How do I know if my swimming pool is leaking?
It’s hard to keep water in a pool. Every swimming pool, spa, or landscape pond is probably going to leak at some point in its useful life. These pesky problems can be more than just an inconvenience. An un-repaired hole the size of a pencil tip can result in hundreds of gallons of water lost per day. In addition to the replacement cost of the water, leaks in your pool will increase chemical demands, and may lead to more serious structural and mechanical problems. Fortunately, effective leak location and leak repair solutions are available.
Pool leak symptoms resulting from water loss - By far the most common indication of a leak is that the water level is dropping faster than what is normally attributable to evaporation or splash-out. Often leaks are big enough that excess water loss is obvious. If you wake-up to find that your pool has dropped several inches overnight you know you’ve got a problem. The bigger challenges are the smaller, yet just as serious, leaks that may develop slowly. In these cases it is important to determine what is “normal water loss”, and thus avoid wasting time looking for and worrying about a leak that really isn’t there. A simple way to account for evaporation and confirm a leak is to do a Bucket Test, or for more accurate results to purchase and use a Check-A-Leak System.
If you have an automatic fill device on your pool, a dropping water level may not be evident. However, high water bills may be the first indication of a leak problem. You may also notice an increase in the chemicals required to maintain proper balance, or that there is excess algae growth because the new water that’s being put into the pool is untreated. Other pool leak symptoms may be actual evidence of the water that has escaped from your pool. Wet, mushy, or unusually “healthy” spots in the lawn may be evidence of underground plumbing leaks. Structural damage, cracks, and settling to the deck or pool may also be indications of underground leaks. If left un-repaired, these problems can quickly become more serious.
Air in the pump or blown into the pool - A pool leak in the suction side plumbing (from skimmers and main drains to equipment), may pull air into the plumbing lines that will show up in the pump or be blown back into the pool through the returns. Air leaks such as this can be just as damaging to your pool even though you may never notice symptoms of water loss. Evidence of air in the system can also be caused by a blockage or obstruction in the suction lines. Either situation will require professional attention to avoid causing mechanical damage to your pool equipment.
Finding and fixing your leak is the next step - Once you know you have a pool leak it’s time for action. The longer a leaking pipe, liner or pool shell is left un-repaired the more costly the eventual fix will be. You have options, some pool leaks can be easy to find and fix yourself. In most cases however a qualified, and experienced pool leak professional using sophisticated electronic equipment will be able to provide more efficient and effective pool leak location and pool leak repair solutions that get you back into the water quickly.
A good swimming pool leak detection expert will follow a systematic approach when locating you pool leak. The process involves collecting and analyzing a great deal of information. Knowledge of swimming pool operation and construction, use of specialized equipment, and on the job experience will all come into play as they locate leaks in your pool.
The first step for any pool leak detection job happens before the pool leak professional ever gets to your pool. You should be prepared to provide information about your pool or spa to the technician over the phone when you first call. When did you first notice the leak problems? How much water is losing, (based on the results of a bucket test)? How old is the pool? What type of pool is it? The more information you can provide about the suspected pool leak the better.
Based on this information, your technician should be able to give you an idea of what type of detection or repair will be required and schedule the job. Keep in mind that due to the nature of leak detection work this scheduled time may be somewhat flexible. Pool leaks are a seasonal problem in most parts of the country and those who are good at finding leaks are usually very busy.
Leak detection experts generally charge by the job or by the hour. Because of the specialized equipment and expertise required for leak work you should be prepared to pay a little bit more per hour for leak detection services than you would for most regular pool service activities.
Once a technician is at your pool, the first step usually involves a pressure test of your plumbing lines to confirm whether the leak is in the plumbing or the shell of the pool. This testing will be done with specialized test plugs and pressure induction systems that are designed to give quick results. Based on the results of the pressure test, the technician will then use a variety of tests involving sophisticated electronics or diving equipment to pinpoint the pool leak.
· Listening devices may be used to pinpoint the sound of pressurized underground plumbing leaks.
· Helium detectors may be used to find underground plumbing leaks if the soil conditions are such that noises can’t be made at the leak location.
· LeakTrac Vinyl Liner Leak Detectors use patented electronics to track vinyl liner leaks with a small electric current that is induced into the pool water.
· Hydrophones (underwater microphones), special dyes, and SCUBA diving equipment are used to find leaks in the shell of plaster and concrete pools.
Stuart Roaker, President - The Pool Therapist