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Three Things Everyone With A Pool or Spa Should Know

1. You Need a Reliable Test Kit

The water in a pool or spa (hot tub) has certain characteristics that give it "personality." For example, it can be hard or soft, slightly acidic or slightly alkaline, or contain metals like copper and iron. It can also be a welcoming place for algae, bacteria, and other microscopic invaders, or not.

These characteristics can change with environmental influences. Heat, sunlight, wind, rain, and contaminants introduced by bathers (think sweat, saliva, and other body wastes, as well as perfumes, sun lotions, and similar personal care products) all can affect water quality. The addition of specially formulated treatment chemicals will also change the water quality.

Some changes can be harmful to the people in the water as well as to the pool/spa itself and its equipment. To prevent illness and material damage, the water's characteristics must be monitored routinely. This is the purpose of a test kit. The test results will determine when and how much chemical treatment is necessary to restore the water to a sparkling clean state.

Remember, you cannot determine water quality by just looking at it.

2. Keep Water Sanitary for Bathers

Sanitary water is free from infection- and disease-causing organisms like bacteria and viruses, from slippery algae that can cause falls as well as spoil the appearance of the water; and from bather wastes, dirt, dust, leaves, grass, and the like. Water cannot stay sanitary by itself. Sanitation is achieved with the addition of a disinfectant, most commonly chlorine. 

The chlorine will react immediately with contaminants that are introduced to the water until its fighting power is all used up. Chlorine that reacts with organic compounds has a name—combined chlorine. In water management, the goal is to always have enough residual disinfectant to provide around-the-clock protection; this is termed free chlorine. It's important to be aware that not all testing products are able to distinguish combined chlorine from active sanitizer. 

For the best value, be sure to choose a test kit or test strip that measures (at a minimum) free chlorine, pH, and total alkalinity, and then check these parameters frequently.

3. Protect Your Investment with Balanced Water

Balanced water is water that will neither corrode nor scale the pool or spa's surfaces or equipment. Corrosion is an eating away of a material, like a metal fixture or grout. Scaling results in surfaces that are unsightly and rough to the touch; the same deposits can also block water flow when they build up in piping. Because either can lead to big repair bills, it is very important to keep water in balance. This is achieved by managing five interrelated factors: pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, temperature, and total dissolved solids (TDS). Although TDS plays a minor role in overall water balance, it still is a contributing factor. Additionally, the total alkalinity in any water should also be adjusted for cyanuric acid (CYA) content. A change in one factor can affect all the others. 

You can avoid water balance problems by periodically taking a sample of water into your neighborhood pool supplies store for expert analysis; by hiring a service company to monitor your water; or by testing pH, total alkalinity, and calcium hardness levels on a regular schedule yourself. TDS and CYA testing can be done by your local pool/spa retailer.