All too often people purchase an above ground swimming pool on a hot summer’s day whim without fully considering the practicalities, maintenance issues and costs involved. We have therefore set up this above ground swimming pool guide to help steer you in the right direction. Get in touch with us today, however, and read no further! As part of our service, we will walk you through the whole process to ensure that you make informed decisions – on the right location, size and type of pool as well as its necessary accessories.. We will also help you to ensure that your above ground swimming pool becomes a stunning feature in your garden by designing and creating the decking surrounding your above ground pool transforming it from an over sized paddling pool!

SIZE & LOCATION

 

For most people, one of the deciding factors for how to chose the size and shape of their pool is the size and shape of their garden. You want to chose a spot that will physically be able to accommodate a pool. Remember that the ground will need to be level in order to install an above ground pool. Whilst you can level the ground yourself later (or hire a professional to do it), this will take time and may involve additional costs, particularly if the area is very uneven. Once you think you have chosen the ideal location, the easiest way to check whether the pool fits well is to use a measuring tape and a tool to mark your measurements (e.g. spray paint, chalk, colored sticks). This will give you a proper feel for the scale of the pool you are considering.

 

Another important consideration before choosing where to position your above ground swimming pool is the surrounding vegetation. There are positive and negative aspects to having trees and bushes near your pool: they can benefit you by providing natural shade and wind cover but their proximity to the swimming pool will result in increased maintenance. It is therefore important for you to weigh the potential benefits of shade and cover against the increase in leaves in debris falling into your pool. If you are hoping to rely on the sun to help heat your pool and the ambient air temperature as high as possible whilst you are in the pool then you may not want to place your pool in a shady (or windy) area.

Above Ground Swimming Pool Decking

You will also want to think about the areas’ proximity to your home which may impact on your decision in a number of ways. Firstly, you will need to provide electricity and water to your pool and therefore you will need to consider both your ability and willingness to run hoses and cords to the pool. Bear in mind that even the simplest pool pump and filter combo unit provided with your swimming pool should never be operated with an extension lead. Based on “user experience”, the further your pool is from your home, the less likely you will be to use it, particularly on cooler days. With that said, however, if the area surrounding the pool in decked and landscaped, kitted out with furniture, a bbq, a bar and possibly even an outdoor heater, the game changes dramatically!

 

Finally, you will need to think about the additional space that your above ground swimming pool will require as some above ground pools need an extra three feet of clearance on each side (or all the way around) to accommodate the supportive uprights. To give you an idea, an 18 foot round swimming pool requiring supports will require a total of 24 feet of space. (However, if you are limited on space, do not let this overly concern you as there are pool designs that do not require these additional supportive uprights.) You will also need to allow additional space for the pool ladder (if required) and the pumping system as well as considering the design and layout of the surrounding area such as decking, fencing, a heating system (solar, gas, or heat pump – see below for further information), a storage unit for pool equipment and accessories, a bbq, bar and lighting. Even if you do not intend to do any or all of these things from the outset, it is important to consider leaving room for expansion in the future where possible.

 

Once you have chosen a space for your above ground swimming pool, it is important to get a feel for the size of the above ground pool you intend to get. In order to do so, we recommend going back to the area you selected with a garden hose or rope. Using any previous marks and a measuring tape, lay out the hose or rope to match the walls of the pool. Doing so will give you a good visual and should help you further narrow down which pool is best for your garden. This is an extremely important part of the process as many above ground pool owners will tell you that they wished they had chosen a larger pool than the one they purchased.

YOUR UTILITY BILLS

Electricity

It is important to point out that the bigger the pool (including the deeper the pool), the larger the volume of water it will contain. The larger the volume of water, the more it will cost to heat the pool both in terms of the equipment required (eg the size and price of the pump, filter and heating unit) as well as the impact on your utility bill. The larger the volume of water, also the more time it will take to heat.

In order to keep your electricity bills as low as possible, apart from choosing a favourable rate with an electricity provider, it is important to take steps to minimise heat loss. This can be achieved through insulation of the ground and pool walls as well as using a good quality thermal cover when the pool is not in use. Once you have made your choice of pool, we will look at these aspects in further detail.

Water
It is also worth bearing in mind that the size of the pool will impact on the amount of time and water required to fill it up which will also come with a cost implication unless you are fortunate enough not to be on a water meter. Whether the water is a yearly cost will depend on whether you want to drain the pool for the winter or maintain the water throughout the winter. Assuming you are on a meter, if you intend to keep the water, it is a good idea to take a meter reading before and after you fill up the pool so that you can contact your water company and let them know the amount that has been used to fill the pool. The reason for this is because usually a water company will charge you for both using the water and for disposing the waste water. Letting them know the amount used for the pool should enable them to remove the associated waste charge for that volume of water.

POOL TYPE

If you are looking at decking the area immediately surrounding the pool, it is important to choose a pool that is suitable for year round assembly in the UK. (The popular low end pools must be dismantled and put away for the winter.) We are happy to pass on our experience and help you to make the right choice.

METHODS OF HEATING YOUR ABOVE GROUND POOL

Extending the swimming season is a great way to enjoy more fun and recreation while getting the very most out of your pool. With the help of above ground swimming pool heaters, you can start swimming earlier in the season and close your pool later in the fall. Swimming pool heaters raise and maintain the temperature of pool water, providing greater swimmer comfort. While there are many different above ground pool heaters on the market, they all fall into three main categories; gas pool heaters, electric pool heat pumps and solar pool heaters.

Although gas, electric and solar pool heaters all have the same purpose, they differ significantly in how they operate. Each type of above ground swimming pool heater also has its own advantages to consider. Prior to purchasing a pool heater, it’s a good idea for pool owners to have a basic understanding of the differences between the various available models. The information below outlines the way in which each type of heater works and the pros and cons that go along with gas, electric and solar pool heaters.

Solar Cover

Before considering any other method of heating, the first thing you should purchase is a solar cover. Even a budget solar cover will help but, if your budget allows, we would recommend you buy a good quality 400 micron solar cover which will help the sun to warm water whilst helping to retain the heat during the colder nights. A good solar cover, in the right conditions, can help raise water temperature by up to 17%, turning your swimming pool into a huge solar collector. Using a solar cover during the peak of a British summer, you may be able to get the temperature up to 23C which many people find pleasant on a hot summer day.

However, not every day during a summer in the UK is hot and many people find that water temperature in their pool feels too chilly for a swim without giving their solar cover some extra assistance. If the solar cover does not warm it enough for you then you will need to consider purchasing a pool heater.

Electric Heaters

When looking at electric heaters, there is an important consideration; a 13amp plug socket in the wall will only allow you to run a 3kw appliance. This has made 3kw heaters a very popular choice as you do not need an electrician to wire it in (assuming you have a plug socket – not an extension lead – located near the pool). All you need to do is simply plug them in and connect them up. So what’s the problem? This size of electric heater is only really effective if your pool is 10ft round or smaller. If it is any bigger, you will not get the pool very warm. Bear in mind that a 3kw heater on a 12ft pool probably will not warm your pool over 25 or 26C in normal summers. If you feel a 3kw electric heater is your favourite option, Intex make a cheap 2kw heater which costs about £99. Whilst it is good value, as you would expect at this price point, it does not have a thermostat but will warm up a small pool.  If your budget allows, Electro’s 3K Nano Heater at approximately £225.00 comes with a thermostat and is a higher quality product.

If your pool is bigger than 12 foot round. then a 3kw is not sufficient to heat your pool (i.e. your pool is bigger than 12ft round) then you will need to look at the 6kw or 9kw direct electric heaters. The main downside for many customers is that you will need to get an electrician to wire them in for you. Electro are one of the best manufacturers of this type of heater. An Electro 9kw electric heater will set you back about £430 and is capable of heating up a pool that is up to 18ft round.

There is, however, a huge draw back to using an electric heater to warm your pool – the running costs!

Running a 9kw heater – assuming day rate electricity of 13p per unit – will cost £1.17 per hour to run.  As an electric heater will typically need to run for 4 to 6 hours per day to maintain the temperature, in a 150 day season your electricity bill could be over £1,000.00. Every season! Please note that you will not save electricity by having a smaller heater. It will cost the same, simply taking longer to heat the pool. If the idea of spending £5,000 over 5 years to heat your pool leave you feeling a bit woosy. we would recommend you consider a heat pump….

Heat Pump Pool Heaters

So what is a heat pump pool heater? A heat pump incorporates an element of solar heating in that they absorb warmth from the surrounding air into a liquid refrigerant, compress the liquid to create more heat and then transfer the heat to the pool water. Heat pumps operate most efficiently in temperatures exceeding 10°C (although there are specialist all season heat pumps that for an increased purchase price and running cost, can operate in lower temperatures). In temperatures below an average of 10°C, most heat pumps cannot efficiently capture heat from the air and therefore require more time to warm your swimming pool or spa. Conversely, the warmer the air is, the less operation time required. (Please note that many heat pumps for above ground pools will require a dedicated electrical circuit with a breaker size of 20 to 40 amps, depending on the heater size. If this is the case, you will need an electrician to correctly and safely hook up your heat pump.)

The main reason for people purchasing a heat pump is their relatively low cost to operate. Typically an average above ground pool owner may spend £30-£90 per month on electricity to power the heat pump fan and compressor, depending on your tariff, the size of the heat pump, the size of the pool, how cold the air temperature is and whether or not the pool is covered, amongst a range of other factors. (Those in high energy cost areas will also spend more with an electric heat pump.)

The heat pump, however, is not without its drawbacks… They are slow to heat, typically adding only 2-5 degrees F, per day, depending on the outside air temperature, size of the heater and whether or not you use a pool cover. (By comparison, a gas heater, can heat 2-5 degrees per hour, making gas heaters ideal for intermittent heating.) Consistent heating however, is no problem for a pool heat pump; after a 3-5 day warm-up period, it maintains warm water efficiently and effectively, particularly if you choose an inverter heat pump which allows the fan and compressor to be run at variable speeds thereby increasing their energy efficiency and in turn reducing your bills.

The other drawback to a pool heat pump is the initial purchase cost which for an above ground pool typically range in cost from £800 to £1800 depending on specification and output. Choosing the right heat pump depends on matching the output of the heat pump to the size of your pool in gallons as well as the location of your pool (for example is it in a windy, shady or particularly cold location). We would always recommend using a pool cover and ideally insulating the walls and floor to help retain the heat that you have paid for!

In order to install a heat pump pool heater, the unit will need to be placed on a sturdy base with good air flow. Ideally, it will be placed in a sunny area but this is not a requirement. The heat pump must also be corrected plumbed in by connecting – the water flows out of the pool, through the filter pump, into the heat pump and then back into the pool.  Additionally, an electrician would be required to correctly wire the heater and connect it to the grid. The cost of installation will vary depending on the location of your pool and therefore your heat pump as a pool heat pump cable will need a buried or raised electrical line from the main breaker box. The further the distance that the cable needs to be run, more expensive it will be to install. (For those of you that already have a pool and pump installed, if you have electrical conduit and 100 amp service to your above ground pool pump, you may have the available ampacity to add another large breaker (20-50 amps) to power a heat pump.)

Please note that heat pump pool heaters may require periodic maintenance to keep the moving parts in good shape. That said, when properly maintained, electric pool heaters can have an excellent lifespan of 10-20 years.

In summary, heat pump pool heaters are a great choice for pool owners that would like to use solar energy to heat their pool but either cannot accommodate a solar heater on their property or live in a region of frequent cloudy weather which perfectly describes the UK! When properly sized, heat pumps can be used to effectively provide warm pool water from April-October for most of the UK.

Heat Pump – Operating Seasons

There are 3 broad options for the spec of a heat pump: summer season (May to August/early September), extended season (April to October/early November) and year round. Of course this is subject to the unpredictable weather in the UK!

  • Summer Season (May to August/Early September)
    The heat pump we would recommend costs approx £965 inc VAT and delivery – based on summer only use, with a target water temperature of 28-29c.

As mentioned above, there are alternative options available if you are wishing to operate the pool during an extended season ie between April to October/early November and others yet that are capable of running all year round. These pumps are more expensive to purchase and will cost more to run in the colder months than in the warmer months. For this reason, if you wish to run an extended season, we would recommend, where budget allows, an inverter model which operates more efficiently (able to speed up and slow down its operation as required) thereby saving you money on your bills for an initial extra outlay in purchase cost. Inverter models also have the added advantage of operating more quietly. In order to make the increased purchase cost worth it, they are best considered only if noise or extended season are key considerations.

  • Extended Season (April to October/early November)
    The heat pump we would recommend costs approx £1595 inc VAT and delivery. Whilst this model is capable of operating at -15c, realistically its performance would take your swimming season through to the end of October/early November. It also has the added advantage of including wifi enabling you to control the unit via an app from your phone.
  • All Season
    This requires highly specific consideration and is best addressed on a case by case basis due to the number of factors involved in achieving this. In particular, you would need to massively over spec the KW output on the heat pump to heat the volume of water when it gets into the colder temperatures and even doing so, your ability to retain the heat will always have a huge impact on your ability to achieve temperatures that you would want to swim in outdoors in an English winter.

By-Pass Kit
In a pool filter/pump and heat pump system, when the heat pump is in operation, the water flows out of the pool, into the filter pump (which helps to circulate and clean the water), then into the heat pump where the water is warmed and then back into the pool again.

The purchase of a by-pass kit for approx £60 inc VAT and delivery is advisable as it allows you to circulate the water from the pool through the filter pump and back to the pool thereby enabling you to keep the water circulating and clean whilst by-passing the heat pump entirely. This is useful if you want to keep the water in your pool over winter but no longer heat it, as you can turn off the heat pump and redirect the water using the by-pass kit so that it no longer passes through the heat pump (ie the water will run from your pool through the filter pump and then straight back to your pool). This enables you to keep your water clean over winter by only running the filter pump for a couple of hours a day. As the heat pump has been isolated from the system using the by-pass kit, you can winterise your heat pump ie turn it off, drain the heat pump and put its winter cover on. The by-pass kit also enables you to regulate the flow rate of the water should you find that your pump is pushing out water more quickly than required by your heat pump.

Gas Pool Heaters

Gas above ground swimming pool heaters are powered either by propane or natural gas. As a result, either a propane storage tank or a natural gas hook-up is required to operate them.

They operate similarly to a gas-fired home furnace or hot water heater; a burner tray on the bottom heats the air inside the fire box and transfers that heat to water circulating through the heat exchanger.

Gas pool heaters for above ground swimming pools can sell for anywhere in the range of £800 to £2000, subject to specification.

The advantages of gas pool heaters include the fact that they are the fastest way to heat a pool or spa; able to raise water temperature in the average above ground pool by 2-5 degrees per hour, depending on the size of the heater, and whether or not the pool is covered. This makes gas heaters ideal for pools or spas heated for short periods of time and for pools heated only for weekends or occasional use.

Another advantage is that gas heaters are not affected by weather or outside temperature; able to operate even in freezing temperatures, unlike heat pumps. Gas heaters also operate effectively during rainy or cloudy days, unlike solar pool heaters.

So what’s the downside…. First and foremost gas pool heaters are the most expensive type of pool heater to operate, costing the average above ground pool owner £75 to £250 per month, depending on how cold the air temperature is, and whether or not the pool is covered as well as your gas rate. Installation must of course be done by a suitably qualified professional and often require more maintenance than other pool heater types.  That said, if properly taken care of, they can last 10-20 years.

Solar Pool Heaters

Solar above ground swimming pool heaters depend entirely on the sun’s energy to heat pool water. Essentially heat from the sun’s rays is transferred into the water, as water circulates through the solar panels, There are a variety of styles and methods of installation with some solar swimming pool heaters being designed to be set up on rooftops or mounted on wooden racks, whilst other models can be installed on the ground.

Solar pool heaters for above ground pools are less expensive to buy than pool heat pumps and with no cost to operate the solar panels, other than the cost of running the filter pump, which you will be doing anyway, solar pool heating is the least costly way to heat an above ground pool. However, the largest drawback to solar pool heaters in the UK is that they are entirely dependent on sunny weather. They can still heat the pool on warm and partly cloudy days, but with cool and rainy weather, solar heaters lose heat, and they don’t work at all during the night.

PUMP & FILTER SYSTEMS

After you have chosen your pool and method of heating, the next thing you should consider is the pump and filter system.  This is considered the heart of your pool. The pump is what circulates the water inside your pool. As the water circulates, it is pulled through your filter and then back out again. Without this constant circulation and filtering process, your pool water would sit stagnant turning it into a cesspool over a fairly short period of time!

There are 2 main types of filters that you can use: Sand and Cartridge.

cat-filter-sandfiltersSand Filters

With sand filters, water is pushed by the pump through sand located inside the filter and is removed through a set of lateral tubes located towards the bottom of your filter tank. Eventually the debris in your pool will clog the filter and this will increase the pressure in your filter and the water flow will in turn decrease. This indicates that your filter needs to be cleaned which is a simple process. You simply need to run it in reverse and dump the waste water which is known as backwashing your filter. Usually this has to be done every few weeks but depends on how dirty your pool water is. When the sand becomes too dirty, it is easy to replace. Sand filters are the least expensive option considered here but you will need to consider where the excess water will go when you do the backwash. Ideally, a flat pipe can be unrolled and run the length required to deliver the waste water to your drains. Furthermore, sand filters are only able to filter down to a particle size of 20-40 microns making them less effective than other types of filters.

cat-filter-cartridgefilters

Cartridge Filters 

With cartridge filters, water passes through a filter material that is inside your filter tank. The cartridge element then captures debris from the circulating water. Due to the larger available area to filter than sand filters, cartridge filters are able to last a little longer before needing to be cleaned than sand filters.  However, cartridges are more expensive to replace than sand..

As cartridge filters are made to run at lower pressure than sand, less pressure is put on the pump and as a result, you end up with better flow rates. As a general rule, the cartridges have to be cleaned once or twice a season, depending on the size of the cartridge and how dirty your pool water is. In order to clean them, all you need to do is remove the cartridges from the tank and hose them down with a hose. As a result, there is no need to be concerned about where to drain the excess water like you would for a sand filter. This type of filter also does not require a multiport valve, unlike sand filters. Whilst multiport valves can prove to be a handy tool, over time, it can cause leaking and pressure issues. A final advantage is that cartridge filters are able to filter particles as small as 10-15 microns (compared to 20-40 for sand filters).

**(Please note that this is different to the filter/pumps that is supplied with many low cost above ground pools which need to be cleaned daily, replaced regularly and do not have the ability to pump enough water to operate effectively with a heat pump.)

For Either Type \of Filter Pump

When purchasing a Pump and Filteration system, it is important that its size and flow rate matches the size of your pool and your chosen method of heating. Therefore, it is recommended to first chose your pool and heating method before purchasing a pump and filter.

How To Clean and Maintain Your Swimming Pool?

As summer approaches, pool owners everywhere begin thinking about when to open their pools for the season. They think about all the poolside parties, a good lap-swimming workout, and weekends spent lounging by the water, soaking up the sun.

Many times, maintenance is an afterthought, neglected until the walls turn green from slime or a filter gets clogged with leaves. However, waiting until problems arise can end up costing a lot more time and money than if you simply establish a good maintenance routine.

Perhaps you’re a brand new pool owner, or maybe you’ve owned a pool for years. Either way, it’s good to have a clear idea of how you’re going to keep the pool clean and well-maintained all summer long. The only way to do that is to ensure you have the basics covered with these tips and tricks.

Shock your pool the right way

If you’re a beginner, shocking doesn’t mean surprising your pool. Shocking means raising the chlorine levels for a little while to kill bacteria. It should be done at least twice a season or whenever the water looks murky, such as right after a big pool party.

But you need to do it right to avoid over- or under-chlorinating and to prevent damage to yourself, your pool liner, and filter. The best way to do shock is to dilute your concentrated chlorine by mixing it into a bucket of warm water. Mix it well to dissolve evenly while wearing protective gloves and goggles. Then pour it into your pool.

Be sure to only shock the pool at night, however. The sun burns off chlorine at about 1ppm per hour, which reduces the effectiveness and wastes money. Shock at night for the best results. Just be sure no one will be doing any night swimming. The pool is safe to swim in again once your chlorine levels are around 5 ppm or after 24 hours. It is always best to test first!

Become BFFs with your brush and skimmer

This should become like brushing your teeth, something you automatically do on a daily basis to keep things clean. Every day, you should be skimming leaves and debris from the water’s surface with a net skimmer.

If you have a little extra cash, robotic pool vacuums can be a big help in keeping the pool floor and sometimes the walls clean. There are also suction-side and pressure-side cleaners that provide automated cleaning for a little less money. Alternatively you can choose manually operated vacuums that are battery operated or even ones that rely on suction created from your garden hose. These are cheap to purchase and easy to operate but are extremely slow at picking up debris and much patience is therefore required!

In summary, you should always have this basic equipment on hand:

  • a net skimmer
  • a pool brush
  • a manual pool vacuum

Please note that if you choose an automated cleaner, even those with smart tech, they are only so smart and there is a limit on their capabilities. They won’t catch everything or be able to reach every corner and surface. You’ll need to manually brush the walls and pool stairs at least weekly, to dislodge stuck-on algae and debris that your automatic cleaner will miss.

The truth about pool pumps and filters

Ideally, your pump should be running 24 hours a day all summer long for the best filtration results. Not everyone’s budget and equipment can sustain that, however. If this is the case, aim to run your pump at least 8 hours a day each day. Think of your pool pump having a full-time 9-5 job. That consistent circulation is the number one way to keep the water clean and healthy.

If you have a sand filter, at least once a month, depending on how much debris your pool collects, you should backwash your filter. This means reversing the water flow and redirecting the water out of a waste port that flows out of your pool. The type of filter you have determines how you’ll backwash, but the end result is removing all the built-up dirt that can clog the pipes and other areas that you can’t clean simply by emptying the filter basket.

Don’t be intimidated by pool chemistry

Basic pool chemistry is really simple, but you have to stay on top of it so things don’t get out of hand. All you really need is a good water testing kit. Before you start throwing chemicals in the pool, test your water so you’ll know exactly how to adjust the chemicals without wasting time and money. More importantly, the tests will ensure you avoid creating the wrong balance of chemicals in your pool. There are 3 main things to test for:

  1. Chlorine level;
  2. Alkalinity – PH levels; and
  3. Algae levels.

A good starter kit will provide you with:

  • chlorine, pH minus, pH plus, algaecide, test strips and a dosing guide; and
  • a simple, easy-to-follow instructions making it easy to get started and understand how to keep your pool clean.

The chlorine will disinfect your pool keeping the water free from bacteria

The pH plus and minus granules will help you control your pH Levels.

The algaecide will prevent algae build up on or below the surface water to keep your pool pristine and hygienic.

The dip test strips will enable you to ensure the water is comfortable on your skin. It will let you know what the current chemical levels are in your pool and combined with the guide will let you know which of the above chemicals you need to maintain the correct levels.

We recommend you use BISHTA Approved Chemicals such as Clearwater as they provide reliable, safe and high-quality water treatment.

Call in the professionals

If you have any leaks, cracks or anything that you’re not able to easily fix as part of your maintenance routine, call a pool service professional or the manufacturer (of the pool, filter/pump, heat pump etc) for advice. Don’t wait, or the problem could get so out of hand that it’ll end up costing you a ton of money for a major repair.

Things you may not have thought about

  1. Tennis balls to catch oils – Think about all the sunscreen, suntan oil, conditioner, and natural oils from skin that can come off as we swim. These oils leave a greasy sheen on the water and build up all around the waterline, not to mention clogging up your filters. The natural fibers on tennis balls, however, can absorb the oils, so toss one or two into the skimmer basket or right into the pool itself. Replace the balls when they start to show wear and tear.
  2. Keep your pool deck clean – It’s easy to spend all our time thinking about the pool water while neglecting the deck around it. But if you don’t clean the deck, you’ll track dirt, algae spores, and bacteria right into the pool. Sweep up loose leaves and debris a couple times a week. To sanitize, give it a good scrubbing at least once a month with a long-handled brush and a solution of water and pool deck cleaner. Or use a pressure washer with detergent.
  3. Keep street clothes out – Only proper swimsuits should be worn in the pool. Street clothes can carry chemicals, fibers and other contaminants into the water. Likewise, the pool chemicals can damage your street clothes. So keep them out! Swimsuits should be washed by hand in mild detergent and hung or laid flat to dry after EVERY time they’re worn.