me to do a minibackwash, illegally into the alley, every twenty minutes all day Saturday! In 114-degree heat. Sunday was cooler: a mere 110 degrees. Started with a full backwash at 5:30 Sunday morning. Opted the junket to church, where I wanted to hear the new pastor address the assembled masses for his virgin sermon, in favor of backwashing every twenty minutes. Around 11:00 a.m., reach Phil’s boss on the phone—the Phil himself being out until next Wednesday.
Seemingly unsurprised at the extravagant dosage of soda ash, Manager Jay speculates that the frequent full backwashes—which by now have added up to four in two days (one normally backwashes a DE filter about once every three months)—plus the three-times-an-hour “bumps” may have drained out most of the DE. He observes that when filter pressure jumps suddenly, one normally suspects too little DE. He recommends that I add five pounds of DE to the filter.
Refraining from observing more than once that the system was working fine Before Soda Ash, I feed 6 1/2 pounds of DE to the filter. This works pretty well: slows the process so that it takes an hour or two to reach a “Clean Filter” level of 20 psi. How long it would take to reach 30 psi, I do not know, not having enough nerve to overwork the pump to that degree. Probably another hour or so.
This adventure obviously is going to require another service call. Since I just paid to have Bob the WLG spend an hour working on the system, I am less than thrilled at the prospect of paying to have him come by again. I think Leslie’s should pay for whatever needs to be done to undo the mess that’s resulted from their advising me to add 10 times the recommended amount of soda ash to the pool.
Stay tuned! This promises to turn into an entertaining comedy of errors!