FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

How to prepare for your Pool Opening

CLICK HERE to be directed to the Pool Opening Service Details page of our website.

What is the proper way to backwash my filter?

When the filter pressure rises 8 to 10 PSI over the clean starting pressure (as noted on the pressure gauge), it is time to backwash. (You should make sure that  you do the backwashing at least once a week.) Here are the proper steps:

  1. Turn the pump OFF and rotate the multiport valve handle clockwise to the “BACKWASH” setting.
  2. Make sure the backwash hose is secured and stretched out (i.e. not bunched up or coiled, because it may burst when water starts shooting through it).
  3. Turn the pump ON and the dirty water will begin to flow out of the backwash hose.
  4. Watch the valve’s sight glass on the filter. You will see the water flow through it and it will go from clear, to dirty, then back to clear. (This could take approximately 1 minute or less, depending on dirt accumulation.)
  5. Once the water runs clear in the sight glass, turn the pump OFF and rotate the multiport valve’s handle clockwise to the “RINSE” setting.
  6. Turn the pump ON and let run for 20 to 30 seconds or until the water in the sight glass is running clear. This ensures that all dirty water from backwashing is rinsed out of the filter to waste, the plumbing lines are cleaned out, and the sand bed is reset. 
  7. Turn the pump OFF and rotate the multiport valve’s handle clockwise to the “FILTRATION” setting.
  8. Turn the pump ON and allow the system to begin circulating the pool water. Take a reading of this new clean starting pressure so that you have a reference point for the next backwash cycle.
  9. Steps 1 through 6 can be repeated one or more times, as alternating between backwash and rinse will help to dislodge more out of the filter. When the water runs clear in the sight glass, you’re done.

NOTE: Your pool most likely will lose some water during the backwash/rinse process. Therefore, water may need to be added to the pool to replace it. You may also see some sand coming out of the backwash hose during this process. This is normal, as backwashing actually skims a thin layer of sand off the top inside the filter and this sand layer comes out through the backwash hose.

How many gallons is my pool?

Please look up your pool size and shape on this chart:

Why does my pressure gauge never move?

The pressure gauge will show a reading when water passes through the valve or filter, depending on the gauge’s location.  If the gauge remains at zero (0) when the pump is running, or if it stays at the same pressure whether the pump is operating or not, the gauge is broken and needs to be replaced.

When do I need to replace my sand?

On average, sand should be replaced every 3 to 5 years. This may be longer if the pool stays clear, or shorter if the filter runs all the time. The jagged edges of the sand wear down and become smooth as the sand ages. When this happens, the sand can no longer trap debris particles and dirt can pass through the sand and back into the pool.

If the pool is chemically balanced, the system is running the proper length of time, and the bather load is normal, but the water will not clear even when using a flocculant or clarifier, then the sand needs changing.

As the sand ages, it may start to clump and the water flow can form channels in the sand, allowing the debris to pass through. Channeling is often seen when the pump horsepower is too large and wants to move too much water through the filter.

NOTE: As a matter of practice, we always replace the lateral assembly in the filter whenever we change the sand. Over time, the plastic laterals can become brittle (from pressure, etc.). When pouring new sand over them during the replacement procedure, sometimes they can crack or break, and so we put new laterals. So we ALWAYS recommend replacing the lateral assembly whenever you change the sand in the filter. 

Why is there water leaking from the backwash/waste line while I am filtering the pool?

At the bottom of the valve is a spider gasket. This gasket seals against the valve body to divide the ports. Depending on the placement of the handle, each port is designed to direct the water flow in the appropriate direction. If the gasket swells, or becomes unseated from the channel, the water will flow in various directions. The gasket can be replaced in some models or the entire key/stem assembly will need to be replaced.

How many hours per day should I run my pump?

There are many factors to consider; bather load, gallons of water, pump horsepower, type and size of filter just to name a few. A good guideline is 8-10 hours a day. On the cooler days and early and late season, you can cut the run time down to 4-6 hours because there is usually less swimmers and cooler water requires less chemicals. In peak season, when it is the hottest, raising the run-time to 10-12 hours per day will help to keep the pool clean and circulating during its time of heaviest use.

What does it mean when I see sand in my pool?

Sand in your pool typically means that the lateral assembly in your sand filter is cracked or broken and needs to be replaced. This further means that the sand is coming into the pool through the jets. To confirm this, turn off the pool and leave it off for at least 30 minutes (to allow the sand to “settle” inside the tank of the sand filter). Then, turn the pool on and immediately run to the edge of the pool and watch the jets. If sand is seen coming through the jets right away, then yes, the lateral needs to be replaced.

Sometimes, what may APPEAR to be sand at the bottom of the pool is actually NOT sand. A simple test would be to take your pool brush and brush up against the “sand”. If you are able to push it along the floor of the pool and even get it over to the main drain, then it is, in fact, sand. If, however, it “poofs” up into a cloud as soon as you touch it with your pool brush, then it is NOT sand, but algae, and you would need to chemically treat the water to remove it. 

How often should I clean my heater?
How often should I clean my salt cell?

If there are pine needles in the area, they clog up in the blades of the salt cell

If calcium hardness is high or low; deposits form in the cell.

Why is my pump noisy?
  • Vibration from the pump’s feet and the base (where the pump rests) can cause the pump to be noisy.  A piece of old carpet or rubber between the pump’s base and equipment pad might reduce the noise.
  • The bearing(s) might be noisy due to age or high concentrations of chemicals and heat. A leaky pump seal could damage the front motor bearing.  It is very important to quickly repair any leaks around the pump to prevent extensive damage.  It is recommended that you replace the bearings or the entire motor.  Contact Excel Pool Service for repair.
  • Many times a noisy pump can come from cavitation. Cavitation has two possible causes, which are both hydraulically (water flow) related.  The first is that the suction piping is undersized.  If this pipe is undersized, the amount of water the pump requires to operate properly is reduced.  Increasing the pipe size (increase water flow) or dropping the size of the impeller (decrease water flow) can quiet the pump. The second is that there is little or no back-pressure on the pressure side of system (water feature pumps are a good example).  Adding a valve or something to increase back-pressure is advised.
Why won’t my pump fill with water (prime)?
  • There is an air leak at the gasket on the pump’s lid.
  • An air leak on the suction side of the pump.
  • Check to make sure the suction line is free of obstructions.
  • Check to make sure the impeller is still attached to the shaft of the motor.  If the impeller has broken off, it will need to be replaced.
  • If the pump is installed a distance from the pool or is elevated above the normal deck level, the time needed to prime the pump could be longer. For elevated installations, a check valve may be needed on the suction line to allow for easier priming.
Why are there air bubbles flowing into the pool from the return fitting(s)?
  • The strainer cover and O-ring.  Tighten if loose or replace gasket if damaged.
  • Level of water in the pool is low causing water and air to mix into the skimmer..
  • The skimmer weir may be stuck in the up position causing water and air to mix in the skimmer.
  • Check the drain plugs on the pump strainer housing.
  • Check all of the threaded fittings for leaks from improper sealants or sealing procedures.
  • Check glued fittings for bad glue joints.
  • Check all valves for possible leaks. Valve stem O-rings are a common suction leak point.
  • Check and ensure the pump is not cavitating.
  • Check pump housing for cracks.
Do I need to keep grass, shrubs, and vegetation away from my motor?

Always keep the pool equipment clear and ensure that there is nothing growing over the motor. If insects are a large problem in your area, treat for insects. The air circulation around the motor is crucial for proper operation. Failure to ensure proper air circulation will reduce the life of the equipment.

Can I run my pump without water?

Pool pumps should never operate without water. The pump seal assembly in the pump volute (the area between the strainer basket and the pump motor) protects the pump motor from pool water. This seal assembly gets hot and is cooled by the pool water. If the pump is running without water, the seal will overheat and melt. If left running without water for a long period of time, the heat generated could damage the PVC pipe and other system components.

What is the coldest temperature during which the heat pump will function?

45° – 50° F, If the temperature is lower than 50, the heat pump will cut off and display LP.  Heat pumps derive their heat from the air. There is enough usable heat for a heat pump to operate, efficiently, down to around 45° Fahrenheit. However, there may not be enough heat available to keep your pool or spa as warm as you would like.

Is my heat pump leaking water? There are large puddles of water under it.

Heat pumps condensate water when operating. They are capable of producing up to 3 gallons of condensation per hour. There are two methods for testing for a leak on your heat pump.

1) Turn the heat pump off, but leave the pool pump on to circulate water through the unit. If the heat pump is leaking it will leak whether or not it is running. The water around the heat pump will dry up in a few hours if there is no leak.

2) Check the water around the heat pump as you would the pool water, with a chlorine test strip. If the water around the heat pump does not show the same level of chlorine as the pool water, then the water around the heat pump is condensation from heat pump operation and is not coming from the pool. If the water around the heat pump tests the same as the pool water, then there is probably a leak in the heat pump.

How long will it take a heat pump to heat my pool?

The initial start up heating time will vary depending on the size of the pool and the outdoor temperature. While there are other factors that will increase or decrease the heat up time, these two factors are most critical. In most situations an initial heat up period of 4 to 5 days can be expected. However, after the pool has warmed to the desired temperature the heat pump should be able to maintain this temperature with a run time of only a few hours per day.

How important is Water Chemistry?

Pool water chemistry, along with proper filtration, is the key to clean healthy water. It doesn’t matter if you have 100 or 1,000,000 gallons of water in your pool, the same balance levels and chemical types are required—only the quantity will vary. Everything that enters the body of water affects water balance: swimmers, rain, pollution, animals and chemicals.

If the water is not properly maintained and the pH, Total Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness are allowed to fall below the recommended levels, the water will turn corrosive and can etch plaster, wrinkle vinyl liners, irritate the eyes and skin, AND corrode any metal components in the filtration system. The effects of this are most noticeable when a heater begins to leak. The corrosive water will eat at the copper in the heater’s heat exchanger. The copper will dissolve into the water and blond hair will start turning green and you may begin to see stains on the pool walls.

Each season, every pool creates its own demand for different chemicals. The pool in your neighbor’s yard, with the same system and environment, may react totally different than your own. Every pool also develops a pattern each season. After observing how your pool reacts to different bather levels, rain, and the environment, you will get a handle on your pool’s chemistry pattern and what is required to keep the water balanced. 

Please visit our retail store and water testing station for more details on maintaining a chemically-balanced pool or spa.

How do I get rid of Phosphates or Nitrates in my pool?

Phosphates and nitrates, when present in the water, attract chlorine molecules, preventing them from doing their job, which is attacking algae and bacteria. Phosphates come from pollen; nitrates come from fertilizers, urine, etc. These need to be tested and removed, if present, in order to clear the pool up.

If you have a salt system and if the phosphate count is 300 or higher, DO NOT SUPERCHLORINATE, as you will burn out the cell. Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Add PhosFree, circulate the pool for 24 hrs (+ or -, depending on how bad of an issue you have).
  2. Turn the salt system OFF, pour five to six pounds of shock into the pool, and then wait 24 hours. (NOTE: It is always best to dilute powdered shock into a five-pound bucket of water, and then either pour it directly into the pool or into the skimmer closest to the filter.)
  3. Turn the salt system back on AUTO.
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