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How To Respond to Freezing Weather Conditions in Your Pool

Suffering freeze damage? Leslie's is here to help! Stop by your local Leslie's store to speak with one of our pool care experts, or request a service appointment online. If you're looking for specific parts and equipment, check out our diverse online selection of replacement products:

Weather can be really unpredictable, especially in winter. If you own a pool in a warmer climate, unexpected freezing temperatures and severe winter weather can cause a lot of damage to the pool, especially if you're not prepared for it.

When winter storms and cold snaps are in the forecast, these pool protection tips can help you prevent major damage. And in case of a power outage caused by severe weather patterns or extreme cold, our freezing weather pool care tips that can help you get through the outage without severely damaging your pool and equipment.

Important: These instructions are for pool owners who live in areas of the country where freezing conditions only occur occasionally during winter months. Pool owners in areas that experience frequent and continuous freezing conditions should close their pool for the winter.

Prepare Your Pool for Freezing Weather

If you know extreme weather is headed your way, prepare your pool by following these steps:

  • Maintain proper water levels (to the middle of the skimmer).
  • Balance your water to the following levels:
    • pH: 7.2-7.6
    • Total Alkalinity: 80-120 ppm
    • Calcium Hardness: 200-400 ppm
    • Sanitizer (chlorine): 2.0-4.0 ppm
  • If you use an automatic pool cleaner, remove it, drain the water from it, and store it properly.
  • Shut off each piece of equipment individually and turn off the breakers to your equipment.
  • Drain your equipment (pump, filter, heater, etc.).

Without Power

Once there is no power to your equipment — either from you shutting it off or from a loss of power because of the weather — follow these steps:

  • Make sure all equipment has been shut off and that the breakers to your equipment have also been turned off.
  • Open the air relief valve on your pool’s filter.
  • Remove the drain plugs from the front and rear headers of your pool heater. If you have a heat pump, remove those drain plugs too.
  • Remove the lid and drain plugs from your pump.
  • Remove the drain plugs from the filter or any other unit, such as a leaf trap, that holds water, including in-floor system water valves.
  • Remove the top on Jandy valves, check valves, or other valves. If necessary, open the valves so water can move down the pipe.
  • Put empty plastic gallon jugs in your pool to take up ice expansion and protect your pool tiles or finish from freezing weather. Make sure each jug has enough water to give it weight (but not full) so it breaks the surface of the water but is not fully submerged.  You can also use floats or anything that can absorb pressure. Place a weighted 5 gallon bucket on your steps or hanging over the edge in the pool. Again, the bucket must break the surface of the water.  
  • Put an empty plastic drink bottle (if a Gizzmo is unavailable) in the skimmer to protect it. The bottle should have enough water to give it weight but not be full. Do the same for in-deck chlorinators or deck debris traps for in-floor cleaners.
  • If there is an auto leveler, wrap a towel around the vac break (backflow preventer) to prevent damage.      

PRO TIP: As long as freezing water has somewhere to go in the plumbing, there will not be any damage. On the pool water surface or in skimmers, the goal is to not allow a single, complete sheet of ice.

With Power

Another option to prepare your pool for incoming extreme winter weather focuses on running your pool pump and filter continuously — starting before the water begins to freeze and continuing throughout the entire freeze period.

Important: This option is not without risks. If a power outage occurs during extreme weather conditions, your equipment will be in jeopardy. When your equipment loses power for even a brief amount of time, it’s possible that water inside your equipment can freeze, which can cause severe damage.

If you choose the option of continuously running your pool pump and filter, here are the necessary steps:

  • Prior to freezing weather and low temperatures, clean or backwash your pool filter. This ensures proper water flow during the cold.
  • Run your pool pump and filter continuously. Moving water freezes more slowly.
  • If you have a variable speed pump, run it at higher speeds throughout the freeze period to ensure proper water flow.
  • Listen to your pump motor. If it makes a loud noise during operation, there may be trouble with bearings. As soon as the temperatures get above freezing, have the motor serviced by a professional.
  • Insulate plumbing lines with blankets or towels to prevent freezing. Even pool noodles can serve as good insulation around pipes.
  • Open all lines to ensure proper water flow. If a valve is shut off, no water will be flowing through that pipe and there is the danger of freezing damage.
  • Warning: Do not use any type of electric heaters, electric blankets, portable gas heaters, or heat lamps on or near your pool pump and filter as they can damage equipment or cause a fire.

PRO TIP: For short-term cold spells with temperatures between 0°F and 32°F, you can run your pool heater, as long as you started before freezing conditions began and as long as you run your pump continuously. However, prolonged heater operation with water temperatures below 50° is not recommended. It can lead to serious damage that might not be covered by warranty.

Recovery if You Didn't Prepare

If freezing weather hits your pool without enough notice for you to properly prepare, damage is difficult to avoid. Frozen water in your equipment, valves, and other elements is generally quite destructive.

One option for late recovery is to cover and insulate your system's pipes as best you can. As mentioned above, you can use pool noodles, blankets, towels, or other options, but be mindful of how any option could interact with any piece of equipment that puts off heat. Adding fire damage to freeze damage is the last thing anyone wants.

If your pump, filter, heater, or pool plumbing has already been damaged by freezing water expansion, don't panic. Head over to our related blog post, How To Maintain a Pool With Damaged Equipment, for tips and tricks to keep your water clear while you wait for parts and repairs.

You can also contact us online, or call or visit your local Leslie's store to see if a service technician is available to assist with solutions, including last-minute drain plug removal. It's impossible to guarantee that damage can be avoided, and Leslie's is not responsible for any existing or future damage done by a lack of system circulation because of freezing conditions.

After the freezing temperatures or unexpected weather event passes, a Leslie's technician can come out to inspect your system and identify and assess any resulting damage. Getting your system back up and running as soon as possible is key to ensuring your pool stays healthy and properly maintained.

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