Winter After February 2021
The winter storm of February 2021 was one of the worst economic losses that Texas has seen and damage to swimming pools was a big part of that. Now that we have lived through it, how do we keep it from happening again? First, we have to examine what occurred.
We tied for the second coldest temperature on record in DFW with -2 degrees and (if you don’t count the hour that it got above freezing on February 13th) it was also the second-longest consecutive number of hours at or below freezing. With one of the coldest winter snaps on record, we saw very little freeze damage to pools that stayed operating. The extreme temperatures put a significant load on the unprepared Texas power grid. The majority of the freeze damage to pool equipment transpired when power was lost for a significant amount of time. These extended outages coupled with a lack of warning, as many of us woke up on February 15th with a cold house hours after we lost power in the middle of the night, meant our pool equipment had frozen before the sun even came up. The better question might be, how reliable is your electricity? That answer may help you decide on the best way to handle your pool this winter and the winters to come. We use the term “winterizing”, when it comes to pools in North Texas, to mean draining the water from the exposed equipment and plumbing due to the unlikelihood of it getting cold enough, long enough to freeze lines buried underground. Also, since it typically doesn’t get cold enough, long enough around here, not every pool can be winterized. If the equipment is below the water level of the pool, or even if you have a raised spa, you can’t truly winterize the equipment without the potential of causing other damage to the pool and its components.
We encourage every pool owner to know the answers to these questions:
- Can my pool equipment be properly winterized? It is important to know if all of the equipment and exposed plumbing can be completely drained of water. Again, if the pool equipment is below water level, complete winterization is likely not an option.
- Are there any areas that cannot be winterized? You will want to identify which components cannot be drained, and which components will be fine.
- Do you know how to winterize your equipment in an emergency? It is important to know how each piece of equipment is drained and what tools might be needed. It is also imperative that you know how to shut off the electricity to the pool equipment.
The following are winter options for swimming pools in North Texas:
Operate the pool as normal. This is the most popular option for pool owners in this area as most pools are equipped with freeze guards. This keeps the pool looking good all winter, and typically keeps it ready for immediate use when the temperatures allow. This option does require reliable electricity to continue to operate.
Cover the pool using a mesh cover. This is another popular option for North Texas pool owners due to areas with heavily treed lots. The mesh covers keep the debris out but let rainwater and snowmelt through. Because of that water and the little bit of sunlight that gets through it is recommended that the pump continue to operate and that proper water chemistry continue to be maintained. Although you can reduce the number of hours the pump runs, it must run continuously any time you are experiencing freezing air temperatures. There are safety cover options available if you have children and/or pets to worry about.
Cover the pool using a solid cover. This is not an option that is widely used in this area due to the rainwater collecting on top of the cover. When coupled with lots of leaf fall, it can make for quite a bit of work to keep the water and leaves removed from the top of the cover. This choice is the only recommended method to be able to winterize your pool equipment and prevent debris from getting into the pool for the entire off-season. There are also safety cover options available if you have children and/or pets to worry about.
Winterize the equipment and not cover the pool. This is not a recommended option due to the likelihood of debris collecting in the pool. With the equipment winterized and debris sitting in the pool, you risk staining the pool surface. The pool will also likely require additional effort and cost to clean up before pool season. It can also be a potential safety hazard if the pool water condition gets to the point where you cannot see the bottom of the pool.
In summary, we recommend treating your pool like you would during normal North Texas winters. If by chance the forecast comes out for single-degree temperatures and/or several days below freezing, your pool has the capability to be properly winterized, and you have the means to winterize it, please do. With the equipment winterized it won’t hurt anything for the pool to be off for a few days until the weather warms up again. You also won’t have to worry about the chance of damage if the power goes out, trying to winterize in the dark, or even having to mess with trying to fill the pool up with a frozen water hose during that time. Perhaps fewer pool pumps running during those really cold temperatures will help save the integrity of the power grid to keep the pools running that can’t be winterized.