Although the warming temperatures may be giving us hope for Spring on the horizon, little Groundhog Phil saw his shadow, forecasting another six weeks of winter and potentially freezing temperatures.

Aside from the not-so-reliable meteorology report from Phil, the average final freeze can extend all the way through mid-March. As you can guess, freezing temperatures and pool equipment do not mix well. Before offering preventive measures pool owners can take, let’s explore the damage that can ensue from a freeze.

The Reality of a Freeze

The majority of pool plumbing is constructed of PVC plastic which can’t withstand water expansion as it freezes to ice. Cracked pipes cause extreme damage not only to the returns and suction side of your system, but from an aesthetic perspective, as well. Most pool plumbing is buried beneath the concrete deck surrounding your pool. With no way of visually seeing the damaged pipes, the deck must either be ripped up or tunneled to detect the source of the problem. Repatching pool surrounds are costly and often noticeable.

And don’t think that if you have an in-ground plastic skimmer that you’re off the hook. These systems are sunk in concrete and surrounded by rebar, so if that system cracks during a freeze, it can cost anywhere from $1200 to $1700 to remove and replace.

Aside from the inner workings of your pool system, there are the visual components as well: the pumps and filters. During a freeze, these systems can completely split in half. The headaches that will undoubtedly follow can included, but are not limited to:

  1. Buying a whole new filter because often the filter tank can’t be sold separately, OR
  2. Finding hidden cracks within the lining of the pump pipes because the inside impeller has broken due to the freeze. While the outside housing of the pump shows no indication of a problem, the whole system is now ineffective.

There is one more system that can suffer severe damage from a freeze: pool heaters. The three parts that need your particular attention are:

  1. The exchanger. This is the copper tubing that actually transfers the heat to your pool water. These bad boys can cost up to $1400 to replace, so keep these protected.
  2. The headers. These are the high temperature materials found at the ends of the exchanger that redirect the water flow to and from the pool to the exchanger. Due to their positioning, these will normally freeze before anything else.
  3. The pressure switch tube. The main function of this tube is to operate the switch to turn off/on the heater once there is enough water flow. It’s a very thin copper tube which makes it very susceptible to freezing.

Preventive Measures

With all of the consequences laid out, you’re probably ready to hear how to prevent these pricey issues. If you know there is going to be a freeze, set your pool to run 24 hours a day. Flowing water has a much lower chance of freezing, so having the system on will help protect your plumbing.

If you want to double down on your preventative measures, take advantage of the “freeze protectors” that are on the market. These systems are fairly inexpensive and have the potential to save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in costly repairs. They work by turning on your pool equipment when it’s a few degrees above freezing to protect the plumbing system, offering features like a built-in timer, as well.

Worst Case Scenario 

Should you discover that your equipment isn’t running due to a power failure or a freeze protector malfunction, you absolutely need to tarp the equipment to create some warmth.

Take the lid off the pump, remove all drain plugs, and summon up those old superstitions. Once the temperatures rise above freezing, you may discover that your old rabbit’s foot hasn’t lost its charm after all.

Ice photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash