How to Raise pH and Alkalinity in Your Pool
Many of us confuse pool alkalinity and pH. Indeed, alkalinity and pH in water chemistry are closely related, but they are not the same.
Pool pH and alkalinity are two important factors to keep your pool clean. Pool pH is the measurement of the water's acidity, using a scale from 1-14. Anything below 7 is acidic, anything above 7 is alkaline.
Alkalinity is essential for stabilizing the pH levels to prevent corrosion of metal parts in the pool. So if you're not certain what should be done with your pool's water it might be best to consult a professional to make sure everything stays safe.
pH in your Pool
pH is the abbreviated form of potential hydrogen. This describes the ability of a substance to attract the ions of hydrogen.
pH is the measure of hydrogen ions in a liquid, like the water in a swimming pool. pH is measured on a scale from zero to fourteen with one end (zero) representing an acidic solution and the other (fourteen) representing a basic solution.
A perfectly neutral solution, like pure water, falls in the middle of the scale at a pH of seven.
Pool water is mixed with chemicals, primarily chlorine, to kill bacteria and maintain sanitary swimming conditions.
How pH Affects Your Water
Before you look at raising the alkalinity levels in your home pool, you should first understand how pH and alkalinity affect the water in your pool.
Keep in mind that alkalinity is somewhat different than alkaline in pH.
The substances that would classify as alkalinity help to increase the pH levels in a pool. In chemistry, a pH measurement will tell you how acidic or basic water and water-based substances are.
When pH levels dip too low or reach a high level, the water will become unhealthy in a variety of ways.
With high pH and alkalinity readings, the calcium that’s situated in your water will combine with the surrounding carbonates, which leads to the development of unsightly scale around the edges of the pool.
You will also notice that the water becomes cloudy, which will automatically cause people to stop swimming in the pool. The pool filter will become clogged with calcium carbonate, which will lead to the filter becoming less effective.
Issues When Your Pool's pH is Off Balance
Low pH irritates the skin and eyes
The most immediate and obvious effect is felt by swimmers: the water stings their eyes and nasal passages and because the acidic water strips the body of natural oils, their skin becomes dry and itchy.
Low pH corrodes equipment
Over time, the water corrodes metal surfaces and pool components such as ladders, railings, screws, pool light fixtures, as well as metal surfaces in your pump, filter system, and heater.
Unbalanced pH kills chlorine’s power
Whether it’s low or high, unbalanced pH is the super-villain of your pool’s germ-fighting hero. In this scenario, you can add all the chlorine you want and your pH levels will render it useless.
High pH clouds the water
While cloudy water in and of itself is not necessarily unsafe, it does usually signal an underlying issue. And besides, no one wants to swim in murky water!
Ideal Total Alkalinity
Alkalinity in a pool is a measurement of the water’s ability to neutralize or resist an acid to maintain a stable pH. Alkalinity is closely related to pH in that when one goes down, the other follows close behind.
This is why low alkalinity is associated with a low or acidic pH that is below 7.0.
The ideal range for your pool's alkalinity level should be between 80-120 ppm alkalinity (parts per million). As alkalinity drops, the water pH is no longer stable.
This can result in large fluctuations of the pH and alkalinity with only minor changes in the pool’s chemistry.
The alkalinity of your pool is perhaps the most important water balancing step in your pool alkalinity to manage and should always be the first thing you test before adding chemicals
Low Alkaline: What does that mean?
Just as low pH and low calcium hardness levels can be damaging to your pool, so can having a low total alkalinity level.
While a low alkalinity level may not immediately be noticeable on pool equipment and surfaces, a low alkalinity level will often drive the pH level in the pool down.
Along with the damage to your pool surfaces, low alkalinity will also interfere with the sanitizing activity of chlorine. Without a good disinfectant, your pool will turn into a breeding ground for microorganisms in no time.
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What Causes Lower Total Alkalinity in Pools?
For the most part, this is due to natural causes such as evaporation or agitation of your water. Throughout the hot summer season, your pool will release dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) in a process known as ‘water degassing’.
This directly impacts total alkalinity, causing it to fall below 80 ppm if left untreated.
Other causes include:
- Overuse of alkalinity lowering products (i.e. muriatic acid).
- Using too many chlorine tablets with low pH.
- Excessive rainwater diluting the pool.
- Draining or backwashing pool water.
Pool pH and Alkalinity are both High
To lower both pH and Alkalinity you only need a pH Decreaser, otherwise known as Dry Acid. Muriatic Acid, Acid Magic, and No More Acid can also be used to lower Alkalinity and pH levels in pools. Add 1 lb pH Decreaser per 10,000 gals, to lower Alkalinity 10 ppm.
Pool pH and Alkalinity are both Low
To raise pH and Alkalinity at the same time, start with Alkalinity, and add enough Increaser to raise Alkalinity to 100 ppm. Add 1 lb Alkalinity Increaser per 10,000 gals, to raise Alkalinity 10 ppm. The pool pH level may rise and follow, without added pH Increaser.
Should I Raise the pH or Increase the Alkalinity first?
Alkalinity is the total alkaline material in your pool water. You should test alkalinity first because it will buffer pH. Your reading should be in the range of alkalinity 80 to 120 parts per million (ppm). If you need to increase the alkalinity, add an increaser. To lower it, you’ll add sodium bisulfate.
This factor shows the water’s relative acidity rate. The pH scale starts at 1.0 and goes up to 14.0. The ideal range is between 7.4 and 7.6. The water is acidic (or has a low pH) if it’s below 7.0.
It’s alkaline if the pH level is high, or above 7.0. Sodium carbonate is a pH increaser, while sodium bisulfate is a pH decreaser.
Is it safe to plunge with off balanced water?
Low alkalinity goes hand in hand with a low pH creating an acidic environment. Your pool water pH and alkalinity can affect disinfection by chlorine. Chlorine is very slow to react at high pH levels and can be over 50% inactive at pH levels over 8.2.
You would never want to swim in a bath filled with lemon juice because the acidity would sting your eyes and irritate your skin. For this reason, it is definitely not recommended.
The Elite Pool Service Steps to Raise Alkalinity and pH Levels in Your Pool
After getting the information on why pH is important and the cause of low pH, we know how important it is for you to know how we raise the pH of your pool. Here are our steps to raise the pH and Alkalinity level.
Step 1: Check the Pool's Chemistry Level
We check the pH level to determine pH level accurately which is one of the functions of the pool chemistry test kit.
We start testing the water by taking a water sample and adding reagents. Then we color compare with a reference chart to determine the chlorine and pH. Be sure the kit covers at least these components:
- Free available chlorine.
- Cyanuric acid.
- Total alkalinity.
- Calcium hardness.
Step 2: Measure the water volume
Knowing exactly the amount of water in the pool is essential before we come to the main part of raising the pH level. When adding the chemical, the amount will depend on the pool amount of water.
Step 3: Measure and Add Chemicals
We then use sodium carbonate, also known as soda ash, which is high in alkalinity and dissolves efficiently in water. The other benefit of soda ash is that it leaves almost no trace in the water.
If you add strongly alkaline matter to your pool water, this will raise the pH level, while at the same time reducing the acidity in your pool water. Here's what we do next:
- We calculate how much soda ash we need making sure not to exceed 2 pounds for every 10,000 gallons of water.
- We then check that your pool pump is working. We will need this to circulate the water.
- We broadcast the soda ash evenly across the surface of the pool water.
- We wait for at least 1 hour. Once the water has recirculated, we test the pH levels again.
Step 4: Aerate the Water
Sometimes, adding alkalines to your water still doesn’t raise the levels sufficiently.
In this case, we need to aerate the water thoroughly. This is a lengthy process that could stretch out over a few days.
One method of achieving it is to activate water features so that jets hit the surface of the water. One of our alternative methods is to go all-in and add some aeration pipes.
Step 5: Test pH and Pool Alkalinity
After we add the product and wait about 6 hours for it to disperse and dissolve in your swimming pool, it’s time to start testing. We will have a testing kit for both total alkalinity and pH.
WE will begin to take readings after 6 hours, then 24 hours, then 48 hours to gauge if there are any small changes over this period and to ensure the chemicals are balanced. We will make sure that both the total alkalinity and pH values are within optimal ranges.
Talk to the Elite Pool Service Professionals: Let us Handle your Pool Water Balance Issues
When raising the pH and Lowering the pH and Alkalinity in your pool will be something that you will always need to balance.
The ways to lower and raise pH and alkalinity are many and if you have any questions, it’s best to talk to a pool Elite Pool Professionals.
That way, you’ll know what to do when your pH and Alkaline are either too high or too low.
Balancing your pool water is an important part of being a swimming pool owner. Neglect these important duties and your water could turn green, algae could take over, the water may be cloudy, or it might result in more severe health issues.
Good thing we have Pool Professionals who can handle the work without you worrying about the problems that off-balance pool water can cause you and your family.
Raising your swimming pool’s alkalinity should be a stress-free and simple process. We’d love to hear from you! Call us at 918-893-3893 or send us a FREE QUOTE.