Improving the efficiency of filters for easier spa maintenance

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Since 1990, HydroTher Hot Tubs have been the #1 choice of architects, consultants, designers and facility operators for commercial aquatic applications.

As pool professionals get ready for the summer swim season, they are about to tackle one of the most important stages of pool maintenance—pool opening.

It is not just about opening the pool, but more importantly about setting the stage for easy maintenance throughout the season. With many consumers still working from home this summer, they will be taking an even closer look at how to maintain their pool most effectively—both physically and financially.

Service professionals know one of the most important components of successful pool maintenance is how efficiently the filter works. This article will provide a few reminders on increasing filter efficiency for easy maintenance, which ultimately makes homeowners more satisfied with their investment.

This is especially important this year with the increased number of new pool owners that have emerged over the course of the pandemic.

How pool and spa owners can increase filter efficiency

Proactively performing routine maintenance, such as backwashing and rinsing is one of the best ways to improve filter efficiency, and this applies whether a pool uses diatomaceous earth (DE) grids, cartridge filters, or sand. Chlorinated water passing through the filter can get distracted by oxidizing organic and inorganic wastes that buildup over time. These wastes also impact water flow and can reduce circulation. By keeping the filter media clean and avoiding this build-up, pool and spa owners can improve efficiencies.

Kathi Belcourt, manager of Aquatech Pool & Bath in Winnipeg, says service techs know and understand the need for getting the very best circulation to get water flowing freely through the filter so it is the highest quality. By doing so, the filter works at its peak efficiency so the water is the cleanest it can be.

“In the winter, it’s particularly important to have good flow and clean filters, especially when it comes to small bodies of water such as a hot tub. The reason being, universally, all hot tubs have a safety mechanism built into them that shuts the heating element off if there isn’t enough water flow,” she explained. “This safety mechanism is required to avoid electrical fires but, in colder regions, it could result in a hot tub-shaped ice cube, or worse, cracked or broken pipes. The goal is to prevent ‘flow errors’ in the hot tub at all costs and, to do so, it becomes imperative to have clean filters at all times.”

Tom Landi of New Jersey-based Landi Pools & Games says his company has been focused on improving filter efficiency for quite some time.

“Our focus has always been on the speed at which water flows through the filters by the pumps,” he says. “When water is continuously circulating at a slow rate, it allows the filter to operate more efficiently in terms of removing debris, in addition to keeping the water chemistry more balanced. We have been focusing on variable-speed pumps (VSPs) for years and are a firm believer pump speed is the starting point to ensure filters work more efficiently.”

According to Landi, he gets a lot of positive feedback from clients once they have a VSP.

“All of my customers agree their water looks better, is easier to maintain, and best of all, their electricity and chemistry costs go down because they are using less of both,” he says. “They all agree the extra cost associated with a VSP pays off within the first season. Afterwards, those savings become earnings year after year, which the homeowner can use toward something else.

Landi adds his clients’ openings are easier whereas, in the past, they dreaded the work associated with getting their pools up and running in the spring, in addition to the seasonal maintenance.

Products that can help with filter efficiency

In addition to backwashing or rinsing, specially formulated filter cleaners are an option. For example, many pool professionals choose to use acid-based cleaners, which do a great job of whitening cartridges. However, these cleaners can set grease and oils into the media, reducing the effectiveness of filtration. So, while the filter element might look better, it is not working as well as it would have if the owner removed the grease and oils using an enzyme-based cleaning option, which breaks down these non-living contaminants.

Additionally, incorporating a weekly enzyme maintenance routine can help. Enzymes work as a continuous filter cleaner, breaking down the unwanted non-living contaminants before they have a chance to build up on the filter. This not only provides an easier ownership experience with less filter maintenance required, it also offers crystal clear water with less work for the homeowner.

When servicing pools, Landi adds enzyme products to the water as part of his maintenance regimen to help improve the efficiency of the overall pool program.

“We use a product that combines a naturally based enzyme with a phosphate remover that breaks down the oils, bather waste, and tanning lotions. This way, the sanitizer isn’t being used up to remove these oils from the water,” says Landi.

The phosphate remover in the product helps to maintain low levels of problem-causing phosphates. By proactively removing phosphates weekly, pool owners can reduce potential problems and improve water quality.

When it comes to servicing hot tubs, Belcourt says it is also important to remember having jets increases the need to do more sanitizing and filter cleaning.

“While hot tub jets make bathers’ muscles feel good, they’re also exfoliating the skin. Further, the soaps used to wash one’s swimsuit are also entering the water, as is all the moisturizer one puts on their body after showering,” she explained. “Body wash feels great on the skin when used in the shower; however, it leaves a film on the skin that is removed by the hot tub jets and mixed into the water. All these things can quickly gunk up the filter. Therefore, the use of an enzyme product can be especially important for maintenance professionals when ensuring the hot tub filter remains clean.”

Even when bathers shower before entering a hot tub, contaminants from their bodies can cause sanitizer to be used up very quickly. The more people and the longer they stay in the water, the bigger impact they can have on disinfectant levels. This can lead to an increase in sanitizer demand and even additional efforts needed to clear cloudy water.

The importance of clean plumbing

It is also important for maintenance professionals to clean areas of the pool and/or hot tub that most people typically do not think about during routine care.

Many pool and hot tub owners are unaware of the buildup that can occur inside the plumbing. Running chlorinated water through dirty plumbing can cause the sanitizer to decrease prematurely as it breaks down any non-living buildup inside the lines. A broad-spectrum enzyme product with surfactants can dislodge and displace this buildup, thereby removing it into the body of the pool where it can be properly treated with a heavy chlorine-based shock.

Landi says there are several products on the market that work well and can be put into a skimmer to purge the plumbing lines.

“We find the buildup is less in the pools we service because we use VSPs,” says Landi. “By running the pump longer, water is flowing almost continuously, which helps to avoid these problems. As a part of regular pool maintenance, we recommend cleaning the plumbing every few years.”

In the case of hot tubs, a purge-type product will remove this non-living waste, allowing maintenance professionals to then drain the tub, clean it, and refill it with fresh water.

Belcourt always recommends a pipe purge product be included as part of a regular hot tub maintenance plan for customers.

“Hot water is very different than cold water, and most consumers understand bacteria and other bad stuff is more likely to appear in a warm environment opposed to one that is cold. Therefore, the goal is to keep sanitization of the water inside the hot tub and inside the plumbing consistent, as hot tub water that is not sanitized is far less forgiving,” she says. “As a result, everything we do to ensure the cleanest, clearest water in our customers’ hot tubs has to do with supporting the filter so it is working at maximum efficiency. This means removing all the gunk, so the sanitizer can focus on killing bacteria.”

The importance of clean filter media

The age and condition of the filter media can have a big impact on its ability to remove dirt and debris from the water.

Sand filter media should be replaced every five to seven years, ensuring sand particles still have the sharp edges necessary to catch and remove contaminants. Pool or hot tub owners using cartridge filters should have a spare set available to rotate when they are rinsed or cleaned as it is important to replace them with dry filters every time. Each set of cartridges should be replaced every two years to make sure the pore size in the fabric is not stretched out and unable to catch dirt and debris. Finally, DE filter media should be replenished with every backwash so it can be consistently fresh and ready to filter.

When it comes to water filtration, Landi swears by DE media.

“We do a lot of service work and find DE provides the best water clarity on the pools we service,” he says. “In fact, not only do we find the water is clearer, but we also find our customers whose pools are equipped with this type of filtration media use fewer chemicals.”

In the long run, Landi says homeowners save on the cost of chemicals when using a DE filter and, when combined with a VSP, it increases efficiencies.

However, Landi admits, DE filters can be a bit messy from a servicing standpoint, opposed to backwashing a sand filter. However, the act of backwashing requires more water to be used, which means more chemicals need to be added to the pool to keep the water balanced.

According to Landi, most filters they sell last five years, but some of his customers have had theirs for 10 years.

It is simple for service professionals to keep filters clean and in good working order. When the pressure goes up on the filter, it means it is getting dirty and it is time to clean and rinse it off.

“At the end of the season, I have my customers soak their filters using a cleaner that gets into the pores,” he says. “It’s like bathing. When you take a shower, you don’t just rinse off, because that isn’t going to get the grime off your body. You need to use a soap to open up your pores to really get clean.

April 10, 2021

By Chris Marcano.

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