Should You Empty Your Pool for the Winter?

As the cold weather begins to set in, you may start thinking about winterizing your pool. Prepping your swimming pool for the winter is essential for keeping your pool in top shape. Because the last thing you want is water freezing in the pool, you may wonder whether or not you should empty your pool for the winter.

In short, you do not have to empty your entire pool for the winter. Instead, drain enough water so that the water level is below the skimmer level. By leaving water in your pool, you can prevent major damage from occurring in the pool liner and plumbing system.

Winterizing your pool doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Today, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to prepare your pool for the winter and why it is best not to drain the entire pool.

Should You Drain Your Pool for the Winter

It’s easy to assume that pool water should be drained before the weather turns cold. After all, the last thing you want is the water to freeze when temperatures drop. Although it may seem that draining a pool is the best solution, there are a few reasons why pools shouldn’t be completely emptied for the winter.

Generally, it is best to leave water in the pool to prevent damage to the pool liner. Rather than emptying the entire pool, simply drain enough water so that the water level is below the skimmer. When properly winterized, the water will protect the pool liner from damage.

The main reason why water should be kept in your pool is because of the pool liner. When a pool is completely drained, the liner is susceptible to drying out. If this happens, the liner will stretch, creating cracks in the pool. Once you fill the pool back up with water, water will seep into the cracks, which ultimately will damage the entire pool system. 

Another reason to keep water in your pool this winter is that it will prevent damage from debris. Even when a pool is properly covered, it is still at risk of becoming damaged by debris. By keeping water in your pool, you can prevent costly damages from occurring to the liner, as well as the entire pool system.

A final reason to not empty your entire pool is that you can save both time and money on refilling your pool next summer. When a pool is properly winterized, the water will remain clear even when left unused during the winter season. You’ll only need to add enough water for the water level to reach the skimmer line.

How Much Water Should You Drain from Your Pool for the Winter?

While it may not be necessary to empty your entire pool, it is still important to drain out some of the water. Leaving your pool filled all the way can ruin the filtration system, as well as damage the pool liner. Additionally, not lowering the water level can lead to cracks in both the pool liner and the plumbing system.

As a general rule, you should drain the water level to below the skimmer level. This allows you to clear out the pipes while still keeping the pool liner protected from damage. Leaving water in the pipes during the winter can cause significant damage to the plumbing system if the water should freeze.

If you own an above-ground pool, it may not be necessary to drain as much water from the pool. This is mainly because most above-ground pools feature removable pumps and skimmer systems. Rather than draining the water, simply remove the pump and skimmer from the pool. If the above-ground pool is small, it may be best to put it away for the winter.

How to Winterize Your Pool

Learning how to care for your pool during the winter is important for extending the lifespan of your pool and pool systems. Here, we’ll cover the steps to preparing your pool for the winter season.

Balance the Water

The first step to winterizing your pool is testing the water. This can be done by using test strips or an at-home pool test kit. If the water is unbalanced, you’ll need to adjust the pH, total alkalinity, or total hardness levels.

Typically, a pool’s pH should be between the range of 7.2 to 7.6. If the pH is unbalanced, you may need to add an increaser or reducer for the pool pH. Similarly, if the total alkalinity isn’t between the range of 80 to 150 ppm, you’ll need to add a total alkalinity increaser. A total hardness increaser may also be added if it isn’t between the range of 175 to 275 ppm.

Clean the Pool

Before shutting down your pool for the winter season, it’s important to thoroughly clean the water and pool surfaces. Not only will this prevent any issues from occurring during the winter, but it will also make it easier to open up your pool in the spring.

Using a pool skimmer, clean the water by removing any floating debris. A pool vacuum may also be used to clean the surface of the pool. In addition to removing debris, it’s important to empty the skimmer baskets and backwash the filter. A filter cleaner may be used for cleaning the filter media or elements of the filter.

Add Chemicals

Because you’ll be leaving water in your pool, it’s important to add the right chemicals to your pool water. Generally, it is best to shock the pool before closing it for the winter. Following the manufacturer’s dosing guidelines, shock your pool to destroy any growth of algae and bacteria. Make sure the pump remains circulating for at least 6 hours after shocking the pool, although 24 hours is often recommended.

Additionally, a dose of an algaecide will prevent the growth of algae in a winterized pool. Allow the filtration system to remain running for 24 hours to evenly distribute the chemicals.

Winterize Pool Equipment

In addition to winterizing the pool, the pool equipment will need to be properly winterized. Make sure the water level is drained below the skimmer level before you begin winterizing pool equipment. From here, drain the equipment and store the pool pump, chlorinator, and hoses indoors for the winter.

Cover the Pool

The final step to winterizing your pool is adding the cover. Make sure the cover is secured to the pool with winter cover clips. You may also need a skimmer cover to protect the skimmer during the winter season. All ladders and deck equipment will need to be removed from the pool to ensure the cover is properly secured to the pool.

Once your pool is winterized, there is no reason to worry about your pool becoming damaged. Because the pool water protects the pool during the winter season, you can rest assured your pool will be ready to open in the spring.

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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