how to winterize an above ground pool

How to Winterize an Above Ground Pool – Step by Step Guide

Summer is over, and the end of summer is right around the corner, meaning the end of swimming.

Now is the time to start thinking about preparing your pool for the winter months. But, what are the correct steps you should take to winterize an above-ground pool if you don’t plan on taking it down before it freezes?

How to Winterize an Above Ground Pool

To winterize an above-ground pool, you should do a deep clean, balance your water chemistry, add winterizing chemicals, add a pump protector, prepare your filter, protect your skimmer, and return, clear the pool, drain and plug the pipes, drain the equipment, and more. There are precise steps you have to follow to ensure your pool survives the winter.

Since this can be a lot of information to take in if it’s your first time winterizing your above-ground pool, we’re going to give you a step-by-step outline of this process.

You’ll be able to follow it from start to finish to safely and effectively winterize your pool, have it make it through the winter, and be ready to open in the spring months once again.

When to Winterize an Above Ground Pool

Your closing times will vary depending on your location. However, as a general rule, if your temperatures typically drop or stay below 65°F during the off-season, you want to wait until the temperatures fall below this point to close the pool.

You wait until this time because algae need heat to thrive, and having colder water keeps everything clear of an algae bloom.

Also, keeping the pool open until the temperature drops gives you plenty of time to clean, test, and balance it before you close it.

If you live in an area where the temperature rises above this point once in a while for a few days in a row, you can take advantage of this warm spell to balance and test your water chemistry.

These small tweaks will help you keep your water clear and clean until the spring weather comes around again.

Do You Have to Winterize Your Above-Ground Pool?

This is one of the most important questions for you to ask as a pool owner. Think about it, no one asks if they should open their pool at the beginning of the spring, but closing the pool is a question.

To add another layer of complication, closing the pool doesn’t just have one way to do it; depending on the pool type and climate; there are many different ways you could go about it.

If you don’t live in a place that reaches freezing temperatures with your above-ground pool, you can cover it to keep it safe during the winter without winterizing the system.

However, if you do live somewhere that reaches freezing temperatures, even for a few days, you have to winterize the plumbing too.

1. Balance the Water Chemistry

The first thing you have to do to winterize your pool is to balance your water chemistry around a week before you’re ready to close it. Test your pool water to ensure that your pH ranges from 7.2 to 7.6, the alkalinity ranges from 80 to 120 ppm, and the calcium hardness ranges from 180 to 220 ppm.

2. Shock Your Pool

After you balance the water chemistry several days before you close the pool, you’ll add diluted chlorine or non-chlorine pool shock to your water to remove any contaminants that could cause algae growth or stains during the winter.

The usual treatment is one pound or bag of shock for every 10,000 gallons of pool water if the water is clear. If the water is green or hazy, you want to add a double or triple dosage before using your brush to clean the floor.

3. Clean Your Pool

On the day you close the pool, be ready to get a pool vacuum to clean the pool, brush, and skimmer net. Clean everything well before you lower the water, and skim it again before covering the pool to remove any wind-blown debris.

You want to close your pool while it’s in spotless condition. If you leave any debris in the pool, they can use up your winterizing pool chemicals, affect your water’s balance, and create stains that are challenging to remove.

4. Remove Your Accessory Items

Remove the return fittings, skimmer basket, pool alarms, solar blankets, steps or ladders, and pool cleaners next. Dry and store them safely for the winter months, somewhere either protected from the elements or indoors. You can leave your solar blankets on the solar reel or cover them with a winter solar cover. You can also dry, fold, and store them in a location that isn’t accessible to mice.

5. Lower Your Water Level

If you don’t have a skimmer plug for this step, you’ll want to lower your water level below the mouth of the skimmer to prevent it from getting damaged due to frozen water. Lower the water about three inches below the skimmer opening, remembering that removing too much water can stress your liner, pool cover, or pool walls.

You can either let the water run out of the return line hose by disconnecting it from the filter or use your pool cover pump to remove water.

If you have a low water suction line with the skimmer, you’ll plug or close the skimmer and use the LWS line to lower your water next to or below the skimmer. You can do this by setting the filter valve on waste or disconnecting the plumbing.

6. Drain and Plug the Pipes

  • Return Line – If you have filter hoses, get a number nine winter pool plug or a threaded 1.5-inch plug with an o-ring on your return line. On the inside of the pool, you’ll disconnect the hose to drain it dry. If you have hard PVC piping that you can’t remove, you’ll use a large wet/dry vac to suck or blow the water from your pipes before adding pool antifreeze for another layer of protection.
  • Skimmer – Remove the hose and drain connected to the pump. If you have PVC piping, drain, suck or blow the water out before using the winter skimmer plug to keep the water out of the pipe. PVC pool pipe can crack easily when the temperature falls below freezing, so make sure you get all of the water out or add pool antifreeze if you’re not confident that they’re completely dry.

7. Drain Your Equipment

The next step in the winterization process is to drain all of your pumping, filtering, chlorinating, and heating equipment before blowing all of the water out of the plumbing lines to prevent the water from freezing and cracking the equipment.

After you drain everything, your pool pipes should get sealed with plugs at the pool level to keep water out of these areas during the winter.

  • Pumps – One or two drain plugs
  • Filters – One cap or plug by the bottom
  • Gas Heaters – Drain plugs on each side
  • Solar Pool Heaters – Drain or union cap or they blow air through the solar panels
  • Heat Pumps – Loosen the union nuts, slide back the unit’s tip very slightly to drain
  • Chlorinators or Purifiers – One drain plug

Also, make sure that you shut off the gas and power supply for any gas-fired pool heaters at this point.

You can protect the heat pumps and pool heaters with a pool heater cover to prevent dirt, snow, or debris damage while you winterize it. Adding mint sachets or mothballs are effective for keeping the mice out of your pool heaters.

For DE pool filter cartridges and filters, you’ll want to do a final cleaning and inspection when you close the pool. Remove the filter grids or filter cartridge and hose before giving them a thorough clean.

Soak the grids or cartridges before replacing them in the filter and allowing them to dry for winter storage. You can clean any sand filters at the end of the year to remove any mineral scale and oils before it sets all winter.

Finally, make sure to shut off all power to the lights, pump, heater, and any other equipment at the equipment pad. If you can remove the entire equipment pack and store it inside, this is ideal.

8. Lubricate the O-Rings

Now is a great time to lubricate the rubber, soft o-rings, or threaded metal parts on your pool equipment. Get a Teflon-based pool lube for the rubber o-rings on your pump lid o-rings, drain plug o-rings, union o-rings, and any other rubber o-rings you spot on your equipment.

9. Add Winter Closing Chemicals

In addition to trying to maintain a good water balance during the winter months, adding chemicals floaters or winter algaecide will ensure that it stays clean and clear.

Not having enough pool chemicals for winter in the water can lead to an expensive and long clean-up process in the spring.

You can get a pool winterizing kit to make the process more convenient, but you do want to make sure that the kit matches your pool size.

The kit should include non-chlorine shock, algaecide, scale and stain preventative, an oil-absorbing sponge, and a slow-release floater.

10. Cover the Pool

The last thing you want to do is cover the pool with a tight-fitting pool cover to ensure that any debris stays out and can’t get into your clean pool.

You can use a winch and cable to secure the pool cover, and you’ll find several winter pool cover accessories like a cover seal, wall bags, and cover clips to help secure it in higher winds.

Air pillows are useful for breaking up the ice sheet that will form in the pool and under the cover when the temperature drops below freezing for several days in a row.

This prevents damage to the skimmer and pool walls from a solid ice sheet expanding outwards. If the pool has a lot of big trees around it, put a leaf catcher on top of the cover.

This is a tough mesh material that will remove all of the debris and leaves in a single easy motion. You’ll also want to remove snowmelt and rainwater from the cover.

Bottom Line

Winterizing an above-ground pool will take several steps, and you should do them at the end of each season to protect your pool.

We’ve outlined them all for you above, and you can use them to close your own pool in plenty of time for winter.

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