Saturday, July 28, 2012

Why does my spa drain

Why does my spa drain?

This article will focus on finding the reason(s) a spa (in a pool with connected spillover spa setup) would drain after the system is turned off and how to fix it. Written by

1 - Incorrect valve position
The most common reason for a spa to drain is because of an incorrect valve position. This also happens to be the easiest to fix.

Since there is no industry standard setup, below is a picture of the most common suction and return pipe setup. Your system may differ but the principals are the same. (Click on any picture to enlarge)

Suction side (directly in front of the pump):
There are usually two moveable valves on the suction side for selecting between pool and spa. Some, however, have another next to that on the pool side for selecting between the skimmer and pool cleaner.

Return side (either immediately coming out of the filter or immediately coming out of the heater if one exists):
There is a valve to select between pool return and spa return on the return side.

A brief note on valve actuators:
The pictures in this example have valves with electronic actuators on them.

Automatic pool controllers use the actuators to move the valves to change between different filtering modes i.e. Spa mode, pool mode, spa fill, and spa drain. Below are a few examples of automatic systems that use actuators.

These actuators are sitting on standard 180 degree valves.
During normal operation, both valve fronts will be pointed to “spa off”, while the handles point to the open side (as seen in the main setup picture at the top).

These valves can be changed manually via a toggle switch either under the actuator or behind it. Automatic controllers cannot detect if these toggle switches are used and will not auto correct the valve position if manually moved. Sometimes, one of these are accidently switched from being bumped, and will need to be manually toggled back.

How the spa would drain if the valves are turned incorrectly:
A few examples of why your spa would drain if the valves were changed are shown below.

Note: Click on any picture to see a larger version. the blue arrows represent water flow after the system is turned off.

A - A split 50/50 water return.
The idea is to return half the water to the pool and the other half to the spa. When the system is off, the weight of water from the spa pushes water back though the spa return pipe and into the pool return pipe, which drains the spa.

B - Full spa return.
This is the most common mistake and very messy for the pool. The idea is to send all of the water from the system to the spa. When the system is turned off, the weight of the water is pushed through the spa return line, backwards though the filter (pushing dirt with it), backwards through the pump, and then out though the pool suction line.

C - A split 50/50 water suction
Even with a working bypass, this will probably drain the spa when on or off.
This will pull half the water from the pool, then the other half from the spa while returning everything to the pool. When the system is off, the weight of the water pushes water though the spa suction, then backwards down the pool suction line.

D - Full spa suction
Again, even with a working bypass, this one will also probably drain the spa regardless of whether it is on or off.
When the system is off, the weight of the water pushes water though the spa suction pipe, through the pump and filter, then out the pool return line.
On most equipment setups, the valves should be set in the “Spa off” position.

2 - A bad check valve
When working correctly, check valves are inline devices that allow water to flow in only one direction. The most common use of these is on a bypass pipe between the pool and spa return lines.

This is done so that when the system is in pool mode (Spa suction/return off), a small amount of water is allowed to flow in to the spa to keep the spa water moving.

There are many different models of swimming pool check valves and below are pictures of a few different variations.

Some have the option to remove the check valve with quick release unions or a few screws; this is helpful if the problem happens to be an object stuck in the flap or simply replacing a broken flap.

Others will need to be cut out from the system and be replaced with new check valves. These units are cheaper than their removable counter parts. I would never install or recommend a check valve that did not have a removable flapper since it is common for a check valve to fail.

3 - A leaking valve
This one is less common but needs to be checked if all of the above has been already been checked and confirmed to be working properly.
There are rubber gaskets inside of each selectable valve. If this seal/gasket fails, water will flow freely from the spa into the pool.
To replace them, the insides of the valves will need to be replaced. These parts are not a universal size, so you will need the exact make/model and pipe size to replace these.

4 -A cracked pipe or plaster
The most difficult to find and costly to fix is a cracked pipe or cracked plaster. In this case, the water leaving the spa will not return to the pool. Instead, the water would be lost underground. There are various companies that can detect underground leaks without unearthing the pipes. One that we have used in the past is “American Leak Detectors.”

(New)5 -A faulty 3 port valve seal
Although unlikely it is possible for water to flow through a closed three-way valve with or without an actuator attached. This happens when the raised rubber seal breaks or becomes deformed, allowing water to flow past a closed seal. On a perfectly working system, when the system is turned off there should be no sounds coming from the pipes.

I have only seen this happen twice and each time was with a Waterway TruSeal 3 port valve.

Below is a picture of a valve that allowed water to pass through even when closed.

The rubber seal around the edge has torn.

The fix is to replace the insides of the valve. Once the screws holding the top are removed, the top plate can be pulled up and off.

A new TruSeal valve is shown below

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How To Check Pool Chemicals

How to check pool chemicals

This is a guide on checking your swimming pool or spa chemical levels. Written by There are a variety of ways to check chemicals, including but not limited to liquid test kits, strip testers, and digital testers (using either vials of water or strips)

Note: Two different types of test kits can each give slightly different readings from the same water samples. None of the three types of test kits are 100% accurate. Choose one type of test kit to check your pool or spa and base all of your chemical needs off of that.

The most commonly checked chemicals that any pool or spa owner should know how to check are the sanitizer (usually chlorine or bromine) and PH levels. While checking the water alkalinity level is also important, it only has to be checked once every xxx days/month(s)/week(s).

Sanitizer and PH
The two most checked chemical levels in any swimming pool or spa are the sanitizer and PH levels. These two are the foundations of healthy pool water and should be checked at least once every week.
The tools needed to check these two are included in almost all water test kits.

Most swimming pools use chlorine as its main sanitizer. However, occasionally,  pools and spas will use bromine instead. Most test kits test the chlorine/bromine levels from 0 to 3-5ppm.

Note: The ideal level of sanitizer for a pool or spa is 3.0.

If you have a liquid test kit, most of these will test for chlorine and bromine with one solution using the same steps for both.

How to check the chlorine/bromine with a liquid test kit:
1) Fill the chlorine/bromine side and then the PH side of the test beaker to the levels shown on the beakers.
(Pic of beaker with correct amount of water while pointing out the fill line)
2) Add 5 drops of the #1 solution. (pic of adding drops to chorine side of beaker)
3) Add 5 drops of the #2 solution to the PH section of the beaker. (pic of adding to PH side)
3) Mix. (pic of mixing solution and water)
4) Match the color of the mixed water with the side color guide to determine the level of the sanitizer/pH.

This really comes down to looking for specific colors.
For chlorine you want bright yellow. Light yellow or clear needs chlorine. Orange or red is too much chlorine.
For pH a pink or a light red color is ideal. Purple needs acid. Orange or Yellow needs soda ash.
Below are a few examples.

Note: Do keep in mind that these shades will look different when you do them because of the different color properties from the camera taking the pictures, the photo editing software used to edit the pictures and your home computer screen setup. 

An ideal chemical reading CL2.0 pH 7.6

Cl 0.2 pH 7.2 Needs chlorine and soda ash

Cl 2.0 pH 7.8 Needs acid

Cl 1.0 pH 7.0 Needs chlorine and soda ash

Cl 1.5 pH 7.6 Needs chlorine

Cl 2.0 pH 7.3 Needs soda ash 

If you have a test strip kit, check the instructions to see if your kit will test for chlorine or bromine. Though it is not uncommon for test strip kits to offer testing for both, most will only test one or the other. The option for also checking the pH level is common for most test strips.

The instructions for strip tests can vary slightly from one manufacturer to another. In general, they involve placing a test strip underwater for a few seconds, then removing it from the water and comparing to the color guide usually found on the side of the test strip container.

How much sanitizer to add
There is no set answer to how much sanitizer should be added to change the levels by a specific amount. This is because after adding chlorine/bromine to a pool, there could be things in the water that will “use” the sanitizer, causing the levels to drop back to zero in just a few hours. What you will want to do is add a little and see how that changes the chemical levels. If the pool or spa needs more, you can always add more. What you don’t want to do is add too much and have to remove chemicals that you just added.
For chlorine used in a full sized pool, add 1/2 gallon of chlorine, wait about 20 minutes, and then recheck the chlorine level. 
If the pool is smaller than the average sized (less than 10k gallons) pool, you will want to add less, from .25 gallon or less at a time.

How much is too much chorine/bromine
This can be difficult to determine since most test kits readings will max out between 3-5ppm. One of the ways to tell if the chlorine level is too high is by the color of the beaker after adding the testing solution. 
At 3.0, the chlorine/bromine test side will be a bright yellow. As the level goes up, the colors will change from yellow to orange to an orange red. See the example readings above.

If the color of your beaker is orange or darker, do not add any more chlorine/bromine. You should also remove any tablets from a floater, or automatic feeders, and/or turn off salt systems (if your pool has one).
If your beaker color is orange or darker(higher), your skin feels drier than normal after using the pool or spa, and/or you develop a rash after using the pool or spa, sanitizer should be removed from the water. A sanitizer remover can be purchased from most swimming pool supply stores.

How much acid or soda ash to add

Note: The ideal PH level is 7.4 – 7.6

The PH level is ideally 7.4-7.6 and needs to be moved slower than the chlorine levels. If you add too much chlorine, it will not damage the equipment or cause injuries but it might dry the skin of anyone that swims in the water. However, changing the PH level too far any one way could damage the pool or spa plaster and/or equipment.

Note: Adding too much acid can cause heater damage, copper sulfate stains in the plaster, and/or equipment damage.

Note: Adding too much soda ash can cause water scaling, tile calcium buildup, and lead to ineffective sanitizers.

To lower the PH, use either liquid or dry acid.
Liquid acid is the most common and cheapest way of lowering PH. If you are adding acid to an average sized pool, only add 1/4 gallon of acid at a time. While the system is running, wait 30 minutes or longer, then retest. If the PH level is still 7.7 or above, repeat this step until it reaches the desired level.
For dry acid, check the instructions since the usage amounts will vary.

To raise the PH level, use a soda ash product. Check the instructions that come with the soda ash to determine the amount needed.

Note: Do not use baking soda. Since baking soda was not intended for use in pools or spas, its application is complete guess work. Experimenting while trying to find the correct usage amounts can cause damage to your pool or spa.

Testing the Alkalinity level
Alkalinity can be tested on some liquid and strip test kits. This should be checked when the PH level changes too much or not at all after adding acid or soda ash.

Note: The ideal alkalinity level is between 80-120ppm

Steps for checking alkalinity with a liquid test kit

1) Fill the PH side of the beaker with pool/spa water to the line marked for the alkalinity test on the pH side of the beaker.

2) Add one drop of solution #4 to this water sample, then mix.

3) Add one drop of solution #5 to this water sample, then mix. The solution will turn the water to a light purple tint.

4) Add one drop of solution #4 to this water sample, then mix.

5) If the water sample is still purple, add another drop, then mix. Keep count of every drop of solution #4. Continue adding a drop, mixing, and checking for a color change until the color changes to clear.
 When the water turns clear, multiply the number of drops of solution #4 used to make the water clear by 10 and that is the alkalinity level.
So if it took 8 drops for the water to turn clear, 8*10 is 80, the alkalinity level in this example is 80. Remember that the ideal alkalinity level is between 80-120ppm.

Now the process done in a video:
The purpose of the test above was only to determine if the alkalinity was too low, just right or too high.

- To find if it is too low add 7 drops then mix. If the solution goes clear the alkalinity is low.
- If the solution was still purple add an additional 5 drops (for a total of 12 drops) then mix again. If the solution is clear the alkalinity is within its proper range.
- If the solution is still purple the alkalinity is high.

To learn more about alkalinity and pH, see our alkalinity write up here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How to assemble a DE filter grid set

How to assemble a DE filter grid set
This guide will cover reassembling a DE filter grid set. Written by This is done after either cleaning or replacing one or more of the grids. The most difficult step will be getting the filter grids to fit properly into the bottom rack.
Your grid set could vary slightly from the example in this guide. (i.e. you have may 8 same sized filter grids or only one center rod) Possible differences/variations will be mentioned as they might occur.

What you will need:
- Two bricks or something similar to rest the manifold on while allowing you to reach under to tighten the nut(s).

Setting the manifold:
Set the filter manifold upside down on bricks near the two far ends of the bottom. The manifold should be stable so it won’t fall over once the grids are set in place.

At some point, you will need enough space to reach under the manifold and screw in a nut (or two depending on your filter).

Start placing the grids:
The grids will be placed one by one; each will only fit into the manifold one way. There are two stubs in the manifold and two groves for these stubs in each filter grid.

 In this case, there is one grid that is smaller than the rest. This grid will sit next to the pipe inside the filter.

Note: If you have 8 same sized grids (i.e. the Pentair/PacFab 2000 or 4000 DE filter), then any grid will fit into any manifold opening.

Setting the lower grid holder in place:

Note: This is called a “Filter Element Locator” on Hayward filters and a “Retainer Grid” on Pentair filters.

Place this rack over the top of the upside down grids.

If your filter grids have one small grid, then the hole in this rack needs to be on the same side of the manifold outlet elbow opening.

Each grid will sit in a groove of this rack. Start on one end and adjust each grid to fit in one of these, moving to the other side until the rack sits flat and each grid is in a groove.

At the end, each grid will fill a slot in the rack and the rack will sit flat on the grid set.

Reattach the center rod(s):
Place the center rod down though the rack. It will need to be pushed through to the hole on the manifold. For this filter, it has two rods that will need to be inserted.

Note: If the grids are not seated properly in the rack, the rod(s) may not be long enough to pass though the filter manifold. In this case, the rack will need to be adjusted to sit further down on to the grids.

Note: A manifold with one center rod is the most common setup.

With the rod nut in hand, reach under and screw this nut onto the rod sticking out from the manifold.

Finishing up:
Holding the grid set together by pushing on the rack into the grids, and also on the filter manifold to turn the grid set over.

Since the grids usually move further in to the manifold when turned upright, tighten to the nut(s) again.

The grid set is ready to be inserted into the filter.