The Importance of Proper pH Balance

proper pH levelsMost pool owners understand that maintaining the proper chemical balance in a pool is the key factor to keeping it clean and preventing algae from growing. However, many people simply focus on the chlorine levels and pay little attention to pH levels. It’s true that pH levels don’t change as often as the chlorine level, but that doesn’t make them any less important. As a matter of fact, the pH levels directly affects how well chlorine will perform in keeping a pool clean.

Simply put, pH is a measurement of the total acid-alkalinity balance in a pool. Chemical reactions can cause damage such as corroding metal equipment, create etching on surface materials, and even cause skin irritation if the pools is too acidic. On the other hand, high alkalinity is a source of scaling and can make your pool look cloudy. In both cases of high acidity or alkalinity, chlorine will not perform as well and its ability to kill pathogens and bacteria is greatly reduced.

The pH scale ranges from zero to 14 with zero indicating high acid levels and 14 meaning high alkalinity. The recommended level according to most pool experts is somewhere between 7.0 and 7.6. When the level drops below the ideal range, soda ash or even baking soda is added to raise the level. Muriatic acid and sodium bisulfate are used if the pH level is too high and needs to be lowered.

There are a number of factors that can affect the pH levels in the pool including heavy rains, oils from swimmers body, and leaves and dust in the pool. There are many home testing kits that you can use to check pH levels, but you may want to take a water sample to a professional if you are having a particularly hard time keeping a pool clean.

The main takeaway here is don’t take your pH levels for granted. Keeping them in balance will save you money in the long run as your chlorine will be much more effective with proper pH balance.

Building Luxury Outdoor Living Environments

Platinum Pools of Arizona New PoolsAt Platinum Pools, we hold ourselves to a rigid standard of pool building. We’re committed to making sure the pools we build not only meet home-owners expectation, but rise above it. As we often say, with a Platinum pool, luxury comes standard. But the pool is only one part of creating an outdoor environment. When considering a new pool or even a pool remodel, we encourage our clients to look beyond the pool and consider the entire area around the pool. Here are some additional services we provide that can help transform your backyard into a luxurious outdoor living environment.

Landscaping
What’s the point in having a great looking custom pool built if the area around the pool doesn’t reflect the same quality. Adding trees, plants, and bushes to the area around the pool can greatly enhance the overall look and feel of your backyard, and even provide shade. Many homeowners choose to convert grass lawns to desert landscapes for a more natural, desert environment and to help conserve and offset the pool water use. Others like to keep a lush, green lawn around their pool. Lighting features throughout the landscape can help create a nice ambiance at night around your pool.

Patios and Hardscapes
Your patio is most likely where you will spend most of your time when you aren’t in your pool. We can help you transform your old, hot concrete patio into a beautiful stone or tile paved area that’s perfect for entertaining or just lounging around. Installing shade structures such as pergolas, ramadas, or even shade sails will help you escape the heat when you need to. Couple that with a misting system and you’ll have a patio that’s comfortable even during the hot Arizona summers. Fountains and firepits are always a nice added touch to backyard patios as well.

BBQ and Outdoor Kitchens
If you love grilling and having friends and family over for barbecues, adding a built-in BBQ grill or full outdoor kitchen is a must. It’s also a great way to complement a new or remodeled pool. Custom outdoor kitchens not only look great, but have the added benefit of convenience when you are trying to feed your hungry guests. Add an outdoor TV, and you may never leave your patio!

Synthetic Putting Green
If you live an Arizona, you probably have a least one golfer in the family. Synthetic putting greens are very popular and add great deal of entertainment value to your backyard. The fact it’s synthetic means no watering and very little upkeep. Also helpful to keep you on top of your putting game and bring your gold scores down!

Obviously these are just a few ways to enhance your pool environment and we offer many more services to help you create a backyard oasis. So if you are thinking of adding or remodeling a pool, give Platinum Pools of Arizona a call. We will help you design and build the backyard of your dreams!

Algae the Green Pool Monster

Seems like if you miss just one week of adding chemicals, your pool can take a dramatic turn for the worse. Especially during the summer here in Arizona. Once algae spores become full algae blooms, it can take several days or even weeks to gain control again. The key to fighting algae once it appears is to act quickly. Here a few recommended steps to take if the algae monster invades your pool.

Regain Balance
More than likely the reason your pool developed algae was due to an imbalance of your water’s chemistry. Getting your chlorine and pH balance back in order should be the first thing you do when your pools starts to turn green. Some pool companies even recommend keeping your pH levels slightly higher around 7.8 and 8.00 when fighting algae.

Brush Brush Brush.. then Vacuum
If algae has developed, it has taken root on the walls and floor of your pool. You will want to dislodge the algae by thoroughly brushing your pool, especially in the areas where algae is visible. The type of brush you use, such as wire or nylon, will be determined by your pool finish. Consult a pool store if you are unsure which to use. After brushing, wait until any floating algae settles, then vacuum.

Shocking Advice
Adding super chlorination in the form of shock can dramatically improve your chances of destroying algae. We highly recommend checking the ingredients before purchasing shock as some contain more actual chlorine than others. Any pool store employee should be able to answer any question you may have, but be wary if that only suggest their ‘brand’. You will want to shock your pool at night at run your filter for a least 8 hours to maximize the effect.

To Algaecide or Not To Algaecide
In more extreme cases you may have to use and algaecide to kill the algae. There are different categories of algae like Green, Mustard, or Black. You will want to determine which type of algae your pool is infected with to know which algaecide to use.

Circulate and Re-Circulate
You will probably want to run your filter longer than normal, 24-hours if possible, when fighting algae. Be sure to clean or backwash your filter also to help remove contaminants.

Without a doubt, algae is the bane of existence for pool owners. Regular pool maintenance, chemicals, and circulation is the best way to avoid the dreaded algae invasion. But if it happens, act swiftly and you can have a clean, clear swimming pool once again!

Arizona Pools and the Monsoon Season

The monsoon season is upon us once again here in Arizona which means your pool will probably be filled with dust and debris from the blowing winds. Not to mention the added water from the torrential downpours we experience from time to time. Keeping your pool clean during the monsoon season can be challenging but here are a few tips that will help keep your pool swimmable during the rainy season.

Prepare for the Storm
It’s a good idea to cover your pump and filter with a tarp if they are exposed before a storm. Secure your lawn furniture and tie down any loosely rooted trees or plants. Use a blower or pressure washer to clear loose dirt from your decking and patio so that it doesn’t end up in your pool. Close any open umbrellas and put inflatable pool toys away in a safe storage area. Don’t run your filter during a storm as it may become too full of dirt.

Remove Debris and Dirt Quickly
After storms you will often find branches, leaves, lawn furniture and dirt polluting your pool. It’s important to remove debris and vacuum dirt as quickly as possible after storms. The longer you leave remnants of a storm in your pool, the harder it will become to clean. Be sure to clean the skimmer as well since will surely collect a lot of the debris.

After the Storm
While a downpour may help fill your pool with water, it can also severely affect the pH balance. Once a storm has passed be sure to test all of the chemical levels in the pool. You may even want to take a sample of pool water to your local pool store to have it professionally tested. Check the pressure of your pool filter to see if back-washing is required or if you need to clean filter cartridges as well.

Monsoons are inevitable in the Valley of the Sun, but with a little preparation and diligence you can keep your pool up and running during this blustery season. Keep your landscape well maintained, trees trimmed, and loose grass and leaves raked to help lessen the effect on your pool when storms hit.

Is it time to upgrade your pool?

custom pool upgrade and remodelSwimming pools, like anything, have a life-span. While newer pools can help improve the value to your home, an aging pool that hasn’t been properly maintained can equally de-value your home. In addition to improving the aesthetics of your swimming pool, a pool upgrade and remodel can introduce new technology that is more energy efficient which means less maintenance as well as saving you money in the long run. It also gives you the opportunity to fix mistakes from the past and re-invent your whole pool area. Here are some of the ways an upgrade can improve your pool.

New Finish
Plaster dries out as it ages which causes cracking and peeling. In the past few years, companies such as Pebble Tec have developed finishes that are stronger, scratch and chemical resistant, and come in different colors to help customize the look of your pool.

Pool Decking
Decking, like plaster, can dry out and crack. Especially if you’ve had ‘cool decking’ installed around your pool. You have many options when it comes to pool decking such as concrete, wood, composite, stone, and tile. Your budget and aesthetics will be the major factors when it comes to choosing your pool decking upgrade.

Pool Filters and Pumps
If you choose to do a complete remodel of your swimming pool, you will have some decisions to make regarding your pool pump and filter. In addition to traditional chlorine systems, you can now opt for newer salt-water systems that actually generates chlorine instead of using tablets or powders. There is a lot of debate on which is actually better so we suggest doing some research before making a decision.

Pool pumps have made many advances in recent year as well with many pumps now receiving an Energy Star rating to signify the pumps energy efficiency. Determining the right size pump for your pool is key. A pump that is too small will not properly circulate the water and a pump too big will simply waste energy. It’s probably a good idea to talk to the pool contractor to help decide which pump will be right for you.

Water Features and Accessories
Seems like in the past your only options for features for your pool were a diving board and possibly a slide. These days you have many options to choose from such as multi-colored lighting, spillways, fountains, rock formations, and grottos just to name a few. These options can dramatically change the look and feel of your pool from a boring, traditional pool to a resort-style oasis.

Spas
More and more people are opting to have a spa attached to their pool when doing a remodel. Spas not only look great but offer many health advantages as well. It also gives you an option for winter-time use when the water in the pool is too cold to swim in.

Platinum Pools and Spas specializes in swimming pool upgrades and remodels. We can transform your basic pool into the dream pool you’ve always desired. Our experts will walk you through the entire process from designing your new pool, changing the landscaping, and rebuilding your entire patio area. Call us today to get started!

Protect Outdoor Furniture from the Sun

In Arizona, there is no escaping the sun. It bears down us relentlessly during summer months causing us to retreat indoors or into our swimming pools for relief. But the sun also can take a toll in other ways around the pool area. Patio furniture often takes the brunt of the sun all day and the effects soon become obvious with color fading, dried out cushions that tear easily, or faded finishes on wood furniture. Here are some suggestions for protecting your outdoor furniture.

Fabric
If you are going to use fabric covered cushions on your outdoor patio furniture, there are few things you can do to help protect them. Perhaps the most obvious is to purchase covers for your furniture or store you cushions away when they are not in use. The type of fabric makes a difference as well. For natural blends try to get cushions covered with cotton or wool blends. Fabric blends with nylon and polyester are usually less likely to fade. There are fabrics that are specifically designed to withstand the sun such as SunBrella and SolarWeave.

Wood
Sun can cause outdoor wood furniture to dry out, crack, and splinter after prolonged exposure. Therefore, wood needs some sort of coating whether it is stain, varnish, or paint to help resist the effects of the sun. If paint is an option, try to use outdoor or latex paint as that will give you maximum protection against the sun. To keep that natural wood look, use an outdoor varnish that is UV light resistant as well as a water repellent, especially if the furniture is place near the pool and prone to being splashed.

Metal and Plastic
For metal and plastic furniture you will want to purchase a UV furniture protector spray. Much like sun block protects your skin, UV furniture plastic keeps harmful UV rays out that cause slow color fading. Keep in mind you will need to apply the product regularly to maximize it’s effect.

Outdoor and Patio furniture can be expensive so it’s important to protect it from the sun to keep it looking great. At the end of the day, keeping your outdoor furniture out of the sun or covered will be the best way to protect it from the damaging effects of the sun but following the tips above will help as well.

What to Consider Before Building Your Custom Pool

custom pools azHaving your own custom pool is great. Custom pools look great, add value to your home, and are perfect for hosting friends and family for summertime get togethers. But before you jump head first into designing and purchasing a pool, there are things about pool ownership you need to take into consideration.

Maintenance
Unless you hire a pool company to come and take care of your pool, there is a certain amount of maintenance that is required to keep you pool clean and running smoothly. Expect to check your chemicals often and replace them when necessary. Brushing and vacuuming are also duties that you can expect to perform on a fairly regular basis, especially during the windy, dusty monsoon seasons in Arizona. Filters will also need to be cleaned on occasion to keep them performing at their maximum efficiency.

Financing
Purchasing a custom pool is a serious financial commitment, especially if you want it done right. There are many options for financing but we highly recommend you explore those options before committing to building your custom pool. Make sure all costs are determined before building so there are no surprises down the road.

City Codes
Be search to look into any local building codes that may come into play in your neighborhood. Pools must be placed a certain distance from field lines and septic tanks so make sure you know exactly where you can dig before starting.

Space
Make sure to design a pool that does not take up too much space or areas that you may utilize for other activities. An in-ground pool will be a permanent structure so utilize your property space wisely.

Insurance
Many times adding a pool will require you to have additional insurance. Check with your insurance agent to see if a pool will increase your premiums.

Water Usage
Expect a higher water bill when you have a pool, especially during the summer months. You may want consider adding shade elements or using pool covers to help reduce evaporation from you pool. Shady vegetation around your pool can also help keep it cool when it’s hot.

Taxes
Check with local taxing authorities about possible property tax assessment increases.

It’s worth noting that Platinum Pools will help you every step of the way when it comes to building your custom pools. Our designers will work directly with you and can give guidance regarding guidelines, safety, and any local codes. Call us to get started building the pool of your dreams today!

Teaching Children Swim Strokes

teach basic swim strokesIn a couple of years, we will all be watching countries competing against each other in a variety of swim competitions for the 2016 Summer Olympics. So now is a perfect time to start teaching your children basic swim strokes to help them understand what happens in swim competitions as well as provide a great way to exercise and become stronger swimmers. There are four basic swim strokes to teach your children.

The Crawl, or Freestyle
This is the most popular swim stroke that most of us are use to. Basically, you float belly-down while propelling yourself by moving your arms in a windmill pattern and simultaneously kicking your legs in a fluttering motion. The challenge of this technique is developing a breathing pattern by turning your head to the side occasionally between strokes.

The Backstroke
One advantage of the backstroke is that your face is not in the water. On the other hand, it’s hard to see where you are going! Floating on your back, you propel yourself using a similar windmill motion as the crawl, just in reverse, as well as kicking your legs in a fluttering motion. The challenge here is propelling yourself with equal force from each arm to keep from veering off course and running into other swimmers or the wall.

The Breaststroke
As your child becomes a stronger swimmer, you can move up to more advanced swim strokes such as the Breaststroke and Butterfly. The Breaststroke is an involved technique where the body bobs up and down as you propel forward. The arms begin basically in a prayer position in front of the chest, moved forward and then to the side and back to thrust forward before being brought back to the original position. The leg kick is similar to the way a frog kicks in the water which is probably the simplest way to describe it. This stroke takes a lot of coordination and practice before your child will be comfortable performing it.

The Butterfly
Strength and timing are key here. Starting face down, the arms are rotated together in a windmill fashion while the legs and feet should stay together, kicking in a motion reminiscent to a dolphins tail. The trick is to undulate the body in a motion to maximize the effectiveness of the arm and leg movements while being able to take a breath by raising your head between strokes. This stroke takes a long time to learn and perfect, so encourage patience when your child is learning this stroke.

Of course if you don’t feel comfortable teaching your children these techniques we highly encourage you to enroll them in lessons.

Here is a short video that demonstrates the swim strokes we’ve discussed here:

Maintaining Pool Chemistry

Maintain Pool ChemistryMost pool owners know that maintaining a balanced chemistry is the key to keeping your pool fresh and clean. But it’s not always an easy task, especially in hot states like Arizona. There are many factors to keeping the chemicals balanced but here are a few keys areas to pay attention to.

Testing
Test your pools chemicals at least twice a week during the summer. There are many home testing kits available and most pool stores offer free water testing service. Pay special attention to you PH balance and alkalinity as this determines how effective the chlorine you add to your pool will be.

Run Your Pool Filter Correctly
Your pool filter is tasked with cleaning all of the water in your pool so it’s important you are running your pool pump long enough to turn over the entire contents of your pool. The length of time required will vary from pool to pool. Your pool flow rate will determine how long you should run your filter. Check your pool pumps gallon per minute rating to determine the correct length of time or consult a pool professional.

Don’t Backwash Too Often
Many people think they need to backwash their pool every time they vacuum or clean the pool. This is actually just wasting water and chemicals. Most filters have a pressure gauge. The pressure gauge will tell you when it is necessary to backwash the pool, generally when the gauge rises above 8-10 PSI from it’s normal reading.

Brush Your Pool
Regardless of how good your pool circulation is, there are going to be certain spots of your pool where the water is somewhat stagnant. These are the areas where algae generally first appears when your pool is not maintained properly and often found around stairs and on filter ports. Brushing those areas frequently can help prevent the build up of algae.

Check Chlorine Ingredients
Not all chlorine available to purchase is the same. Some have other chemicals included and a smaller percentage of chlorine. You also have the choice of liquid chlorine, tablets, or shock granules. Liquid chlorine tends to lose its effectiveness quicker in the sun so may not be the best choice during summer in Arizona. Talk to you pool professional about your pool situation for advice on what the best chlorine option is for you.

Add Chemicals at Night
Chlorine and chemicals are less effective when added during the day.

By remaining vigilant and monitoring your pool’s chemical levels frequently, you should have no problems keeping your pool clean and swimmable all year. If you feel you don’t have the time, you may want to consider hiring a professional pool cleaning service company to maintain your pool’s chemical balance.

What To Know About Sunblock

So you’ve had your new custom pool installed and you are ready to splash away the summer in your new pool. Not so fast. Spending time in the sun is not without it’s repercussions, especially in Arizona. It’s a well know fact that long-term exposure to the sun can significantly damage your skin and lead to more serious health problems. Therefor it is essential that you protect yourself from the sun by using sunscreen or sunblock. But how do you know which sunblock to use?

First, its important to understand how sunblock works. Sunblock protects your skin by absorbing and/or reflecting UVA and UVB radiation from the sun. Sunblocks are rated by a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number. The higher the number, the stronger the protection.

How long sunblock protects can vary from person to person. One method of determining how effective a sunblock will be is by taking the time it takes for a user to burn and multiplying it by the SPF factor of the sunblock. For example, if it typically takes a user 10 minutes to develop a sunburn without sunscreen, then a SPF of 15 will protect the user for approximately 150 minutes. The general recommendation from the American Association of Dermatology is to use a sunblock with a minimum SPF of 15 , and reapply every two hours.

There are two basic types of sunblocks. Chemical Sunblocks work by absorbing UV radiation energy before it effects the skin. Physical sunblocks work by reflecting harmful UV radiation away from the skin. Some manufacturers combine the two types of sunblock to both absorb and reflect the sun to protect your skin.

Physical sunblocks are typically zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. We’ve all probably have seen the image of the lifeguard with the white zinc oxide on their nose. This type of sunblock is very useful for those that have extra sensitive skin and need full protection.

Chemical sunblocks are made up of many different active ingredients. That is because there is no single ingredient that can block the entire UV spectrum. But by combining ingredients that block different regions of the spectrum, sunblock can effectively protect skin from a broad range of UV radiation energy.

Sunblocks come in different forms such as lotion, gels, sprays, and oils. Which application you use is largely personal preference, but some with sensitive skin may develop allergies to certain types of sunblock. It’s recommended to try several different sunblocks to see what works best for you. Note that if you will be spending time in the water, it’s important to use a water-resistant sunblock for best results.