How long should your equipment last before needing repairs?
If you are reading this blog, you may be fortunate enough to have installed a brand new swimming pool in the last few years. The first three to five years are sure to be the best years of pool ownership and then it slowly will turn into repair after repair. You are not alone. Pools are inherently expensive, the equipment will eventually break, and did I mention the leaks? Seriously, I am not trying to frighten you, but it is quite a chore to maintain equipment that is designed to contain and clean water. Let’s look at how many years you should expect to get out of your pool equipment, common repairs, and tips for making the equipment last longer.
The pump is the heart of your water filtration. The main failure with a pump is the motor and this is usually caused by either a leak that goes unnoticed or the collection of mud and debris around the bottom. Both of these problems are easily avoidable by simply keeping the area around the pump clean. Almost all pumps are sitting on a concrete pad and if the pad is visible, leaks are easily detected. An undetected leak will introduce water to the inside of the motor via the motor’s shaft. This water causes the bearings to rust and then the motor becomes very noisy. I find that the average lifespan of a motor is around five years. Motors usually carry a one year warranty and very few will fail in that amount of time, even from a shaft seal leak. Occasionally I find a motor that is way older than the average. Just a few weeks ago, I found a Polaris Booster Pump that was manufactured in 1986 and it had finally failed after more than 25 years of service. That is unbelievable!
The other way to ruin a pump is by operating it with no water in it. We call this “running it dry”. When a pump is left running for hours with no water in it, the parts inside get extremely hot. Any small amount of water inside of the pump begins to boil and steam. This steam enters the plumbing, causing warping of the pipes and valves. In an extreme case, the pipes will lose their seal with the pump or the valves may leak through the stem where the handle is attached. Running the pump dry can also cause the pump basket to melt and it will cause the shaft seal to begin leaking. Very rarely will the damage be so great to require complete pump replacement, but many times there are multiple parts that must be replaced.
Filters are pretty resilient, but there are certainly situations that can arise. I would suggest that a cartridge filter tank will last for ten years or more, but the actual element that filters the water will only last a few years. A D.E. filter tank should give you about the same ten years of service. The grids that are inside of a D.E. filter, when taken care of properly, should last about five years. A sand filter should give you at least ten years before needing replacement. The sand inside of the tank may need to be replaced at around five years.
There is one major event that will harm any pool filter and that event is flooding of the pool. When I mention flooding, I’m sure you think that I am crazy, but just a couple of months ago we had rain that caused flooding in a few pools. During a major rain storm, a lot of mud can be washed into a pool. This mud will evenly distribute into the water and then the filter starts removing it. The problem is that a filter cannot remove such a large amount of material, and on top of that, the dirt in Georgia is a clay. Once the clay has coated the filter media, water cannot flow through it. This causes very high pressure and possible failure of the tank or internal components.
Heaters are a magnet for rust. The base of the heater needs to be kept clean and free from debris. It is important to make sure the pad is visible and that there is no buildup of dirt around the heater cabinet. Even if you keep the heater area clean, I think you should expect about 15 years out of the appliance. Most heaters last about ten years before needing replacement and poorly maintained heaters may only last five years.
A rusted out cabinet is the biggest reason for replacement, but it is not the only source for concern. The most expensive component inside of a pool heater is called the heat exchanger. It sits closer to the top of the heater and consists of several copper tubes that run from one side to the other. These tubes transfer the heated air to the water flowing inside of them. The heat exchanger accounts for about 75% of the price of the heater, so this is a component that you don’t want to fail. Fortunately, there are only a couple of ways to make a heat exchanger fail. The first is to let it freeze. The freezing can occur if we have cold weather and your pump is not circulating water through the heater. The second way the exchanger can fail is from poor water chemistry. The copper tubes are very susceptible to erosion from poor water chemistry.