Swimming Pool Maintenance Teams May Need to Explore Chlorine Options


As pool season approaches, swimming pool maintenance is shifting into high gear. But apartment management teams may have to adjust their pool care strategy for keeping water healthful and clear given recent changes in the availability of cleaning and sanitization products.

In August, Hurricane Laura’s destructive presence in Louisiana led to a devastating fire that diminished supplies for a major chlorine producer. The damage has affected the supply of Trichlor, a popular type of chlorine for commercial and residential pool use.

The good news is that alternatives are available from suppliers who specialize in the multifamily housing industry. 

Chlorine options for swimming pool maintenance 

Trichloro-s-triazinetrione tablets, better known and sold as Trichlor, have become the go-to chlorine for many commercial properties. This mix of chlorine and cyanuric acid is a long-lasting sanitizer and oxidizer of pool water. The tablets slowly dissolve and equally distribute chlorine, making them one of the most affordable options on the market. 

Swimming pool maintenance teams typically “set it and forget it” by dropping a few tablets into an erosion feeder, sometimes called an automatic chlorinator, to keep free available chlorine (FAC) levels in line. 

Using Trichlor does have a few drawbacks. It can raise the cyanuric acid to levels that can reduce the chlorine’s effectiveness, and because Trichlor also has a low pH, between 2.8-3.5, it can also lower pH and total alkalinity below their desired ranges. Pool water should be tested frequently per health code requirements to ensure that the FAC, pH, cyanuric acid and total alkalinity remain in the acceptable ranges. Other tests may be required. 

Leslie’s, the nation’s largest pool supply company and a leading pool and equipment supplier in the multifamily housing industry, does not expect its 2021 Trichlor supply to be affected by the Louisiana fire, but the company notes that inventory might drop as pool usage increases. With more families staying home during the pandemic, pools are likely to see a lot of swim time from the end of May through Labor Day. 

In addition to Trichlor, Leslie’s offers other sanitization options at pre-negotiated pricing through RealPage eSupply.

Francisco Hernandez, Sr. Manager of National & Government Accounts for Leslie’s, weighed in on a few of these other products on the market:

Sanitization alternatives

Please Note: All state and local swimming pool and spa health codes regulating apartment communities require that sanitizers (chlorine and bromine) be added to the pool or spa water with a mechanical feeder. This includes erosion and spray-erosion feeders, saltwater chlorine generators (SWCGs) and liquid chlorine hypochlorinators. Also, health codes require that the chlorinator or brominator, SWCG or hypochlorinator is properly sized to ensure the pool or spa water is safe. Not all states allow the use of cyanuric acid in commercial facilities.

  1. Cal Hypo Tablets – This is probably the option that makes the most sense. Cal Hypo is a chlorine product available in tablet, granular or briquette form that can be very cost-effective over the long term. The tablets are dispersed through an erosion feed system, which requires an equipment investment. Just like Trichlor tablets, Cal Hypo tablets have to be loaded into the erosion feeder. Cal Hypo tablets contain calcium, so the water’s calcium hardness level should be monitored. The feeder must be cleaned on a regular basis, and cyanuric acid must be added separately for outdoor pools.

  2. Liquid Chlorine (Sodium Hypochlorite) –Liquid chlorine, also known as bleach, is another option. Although similar to household bleach, the available chlorine content is 10% to 12.5%, which is double what household bleach contains. Liquid chlorine must be fed into the pool with a hypochlorinator or feed system. There are multiple types of feeders, so consult with your local Leslie’s professional to determine what is best for your facility. Cyanuric acid must be added separately for outdoor pools.

  3. Salt Water Chlorine Generators (SWCGs) – These use an electrochemical cell to convert salt into chlorine, effectively sanitizing the water. The chlorine output of a SWCG system is based on the unit running 24 hours a day at 100%. When properly sized, an SWCG can easily be adjusted to meet the chlorine demand of the body of water. These systems do require some maintenance, and cyanuric acid must be added separately for outdoor pools. 

For indoor pools, facilities may want to consider using bromine tablets. There are also secondary means of sanitization, including ozone, UV and AOP systems. These systems help reduce the water’s sanitizer demand. Partner with your local health department to determine which method of sanitization is right for your facility.

Single-speed pool pumps being phased out

Hernandez says maintenance teams should be aware that, effective July 19, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will begin phasing out single-speed pool pumps in favor of more energy-efficient variable-speed pumps. 

Most single-speed self-priming pumps with a motor total horsepower (THP) of ~1.2 to ~5.0 will not meet the minimum efficiency standards and must be replaced with a variable speed pump when the pump fails. 

“The goal is to save energy,” Hernandez says. “The minimum energy efficiency of a variable-speed pump is 90%, versus the single-speed pump efficiency of 30%-70%.”

Suppliers will be allowed to sell non-compliant pumps manufactured before July 19 until the inventories are depleted. Then the pumps must be replaced with variable-speed units. Note: Although single-speed motors with a total horsepower (THP) of ~1.2 to ~5.0 are not covered under the regulations, they will be in the near future. As with single-speed pumps, once single-speed motor inventories are depleted, only approved motors will be available. 

Hernandez adds that swimming pool maintenance teams should consult with pool professionals to determine the right approach to providing a happy, safe swim season for residents.

RealPage eSupply provides the multifamily housing industry pre-negotiated prices and qualified vendors to keep maintenance staffs fully stocked and prepared. Learn more about eSupply GPO contact us at eSupply@RealPage.com or to learn more about Ferguson, visit RealPage Vendor MarketPlace.

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