Mike Kopke
Pebble Technology

The intent of this article is to shed light on fun facts and procedures of swimming pools in northern climates. When the snowbirds come down to Florida and miss experiencing the joys of winter, which include ice, snow and subzero freezing, they leave their northern pools behind. Here are some interesting facts about what is done to them.

The commercial swimming pool season opens on Memorial Day Weekend and ends on Labor Day Weekend. That equates to a three month swimming season. For the more fortunate homeowners who have pool heaters, the season may be expanded to opening in the early part of May, depending on the cooperation of the thawing ice and snow, and enjoy swimming until a later date in October. If this is the case they will see a substantial increase in their gas bill unless they belong to the Polar Bear Club.

Before snowbirds take flight on their migration south to escape the frozen tundra, they must winterize their swimming pools. This is usually done no later than the end of November. Once water starts freezing the damage could be done.

The average cost for a service company to winterize a swimming pool is more than a few regular service visits combined! The average swimming pool takes two hours to winterize. That sounds like some good money but if you are in the service industry you better find a good job for the winter unless you can convince the homeowner that you need to monitor their ice pond.

The first procedure is to drain the swimming pool below the returns and the skimmer. The next step is to insert rubber plugs that can be tightened into each return and skimmer line. Then by using the exhaust port on a shop vac each line is opened one at a time and is blown under pressure until the absence of any water. This is done by the pump equipment to insure that there is no trapped water. Once all the returns and skimmer are free of water the process is repeated with the addition of approximately one half gallon of RV antifreeze added to each line. The lines are blown under pressure until the antifreeze is visible coming out of the return and skimmer. Once completed all rubber plugs are checked and tightened. An empty bottle of antifreeze will be left inside the skimmer along with some antifreeze to absorb the expansion of any ice accumulation. The main drain will be blown out under pressure and once the presence of large air bubbles is present the valve will be put in the closed position to prevent back flow. The pump, filter, heater and any water features will all be disconnected and drained of any water. At this point the main breaker that feeds power to the equipment pad must be flipped to the off position.

Once completed, the pool will be covered and left unattended until spring. Although the pool has been drained it will be full of water come spring from all the rain, sleet, snow and ice. Elements that we miss out here in Florida.

When the migration begins to head back north, the snowbirds will contact their service companies and schedule their pools to be reopened for a new season. It is amazing that even though these pools have been covered for the winter they will be full of water and debris, i.e.: dirt, leaves, twigs, frogs, worms.

Oh by the way, another service invoice paid please! In some cases the pool will need to be drained and acid washed.

One last interesting fact when it comes to plastering swimming pools. Compared to Florida, whose busy season is in fall due to home builders trying to close on their properties, it is just the opposite for the north. Builders in the north are scrambling in the springtime fighting the weather to complete their projects by Memorial Day. The plastering season comes to an end once the pool shell temperature drops below forty degrees. Depending on your location this could be as early as November.

Stay warm.

By Robert Sicignano, FLA Pools, Inc.

Swimming pools have been around for a long time. Roman emperors had private swimming pools in which fish were also kept, hence one of the Latin words for a pool was piscina. The first heated swimming pool was built by Gaius Maecenas of Rome in the first century BC.

1800’s: Before swimming pools were readily available, the local pond, lake or nearest waterway served as the community swimming pool.

1900’s: The simple, no frills concrete pools were introduced.

1940’s: Then came paint, a durable product that lasted long and was easy to apply with a two-man crew.

1980’s: Government regulations removed the copper and lead from the paint, which decreased its strength and durability.  This created an industry-wide swing to plaster, a calcareous material that is highly susceptible to damages caused by improper water chemistry.

1990’s: The EPA removed all asbestos from marcite, leaving the plaster with no strength. New aggregate finishes were becoming popular, which made plaster finishes more durable and architecturally pleasing. This finish comes with a price and a complicated and costly installation process.

1991:  A scientific research report by the School of Building Construction at the University of Florida stated, “The deterioration of marcite (plaster) has been found to be chemically related and due primarily to leaching of calcium hydroxide (portlandite) from localized areas of pool plaster. Acidic pool water (pH less than 7.0) can wreak havoc on marcite and pool plumbing, resulting in etching and staining. Proposed solutions to control the damage aggressive water can produce include (1) paying careful attention to water chemistry to avoid unbalanced water conditions and (2) providing a chemically inert barrier between the pool water and the marcite finish surface.”

Today: The future of pool interiors is here. Thermo-polymer coating, pneumatically-applied, high performance pool finishes that capture the strength, durability and maintenance ease of traditional finishes, while maintaining beauty and architectural color range.  Ph neutral surfaces eliminate virtually all the problems caused by the other pool finishes on the market. They are crack resistant, UV fade-resistant and eco-friendly polyethylene interiors.

Look to the future!

Brian Kelly
FSPA President

As the calendar flips and the new year begins, we are reminded that with a new year, new challenges present themselves to our businesses and our industry. We certainly have our ongoing, daily routines, and our focus on keeping our businesses operational and profitable take precedence over most other issues that may arise. But circumstances and events that have a tremendous effect on our bottom lines often seem out of our control.

Or are they?

Workers’ compensation, insurance requirements, licensing guidelines, scope of work, and other outside variables all have a tremendous impact on how we run our businesses and how profitable they are for the year. Often times we, the “little guys,” feel that we are helpless in dealing with these issues. But as a member of the Florida Swimming Pool Association, we have a voice. The strength of our membership numbers and organizational structure allow us to deal directly with many of the agencies that dictate and formulate these standards and requirements. More importantly, we are able to deal with the very politicians who reside on committees which have a direct impact on these very important issues.

Beginning January 16, the FSPA will again assemble on Capitol Hill in Tallahassee to meet with our legislators and discuss these very important issues. Our members will sit down with approximately 75 different government representatives, from your local senators and congressman to the heads of the DBPR.  Furthermore, the FSPA will host a luncheon on the 22nd floor of the capitol building open to all legislators to expose our industry to even more policy and decision makers.

These face-to-face meetings, and subsequent follow-up political contributions, have an invaluable effect on the issues which directly affect our bottom lines. When we are physically in front of our legislators we, in layman terms, can explain the true effects these decisions have on our businesses. We can offer detailed scenarios and actual experiences that can enlighten them on the reality of these decisions.

The newly formed PIPAC and PIC initiatives are designed to help support these meetings. By supporting the legislators who agree with our objectives and understand our challenges, we can speak with a louder voice, a unified front, and an industry that is both sound of leadership and clear of direction.

Currently, the FSPA membership has contributed almost $100,000 to PIPAC for this new initiative. In addition, the support of the national manufacturers and distributors has been extremely promising.

Please help the FSPA express the concerns and issues which affect all of our businesses. Whether it is attending Legislative Days, volunteering with a local political representative, or committing to one of the PIPAC initiatives, we need our members to help. Together we are no longer the little guys, but an organization which, together, can face these new challenges head on.

Wishing you and your families a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.