Edit 12 Oct 06: Sorry I haven't gotten around to adding the pics I promised. The forum won't let me add any more attachments. Until this is resolved, words will have to suffice.
If I keep fussing I won't post this until Spring. So here is what I have so far. I'll add some pics as I can. I'm going to keep this thread locked so it becomes a single post source of info. Anyone that would like to comment, have something added, ask questions or want something clarified, just start another thread or PM me and I'll keep updating this post, with proper credits of course.
18 Sep 2006
Here's what I do for my IG, 22000 gal vinyl oval pool. Equipment includes a Hayward S-244T 300# sand filter, the infamous and often complained about Hayward CL-200 inline chlorinator, 1 skimmer, 2 returns, a 4x20' solar mat and 1200' of 1/2 inch black poly pipe in the back field for a homebrew solar heater. Winters here have been known to hit -20F and below although not for extended periods. I've measured 18" of ice in the pool one Winter though. I keep the equipment functional as long as possible so I can keep the pool clean and maintain chemistry. Also comes out of hibernation as early as possible. I used to cover it with a loop-lock but that was too much hassle so I leave it uncovered now. Not a whole lot of leaves to worry about. I also have a poolhouse for the pump, filter, chemical, and general storage. No main drain, thank goodness.
For chemistry, refer to the AG sticky thread. I don't use polyquat and just raise the FC a little, and pH to about 7.6 or so. Last Spring I did get some algae and kept fussing with it rather that just whack the pool with chlorine and be done with it. Guess I should follow the advice in this forum. Water level is ultimately set to about mid-skimmer level. I don't go any lower because of water table issues. More on this later.
When the solar cover isn't to be used anymore, it's rolled up on my normal PVC pipe, stood on end against the house for a few days to drain, then hung from the rafters in the basement out of the way. Never had a mold or algae problem.
As Winter approaches the first items I do are the solar heaters. Solar heaters are good absorbers of heat and therefore good radiators of heat. All it takes is a cool, clear night with air temperature below 32 and they can freeze solid in minutes. The mat heater has flexible hose connections so I disconnect them and use a shopvac to blow and suck any water that didn't drain out. With duct tape and various PVC pieces you can make an adapter between anything, in this case the vac and the mat connections. I leave it out all Winter so it then gets covered with a large white cloth (stitched cheap bedsheets). The white surface reduces the temperature swings and my logic is less stress on the various components. The mats are a dog to roll up and I think the risk of damage is greater than leaving it out....but, follow manufacturers recommendations to keep the warranty. The one in the back field, black poly pipe, just gets drained and blown out the best I can. Been out for a few Winters now and no damage. The chlorinator gets packed with noodle foam at this time to give any ice some expansion room.
Sometime in the process the stair railings, deep end ladder, and diving board are removed and stored in the poolhouse.
When the nights begin to drop to freezing and I get concerned about the above ground pipes, I just open a few valves and drain them. I don't worry about the filter, pump, and below ground pipes yet. The pressure gauge is small and can freeze so to protect that I wrap the top of the filter and multi-port valve with old rags, bedsheets, or anything. The mass of sand and water in the filter keeps the under cover stuff well above freezing. When I need to circulate, vacuum, drain, etc I just switch valves and fire the pump.
Now the final throws of agony when it's time to do the rest. One last backwash to remove any crud from the surface of the sand. The multi-port valve assembly comes off and is stored in the basement. Filter drain cap opened and left off. A good size sand filter may continue to drip water for days. Pump basket removed and cleaned and impeller checked for crud by just checking with the fingers. I use a shopvac to suck out the water. Quicker and easier than fussing with the drain plugs. I need to blow 3 lines. Skimmer, returns, (two fed from a common pipe tee'd underground), and a 150' buried waste pipe to the stream. At normal water level the returns are only about 14" below water surface so a good shopvac will have enough push to blow those lines. Chlorinator gets drained at this time. While blowing air with all water blown out I put a gizmo in the skimmer, teflon tape on the threads, and for the returns I use the 1.5" NPT screw in plugs with an O-ring seal. I found they seal better than the non-threaded soft expansion plugs. The lowest points in the plumbing are the skimmer bottom pipe and the return jets. Blowing for 10 minutes or so will clear the pipes well enough.
This step most won't do....pressure testing the skimmer and return lines. Also do this upon opening in the Spring. The pressure test jig is hooked to the pump output pipe and I pressurize the pump housing and skimmer line to about 6 psi. Beyond this the pump basket lid tends to lift off and leak and the gizmo bubbles around the threads. Not meant to withstand positive pressure. Whatever pressure I hit I just watch it for a half hour. It will leak down slowly mostly because of the pump lid but if there is any cracked pipe the pressure will drop fast. For the return lines I take them to about 25 psi and will let them sit for a day or so. I verify that no bubbles are coming from the plugs. Tells me water can't possible leak back in when the pressure is removed. The extremely slow pressure drop is the chlorinator. Never leaks water but air is a different issue.
Back to what 'normal' people will do. RV antifreeze in the skimmer line. Mine is only about 10' so I fill the line by siphoning using a thin hose into the pump input pipe. When it overflows the skimmer line is full. I don't like the gizmo threads and I'm always a little paranoid about water possibly leaking into the pipe, freezing, and $$$ to fix. The level of antifreeze is above the pool water level so if a leak occurs AF will flow into the pool. Skimmer housing itself is then packed with the noodle foam for ice expansion. I don't attempt to plug the skimmer entrance although I do force fit a rectangular block of the same foam. Not watertight though. I also put about a pint of AF in the pump basket chamber and close the lid loosely. Any open pipes have a PVC cap put on to keep any critters out.
Last but not least, once I get a thin layer of ice the 5 gallon pails are placed for my fishin holes. One in the shallow and one in the deep end.
Last edited by Poconos; 10-14-2006 at 08:15 PM.