Vinny the pool guy came by to show me the basics of pool maintenance, and how to operate the equipment, which is located by the side of the house. So just in case you were wondering what it is like to maintain a pool, keep reading. ;)
Easiest to operate is the heater, which has two dials: one for the pool, and one for the spa. This is simply: dial a temperature range (no numbers, just a yellow/orange/red color wheel), click on.
Next easiest is the timer, which explains why the pool and robot started up all of sudden the other day. The rule of thumb is to run the pool/robot about eight hours a day. This basically suctions water through the robot cleaner, through the chlorine or saline tank, and back to the pool. I'll probably run this while I'm at work.
The filters require a bit more work, since there are three of them. On filter is near the pool (the "skimmer"), and the other two are by all the valves on the side of the house. One of the side filters is a large cylinder that I remove and hose off once a month, the other is a basket that catches debris that I check once a week. The skimmer filter sucks in water off the surface of the pool (so obviously, if the water level is too low it won't work), and I just have to pop the lid and check that filter once a week. The large cylindrical filter needs to be replaced once a year, while the others don't, because they are plastic baskets.
Pools can be either chlorinated or salinated, or I suppose neither but in that case the water may become dangerous ;) and it so happens mine is setup for both. However, the chlorine system is the one that is currently working - the saline system needs repairs. Vinny said saline is much nicer, while the employee at the pool store said the chlorine is definitely the way to go. So, it isn't a clear decision and I need to search around and read up on the various pros and cons. In the meantime, the chlorine system is another small tank that I open and drop tablets into, as needed.
Once every other week, I need to take in a water sample for testing, and the pool store will tell me what to add. I did that earlier in the afternoon, and the only comment was the pH of the pool was a little high (7.8, so tending towards basic) so I need to lower it by adding some acid. I bought a gallon jug of muriatic acid (which is just another name for hydrochloric acid), and will add the recommended amount of 1 cup. The store also checks for calcium and chlorine levels, and at some point in the future I'm sure I'll have to add a mix of other stuff to bring those into line.
Once a week, I may need to "shock" the pool, which is dump in a higher concentration of chlorine. After shocking, I won't be able to use the pool for about 12 hours.
The robot cleaner is controlled by a valve, which is shared with the main suction pump. More suction to the robot, and it will climb the pool walls, scrubbing along the way. Vinny said to give the robot about 25% suction, otherwise it will wear out too fast. So keeping the pool walls clean may be a partnership between my robot and me with some sort of brush.
Finally, two other valves control the aeration and water jets for the pool and the spa. I can run both, just one, or neither...
It sounds like a lot, but it really boils down to an hour a week of adding chemicals and checking filters. I'm a new pool owner and it is all very exciting, so I'm sure I will enthusiastically perform these chores, at least for a while. Especially since a pool service runs between $90 to $120 a month, and those prices seem a little high for the effort involved.