A pH perfect Pool
Whether you are already enjoying a beautiful private pool or dreaming of your own, you probably have heard about pH and that it plays an important part in the quality of your pool water. But what is pH? Why and how do I measure it, or what can go wrong if we do not take care of it at all? So many questions…
In this blog we want to tell you about the importance of keeping an optimal pH level of your precious pool. Whether it is a cheap inflatable pool, or an infinity pool, keeping your pH perfect will benefit you, your equipment, and the disinfection.
What is pH and why is it important for my pool?
PH is a commonly used scale to display the acidity or basicity of a liquid. PH is measured and monitored in a whole lot of industrial and chemical applications. Today we are only going to talk about pH related to swimming pools. There is more then plenty enough to say about this subject. If you want to read more in depth about pH and its history, click right here.
The pH scale goes from 0 to 14 and 7 is what is known a pH neutral. Anything below 7 is acidic and anything above 7 is described as basicity. For pool owners it is the most important value to monitor and regulate. When its time to dose chlorine, you get a visual indication and the pool will start to grow algae and become green. When your pH level is out of balance, you get no visual alarm or warning at all. It is absolutely invisible, until it is too late.
We need to keep the pH of our pool at a setpoint of around pH 7.2. At this specific setpoint the water is ideal for our skin, won’t irritate your eyes or impact your breathing. Chlorine also interacts with the pH level, at this setpoint we are sure the chlorine can work in optimal conditions. There could be consequences if you neglect your pH level for too long. We tell you more about it in the rest of our blog.
How do I measure the pH level of my pool?
It’s 2020, we are a few decades into the digital age already. Stop measuring pH with liquids or pH testing strips. These are ok to give you a general indication of the pH level, but lack any precision. Remember that pH-scale goes by a factor of 10. This means that pH 6 is 10x more acidic than pH 7, and pH 5 is 100x more acidic than pH 7. And so on, and on.
A digital pH meter measures the pH of your pool, accurately and within seconds. Today you can get a reliable pH meter without spending a lot of money. Actually, you can even order them right here on our website. But enough with the self-promotion, let's continue our story.
How does a pH meter work?
PH Meters and pH electrodes both have sensitive porous glass electrode. This electrode is filled with a liquid that reacts to the pH level of the water, it comes into contact with. Inside the pH electrode, there is a second chamber with the same liquid. This liquid however, does not come into contact with water or air, and remains more stable. The pH meter’s electronics measures the difference in voltage between the to chambers and translate it into a pH value.
What can happen if my pH level is too low or too high for a long period of time?
A lot of things can and will go wrong if you neglect your pH level for too long. Perhaps you miscalculated and used too much pH corrector, or maybe your automatic dosing system failed. Whatever the reason, it could have a serious impact on your personal health and that of your equipment.
Your skin likes water around a pH of 7, anything too high or too low can cause irritation to the skin, the eyes and even your airways. Please do not panic, sparkling water has a pH level of around 4, that is 10.000 times more acidic than pH 7. You can safely drink this, you could even swim in it for a short time, but my guess is your eyes will be the first to tell you something is wrong. Don’t take any risks think about children or people with sensitive skin. Measure, monitor and regulate your pH and take care of the health of your bathers.
But it could get even worse. Your expensive pool equipment could become permanently damaged if you don’t take care of your pool. It could damage the mechanical seal of your pump. A broken mechanical seal, can destroy your pump’s motor and possibly even flood your technical room. It also has an impact on the color of your beautiful pool liner, tiles, or fiberglass. It could fade the color and cause irreparable damage. Any expensive automatic dosing machine or salt electrolysis installed on your pool? Don’t rely just on your sensors and measure manually from time to time. A broken pH probe for example will display a pH level of 7. If you don’t measure manually, it will take you a long time to find out. Sometimes, maybe even too long.
How do I lower or raise my pH level?
Now you have measured your pH and you need to increase or lower the pH level towards the optimal set-point. Luckily, you have only 2 options, commonly referred to as: pH-Plus and pH-Minus.
In 90% of the world, pools have tendency to increase their pH level over time. To counteract this effect, we need to dose pH-Minus. PH-Minus lowers the pH level of your pool and can be bought in both granular and liquid form. BE CAREFUL, this is an acid-based substance that can cause serious burns or damage to your airways. Always use it in a well-ventilated room and keep it safely out of reach of children. Read the instructions carefully when you are making pH adjustments manually. If you use an automatic pH dosing system, be careful when replacing the tubing and the cans of pH.
You use ph-Plus if you want to increase the pH level of your pool. pH plus is less common but can be found mostly in granular form. We usually see demand for pH plus in regions with acidic rain, pine forests or in pools filled with groundwater.
Manual pH dosing
We have already described what you need in order to adjust your pH level. In case you have forgotten or you just scrolled down directly to this section, lets repeat it again: a pH meter, pH-plus or pH-minus. That’s it.
Obviously if you are dosing manually, you will need to monitor the pH level of your carefully on a regular basis. Use a well calibrated pH meter or pH electrode, take a sample of your pool water and measure until the measurement has become completely stable. Now you know the pH level of your pool, and you can add the chemicals accordingly. On the backside of your chemicals you will find the information needed to dose properly. Never pour everything on the same location, walk around the pool and try to mix with a pool brush or pool net. Try not to overdose, and always go in small steps. Never use a complete bottle at once, this could damage your pump and filter if it goes through too concentrated.
How often should I measure the pH of my pool? If you are dosing your pool manually, you need to check the pH level at least once per week. If you bathe often and are actively using your pool, measure daily. Your pools’ pH level can vary a lot from day to day, depending on the number of bathers, bathing time and temperature.
Automatic pH dosing
If you have a recently bought in-ground pool, there is a good chance that you have a completely automated pool dosing system. Automatic dosing systems are on the rise, the have become more affordable and more reliable over the last decade. Most importantly they take away a lot of extra work and worries. Now you don’t have to measure every day and you don’t need to come into contact with any nasty chemicals.
Automatic pH dosing is usually done by injecting pH directly into the piping of the pool. The pool water is monitored by a pH electrode that automatically turns on or off a small pH dosing pump. Just make sure you keep the pH electrode calibrated and your pH canister filled. The latest generation of automatic dosing systems for pools even have an option that allows you to be informed when your pH canister is about to go empty. It would still be wise to measure manually from time to time, your pH electrode only last a few seasons and can get damaged fairly quickly if not taken care of properly.
Calibrate your pH meter and pH electrode regularly
We have mentioned it before, a pH meter or pH electrode that is not calibrated, is basically worthless. A bad pH level can cause serious damage to health of your bathers and ruin expensive pool equipment.
We need to calibrate our pH meter because the reference solution inside the pH meter will change its value over time. This will cause our pH measurements to be inaccurate. So, how do we make our pH meter accurate again? You guessed it, we calibrate it.
We recommend you to use fresh pH calibration solution only. Check the best-before date and make sure it was stored properly with the lid tightly closed. It will become less accurate by age or when exposed to air.
How do you know when to calibrate your pH meter? There is only 1 simple way that I recommend. Get a bottle of fresh pH calibration buffer, for example pH 4. Place your pH meter in the calibration solution and measure the pH. If you don’t measure 4 exactly, you need to calibrate your pH meter.
When we calibrate a pH meter, we tell the software exactly where a certain pH set-point is. For example if we use a pH calibration solution of pH 4, the software will log this point in its memory and is now re-calibrated. Most modern digital pH meters have automatic calibration. This feature makes it easy for you, it automatically detects the right pH buffer you are using and calibrates itself. For increased accuracy you can always calibrate on 2 points. We recommend to use either pH 4 and pH 7 or pH 7 and pH 10.
Another reason why we recommend you to calibrate often, is that it tells you a lot about the health of your pH meter. It is a good indication that it is time to replace the pH electrode or buy a new pH meter.
Store your pH meter correctly and make it last longer
Ever noticed the small bottle, filled with a solution that protects the glass sensor of your new pH electrode? Or did ever noticed some drops or liquid inside the protective cap of your new pH meter? This is liquid is what is known as KCl storage solution and it is specifically designed for storing pH meters and pH electrode. (If you are also using an ORP electrode, we recommend to store them in the exactly same way as their pH cousins)
KCl Storage solution is almost a magical solution that keeps your pH meter or pH electrode in fantastic condition. It is actually (almost) the same liquid than the liquid you find inside your pH meter. First of all it protects your pH meter or pH electrode from drying out. Besides gravity, air is your pH electrodes’ greatest enemy. If the electrode is exposed to air for a long time or dries out completely, you will have caused permanent damage. That is why new pH meters and pH electrodes are always shipped with a protective cap, usually already filled with KCl storage solution.
Not only does this magic fluid protects it from drying out, it also recharges the liquid inside your pH meter. Yes, you read that correctly, it gives back some all important juice to your electrode. This will make it measure accurately and longer.
That is why it is important to use the protective cap of both your pH meter an pH electrode at all times when you are not using the device. For the pH electrode make sure you fill the bottle so the electrode is completely submerged. For the pH meter, either dip it directly into the solution for a second or add a few drops to your cap.
Tip: If your pH meter has reached the end of its life? Try to soak it in KCl Storage Solution for 48h. It is not guaranteed to work for all cases, but it could a few extra measurements out of your pH meter.
If you read carefully, you will be rewarded.
So this story is coming to an end. We hope you learned more about why and how it is important to care about your pool. pH is invisible and accidents do happen. Remember the basics and you will enjoy healthy pool water and get the most out of it. Measure manually from time to time, keep your instruments calibrated and store them correctly. For those readers who made it this far, I want to thank you, and reward you with a 10% discount code. You can use this: PHPERFECT10 code during checkout and claim your discount. We will be back soon with another blog, until then, keep your pool pH perfect.