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It's the simplest of the pool filter media, a material with which anyone who's ever walked on a beach is familiar. And generally speaking, the granular medium just lies there filtering out gunk, but there are still a few sand pitfalls to watch out for and a trick or two you can use to boost filter performance. With that in mind, we offer these tips from experts across the country to help keep sand filters working at peak efficiency and your customer's pool water clear and clean.
In areas that have very hard water and high calcium hardness levels, calcium buildup can become a real problem in the sand bed. In Steve White's Boston-area service district, high-mineral-content water is a common problem:
"Our area uses primarily sand filters," he says, "for both residential and commercial pools. We find that we often have too much calcium build up in the pool water which leads to calcification in the filters, especially in pools where Cal-Hypo is used."
Acid cleaners can tackle a crusty calcium buildup in the filter, but if the water is hard enough and the problem has been ignored too long, the sand bed can look like it could be used as a concrete footing for a major backyard construction project. In that case, it will have to be removed — an enjoyable task.
Dan Lenz, All Seasons Pools & Spas, Orland Park, Ill.
John Bokor, regional sales manager, ProTeam, Mich.
Steve White, owner and president of Underwater Pool Masters, West Boylston, Mass.
Terry Arko, recreational product specialist for SeaKlear Pool and Spa Products, Bothell, Wash.
Sand filters are renown for their robustness as filter equipment, but when it comes to extracting the tiny bits of debris that can cause water to lose its sparkling brilliance, they may need a hand. Service techs looking to get that crystalline transparency in the water — especially water that will be lit up at night, when every little floater draws attention — try adding some dry clarifier to help remove fine particulate. The clarifier coats the sand bed, filling in any nooks and crannies in the media, and is then simply washed out of the filter during the backwash without leaving any residual, says John Bokor, regional sales manager for ProTeam, a brand of Haviland Pool and Spa Products, Grand Rapids, Mich.
"Using a dry clarifier increases filter efficiency by penetrating the sand with a polymer formula and restores water quality after heavy rain and/or bather loads," Bokor says. "These products attract small particles and capture them in the filter."
Terry Arko, water treatment specialist with NC Brands/SeaKlear, agrees. "Using a clarifier product can be an invaluable aid for sand filtration. Depending on the product being used, it can enhance the filter's ability to trap particles down to 0.5 microns. These products are perfect for commercial facilities to keep pools clear and clean even during times of peak swimmer load.
While plain old sand has been tried and proven as a filter media since ancient times, some pool technicians like the performance of Zeolite as an alternative. Zeolite refers to a group of porous minerals containing silicon, aluminum and oxygen; it is often referred to as a "molecular sieve" for it's fine filtering characteristics.
In the last few years, White has been using Zeolite as a replacement for sand. "If we have the opportunity, one of our newest sand filter renovation techniques involves removing all the old sand and replacing it with Zeolite as a filter media," he says. "We started this practice over the last five years. We find that Zeolite actually filters down to a much smaller particle size and additionally absorbs ammonia.
"Zeolite has nearly 9,800 times more square footage than sand, enabling it to filter small particles down to 3 microns for exceptional water clarity. This filtering media also removes the ammonia produced from dead organic material in the water, reducing eye irritation and odor. Plus, it cuts down on chemical demand. I started using it in my own pool and was immediately sold," he says.
"Changing to Zeolite is a process we generally sell in the winter, at the time of pool closing. We find that this 'end of season' up-selling to Zeolite as we get the pool ready for winter is extremely effective. And by doing so, the pool filter is prepped and ready for the busy spring opening season."
When refilling the sand filter, it's crucial to maintain the proper "head space" above the sand bed. That space is intended to dissipate the turbulence of the incoming flow and produce steady, even water pressure over the sand bed. Without the right amount of head space — which will cause uneven pressure across the sand bed — channeling will result, and water will run straight through the channel without being filtered.
While D.E. is a filter medium in its own right, savvy service technicians use D.E. in cartridge filters (to help in the cleaning process) and in sand filters as a filtration aid. "We use D.E. as an additive to tighten up the sand and make the sand filter more effective," White says. When cleaning, however, the D.E. will be lost in the backwash and will have to be replaced.
It's also important not to backwash a sand filter (or any filter) too much. There is a mind-set in some pool owners that when it comes to cleaning that "more is better," and therefore, more frequent backwashing of the filter will keep water clearer. But a minor load of dirt across the top layer in a sand filter actually helps it filter better. As that dirt coats a sand bed, it helps strain out finer material and reduce the cloudiness that results from small micron debris.
Closing season arrives at different times in different regions, and the process of "winterizing" a pool changes as the latitude (and temperature!) drops toward 32 degrees.
In the frozen North, pools are taken offline and their filters made ready for the spring. Cartridge filters are removed for cleaning, while sand beds are prepped so they will be in peak condition for the spring opening.
Soaking the sand bed in a cleaning solution before the final backwash is a great way to avoid some of the problems that can occur in a sand bed after a full season and a long winter.
Dan Lenz, All Seasons Pools & Spas, Orland Park, Ill., uses the following procedure to make ready for next year:
"Before closing sand filters, we use a cleansing solution like ProTeam's Filter Magic or Natural Chemistry's Filter Perfect to do more than just backwashing of the sand. It's a solution that is mixed with five gallons of water, which is poured into the pump and sits overnight before backwashing. We like to do this because we also have the water dropped below the jets before we completely shut down the pool for the winter."
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