Service Industry News

For more than 29 years, Service Industry News has served as the voice of the pool and spa service professional. A twice monthly newspaper, the staff covers featured stories on equipment installation, trouble-shooting and repair; water chemistry and business issues facing the industry; and news pertaining to the interests of the pool and spa technician.

In addition to the newspaper, we have produced three technical books used throughout the industry as training and reference guides. The Professional Pool Technicians' Guide to ChlorineGuide to Alternative Sanitizers and the Guide to pH, Alkalinity, Water Testing and Water Balance are compiled from articles that originally appeared in our newspaper.

We've also updated and republished an industry classic on pool care, Charlie Taylor's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Pool Care. This light, easy-to understand and illustrated book has long been a part of any complete library on pool care. Now, it's also available in Spanish!

Call 949-916-0292 to order a subscription or purchase any of our products.

IN THE MAIL . . . 

Pool owner angry over cover issues

 

By Sonia Brousseau

At the request of my pool service provider I am addressing a serious vinyl pool cover problem that I have been experiencing over the past 19 years. I have a vinyl cover to protect my 20K-gallon backyard pool. I have purchased six covers from a reputable pool cover company in our area. These covers were purchased in 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2012. 

My pool is heated by sun and a rooftop solar system. With each cover I have witnessed a visible oily film on the water and an obnoxious, foul odor that develops in the summer months. This odor results after the pool water reaches a temperature 85+ degrees. I use my pool for therapeutic exercises and this is why the temperature is set at a warmer level. I have never been given a max temperature by either the cover company or my service technician and I am the primary user of this pool and I do not use tanning lotions or oils. 

I have maintained detailed records on my pool’s history as it pertains to service as well as minor and major repairs. This history reveals the following products have been used by various service providers over the years and a pool contractor in an attempt to remedy this historical problem: calcium hypo chloride, cyanuric acid, algicides, Pool Perfect, Gold ‘n Clear, GLB Clarifier – Natural Clear, Down & Out, PhosFree, Natural Chemistry “Clear. ” Nothing clears the water!

Years ago, I had my pool completely refurbished with new tile, coping, and new Wet Edge Tech Primera Stone plaster by a reputable local pool contractor. Upon completion, the pool was refilled with fresh water, balanced and a new vinyl pool cover was installed. Within one month as the water temperature climbed, the smelly water andthe slimy film problems returned. To this day the pool is not clear or sparkly and even the “scum” balls added to the pool showed evidence of what we could see on the water’s surface. 

I do not enjoy using a pool with water like this and am disheartened that after spending over $30K to refurbish I still have the same old problem. My service technician has speculated that heat/sun/solar leaches the oil/petroleum from the vinyl cover when it reaches a certain temperature. I would like to know what that temperature is and how this problem can be avoided. It cannot be healthy for the users of this pool as it is absorbed in our skin. 

The pool contractor and my service technician placed scum balls at various times in the skimmer last summer and also replaced a perfectly good filter hoping this would resolve the problem. The water did not clear up and the smell did not go away. 

After many years the pool cover company finally admits there is a problem with the vinyl fabric used. They removed the new cover and cleaned the slime off the bottom of the cover in an attempt to remedy the problem. The oil and the smell finally disappeared when the water turned cold in the fall. I expect the problem to reoccur once the water reheats for the upcoming swim season. 

I am angry the vinyl manufacturers have not figured out a remedy for this problem. Surely, many pool technicians have brought this to the attention of the pool cover companies over the years. If I could do without the expense and aggravation of a pool cover I would because I am fed up with this recurring problem each and every summer!

 

We received the following response tp this letter, which appeared in our A[pril 15, 2017 issue:

 LACK OF SANITIZER- I have experienced this problem from time to time, it starts as an oily looking film that floats on the surface of the water. From there it will start to solidify and will attach itself to the underside of the cover fabric. As the fabric moves over the lowered wall into the cover vault, the "STUFF" is scrapped off. It will collect at the base of the wall. I "SHOCK" the pool with LIQUID CHLORINE, and CLOSE the cover. On one fabric I had to remove it and clean BOTH SIDES with an ANTIBACTERIAL soap. Then we also wash the cover vault and make sure the DRAIN is not backing up. This has worked every time.

Thomas J Stroebel

 

Cyanuric Acid article inspires response

Excellent article, it is about time this message gets spread by someone in the industry. TroubleFreePools has been preaching this for years. Those in the industry need to learn there is a great deal of information that is not taught in the CPO classes that we need to know. There is another equal if not more important piece of education/information NOT being taught correctly which very few in the industry are aware of. This has to do with the x10 rule being taught regarding break point chlorination. It simply is NOT true. It was miscalculated many years ago and has never been addressed. The ratio is actually approximately 1:1. The x10 rule came from an error having to do the molecular weight of CL2 and ammonia(nitrogen). Mr. Richard Falk has written extensive and easy to understand explanations regarding this. BTW- I have no interest in this other than it is information that simply should be corrected so we can stop mis-educating the new generation of pool professionals. If you are interested and I hope you are I would be happy to forward you information I have from Richard himself or I can certainly help to to contact him directly. This is a torch that needs to be carried forward and held high.

Thank you.

Dennis Appel
NorthernAire Pools
St. Louis Park, Mn

Reader shares opinion on chlorine generators

The following letter was sent to us in response to an article written by Marcelle Dibrell entitled “What do service techs think of chlorine generators?” published in the May 31 issue of Service Industry News. 

The article solicited readers to tell us what they think of chlorine generators. Several responses were published in our June 30 edition. 

Sorry I didn’t get in on the original session. 

I tell my customers, “It is an aesthetic thing: If you like the feel of swimming in salt pool, we can do that. 

Chlorine use will go down but acid use will go up. There is the cost to install the system including the cost of a water change and salt." 

Salt cells have a limited life and they will need replacement. 

The salt may attack your coping or deck. 

Salt additions and cell cleaning are included in my service at no additional charge. 

But here is something I have always wondered: If we just add salt to a pool, say to 3400 ppm will it feel just as good? 

No cell, no generator, just continue to sanitize with liquid, tabs, etc. 

If the answer is yes, then please don’t publish my name, because I am sure the manufacturers will put a contract out on me! 

Dan Rycroft

Rycroft Pool & Spa Service, 

Costa Mesa, Calif. 

Can the soft water feeling be achieved without running the salt through the generator? It is an interesting question, Dan. This is a common practice for exactly the reasons you stated. Be sure to test your initial salt concentration prior to adding additional salt. Also, ensure that all metallic equipment inside of the pool is properly bonded to avoid corrosion issues.

 

 

Reader says corrosion not from salt systems

The following letter was sent to us in response to an article written by Marcelle Dibrell entitled “What’s steel got to do with anything?”published in the May 31 issue of Service Industry News. 

It was good to come across your article, basically asking the market for more informed feedback as to the question “Do chlorine generators cause corrosion?” 

There has been too much ‘mis’, and ‘dis’ information spread on this subject while very scant, solid data is presented, other than the Eltech study that has exonerated salt systems from corrosion. 

TMI Corporation has been providing commercial chlorine generators “Salt Pure” to large aquatic facilities across the country for around 20 years now. As you might imagine, I have come across this a number of times; here is my experience with corrosion: 

Corrosion — Above the water. 

All indications are that chloramines were off-gassing from the pool in Switzerland that you mentioned in your article and the acidic particles caused the support beams to collapse over time. 

I believe this also occurred in Russia in the ‘80’s. Chloramines also cause the corrosion on all metal parts within the pool enclosure, light fixtures and steel kick plates on doors. 

This is not caused by the salt from the salt systems, as salt will not evaporate from the pool. Rather, much the same as chlorine, salt can be splashed out of the water, and to prevent corrosion, will need to be rinsed periodically with fresh water. 

2. Corrosion — In and within the water and pool equipment. 

This is where the finger of guilt has been firmly pointed at salt, and it is just not correct. I have seen corrosion in many a non-salt pool, and the cause of the corrosion is the same for traditional chlorine pools, especially liquid chlorine. 

So what is going on here? 

Well, quite simply it is an issue of lack of, and/or improper bonding of metallic pool equipment. The National Electric Code requires bonding as part of their Rule 680.26, but it seems that many professionals do not know the difference between grounding and bonding. And while they take great care to ground all electrical equipment, bonding is, in many instances, ignored. 

Bonding lugs are provided on all mechanical equipment in pump rooms for a reason. If the bonding is not correctly installed, or not tied into an “Equi- Potential Bonding Loop”, and not terminated correctly, then the addition of salt into the water creates a battery-like situation. The conductive ions, or salt particles, then provide a path for the current flow, mVDC, to ground itself to a metal pool component, beginning the corrosion process. 

It is important that the rebar of the pool, and all metallic railings, ladders, and of course the pumps, filters (if metallic) and heaters, and even the HVAC system, be bonded into this loop. 

A salt system will introduce around 3,500 PPM of salt into the water in a very short period of time, so the corrosion from improper bonding will be quickly apparent. 

In contrast if liquid chlorine is the sanitizer of choice, then for every gallon of chlorine added, approximately 2- to 3- pounds of salt is formed, raising the salt level in the water, sometimes getting to levels that can be comparable to that of a salt pool. 

I raise this issue because what we have here is a global concern of bonding; how we, as an industry, can provide the correct-end solutions for our clients, rather than resort to finger pointing. 

We have, over the years become quite proficient at locating this “Stray Current” and have solved many corrosion issues related to salt systems. I have come across a few salt systems that are not manufactured with bonding lugs, exacerbating the problem; while every system we ship comes with a bondable Sacrificial Anode that we manufacture just in case! 

If you look online there is a large amount of information and video instruction about this subject. Pool builders need to ensure that their electrical sub contractors are aware of this requirement and the construction punch list should include steps for all bonding locations to verify that they are in compliance. It is not enough to assume that the Electrical Inspector will be responsible for catching missed and broken bonds. 

In closing, let me reiterate that salt systems do not cause corrosion, and as is the case with many different industries, the equipment is blamed for poor workmanship. Thank You. 

Timothy S Petsch

TMI Corporation

Manchester, Wash. 

 

Reader’s customer baffled by vinyl-cover problem

 

This letter was sent to us by Sonia Brousseau, a residential customer of Brad Spruitenburg of B L Pool Service in Pacifica, Calif. 

At the request of my pool service provider I am addressing a serious vinyl-pool cover problem that I have been experiencing over the past 19 years. 

I have a vinyl cover to protect my 20,000-gallon backyard pool. I have purchased six covers from a reputable pool cover company in our area. These covers were purchased in 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2012. 

My pool is heated by sun and a rooftop solar system. With each cover I have owned, I have witnessed a visible oily film on my pool water and a obnoxious, foul odor that develops in the summer months. 

This odor results after the pool water reaches a temperature 85-plus degrees. My primary use for this pool is regular therapeutic exercises for my physical well being and that is why the temperature is set at such a warm level. 

At no time have I been given a suggested max on the heat temperature by the pool cover company or my service provider to avoid this recurring problem. 

I am the primary user of this pool while occasionally a visiting friend will get in as well. I do not use tanning lotions or oils and I do not let anyone else use such products in my pool. 

I have always maintained detailed records on the history of my pool as it pertains to service, as well as minor and major repairs. This history reveals the following products have been used by various service providers over the years and a pool contractor in an attempt to remedy this historical problem: calcium hypo chloride, cyanuric acid, algaecide, “Gold ‘n Clear,” “GLB Clarifier,” “Natural Clear,” “Down & Out,” “Phos Free,” “Clear” and “Pool Perfect.” Nothing clears the water! 

Last summer I had my pool completely refurbished with new tile, coping and new Wet Edge Tech Primera Stone plaster by a reputable local pool contractor. At the completion of the project, the pool was refilled with fresh water and was properly balanced, leaving the water sparkling and clear as it should be. 

A new vinyl pool cover was soon installed and within one month, as the temperature of the water climbed, the smelly water problem returned. 

Once again there was a slimy film on top of the water and it smelled badly. The pool was no longer clear and sparkling as it had been and is not to this day. The “scum” balls showed clear evidence of what we saw on top of the water. 

It’s not enjoyable for the pool owner or guests to use a pool with water like this. I am disheartened with the fact that I spent more than $30,000 to refurbish this pool and within a short time period, I experienced the same old problem. 

Speculation by the service provider is that the heat from the sun and solar panels is leaching the oil/petroleum from the vinyl cover when the pool water reaches a certain temperature. I would like to know what that temperature is and how this problem can be avoided. It cannot be healthy for the users of this pool as it is absorbed in our skin. 

The pool contractor and my service provider placed scum balls at various times in the skimmer last summer and replaced a perfectly good filter with a new one, with the fervent hope this would resolve the problem, but to no avail. 

The water did not clear up and the smell did not go away during the swim season. 

After many years the pool cover company has finally admitted that there is a problem with the vinyl fabric used. 

They removed the new cover last October and cleaned the slime off the bottom of the cover. The oil and the smell finally disappeared when the water turned cold in the fall and winter, but I expect the age-old problem to resume once the water reheats for the upcoming swim season. 

I have had the same service provider since 2002 and have always used reputable providers for the past 21 years. My pool has been replastered twice and there is no other reasonable explanation why I continue to experience this problem every summer. I am angry the vinyl manufacturers have not figured out a remedy for this problem. 

Surely many pool service providers have brought this to the attention of the pool cover companies over the years. It is time to do something about it, and as a pool owner, I would like to see results. 

According to many of our Calif., Bay Area readers, the problem with pool covers, smelly water and slimy film is widespread. We were asked by the service technician of the pool described in this letter to get the word out.

IN THE MAIL . . . 

Readers give opinion on chlorine generators

The following letters were sent to us by a number of service technicians in response to an article written by Marcelle Dibrell entitled “What do service techs think of chlorine generators?” published in the May 31 issue of Service Industry News

The article solicited our readers to respond with what they do think of chlorine generators and the following letters are what we received. 

I agree with the majority of this. I really wish salt cells could be manually overridden to do whatever a service tech or homeowner wants them to do (ie. produce chlorine when water temps are below 52°F, or crank 100-percent output for 48-, 72-, 96- or 120- hours etc.) 

Also, it doesn’t make sense that the IECG is about 90 percent of the cost of a brand new salt cell unit. It should be less than half, accounting for the CPU, flow sensor, temp sensor and power cord, costing about $225 just for the replacement parts. 

Anyhow, I like salt cells because; 

1. I only have problems with them 10 percent of the time. 

2. They save me money on chemicals because I only need one $3.50 gallon of acid each week rather than one $3 gallon of chlorine and two tabs each week. 

3. We get to charge between $65 and $100 (depending on customer), 3-to-4 times per year for a quick 10-minute acid wash. 

4. We get to charge customers between $12- and $18-dollars for a 40-pound bag of salt 4-to-6 times a year. 

What this means is that service technicians spend about the same amount on acid versus chlorine but there are many more maintenance components to increase monthly service costs. 

For example, a high end account with a 14,000-gallon infinity-edge pool with a 1,500 gallon attached spa uses between 1/2- to 3/4- gallons of acid each week, or 2- to 3- gallons per month at a total cost of $7- to $10.50- per month. Then a 40-pound bag of salt every 2 months at a cost of $7 per bag or $14.25 per bag, 6 times a year for a total annual salt cost of $85.50. Then for the salt cell cleaning, the customer pays $85, 3 times per year for a total of $255. 

Depending how extensive the salt cell cleaning is and how much salt I actually have to add to maintain 3.0 ppm chlorine level, I net an extra $300 annually or $25 per month for very minimal effort. 

I like salt cells. Especially in the next 3- to 5- years, when the majority of new systems installed will have wifi to monitor the salt cell, the salt level ppm and adjustable output via smartphones. 

Austin Wicht 

Pacific Pools, San Diego, Calif. 

——— 

I read your article and I couldn’t agree more. A salt system may sound good at first but customers are being mislead. Customers tell me all the time they bought a salt system so they never have to buy chemicals again. They forget about cleaning the cell and checking all other chemicals. 

I’m an old-school pool man. I believe you can use the original chemicals that have been used for years before salt systems. I’m all for new technology but the price and reliability of a salt system is not consistent enough. Thanks 

Tony Valencia 

Pool Samurai, Phoenix, Ariz. 

——— 

Hello service industry news, I love your magazine. 

In response to your article on chlorine generators and whether I like them or not, after 13 years as a pool guy here in San Diego, I dislike ‘em. 

I actually steer customers away from them and here’s why: 

1. They produce high pH. So now I’m dumping in acid which is 50 percent more expensive than chlorine. 

2. The cells don’t work when its cold so I’ve got to use tabs or liquid in the winter. 

3. The cells don’t work if the salt is too high or too low. 

4. The cells go bad after 3- to 7- years and are expensive. 

5. The cells need to be cleaned each year. 

6. If the cell stops working in the summer, the pool gets algae immediately and now the pool guy is the bad guy. 

In conclusion I hate ‘em and I still drop a couple tabs in the skimmer even on a saltwater pool, just in case it fails. I hate lugging jugs of acid into backyards. And I hate explaining to the customer why it needs to be cleaned each year or why they need a new cell for $500- to $800- every 3- to 7- years (which we can’t really mark up to make money on). 

I prefer tabs in a floater. I add 2 each week, pretty much year round. Once my chlorine is stable at 3ppm I can run ‘em on tabs: its cheaper. 

Aaron Wicht, Brother of Austin Wicht 

Pooltime, San Diego, Calif. 

——— 

I like salt generators as long as there’s not one on my own pool. When they are on my customer’s pools it’s fine. It keeps a consistent flow of chlorine and they have to pay for all of the repairs on the salt systems and replacement cells. 

I sometimes feel bad for the customer that has to buy a new salt cell every 2- to 3- years. Also some of the circuit boards only last 1 1/2- to 2-years. Unfortunately they only have a 1 year warranty on these cells and parts, unless it’s a completely new entire system then you get a 3-year warranty. 

I have a customer that replaced his circuit board 11/2 years ago and it’s bad again. No Warranty! $300.00 plus labor. 

Also some salt sensors don’t last very long. I think the manufacturers have figured out a way to make these things not last very long so they can sell more. 

Rudy Pelleriti 

Radiant Pool & Spa Service 

San Clemente, Calif.