28 May, 2011

Pool Care, Belize Style

This was an exchange of emails I had the other day with Earl. He's having problems with his pool. Ah, the joys of pool ownership. At least down here, we don't worry about opening or closing our pools from summer to winter or vise-versa.

And, there do seem to be more pools under construction here now than there used to be. I thought it might be good to include this correspondence for folks who have pools down here, or who may be contemplating building one, or like I was, contemplating bulldozing it or blowing it up. Resist the temptation - maintaining a pool in Belize, at least in northern Belize, is easier than you think.

I spent most of the first two years or so that we had our pool trying to be the good pool parent - I fed it the appropriate chemicals, did all the testing, spent the required amounts of money and at the end of it, I was ready to bulldoze the pool back into its hole and call it good.

Before I did that admittedly drastic step, I thought I should really check with another friend here in town, Jim, who had a pool that was always crystal-clear and never, I repeat, never, anything but crystal-clear. At least from my perspective. Jim never seemed to be absorbed with throwing chemicals into his pool or doing anything other than enjoying it. This is, more or less, that story, by way of Earl, who is the owner currently having some severe problems with his pool.
From: Dave
To: Earl
Subject: Pool

Hi Earl,

Dianna told me she heard you were having problems with your pool. I'd like to help if possible.
Can you describe what problems you're having? Maybe we can come up with a solution.


Earl wrote back to me:

First there was an algae problem again. I shocked the pool and killed the algae, but it was so fine that I was having problems getting it out. I flocked the pool – and that was pretty fine too. So, I flocked it again with better result. Now the flock is on the bottom of the pool and the water is clear. But when I vacuum it, the fines get stirred up and leaves got in my pool line. Now the line is partially plugged and I’m not getting much flow – or vacuum – to suck the flock out. I have Bill (Earl's neighbor) coming tomorrow. Between the two of us, maybe we can clear the line.

The original problem could probably have been avoided if I had been able to keep the chlorine level up. My chlorinator was running as high as it goes. I have added a floater as well. So, hopefully, once I get the pool cleaned out, all will be well.

If you have any ideas, I’m certainly open to them.

 I wrote back to Earl:

Hi Earl,

I was going crazy with my pool. One day it was green with algae, next day brown. Stuff was blowing back into the pool as fast as I vacuumed it out, readings from the test strips showed chemistry was wildly out of whack, I used every chemical known to mankind, bought all sorts of pool maintenance books, etc., etc. I even spend $200 US on a solar-powered copper anode floaty thing.

And, just shortly before this conversation, I had received the automatic pool vacuum I had ordered, but hadn't used yet.

One day, shortly before they moved, I spoke to Jim.
I said "Jim, your pool is always sparklingly clear, yet I never see you fretting over the pool the way I do. What do you do or what are you using that I'm not?"

His answer, "I use chlorine tablets in the tower thing, some in the skimmer or floaty, and check once in a while for pH."

"That's it? What about all the other chemicals and such?"

"Don't use 'em. Don't need 'em."

"So, what you're telling me is that all these chemicals and books and stuff are mainly to enrich pool professionals - at least down here."

With a twinkle in his eye, and a finger alongside his nose... Oh. Wait. That's another story.

With a twinkle in his eye, Jim said, "You got it."

So, I went home and right away started following his regimen. I hooked up the vacuum to the skimmer, set it to vacuum (run the pump) for 4-hours each day, and forced myself to relax.

I swear to God, within two days, our pool cleared up and has been that way ever since. I check the pH once in a very seldom while, make sure my chlorine floaty and the tower always have chlorine tablets in them, and that's it.

I do have our caretaker brush the steps and the spa weekly as the auto vacuum can't reach those areas. You'd probably have to do the same with your steps and the shallow sunbathing area of your pool.

I know it's time to backwash the filter when Huey (what we named our auto-vac) slows down. Then I backwash for about 10 minutes, rinse for one or two and return the filter to service.

Other than that, that's it. It has been trouble-free ever since.

I have a utility room full of chemicals that I haven't touched in months and a huge container of granulated chlorine (I used to mix with pool water and distribute it all around at least every few days. I haven't touched it either.

Here's the info on the auto-vac I purchased. It's just like Jim's. Simple to hook up and use, and virtually trouble-free.

We bought a Hayward Pool Vac Ultra from in August of last year. We paid about $350.00 for it. I did a quick search on Google and the prices seem to be anywhere from around $280 on up.

As I recall, we bought a rehab'ed model. Never found anything wrong with it other than the cardboard box it came in was damaged and taped together. Big deal.. Little guy just keeps on truckin' all around the pool.

They come standard with the connectors to the skimmer and more than enough hose lengths for your pool.

Hope this helps.


PS - Let me know if you have any more questions, and if it works for you. I really think the secret really is the auto-vac. You just cannot vacuum as thoroughly nor as often as Huey does. - d
PSPS - If you do decide to get the auto-vac, I'd recommend you get the leaf canister attachment as well. It fits into the vac hose just before it goes into the skimmer and keeps leaves, etc., from going into your main pump basket and is much easier to empty than the pump. - d
Now, so you don't get completely mislead, Earl's pool problem does seem to be a bit more involved than simply wrong application of chemicals or not vacuuming enough, or something like that.

It sounds like he really is having some sort of continuing blockage in one of his pipes, either leading to or from the filter. Today, Earl told me yesterday, he's planning to open up his filter and clean out the sand, with the idea of replacing the sand with new filter sand. I reminded him to pay special attention to the lateral pipes in his filter, to make sure they're all properly connected, etc.

Bill has already looked at the pump motor for Earl, no problems noted. So, if the filter gets a clean bill of health, then there can only be a remaining line blockage somewhere. Once Earl gets that solved, and gets things working correctly, then if he follows Jim's advice, it should be smooth sailing from then on... he said hopefully.

So, there you have it. Pool Care, Belize Style. With this method, there is plenty of time to relax by the pool, or in it, with a cool Belikin. A much more civilized way to care for your pool.


Larry O said...


When I was visiting you were waiting on a replacement pool pump and your pool water was green! Looks better now. HA!

I wish you had asked me about pool maintenance at that time because I had discover the secret by then. Like you, I took a couple of years buying chemicals and messing around till I finally figured it out.

Now I just keep the 'tower thingie' and the 'floatie thingie' filled with 3" chlorine tabs, check the PH every week or so (always ok), and run the circulating pump 6 hours a day. My lanai is screened, so I don't get leaves and stuff blown in the pool (except dog hair!) so I let the robot do its thing once a week or so for a couple of hours. That's it!

ONCE I had to add 'stabilizer' because the chlorine was disappearing too rapidly, but you only have to check that once a year or so...

Good luck with it and pass the info around at the Purple Toucan!

The berm/wall/seat looks good so far as does the pool shade screen.

- Larry O -
Punta Gorda, FL

Dave Rider said...

Hi Larry,

Been a while since I've heard from you.

It's pretty simple once you get there, isn't it?

Glad you like the various projects. Nice to hear from you.


catdance62 said...

I don't know if this is an option, and it doesn't have anything to do with a blockage, but as far as maintenance ease and crystal clear water, switching our pool to salt has been the BEST thing ever!!! The initial cost of the salt ionizer was $$$, but what we saved in $$ not spending on chemicals was so worth it! i NEVER have to mess with the pool other than to check the lights on the ionizer to make sure it is doing it's job, and test it once a week to check the salt levels. No algae, ever. (and it is as hot here as in Belize or hotter sometimes)

Dave Rider said...

Hi Cat,

Thanks for the info. I was thinking about a salt ionizing system, but talked to a couple of folks here who had tried it and had problems. I think they had early versions of the salt systems as what they had done was a few years ago.
Anyway, before I sunk the $$$ into an ionizer and shipping, I thought it was worth trying the system I wrote about. Since I've had such good luck with it so far (tapping his head as he said 'touch wood') and I had all the necessary equipment already, why change.
Either way is probably a good deal. I just have no first-hand experience with the salt ionizer.


Andrea said...

Buying a house in Belize and we want to install a pool. Who would we get to do this?


Dave Rider said...

Hi Andrea,

I'm assuming you mean 'build' your pool vs. 'install'. I don't think preformed pools are readily available down here.

John Harris, a Brit (but I won't hold that against him), built our pool and many others as well as houses here in the Corozal area. If you give him a call, I'm sure he'd be glad to talk with you. His cell number is: 501-622-4303.

As you can probably guess from the blog, we've been extremely happy with our pool and John's workmanship.