During winter it’s easy to forget you have a pool sitting in your backyard. It’s cold and gloomy and your pool cover probably looks more like an eye sore than the summer oasis that it protects underneath. Despite all that it is important to remember a few things that will make your cover last longer and save you some headaches come springtime. First off, there are essentially 4 types of winter covers: 1) Solid anchor cover, 2) Solid anchor cover with a mesh drain panel, 3) Mesh anchor cover, and 4) a “water bag” or tarp cover. The type of cover you have and the weather outside will dictate the kind of winter maintenance you will need to do.
1. Solid Anchor Cover (also Automatic Covers) These covers will last for a decade or more if you keep the water pumped off of them. This keeps the strain off of the straps and the material itself. These covers are designed to “float” on top of your pool water, so most of the time there is actually very little stress on the cover. As the cover fills up with water though, the slack on the sides is pulled tighter and tighter and the water will put a surprising amount of stress on the cover. The best solution is a pump that will turn itself on and off as water accumulates on the cover. With this kind of pump you can just throw it on the cover and forget about it most of the off season. The only exception is when we get snow and ice accumulations and during freezing weather. In these conditions the pump will be tricked into turning on, but it won’t be able to pump any water, either because the hose is frozen or the water is frozen around the pump. Trying to run and not be able to move water will burn the pump up in no time. We recommend bringing the pump inside during freezing weather and wait until a warm day to pump the water off after the ice and snow have melted.
2. Solid Anchor Cover with Mesh Drain These covers offer the “best of both worlds” between mesh and solid covers. They don’t hold water like the solid covers do, but the solid parts of the cover block dirt and sunlight from getting to most of the pool, which keeps down algae growth. But, with the benefits come some of the drawbacks of both. These covers will sag into the pool slightly, and if we get a lot of precipitation during the winter the pool will fill up and the water will be above the surface of the cover. It would be advisable to pump down some of the pool water to alleviate the added strain on the cover and prevent algae from growing above the cover in the sunlight and migrating down into the pool. The other issue is that the area where the mesh drain panel is will be quite dirty in the spring when you open your pool, and that open area can allow algae to grow. For this reason, during particularly warm winters (like our current one) or if you open late and/or closed early, we recommend treating the pool halfway through the winter months with some shock and algaecide.
3. Mesh Anchor Cover These covers are arguably the “prettiest” covers available. They stretch flat across the pool and it almost looks like you have an inground trampoline for half of the year. But because they let dirt, rain, and sunlight through, it is highly recommended that you treat your pool at least once with some shock and algaecide (twice during warm winters or if you open late and/or closed early). To do this you will need to pull back the deep end portion of the cover, distribute the correct dose of quick dissolving, low chlorine shock (we sell this as MultiShock) as evenly as possible – pre-dissolved is even better. Then pour in the algaecide and brush the pool for several minutes to distribute the chemicals and to make sure that no shock granules settle on the bottom of the pool. Please call us or come in for further instructions on that process. If you’ve gotten a mesh cover in the past 5 years or so, chances are good that it was a “shaded” mesh cover, which blocks up to 99% of sunlight from getting into the water. This type of cover won’t be near as likely as a standard mesh to allow algae growth, but it is still possible, so you might want to check halfway through the winter to see if the water looks like it could use a treatment, in other words, if it is green or cloudy.
4. Water Bag Cover The water bag (tarp) cover is the cheapest in terms of up front cost, but with replacing the cover every few years and at least a few waterbags every year, they almost come to a wash compared to the anchor options, which cost more up front but last longer. Like the solid anchor cover, these covers work best and last longest if you keep them pumped off. Though they do differ in that an inch or two of water will help keep them from being blown around if wind gets under it. And no matter how careful you are, it seems like no one is safe from having a few waterbags spring a leak as the winter progresses. When this happens you should replace the bag as soon as possible to keep wind from getting under the cover and causing the whole thing to fall in. With the propensity for the bags to break or start leaking, it might seem like a great idea to use concrete blocks instead. This is a very bad idea. For one, concrete is surprisingly light when compared to water, so you will need a lot of concrete blocks to provide the same amount of anchoring potential. Secondly, if your cover fills up with water or a gust of wind hits your pool just right it is very likely that one or more of these blocks will get pulled into the pool. If this happens you will probably be buying a $3000+ liner because of trying to save a few dollars on waterbags.
Bottom line: any cover can be a great cover as long as you use it and maintain it properly. That doesn’t mean you need to be in your backyard freezing to death everyday during the winter, it just means knowing a little bit about your type of cover and giving your pool a sideways glance every once in a while. As with everything pool related though, when in doubt, give us a call and we’ll be glad to help.