Ultimate Guide to Pool Maintenance in Arizona!
In addition to the usual suspects… algae, leaves, pollen, dirt, and body fluids, pool maintenance in Arizona means that list almost doubles, it can add up to a great deal of trouble for your pool and your wallet, if you don’t stay on top of everything.
To help you maintain that perfect pool water, we’ve created a guide on everything you need to know about owning and operating a pool in Arizona.
Let’s refresh on the basics of pool maintenance…
What do I need to know about Pool Maintenance if I live in Arizona?
Routine, Routine, Routine. Did we mention Routine?
There are three main routines you need remember. 1) Pool Chemistry, 2) Pool Circulation, and 3) Pool Cleaning.
Three C’s of Arizona Pool Maintenance.
We have listed them in the order of importance.
Maintaining pool chemistry in Arizona is about 90% of your pool maintenance battle plan! If you don’t have a Smart Chemistry system to automate everything, there are still a lot of things you can test for, but the perfect Arizona pool chemistry can also be narrowed down to four things…
pH, Alkalinity, Sanitizer, and Calcium
Here are the details…
pH Range for Arizona Pools
pH Range should be between 7.4-7.8.
But what will usually happen, is that pH will rise over time in your pool, and the normal range will end up being closer to: 7.4 to 8.2. Especially, in Arizona. So, you will want to keep an eye on this once or twice a week to avoid letting things build up.
CYA Range for Arizona Pools
Chlorine burns off when exposed to UV rays, and the Arizona sunshine is in full-force almost year-round. So, you’re going to need a little buffer to help keep your chlorine from wasting away.
Cyanuric Acid (CYA) is meant to stabilize the chlorine, so it doesn’t burn off too fast. It changes the water chemistry just enough to allow the CYA to continue sanitizing, even when the Arizona sun is shining. Think of it like sunscreen for your chlorine.
We recommend having a CYA range between 20 – 50 ppm of CYA in your pool to help buffer your pH scale.
However, if you put too much CYA, it can actually reduce the chlorine’s ability to sanitize, so don’t overdose. And it does not burn off. If you overdose CYA, the only way to remove it would be to drain and refill the pool.
Alkalinity Range for Arizona Pool Maintenance?
Many people confuse total alkalinity and pH. It’s understandable, given how similar the words like “alkaline” and “alkalinity” sound.
Total alkalinity is essentially your water’s ability to avoid changing its pH.
To be precise…
Too much alkalinity raises your pool’s pH.
Alkalinity makes it harder to reduce your pool’s pH.
The more alkalinity, the more muriatic acid it will take to reduce your pool’s pH.
We recommend having an Alkalinity range between 80-120 ppm.
Sanitizer Range for Arizona Pool Maintenance
Most everyone knows this already, as it is pool maintenance 101, but sanitizer just refers to the amount of chlorine, bromine, etc. in your pool water. Appropriate levels will vary based on the type of sanitizer you use.
We recommend having a Sanitizer range between 1-3ppm for safe swimming.
Calcium Hardness Range for Arizona Pool Maintenance
Everyone in Arizona pretty much knows that Arizona has a hard water problem.
For reference, any water measured with over 3.5 grains of calcium and magnesium bicarbonates per gallon is deemed “hard water.”
We recommend having calcium hardness between 150-400 ppm
That being said, some cities have hard water that borders at the top of the recommended range right from the start, so be aware of your city water hardness levels to better prepare yourself on how to handle things.
To give you some reference points, we have measured hardness variations across multiple cities, and you can see below that they are all so very different:
|City||Grains/ Gallon||Hardness (PPM)|
* Those are yearly averages.
Calcium will build up over time and start messing with your pool chemistry.
Calcium also reacts with hot weather, something we have plenty of in Arizona, and tends to create an ugly ring around your pool tiles called, “scale” if it builds up over time.
Luckily, it’s not an immediate issue that you have to worry about. It is a long-term process which means every 2-3 years, you will need to drain and refill your pool water to remove those total dissolved solids.
Ok, that’s the first “C”, now onto the next one…
Maintaining pool circulation is the next 5% of your Arizona pool maintenance battle plan!
Stagnant Water and Arizona Heat are the Enemy!
There are two big reasons you will want to circulate water…
You need to circulate water through the filter so dirt, pollen, and any other nasty Arizona particles that happen to land in your pool are removed and nothing messes up the pool water.
You need to circulate sanitizer (chlorine) throughout the pool to kill those Arizona microorganisms. If any microorganisms get into the water, they can create problems with the water chemistry, algae can start forming, or worse… the water can become toxic to swimmers.
Ok, that’s the second “C”, now onto the last one…
The great thing about these first two C’s… if you handle Pool Chemistry and Pool Circulation, then, the last “C” – Pool Cleaning, is a piece of cake.
Maintaining a good pool cleaning schedule will be the final 5% of your Arizona pool maintenance battle plan!
Some things you just can’t get around, such as Arizona monsoons, haboobs, dust storms, bush and tree leaves falling into your pool.
So, every so often, you will need to scoop, skim, brush and dump stuff out of your pool.
Large debris can block the flow of the skimmer and pool filter.
You don’t want this to happen.
In sequence, we recommend…
1) Dump Skimmer Basket
Clear the suction path so the vacuum and pumps can do their jobs. Most floating debris ends up in the skimmer basket. Staying on top of dumping the baskets will help reduce the work that your pool filter needs to do.
2) Vacuum the Pool:
The heavy debris in the pool should be settled if you are just starting your cleaning process and it should be concentrated toward the bottom.
Pool Vacuums are Important in Arizona
One of the easiest investments you can make, if you have not already, is a pool vacuum cleaner.
Whether you have an automatic pool vacuum, suction vacuum, or hand vacuum, its important you vacuum at least once a week to clear the debris from your pool.
If you are trying to save time, we recommend just plug in your suction vacuum and let it run when you run your pool pump. It’s the most cost-effective, easy and keeps on top of Arizona debris before it gets out of hand.
3) Brush the Pool:
After vacuuming, start brushing to knock the stuff off the walls, stairs, etc so your filtration system can eat them up like candy.
If you don’t brush, those organisms will continue to hide and multiply over time.
And since your pump and filter have no hands, they can’t do the brushing for you, so be sure to brush from time to time to avoid build-up.
4) Run the Pool Pump:
Your pump needs to run long enough to fully circulate the water at least once. We have a pretty extensive article to describe everything you need to know about running your pool pump.
And there you have it… Three C’s of Arizona Pool Maintenance!
Now, you have the basics of pool maintenance if you live in Arizona and should be able to keep things balanced.
Now, let’s dive into ways to make your equipment last longer in Arizona.
Why do Arizona Pools Form Calcium Scale?
Scale tends to form in the hottest water first… and secondly, it will tend to form where the water has the least amount of circulation.
Typically, this will be inside saltwater chlorine generators (salt cells), or heat exchangers, or the top of your water line.
In Arizona, it’s hot most of the year, so you will most likely always see the water line scale.
If your water chemistry is balanced, it will help reduce the formation of scale.
Remove Waterline Scale from the Tiles on your Arizona Pool
A simple brushing or wiping of those tiles from time to time should keep the scale from getting out of hand.
Dipping the brush or sponge in muriatic acid will instantly dissolve that scale but be sure to wear gloves and mask to avoid fumes and skin contact.
Remove Arizona Water Scale from the Salt Cell on your Pool
Salt chlorine generators, AKA (“Salt Cells”) use a process called electrolysis to generate chlorine from sodium chloride (salt). This process involves electricity, which creates heat and a very high pH.
Most Arizona pool owners tend to shut off their pool pumps and salt cells at the same time. This will basically create the perfect storm of scale potential in the salt cell with high pH, no circulation and hot water.
Once scale forms, the salt cell loses its effectiveness, and the lifespan gets significantly reduced. Calcium buildup is one of the biggest challenges with Arizona saltwater pools.
Run your pool pump 30 minutes after the salt cell turns off to flush it out and avoid scale formation.
We highly recommend you inspect your salt cell every 3 months and clean it with a muriatic acid. This will keep your salt cell operating at maximum capacity, while extending its life expectancy as long as possible.
Remove Scale from the Inside of your Pool Heater in Arizona
Scaling is an especially problematic for Arizona pools with heaters because the scale will build up quickly as it moves through the heater’s plumbing. Over time, the calcium in the heater’s plumbing will build up and cause the heater to fail.
Run your pool pump 30 minutes after the heater turns off to flush it out and avoid scale formation.
Pool Heater Maintenance in Arizona
If you properly maintain your heat pump or pool heater, it can increase its lifespan by another 5-10 years!
We recommend heater maintenance once per year in Arizona.
- Clean It: Once of the easiest things to do to keep your heater healthy in Arizona, is to clear out any debris build-up. Sweep out the dirt, dust, cobwebs, grass, etc. and ensure nothing is blocking any drain holes on the side of the heater, the top is clear, and it has plenty of ventilation as intended.
- Clean the Coils: Turn off the breaker so there is no power to the heater and use a hose to wash the coils out. Coils lose effectiveness if there is any debris build-up slowing down the airflow.
- Check the Fan Blades: Hose off the Fan Blades and use a rag to wipe the edges on the blades. Check for any lose blades and have them tightened if needed.
- Check the Wiring: Make sure the wiring looks clean and not worn out. You don’t want any frayed wires, and if you find anything out of whack, you should call an electrician.
- Check the Refrigeration Line: The black foam insulation that you see on the pipe can degrade over time, so each year, you will want to replace this insulation, which you can buy from any basic home store in your area.
Pool Filter Maintenance in Arizona
Depending on what type of pool filter you have… how you clean things will vary.
We recommend filter maintenance every 3 months in Arizona.
Cartridge Filter Maintenance
If you have a cartridge filter, you have the easiest scenario.
- Turn off the filter and pump and remove the cartridge.
- Hose down the cartridge, making sure to get between the pleats.
- For a deeper cleaning, if it’s really dirty, you can use filter cleaner or soak in a bucket overnight to loosen up the debris.
- Check the O-ring on the filter tank. If it’s in good shape, apply some lubricant to keep it that way. If it appears worn out, be sure to replace it.
- Turn the system back on and open the air relief valve to release any excess air in the system. Keep the valve open until a steady stream of water sprays from it.
- Check the system pressure to be sure it’s in normal range. And you are good to go!
Sand Filter Maintenance
If your sand filter or D.E. Filter reaches 10 psi over the normal operating level, or you are starting to see cloudy pool water, you will need to clean out the filter.
This takes a little more effort, especially in the Arizona heat, but you have two options…
backwash or acid wash.
How to Clean your Sand Filter
- Backwash the filter for up to 5 minutes and remove all debris.
- Turn off the pump and switch the line valve to “Filter”.
- Remove the strainer lid from the pump.
- Get sand filter cleaner and pour it into the strainer basket and replace the lid.
- Turn on the pump for 15 seconds, which is long enough to get the cleaner to flow from the pump to the filter.
- Turn the pump off for at least 8 hours.
- Then, backwash your filter for up to 5 minutes again and remove any additional debris that has loosened up from the filter cleaner.
- Last, turn the filter system back on and you are good to go!
How to Clean your D.E. Filter
- Backwash the filter for up to 5 minutes and remove all debris.
- Turn off the pump.
- Open the air relief valve.
- Drain the filter tank by removing the drain plug.
- Remove the clamps (or other latching devices) holding the filter together.
- Open the filter tank.
- Remove the filter manifold and take out the grids.
- Rinse out the tank with your hose.
- Clean the manifold:
- Use a spray nozzle on your hose to spray down the manifold, making sure to thoroughly flush the grids of all debris.
- If the manifold is really dirty, use a D.E. filter cleaner, or soak it overnight in a muriatic acid solution.
- Use a hose to rinse the grids, flushing out all debris, including the D.E. powder.
- Put the grids back into the tank.
- Add D.E. powder to the filter.
- Refer to your owner’s manual to determine how much D.E. powder you’ll need.
- Prime the pool pump.
- Remove the strainer basket lid.
- Fill the basket with water and run water through the incoming pipeline.
- Lubricate the O-ring inside the tank.
- Replace the filter lid and tighten the clamps or bolts to secure it.
- Open the air relief valve and release excess air from the tank.
- Turn the pool pump back on.
- Close the air relief valve when water begins coming out.
- Mix the appropriate amount of D.E powder with water to make a a thin and creamy solution.
- Make sure the pump is running.
- Pour the thin and creamy D.E. solution directly into the pool skimmer.
- Run the pool pump for at least 30 minutes to allow the D.E. to distribute evenly over the filter grids and you are good to go.
How to Clean your Sand or D.E. Filter with Muriatic Acid
This is pretty much the same as described above. The only add-on is that you will want to soak your manifold into a 5-gallon bucket of muriatic acid overnight to allow time to fully break-up that debris. Be careful using the acid. Wear glove and mask to avoid fumes and skin contact.
Anyways, we hope this guide was useful. We have been maintaining pools in Arizona for some time now and found that the above recommendations should keep you on the right track.