How to Winterize Water Features

Learn what you need to do to get your water garden, pool and spa ready for winter weather.

September 04, 2019

Photo By: AquascapeInc.com

Photo By: Aquascape

Photo By: The Pond Guy

Photo By: The Pond Guy

Photo By: Viking Pools

Photo By: Cal Spas

Photo By: Cal Spas

Photo By: Swim University

Photo By: Cal Spas

Photo By: Swim University

Photo By: Swim University

Photo By: Swim University

Photo By: Swim University

Stop Feeding Koi

Early fall is the time to give fish a little extra food before their winter hibernation. This helps increase their metabolism before they enter hibernation. Once water temperature dips into the mid-50s, stop feeding fish. Pull any dying leaves on waterlilies and lift the tropical ones to store indoors in water through winter.

Waterfall Wisdom

In the coldest regions, shutting down a waterfall for winter makes sense for several reasons. You save on energy costs, extend the life of equipment and also avoid having ice dams form. A running waterfall in winter cools pond water quickly and to a greater depth, potentially lowering water temperature to a point that’s unhealthy for fish. In place of a waterfall, add an aeration system to the pond for winter to add air to the water.

Keep Leaves Out

Use a net to keep leaves from falling into pond water. A net stretched across the pond surface requires daily emptying when leaves are falling. A pond shelter-type kit supports netting on a frame that prevents leaves from ever touching the water. An elevated net is also easier to keep free of leaves. If leaves do land in water, scoop them out. Also keep the skimmer basket emptied of leaves. Decomposing leaves in a pond release materials that can harm fish and muddy the water.

No Ice Allowed

Keep an opening in ice that forms on the pond with a floating heater. An open spot in the ice protects fish by allowing harmful gases in the water out while letting oxygen in. In the coldest areas, it’s wise to have a back-up heater, along with a plan for storm-related power outages. If a solid sheet of ice forms on your pond, melt a hole by pouring hot water onto the ice. Do not pound on the ice. The sound waves stress fish, which leads to a compromised immune system and possibly death.

Winterizing a Spa

The first step in winterizing a spa is deciding if you want to close it down for the season or enjoy sitting in hot water surrounded by snow. If you opt for winter tubbing, review your manual’s instructions for use in freezing weather. Most spas have a freeze protection system. You may also need to set the spa’s auto heat mode to cycle on and off to keep water warm. A tight fitting cover prevents energy loss and keeps the heat where it belongs — in the water. Clean and drain the spa before cold weather arrives so it’s ready for winter use.

Above-Ground Spa

You can also run an above-ground spa through winter. If you decide to close it down for the chilly season, start with an inspection of the wood cabinet. Refinish wooden cabinets as needed. This task requires dry weather and warmth, so tackle this while autumn temperatures are still on the toasty side — and before fall rains arrive.

Drain Water Jets

To start winterizing, turn off the power, flush the system and drain the spa. Get any water out of the air jets. Use a shop vac to blow water out of the jets. Be sure to set any topside jets to the closed position before doing this task. Clean the spa shell. This will save you time in spring when you’re ready to fill the spa.

Use a Spa Cover

Count on a spa cover to protect a winterized, drained spa and to conserve energy in a spa that’s used through winter. Inspect your cover for any deterioration. If it’s in good condition, apply a protectant to both the inside and outside. Avoid using a silicone protectant on a vinyl cover because silicone breaks down vinyl. Once the cover is in place, secure the straps and lock the whole thing in place. For high wind areas, research hurricane spa covers.

Secure Spa Cover

Secure your spa by closing and latching any doors. Often thumbscrews are present to make it easy to secure doors. You might want to consider covering your spa for the winter with a cover that blankets both the water surface and cabinets. Using a cover like this helps keep snow melt or rain water from seeping into the spa and causing freeze damage.

Clean the Pool

The first step in closing an in-ground pool is to remove things like a diving board, rails, ladder or safety ropes. Remove the eyeball fitting from all return lines. Take time to vacuum the pool floor and clean the walls and any steps. Skim the water surface as well. You want your pool to get covered in as clean a condition as possible.

Drain Skimmer

Remove the baskets from your skimmers and test the water. Take a sample to your local pool dealer or use a home test kit. If your chemical ranges are a little high, that’s fine. During winter, the levels will likely drop. Make sure the pH is between 7.4 and 7.6, alkalinity is 100 to 150 ppm and sanitizer level is correct. Add the winterizing chemicals while your filter and pump are still up and running. You can buy a winter pill that helps keep water clean so your spring opening goes more smoothly.

Protect Ornamental Tile

It’s vital to blow out the pipes on an in-ground pool. Call a professional if you’re uncertain how to do this procedure — it’s what protects the water lines from freezing. Afterwards, plug the return jets and install a Gizzmo in the skimmer to prevent it from cracking. If you do these few tasks, you don’t have to drain the pool for winter unless you have ornamental tile edging the pool. In that case, drain water four inches below the tile.

Use a Pool Cover

Get your pool cover in place for winter. If you have a simple plastic cover, make sure there aren’t any rips or tears. Repair small tears by duct taping on both sides. For a safety cover, follow the manual instructions for installation. Use water tubes to keep the cover in place. They won’t harm the pool liner if they happen to tumble into the pool.

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