Automatic pool covers are a popular and important safety feature for pools. The trouble is that they can be high maintenance. Since automatic pool covers can cost you anywhere between $10-15K, it is an investment you want to protect and maintain. Having an automatic pool cover means that you will benefit from a clean pool, heat conservation, and optimal safety. But what about the maintenance? What can you realistically expect when you get an automatic pool cover? Will you need professional help, or can you do it all yourself?
Automatic Pool Cover Maintenance
On a daily basis, you need to make sure that your cover is closed. An automatic cover pump should also be set-up and ready to go, in the event, there is any rain. If the pool is leaking significantly, then pool water levels may need to be maintained daily. Monitor the water chemistry and chlorine levels on a near-daily basis. Keeping the correct water balance and low chlorine levels are one of the best things you can do to protect an automatic pool cover and your pool. Salt systems are not recommended with automatic covers. These can increase the possibility of corrosion to the fabric, and aluminum parts. If you do have a salt chlorinator and an automatic pool cover, you need to rinse the tracks, pulleys, and reels monthly. In addition to this, test salt levels regularly to be sure the pool is not over-salinated.
Open the cover fully once per week. On a weekly basis, you need to have an automatic cover open for several hours. This lets any chlorine byproducts dissipate by gassing-off at the pool surface. Doing this every week will protect the cover material from corrosive chloramines. You also need to leave the cover open for several hours after each time you add large volumes of pool chemicals, and after shocking the pool. Each week you need to make sure that your water level is proper. If the water level goes below mid-skimmer, it places stress on the cover webbing, ropes, and tracks. Additionally, if it gets below the skimmer level, any added water weight on top of the cover adds exponentially more stress. For this reason, leaks in a pool must also be quickly fixed. Holes in the cover must also be repaired right away so water is not pumped out on to the surface. One thing you do not have to worry about is evaporation. Cleaning an automatic pool cover is easiest to do when the cover is dry or almost dry. When the cover is dry, a leaf blower works best to remove leaves and debris. , blowing Blow leaves from side to side or towards the leading edge end of the cover. Avoid blowing leaves into the cover box (the box where the reel is housed) as this can cause clogs in the equipment. If you do not have a leaf blower, you can also use a soft broom, or even the pool brush to clean along the edges.
If the cover is wet, a leaf blower doesn’t work as well. If there are inches of water and lots of leaves, it is best to start a dredging operation. Using a leaf rake with back and forth motions across the cover, you can scoop up debris and loosen any dirt or algae stuck to the cover. Set your pool cover pump(s), and pump off all of the water, or close to it. When most of the water is removed, start cleaning at the roller end of the cover first. Using a garden hose with a nozzle, hose-off the first 8 ft section, spraying the debris toward the opposite end of the cover. Use your pool brush to push leaves and debris away as needed. Then, roll up the cover 8 ft, and clean the next section. Continue this pattern across the entire cover. Then, scoop out the debris, while the cover pump removes the pool of collected water. Once all of the debris and 99% of the water is removed, you can roll the cover-up all the way. Keep rainwater pumped off as often as possible. Some automatic cover pumps are kept on the pool cover at all times, with a discharge length of garden hose attached. When plugged into an extension cord, these turn on when an internal float senses an elevated water level. The pump automatically shuts off when the water level
To protect your cover, there are THREE things you need to do at least once a year. In some cases, depending on use, climate, and condition of the pool water, you may need to do these two or three times per year. Clean out the Box. Prop open the cover lid and have the cover rolled out, or closed, to open up more room in the box. Use a leaf blower, or small broom to clean leaves and debris away. A dirty box attracts insects, mildew, and algae which is not good for the cover, motor, reel parts, or the box itself. You also need to make sure that the drain is clear and that the box is always drained of splash over and rainwater. Clean out the Tracks. Grit, sand, dirt, insects, and leaves will clog the tracks of the cover. Spray out the tracks with a high-pressure garden hose at least once per year. You may need to do this more often for desert or beach pools as they have more gritty sand or salty air blowing around. Tighten and Lube. An automatic pool cover motor can be either hydraulic or electric. In both cases, parts of the rope and reel system need to be checked for tightness and position. Grease fittings are common on the rope reels should be given a shot of fresh grease at least once a year. Drive chains should also be lubed with a light oil every year. Tracks and sliders are not lubed, but you should still check these once a year for tightness and position.
Automatic Pool Cover Repairs
Along with regular cleaning and maintenance, you will have to perform repairs on your automatic pool cover. New ropes, pulleys, and sliders will be required every five years. You can get all these parts from a dealer and can install them yourself or have the dealer take care of it. Materials cost is low unless other parts are needed. Expect to pay around $100, plus labor.
You should expect to get a new electric motor every 5 to 10 years. Hydraulic motors can last 20 years if properly maintained so you do not need to get those as often. Engagement cams on the reel shaft may also be replaced if worn but the majority of cams outlast motors. Drive chains will generally last close to 20 years, or until the chain snaps. An automatic cover motor replacement will cost you around $450, plus labor. Cover fabric replacement needs to be done between 8 to 10 years. at 8-10 years. Over time, the UV rays on the top, and chemical degradation from the bottom will degrade the fabric. The cover gradually becomes brittle, faded, and can begin to spring small leaks. Fabric replacement is not very DIY friendly, so look for a local rep or auto cover service company to do this for you. Auto cover fabric replacement can cost up to $2500, plus labor.
Regular maintenance and preventative measures will add years to all components of your automatic pool cover. This lowers your overall cost of ownership. In addition to the maintenance discussed above, there are a few additional tips to remember to get the longest life from your automatic pool cover:
- Do not use an automatic cover as a winter cover.
- Keep your water level proper.
- Regularly clean the keys to ensure automatic cover longevity.
Most care and maintenance of automatic pool covers can be done by any handy homeowner. You can even take care of some of the repairs too. Take care of your automatic pool cover so it can protect your pool and your family.