Winter Freeze Emergencies

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During freezing weather, so many concerns take precedence that it is sometimes difficult to prioritize and remember all the potential hazards.  Slick roadways, work demands, home heat malfunctions, and electrical outages can grab a pool owner’s attention.  If a power outage occurs or the weather stays consistently below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for several days, there are some steps to take to help mitigate the costly damages that can occur when water freezes inside components of your pool.

General Winter Pool Damage Prevention and Precautions for U. S. EPA Climate Zones 1, 2 and 3

I. If the electrical power and pumps are functional
If possible, it is normally best to leave your equipment running during a freeze. Normally, a 30 minute rolling electrical blackout will not be a problem. Under most circumstances, water movement is enough to protect your equipment. In prolonged freezing weather, the pressure gauge on your filter may give an abnormally high or low reading, thus providing unreliable information about whether your water is pumping or not. More reliable indicators would be: water flowing over a spa wall, good water movement in skimmers, or good flow from pool inlets. If you have more than one pump which is not drained, they should normally be running as well. Be aware that some electronic pool control systems begin alternating between pool and spa mode which will, during the spa phase, temporarily stop water action in the pool and the spa overflow.

If the surface of the water starts to ice, place a floating lounge chair or dry fire wood (do not use green wood as it will sink) in the pool as this will help break the ice tension. Keep a close check on the skimmer weirs, the flap at the skimmer opening, for ice that could cause them to stick in the upward position allowing air to be drawn into the pump causing loss of prime. Sometimes heaters can be used to warm the water but at low air temperatures the condensation inside the fire box can cause damage. In the case of a LoNox heater, the dripping water may actually blow holes in the burners.

Make sure your fill line and home hydrants are winterized and hoses disconnected.

II. If your pool equipment or electrical goes down
These instructions only apply to pool and spas that have equipment located above water level. All others need a qualified service person and even then can be problematic.

If you are unable to contact a service professional to either walk you through the information listed below or to come to the site, follow the steps listed. Do each step even if the equipment is already frozen. This will allow the equipment to drain as it thaws and not refreeze.

  1. Power: Switch off the power to all the equipment in such a way that power will not reach the pumps if the electricity is restored.
  2. Pumps: Remove the small plugs at the base of all pump baskets and, if possible, remove the pump lids.
  3. Heater: On the plumbing side of the heater, remove the small drain plug(s) which are approximately 3/8” in diameter. Remove the small plug(s )on the opposite side of heater as well. You may have to remove a rubber access plug or a sheet metal covering to access the plug(s).
  4. Filter: Open the air bleed on top of filter beneath the pressure gauge. Remove any plugs or caps near the bottom of the filter.
  5. Place a floating lounge chair or dry firewood in the pool to break up the ice tension. Put tennis balls or empty plastic bottles with enough gravel inside to submerge them halfway. This may help prevent expanding ice from damaging the plastic skimmers.
    E. Go inside and drink hot chocolate.