Should I Run My Pool Pump in Freezing Weather?

So you have gotten a pool built less than a year ago. Winter is approaching, and you’ve been enjoying the hot water steamed to perfection by your pool pump, but as the freezing weather looms, you might wonder if it is time to drain your pool.

You should run your pool pump in freezing weather as the movement of the water keeps the pool from freezing. However, you must ensure that the filter pump runs continuously while the heat pump is used when you need it. Running the heat pump 24/7 can be very expensive.

In this post, you will learn the pros and cons of different ways of keeping your pool from freezing. More importantly, you will discover why movement is important and how it affects your pool. You will also find out more about why draining your pool might cost more than running your pool pump in winter.

How To Keep Your Pool From Freezing: Heat vs. Movement

There’s a reason why the winter season is called closing season: because most pools need to be closed Olympic-sized or not, a big swimming pool would require a significant amount of money to keep open when sitting water freezes in a few hours. However, if you have a small pool, you might be able to not just keep it functional but also use it to counter the cold weather: nothing cozier than a hot bath in the winters.

That said, you cannot feasibly run the heat pump of your pool continuously. It costs too much money to be a reasonable solution to counter the freezing temperatures. Note that earlier, I said sitting water freezes in a few hours. Sitting there is key. You can keep water from freezing if you keep it from sitting. 

The water will still be cold, but the movement will cause friction that keeps it from freezing. To freeze, any area of a body of water must interact consistently with cold air. Because no molecule of water is exposed to the same cold air for an extended period when water is moving, it doesn’t freeze. That’s why frozen lakes do not freeze to the core; the current closer to the core keeps the water from sitting still long enough to be frozen.

This method of keeping the pool open costs money, but it is nowhere near the cost of running a heat pump 24/7. If you have had your pool built less than a year ago, you might not have run the pool pump continuously, which might make you think the 24/7 operation is odd. In winter, it is normal to run your pool pump sans-heat 24/7.

Draining Pool vs. Running Pool Pump 24/7

While we discussed heat pump and filter pump as two ways to keep water from freezing, there’s one method we haven’t talked about: draining the pool.

Pros of Draining the Pool

While continuously running the pump is cheaper than keeping the pool hot throughout the winter, draining it can be even cheaper; let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of draining the pool.

Less Maintenance Required

When you close the pool, you get a break from having a pool. Those who don’t have a pool see only the fun aspect of the contraption but pool owners understand that having one can be a chore, especially for middle-class families that cannot afford an army of maintenance workers. Pools are more fun in the summer, so why not close the pool and be stress-free during the winter?

Saves Money if the Winters Are Long

If your pool is small, you don’t take a loss on draining the water and closing down the pool. You can make sure of this by calculating the cost of electricity that an average pool pump consumes running 24/7 and multiplying it by the length of the winter. Compare that to the cost of water needed to refill the pool, and you’ll see why closing the pool is more feasible.

Cons of Closing the Pool

It might seem like pool closing is a very straightforward option, but certain drawbacks make a case for why most small pools (especially above ground type) run a filter pump 24/7 instead of being closed.

Requires More Effort 

You don’t have to maintain a pool after you close it, but if you compare running the pool pump with actually draining the pool and freeze-proofing its plumbing, you’ll realize that running the pump is a lazier (more convenient) option. 

You Can’t Use the Pool

If you love to take hot baths during the winter (who doesn’t?), then it isn’t a good idea to drain the pool and regret it. Giving up the responsibility of maintaining the pool, unfortunately, comes with foregoing the perks of having a pool.

Pros of Running the Pool Pump

Running the pool pump continuously might seem risky, but every risk comes with a reward. Here are the advantages of running your pool pump constantly.

  • A cost-effective way of keeping the pool from freezing – As covered earlier, you don’t need to spend a lot to keep your pool pump running, and it keeps the water from freezing.
  • Access to hot water – If your pool water isn’t frozen, you can easily turn on the heat pump for an hour or so and have hot water to swim in. 

Cons of Running the Pool Pump

If you run your pool pump in freezing weather, you have to run it continuously. It is your sole defense against freezing weather, and here are the drawbacks of betting on it.

  • The equipment can get damaged – If your pool pump runs continuously, it can get damaged, and you have nothing else to keep the water from sitting still and freezing.
  • Vulnerable to electricity outage – If there’s a power outage, this method of keeping the pool open fails. You might need to have a backup generator to keep power failures from freezing your pool.

Final Thoughts

Running your pool pump in freezing weather is a great idea. In fact, you should do it continuously as long as your pool doesn’t have a risk of getting snowed in. Constant movement will keep your pool water from freezing and give you an opportunity to heat the pool and swim when you want.

Jed Arnold

Jed spent every year from the ages of 15 - 22 as a Lifeguard (Red Cross) and ages of 17 - 22 as a Certified Pool Operator (CPO). Between working for over a dozen facilities and owning a pool, he carries over a decade of pool experience.

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