Winterizing your pool in cold weather

While the weather right now is generally delightful and warm in Southeast Texas, it sure wasn’t that way a few weeks ago. Last month temperatures got down to the teens in The Woodlands and Conroe, weather that brought about parkas and broken PVBs. That’s why winterizing is important.

The hard freeze caused PVBs, which are also known as pressure vacuum breakers, to crack and break. This caused many customers to call our office for maintenance repairs. While we’re more than happy to attend to these repairs, there are steps you can take to prevent repairs from being needed in the first place.

Before discussing how to prevent your PVBs from cracking, let’s go over what a PVB is. A pressure vacuum breaker is a backflow device used in pools and home irrigation systems to keep contaminants from entering the public water supply. It keeps your pool water separate from water from your house and vice versa. Unfortunately, they are susceptible to damage or breakage in freezing weather. When the temperature gets to 37 degrees or lower (with the wind chill or without) your PVBs can crack. It’s a huge pain when they do, so here is how you can winterize them.

Keys to winterizing your pool

There are a number of steps homeowners can take to protect their PVBs from cracking due to freezing temperatures:

  • Drain all water from the corresponding pipes: While advice for underground plumbing in your house is to have water trickling from faucets to keep water moving in your pipes and not freezing, that logic doesn’t apply here. The pipes running from your pool aren’t thick enough for that to work, therefore the water is susceptible to freezing. Since frozen water expands, PVBs can burst. So drain the water completely so there’s no water that can freeze, expand, and cause chaos. This tip, along with others, can be found in this article by Pentair.
  • Wrap your PVB in insulation: During a freezing event, a few degrees can make the difference between a cracked PVB and a healthy one. That’s why it’s important to wrap the PVB in a towel or blanket after the pipes are drained. The wrapping will keep the PVB warm, which will help keep it safe in the cold weather. That tip can also be found in this article.
  • Make sure pool equipment continues to run: While you want to clear your PVBs of water, that doesn’t mean turning off your pool entirely. It’s important to keep your pool running to keep the computerized systems active in regulating the temperature of the pool and maintaining the water chemistry functions. Keeping the pool on will also keep the freeze protection on your computer system active and up to date. It also keeps pumps going manually and allows your pool to get quickly back to where it needs to be when temperatures rise. Also make sure your temperature sensors are in working order.

More on winterizing

We offer extra valving services so you can drain pipes completely in the event of a freeze. Also, read this article and this article for more tips on winterizing, and give us a call if you need help with cracked PVBs. Hopefully the worst of winter is over, but it’s always good to be prepared.

Meet Carlos Macias

We added a new player to our Ultimate Pools team, as we recently hired Carlos Macias as one of our primary salesman. Macias has worked in the swimming pool industry for over a decade in South Texas and greater Houston, mainly in Katy. Having worked both in pool construction and pool sales, Macias is ready to bring his expertise to the Ultimate Pools team.

“I love it so far,” Macias said. “What I want to do is listen to the customer and help them get the pool that they want to have. If you don’t listen to your customers then you aren’t going to make the sale and attract more customers. I’ve seen it happen — salesmen doing what they want to do and not satisfying the customer. They find that disrespectful, so I make sure I listen to what they want.”

Carlos Macias fell in love with swimming pools early, as he was a champion AAU swimmer growing up in Harlingen, Texas, down by the Rio Grande. It was in those days that he accidentally discovered that he had a talent.

“I was a swimmer in Harlingen and I was talking to one of the pool cleaners about the pool. He looked at me with a blank face and said that I should sell pools,” Macias said. “He said that I’d be great at it. I started working for South Texas Pools (in neighboring La Feria), learned the basics and discovered that I really enjoyed it.”

Macias has done other things in the years since, getting his pilot’s license for work in the oil and gas industry, but always came back to pools. He moved to Greater Houston and worked at Casey’s Pools in Katy before designing pools as a contractor for Gulf Water Pools, also in Katy. He plans on using that experience to help Ultimate Pools expand its base.

“My job is to go set up appointments, put designs on software, make sure everything is up to code,” Macias said. “I also want to have great relationships with subcontractors. I’ve learned that you’re only as good as your subs. Treat them like human beings and you’ll be good to go.

“I’m looking forward to working with (Ultimate Pools owner) Bryan (Stuart). I want to learn everything he’s learned and help him expand this business all over the area and state.”

Feel free to introduce yourself to Carlos. He can be reached via email at Carlos@whatsnextinc.com and reached at (832) 221-5412.

Prowler 920 is the next generation of robotic cleaners

Robotic cleaners are essential in keeping your swimming pool clean and clear of debris. That’s why we at Ultimate Pools are proud to offer Pentair’s newest cleaner, the Prowler 920. It uses a safe, low-voltage control unit to motor around the surface of your pool instead of relying on water power. That, plus its many brushes and mobility, make the Prowler 920 the next wave on the robotic cleaner market.

Want to find out more about the Prowler? Read below.

Inside the Pentair Prowler 920

The biggest difference between the Prowler and your typical suction cleaner is the process in which it moves. Suction cleaners use a water aspiration system that derives power from the pool’s plumbing. The pressure from the main filter pump and booster pump in the cleaner sucks water from the pool and sends it back through the return line. That water activates the gears in the turbine, which motors the cleaner like gears motor a wristwatch. During this process, an aspirating effect allows the cleaner to “suck” debris from water and send it into the cleaner.

Sounds kind of complicated, doesn’t it? Well, it kind of is, and there are a lot of parts that have to be maintained. You have to pay for the pump, cleaner and plumbing to use a suction cleaner, all elements that are unnecessary with the Prowler 920. It uses 12 volts of safe power to motor around the surface of the pool instead of depending on the power of the water pumps. The voltage is low enough and safe enough to take electrocution out of play, and you need less overall power to operate the cleaner.

Along with the electricity/power elements, here are some other benefits of the Prowler 920:

  • Multiple brushes: The Prowler has multiple brushes that not only cleans the present loose debris, but scrubs to expose more debris from the surface. While you’ll still need to scrub the surface of your pool on occasion, the Prowler will make those scrubbings less frequent.
  • Mobility: Along with having the multiple brushes, the Prowler can travel places other cleaners can’t. Instead of being confined to the bottom of the pool, the cleaner can climb the walls of the pool. From there, it can use its multiple brushes to clean the tile line. This provides a more comprehensive cleaning and also limits the amount of scrubbing you need to do along the walls.
  • Able to handle more debris: The Prowler has a top-loading basket to catch debris such as leaves, which provides a more complete cleaning experience than a suction cleaner. It also has a smaller basket for finer debris. In addition, it has two liners — including a pleated line that filters water in the cleaner — which makes for a more complete cleaning. While you’ll still need to skim your pool from time to time, the Prowler will help pick up what you can’t skim. It’s also easy to remove the accumulated debris from the cleaner.

It’s our 25th anniversary!

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On November 4, 1991, Bryan and Deborah Stuart set into motion what is now Ultimate Pools today. We are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the start of A Total Coverage. A Total Coverage is the outdoor improvement wing of What’s Next Inc. and Ultimate Pools.

The silver anniversary

The start of A Total Coverage was a humble one, as the Stuarts and their children hand-delivered fliers to get the word out about A Total Coverage’s sprinkler and irrigation systems. The business expanded into products and services such as landscaping, lighting, fencing and outdoor kitchens, and we were incorporated into What’s Next Inc. in March 1993. From there, the business has expanded into pool building, which is the foundation of what we do now.

But this isn’t a history lesson and, don’t worry, there won’t be an anniversary test. If you want one of those, check out the history page and read up. Instead, we’re thankful that we’ve been able to last for 25 years as a small family business and we are gracious that you have allowed us to be part of your community. We enjoy working in Montgomery County, Harris County, Greater Houston and Southeast Texas more than you know.

So, once again, thank you for being part of our silver anniversary as a company. We are proud of the 25 years that we’ve been in business and can’t wait for several more!

Home kitchens are a nice touch alongside your pool

While swimming pools are the bread and butter of Ultimate Pools, they are just the start of the services that us and our partners can provide. We’ve recently gotten into home kitchens, complete with the help of Jeff Thayer from Well Done Building Projects. An outdoor home kitchen, complete with a grill, sink, seating area and entertainment, makes your pool a great place for a “Staycation.” Therefore, Thayer has joined us to talk about the elements and the essence of home kitchens.

The last decade has seen a huge rise in the popularity of these kitchens, as homeowners are increasingly looking to add value to their home instead of buying a new one. While swimming pools are part of this process, a home kitchen increases property value and home enjoyment that much more.

“It started right around the time of the recession,” Thayer said. “Instead of spending 200 (thousand) on a new home, why not spend 30, 40, 50 to make your current home a better home? The last few years have seen people investing in their home and updating their home.”

According to Thayer, new homes are starting to adjust to the home kitchen trend. Many houses that are being built come with provisions for outdoor kitchens and similar additions, making the job easier. That job can be done either with a detached kitchen with a gazebo roof or with a kitchen that is attached to the house. Pool houses are also a popular request. When paired with a swimming pool, it creates an outdoor paradise that homeowners don’t want to leave.

Thayer works with our customers to draw up the ideal plans and with decorators to provide the best look.

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Elements of home kitchens

Gazebo roof and detached walls: Just because the home kitchen is outdoors doesn’t mean it’s completely open to the elements. Gazebo roofs protect your kitchen, porch, and seating area from the elements, be it hot sun or rain and wind. The detached walls also provide a bit of a separation from the main house. The roofs have a stained cedar column foundation with wood colors that match the house.

As for the walls, those are variable to the customer’s needs. Some want their kitchen completely enclosed; others want it completely open. The usual design is for 2-3 detached walls — made of cinder block or brick — with some open space.

Grill: You can’t have an outdoor kitchen without having anything to cook on, so let’s start with a grill. According to Thayer, the default grill is 36 inches, but larger sizes are available for an increased fee. Larger grills can go five to six feet long. Most customers request a sideburner, which is good for boiling crawfish or making sides to go along with the main course.

Most grills come with affixed storage areas for utensils and sinks for after-dinner cleaning. Some homeowners also request an area for a mini-refrigerator or freezer. All of these elements are typically stainless steel, making them resistant to elements and easy to clean. The stainless steel grill is built into a greater kitchen area that is made primarily of cinder, brick or cultured stone. These stones are picked to match the house so the kitchen and home are an external match.

Porch: One of the fundamental elements of home kitchens are a porch. These porches are constructed with a variety of veneer stones, tile or travertine and provide a surface for your seating area. Having a nice walking area, and an area for tables and seating, is essential.

Seating areas/perks

Whether you want a classic kitchen table or a living-room environment, seating areas are important. These areas, also known outdoor living areas, create a home outside the home that’s visible from your house. That provides an attractive area for you to relax and unwind in.

These areas are also where homeowners can get creative with their home kitchens. Here are some popular perks.

Televisions: Roughly 50 percent of customers want a television outside in their home kitchen, so the kitchens are designed it to incorporate such a thing.

“We go through the TV companies on stuff like that, because it’s an entirely separate industry,” he said. “We’ll work with DirecTV or the cable companies when it comes to that.”

Either way, home kitchens can turn into home entertainment centers. You can watch the game, grab a beer from the outdoor fridge and ice from an icemaker. It’s not a bad way to live.

Fire pits and fireplaces: These add to the vacation feel that is essential to a home kitchen. You can sit around a fire pit and cook s’mores or cuddle around the fire as if you’re at a ski lodge. Fireplaces can be built into the benchwalls of the outdoor pavilion to create a classy ambience.

Light fixtures: Wiring lights around your home kitchen not only allows you the ability to work outside at night, but also allows you to change the vibe. If you’re looking for romance or to party, light up your outdoor pavilion in style.

* Linked and embedded photos courtesy of Jeff Thayer and Amanda Oldham at Well Done Building Projects