How to Keep an Above-ground Pool From Freezing

As summer turns to winter, every pool owner’s worst fear is their pool freezing over. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to prevent this from happening.  The process of protecting your pool is called winterizing, and it is a job that a novice DIY pool owner can do without issues.

To prevent your above-ground pool from freezing over during the winter, you will need to winterize it when you close your pool for the season. This involves pH testing, shocking your pool, adding chemicals to your pool to prevent algae growth, buying a pool cover, and using a pool air pillow. 

Winterizing your pool can seem like a chore, and the process does take some time. However, the time you spend making sure that your pool is ready for the winter pays off in preventing damage to your pool from ice, as well as the clean-up of algae growth in the spring.

Do you need to winterize your above-ground pool?

If you are going to close down your pool for the season, you will need to winterize your pool, regardless of where you live. If you live in warmer climates, the measures you take may be less than in colder climates, but you should still take steps to winterize your pool to protect it.

Winterizing will save you money and time in the spring

Winterizing your pool may seem like an expensive chore (it’s not), but it is will cost you less than the clean-up you will have to do if you allow your pool to sit unprotected through the winter.  Among other things, winterizing your pool prevents algae and bacteria growth throughout the winter, so if you don’t, you will open your cool for the summer only to discover an infestation of algae and unsanitary water.

Winterizing will help you prevent damage to your pool 

Winterizing your pool is one of the most important things to do if you are a pool owner. This especially affects pool owners who happen to live in colder states. While it does require a lot of effort, at the end of the day prepping your pool for winter is an essential part of maintaining your pool for the future. 

If you live in a cold area and you choose to not winterize your pool, you are potentially jeopardizing the future of your pool. Unlike a lake or a pond, a pool has no way to naturally protect itself in the winter, and freezing over will wreak havoc on your pool’s mechanics.

A huge reason people choose to winterize their pools is to prepare themselves for the coming spring. An unmaintained winter will lead to unwanted debris and bacteria entering your pool. This poses unnecessary health and safety dangers that can be easily avoided with preparation.

Frozen Pool

The main reason to winterize your above-ground pool is to prevent severe damage to your pool. If your pool freezes over, massive internal damage can occur, Pool equipment is expensive and unnecessary damage does not need to occur.

When the surface of your pool freezes over the mechanical elements of your pool, like the filter and pump, will stop working and often break. Replacing these parts can cost unnecessary large amounts of money. Winterizing your pool and protecting this equipment is much more cost-effective. 

A frozen pool can also tear through the vinyl liners you might have in your pool. Once the ice is formed it wants to expand and that expansion can cause damage. 

Oftentimes pool owners neglect their pools in the winter and choose to not continue their usual upkeep. If you choose to not continue to do chlorine treatments, your pool will likely develop bacterial issues over the winter months. 

Two important items to have on hand before winterizing

The two most important items to have on hand for winterization are a pool pillow and a winterization kit.  Let’s dive into these things and how they are used for winterizing your pool.

Buy a pool pillow and learn to install it

A pool pillow is an air cushion that sits between the top of your water and the cover that will go over your pool.  The purpose of this pillow is to create a little bump in your cover so that water, snow, and ice accumulating on your cover does not expand outward towards the walls of your pool. 

Pool Pillow
Pool Pillow

Without the pillow, these could easily overwhelm your cover, mix in with the water in your pool, and cause pressure on the sides of your pool.  This will cause damage to the inside of your pool and introduce bacteria and other contaminants to your pool water.

A pool pillow is relatively easy to install.  Before you are ready to cover your pool, inflate the pillow to 60% to 80% of capacity, tie your securing lines from your pillow to the pool’s edge, and get it in the center of your pool.  Put your cover on, and that’s it!

Purchase a winterizing kit

Even if you live in a warm climate, you will still want to purchase a winterizing kit, though you will probably not need much more than the basics.  There are kits available at your local store or wherever pool supplies are sold.  The kits include winter algaecide, chemicals for stain and scale prevention, and chemicals that will shock your pool for winter closing.  

Winterizing kit
Winterizing kit

The most basic kit may cost you no more than $25.  You may require more chemicals for your pool to prevent freezing if you live in colder climates or may require stronger algeacide due to your environment. More advanced kits can run around $100 or so depending on what you need.

Follow these easy steps to winterize your pool

When winterizing your pool, you will need to check your pool’s chemical levels, clean the pool and all its component parts, and then lower the water level, add a pool pillow, and cover it all with your winter cover.  Let’s break down these steps.

Check all the chemicals for your pool 

Before you close your pool, you want to set the conditions of your water’s chemistry to make it difficult or impossible for bacteria and algae growth. Proper pool chemistry will also preseve the life of your pool liners and surfaces.  

The alkalinity and pH in your pool should be higher than in summer use: between 150 and 175 parts per million (ppm) for alkalinity and 7.8 for pH.  This is because, throughout the winter, the water’s alkalinity and pH will come down naturally.  You will do a final shock to your pool as well.

Water Chemical Testing Kit

Finally, if you have winter algaecide, you will need to add it before you close the pool.  This should be done after shocking your pool once chlorine levels are back to normal.

Clean the pool & the main parts

Your pool has been in use all summer, which means that your components have been hard at work.  Take the time to clean all the surfaces and take out any debris that doesn’t belong in the pool.  This will not only stop bacterial growth, but it will also preserve your pool’s components.

Lower the water level of your pool

This is especially important for colder climates where the water level needs to be lower to prevent the expansion of ice from damaging your pool’s walls.  The water level should be lowered to just below the level of the skimmer.  

Low Water Level

If you have an above-ground pool, don’t drain it!  The structure of your pool relies on there being pressure from water in the pool. 

Add your pool pillow

Remember that the pool helps your cover out by making a bump so that ice on the cover has somewhere to expand to other than the edges of your pool.  It also helps your cover from being overwhelmed by ice. Inflate the pillow, secure it, and set it in the center.

Secure cover for winter

If you own an above-ground pool, then your choice of covers is largely limited to water bag covers or lock-in covers (if you have somewhere that the covers can lock into).  You may also have the option of installing a leaf net over your cover.

Water bag covers are lightweight and economical solutions for your above-ground pool.  They are held in place by cords around your pool.  Lock-in covers on the other hand are ‘locked in’ to a track that runs around the border of your swimming pool – a track needs to be present for this to work.

If you have a lot of trees around your property, a leaf net may be a great option.  It is installed over your winter cover and secured in the same way as your winter cover.  When spring comes, you can roll the cover off before opening your pool so that the leaves do not get into the water.

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