Tip #1: Just how hard is swimming pool care?

Here's a clue: if you do it right, your swimming pool should take about the same time to maintain as the yard it replaced. No kidding!

Maintaining a properly installed 18' x 36' vinyl liner swimming pool should take less than 1 hour a week. And your chemical costs shouldn't exceed $35 per month.

Of course, thunderstorms, dust storms, and swimming pool parties will all increase maintenance demands. And, if you are a really, really neat person, it will take you longer to keep the pool clean. But, your pool still really should as easy to care for as the yard it replaces.

So . . . what's the secret? Consistency, chlorine, and cleaning.

Pools don't forgive. Ever. They don't demand much, but they absolutely will not forgive you if you don't do what they do demand. Taking care of a swimming pool is sort of like taking care of a really, really easy pet -- say, a gold fish. It's not hard, but you can't let it slide either. Ignore your goldfish, and it dies. Ignore your pool and it . . . comes to life! Be consistent -- or be green! Skip a week in midsummer and you'll be able to admire your new pond, complete with frogs! Skip three weeks, and you may need a federal environmental impact study before obtaining a permit to drain that 20 x 40 wetland in your backyard.

Chlorine has a bad rep, mostly undeserved. Certainly, it's the least expensive and most effective swimming pool sanitizer available, so long as you stay with the plan. Only chlorine is a full function pool chemical: sanitizer, oxidizer, and algaecide with a residual that can be stabilized. Every alternative comes up short at one point or another, even bromine and ozone. Certainly, for a some pools and pool owners, the benefits of some of the alternatives may out weigh the problems. But for the vast majority, chlorine is the superior alternative!

Cleaning matters, too. It's not necessary (at least for your pool's sake) for your skimmers to be spotless and each bug and leaf to be removed every morning. But regular cleaning is necessary. Algae hides and waits in corners and crannies. Leaf choked skimmers can't skim. And, dirty filters don't filter very well. A general rule of thumb? Clean your pool and filter weekly, and vacuum and clean skimmers after each thunderstorm, if you live in an area with wind blown debris.

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