Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Winter Pool Care

It’s that time of year again – the time to trade in flip flops and swimsuits for boots and scarves. The dreaded day of closing the pool has arrived, and now it’s time to prepare for winter.

Although the pool has been covered, that doesn’t mean that it can be completely forgotten about until it’s time to open up in the spring.  There are several steps that can be taken to make sure your pool is prepped for winter and will be in top shape for opening.
A Good Cover
The better the cover you put on your pool, the better your chances for an easy pool opening. Both solid and mesh safety covers do a great job of keeping debris like leaves, sticks, and the occasional wayward animal out of your water. Merlin’s patented SmartMesh™ Safety Cover technology provides 100% shade, which inhibits the growth of algae and other contaminants. This makes it nearly impossible for algae to grow under the cover.

Periodically throughout the colder months, it is a good idea to check on your cover to make sure that everything is working properly. Keep an eye out for anything that looks out of the ordinary or potentially harmful to your pool or cover, like large sags, loose straps, or any wear of the cover on the coping. These issues should be addressed immediately. 

Water Levels
Inspecting the water level on a pool is imperative – even during the winter. Never drain your pool completely when winterizing. The water is needed for both the liner and the cover to function at their best. It is important to check the water level from time to time, even in the winter, to make sure it is at the appropriate level. Do not lower it more than 18 inches from the deck level. Also, keep the water below the tile on a concrete pool.  An automatic pump can be placed on your steps to help maintain these proper levels.
Remove Debris
If your pool is surrounded by many trees, leaves falling around the pool area and onto your cover are going to be inevitable. A covered pool will keep leaves out of the water, but they tend to accumulate on top of the cover.  In order to make sure that falling leaves and branches do not harm it, take the time to remove the debris off of the top of the cover.  This is as simple as using a leaf blower to remove them. Make sure not to use anything sharp that could puncture the cover.
Allowing leaves and debris to collect and remain on your cover can create a situation like a steeping tea bag which can result in a pool opening mess.
Checking the Pump
Some covers come equipped with pumps that take the water off of the top of a cover. This pump should be checked regularly to make sure that it is properly removing the water. Without this, too much water can accumulate, putting stress on the cover.  If too much weight is left on the cover, this will cause it to over-stretch and reduce its useful life.

Following all of these steps will aid in a better pool opening, and will also increase the longevity of your cover.  A safety cover that is taken care of can last for many, many years. Good luck with and have a safe winter!

At Merlin Industries, Inc. we take pride in both our mesh and our solid Safety Covers.  We offer several different types of mesh safety and solid covers, as well as our patented SmartMesh™. SmartMesh™ features a high-tech weave that allows water to pass through while providing 100% shade and filtering debris to 40 microns. All of these covers have different colors to choose from.  We provide measuring and installation training to our independent dealers and installers. For more information, visit www.merlinindustries.com.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why Do I Need a Safety Cover?

Although the summer heat is still a-blazing, it is not too early to start thinking about how to cover your pool for the winter months.  There are many options on the market, which can leave pool owners confused and feeling unsure about what is the best for their pool.  Ultimately, they can really benefit from the installation of a safety cover.

 What is a Safety Cover?

A safety cover is a swimming pool cover that has been designed to protect your pool and your loved ones as well as maintain a very clean look during the winter.  Safety covers are custom-made so they stay taut and tight over your pool. The cover is secured in by crisscrossed straps attached to springs and anchors installed into the surrounding area.

 What types of Safety Covers exist?

Safety covers made from mesh can filter rain and melting snow through the cover and keep large debris out of the water, but allow sunlight through the material which can allow algae to form during the off season.  Merlin SmartMesh™ covers are different in that they have the ability provide 100% shade for the pool, creating less of a chance for algae and bacteria to grow, helping to make pool openings faster and smoother. Mesh safety covers are lightweight and are easy to put on in the winter and to remove once it’s warm.

Solid safety covers are made from a heavier material, but completely block out all of the sunlight, also making it practically impossible for algae to grow beneath the surface.  Since there is nowhere for rain water or melted snow to go, an automatic pump or a drain panel accompany a solid safety cover.

Why choose a Safety Cover?

Many families tend to choose safety covers to prevent access to the pool by small children and pets during the off season. Both solid and mesh safety covers are more than strong enough to hold the weight of a child if they wandered onto the cover as well as two adults to walk onto the cover to rescue.  Safety covers create a peace of mind for families that their loved ones will be safe and that the yard or pool area can still be utilized in the winter. In fact, they can even support a car!

Once the weather gets nicer, many pool owners want their pool ready for use as soon as possible.  SmartMesh™ and solid safety covers require less cleanup and can eliminate issues with the water once the pool is uncovered, leading to quicker opening times.

Safety covers are tailor-made to make sure that the cover is an exact fit for each pool.  Safety covers can also be made to accommodate unique shapes, water features, steps, and other different configurations that a pool may have. This ensures that your pool will be completely covered and the investments you have made in your pool will be protected too.

At Merlin Industries, Inc. we take pride in both our mesh and our solid Safety Covers.  We offer several different types of mesh safety and solid covers, as well as our patented SmartMesh™. SmartMesh™ features a high-tech weave that allows water to pass through while providing 100% shade and filtering debris to 40 microns. All of these covers have different colors to choose from.  We provide measuring and installation training to our independent dealers and installers. For more information, visit www.merlinindustries.com.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The recovery continues...

Living at the Jersey shore, I enjoy the smell of the ocean and bay, seagulls announcing their presence in the morning and grabbing some one claw lobsters for $5 a piece for an impromptu BBQ on the weekend.  Along with what I love, I unfortunately also have to live with the disappointment that people still think Snooki is really from the Jersey shore, its $9 to get on the beach and that currently, many families are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy.  That was never more evident until  today when I drove by a vacant bay front lot with a tent pitched on it where the house used to stand. 

At Merlin Industries, Inc. for our 2013 production season we decided to put together a donation program centered around our vinyl liner product line.  Merlin Industries, Inc. pledged $10 for each Hurricane Sandy designated liner pattern sold to be donated to the American Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.  This $10 was then matched by our partners (listed below) resulting in up to $40 per liner to be donated for three different liner patterns up until June 30th of this year.  This program raised a total of $12,910.00!  We were amazed by its success and we want to once again thank all of those who supported this program through matching donations and choosing the qualifying liner patterns named after hurricane effected areas like Atlantic City, Breezy Point and Seaside Heights.

When we set out to promote this program in January, while the storm was still really "top of mind", we actually received some negative feedback regarding where the money was to be donated.  It seemed as though the American Red Cross had some people concerned with where their money goes and how it gets spent.

When we decided to move forward with this program we researched various charities including the American Red Cross through sites like Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org) which are well know as a watch groups for charities and USA Today even recommended using to evaluate a charity in an article published on that very subject.  With 92.2 percent of the money donated going toward the community or fund, and knowing that our dealers and consumers from across the nation would recognize the organization, we felt confident that the American Red Cross was the best charity to partner with.

This past Friday, 8-9-13, I had the pleasure along with our President, Andy Maggion, to visit the Jersey Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross and present the funds raised from our Hurricane Sandy Relief Program. We learned a lot about how the American Red Cross operates from Chief Development Officer, Jennifer Anderson.

We spent over an hour and a half touring the regional warehouse, offices and conference areas (some of which were converted to shelters for volunteers and employees during and after the storm) along with the regional command center where personnel communicated with volunteers in the field and local emergency responders and federal officials up until only a short period of time ago.

We saw where the money was going.  Water, blankets, cots, clean-up kits, buckets, food, medical supplies, tractor-trailers full and ready to deploy to set up 800 or 500 bed shelters with all items necessary.  We learned how fast items come into this warehouse and go back out into the field all with volunteer labor and assistance.  We learned how the chapter partners and trades services and items with our local military installments and how they are involved in soldiers returning home from Afghanistan and abroad.  We learned how they respond to help victims of local disasters like house fires, of which they had just mobilized the night prior to our arrival.

What we did not realize, and where I think some of their negative PR is generated from, is that they cannot mobilize until they are requested.  Even for a house fire, their services must be requested by local emergency personnel.  In the days following Sandy, I saw the very same American Red Cross vehicles I am standing in front of above, in the field delivering supplies, but for those effected who did not personally see the American Red Cross involved, many question how or if they helped.  Without permission from local officials, they could not mobilize into those areas.

At the same many people want to know why all the money collected has not been spent yet.  As of April 18th 2013, the American Red Cross had collected approximately $302 million dollars and had spent $192 million.  What people need to understand is that this recovery effort is far from over.  People are still not back in there homes, many homes are literally gone and tons of homes now need raised to meet current FEMA flood guidelines.  We spoke to the chapter's Case Review/Intake Supervisor of the NJ Hurricane Recovery Program, Ellen Korpar and watched her team hard at work reaching out to victims to provide temporary housing and funds to help them get back on their feet and she explained that they are provided lists of new people who need assistance all the time.  Requesting assistance is key and I would recommend contacting your local American Red Cross Chapter to see if you qualify for additional assistance.  If you don't ask, you will never know.  Ellen also pointed out that their are many other groups such as The Catholic Charities and others who have funds and resources available to help.  What she also told us is that many people her team contacts thank them for reaching out, but tell them they are doing o.k. and want to make sure their efforts are used for people in more dire need.  Those are the people that truly are "stronger than the storm!"

We would like to thank all of our partners who donated to the cause during this program.  First our suppliers, Canadian General Tower, LTD., i2M Corporation and O' Sullivan Films.  Our distributor partners, Blue Water Products, Jet Line Products, Nucci Brothers Pool Supply and Pool Corporation.  Our dealer partners, Add-On Pools, Blue Ribbon Pools, Liner Specialists, Paradise Pools and Spas NJ, Ohio Pools, Sundance Pools, The Pool Man and Westrock Pools and Spas.  

We would like to thank the American Red Cross and all its personnel and volunteers who provide assistance to our military men and women and their families as well as to those who fall victim to disaster through no fault of their own.

For more information about the American Red Cross visit www.redcross.org.  For more information on Merlin Industries, Inc. visit www.merlinindustries.com.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I dont use chlorine, I have a salt water pool.

Honestly only a very small number of pool owners can truthfully make the above claim, which we will explain in a few minutes. 

Salt chlorine generators have been around for decades, however their popularity has just mushroomed in the last 5 or 6 years.

What most people don't realize is that the purpose of the salt chlorine generator is to do what its name suggests, generate chlorine from salt water.  Some of the confusion most likely stems from these systems only being referred to as Salt generators.  Since chlorine is not mentioned in the name, pool owners don't think their pool uses any.  Also, because chlorine tablets or granules are not regularly used anymore, pool owners again don't realize or are not knowledgeable of how a salt chlorine generator works and what it does.   For the record, a "salt generator" or whatever you want to call it, creates hypo-chlorous acid from salt water using electrolysis.  Hypo-chlorous  acid sounds like some scary stuff right?  Well its the same stuff that chlorine tabs or granules releases into your pool water when they dissolve so don't be alarmed.

Lets talk about the differences in salinity levels of a "salt water pool" verses a pool with a salt chlorine generator.

True salt water pools, of which there are very few, will have salinity levels like ocean water.  Now ocean water salinity levels can vary from ocean to ocean but for a nice round number lets use 35,000ppm.  That's pretty salty!  The recommended salt level for a pool using a salt chlorine generator is about 10 times less than that at around 3,500ppm.  At 3,500ppm the feel and taste of the salt is still present but not nearly as much as it is in the ocean.

So hopefully that clears up the miss-conception regarding "salt" swimming pools.  Pools utilizing salt generators are generating chlorine, not salt!   Always remember that water balance with a salt chlorine generator is as important as a pool that uses chlorine tabs.  PH, Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness, Stabilizer, Etc. are all still important parts of your water balance and need to be maintained properly to insure the safety of your swimmers and the longevity of your pool.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Things to know when Shopping for a Spa/Hot Tub Cover

All Spa Covers are not created equal. Although seemingly uncomplicated, there are a variety of factors that are important when choosing a Spa Cover to fit your needs. In order to be a conscious consumer and make an educated decision about your Spa Cover choice, make sure to pay attention to these five factors:

1.        Shape/Size

We will start with the obvious. Take a look at your Spa and ask yourself if a conventional cover is appropriate? If your spa is backed into a corner too tightly, a traditional cover may not work. If you have a large in-ground spa or one with unusual coping or a raised wall, a standard cover will not work. In these cases, it is best to have a custom cover made to fit your specific spa rather than trying to force a conventional cover. 

2.      Safety features

Not all spa covers are technically “safety” spa covers, meaning they may not conform to A.S.T.M. standards (The American Society for Testing Materials). A.S.T.M. is an international organization that sets product safety standards to promote product quality and build consumer confidence worldwide. The pool and spa industry conforms to these standards in identifying any safety product as such.  This might be important if you have small children or have a Spa that is not in a gated area of your backyard. Floating spa covers are not considered “safety” spa covers. Depending on the type of foam inside, some traditional spa covers may not meet safety standards either. Decide if your situation requires a “safety” spa cover prior to starting your search.

Also note that there are other products that can provide additional safety features to your hot tub such as a Hold-Down Kit (pictured below), which is comprised of easily removable, yet locking straps with which you can anchor your spa cover down when not in use.
3.      R-Value

Now we will get into more technical details of a spa cover that you may not be familiar with, but that absolutely affect the functionality of your cover. The R-Value of a spa cover has to do with the energy efficiency and ultimate cost-savings of using your spa. Technically, an R-Value is a measure of Thermal Resistance, or the ability of a material to resist the conduction of heat flow through a solid. When a cover has an R-Value attached, it is referring to the foam on the inside of the cover and its ability to insulate the heat inside your spa. Most manufacturers offer varying grades of spa covers, which are made with different thicknesses and densities of foam. The higher the R-Value, the better energy efficiency and cost-savings the cover provides. If you live in a colder climate or your spa is outdoors, the R-Value of the cover you choose will be more important than if you live in Florida for example or have an indoor spa. Below are standard R-Values for different tapers and densities of foam:

4.     Taper 

The taper of a spa cover refers to the decrease in thickness of the inside foam. For instance, a spa cover can have a 3” to 2” inch taper which for a two-piece spa cover means the inside foam will be 3 inches in center and taper down to 2” at the ends. This is important because the more tapered a cover is, the better rainwater will run off the cover which prevents pooling in the center. Other tapers include 4” to 2” taper, which would provide excellent water runoff, and 5” to 4” taper. It is important to notice that with less thick foam at the end of any taper, you are also decreasing the R-Value and insulation capabilities of the cover. You should pay attention to taper if your spa is not covered by a porch or roof and subjected to the elements. If you live in a climate subjected to heavy snowfall, you may want to choose a thicker foam taper that will more easily support weight.

5.      Internet vs. brick and mortar

Once you decide on the type of cover that fits your needs, the final question is where to purchase. With the internet, you aren’t required to leave the couch and you may find cheaper pricing. However, it is important to note the fallbacks with ordering a spa cover online. As I said before, not all spa covers are created equal… and neither are all spas. Precise measurements are critical to obtaining a cover that is an exact fit for YOUR spa. Pool and spa professionals are trained to measure radius corners and irregular coping and skirt lengths. You can be assured accurate measurements, and they can confidently tell you if a certain cover type will better fit your needs.

It is also important to note the warranty on any cover you buy online. Many internet spa covers do not have great warranties, and you run the risk of an internet company hiding behind anonymity if you do have a problem.

A spa cover is no off the shelf item. It is a purchase that should last you a while. Make sure you are educated about the facts and what is right for YOU prior to decision-making time.

View Merlin Spa Covers HERE

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

National Water Safety Month: Be Aware, Be Prepared

In the pool and spa industry, water safety is an essential, yet delicate topic of discussion. The continuous balance industry professionals face between making sure the public is educated to the responsibilities of pool ownership, yet not afraid to enjoy the classic American past time, comes to light each May for National Water Safety Month.

How can you as a pool owner make sure your backyard is a safe place this summer?

Pay Attention to Available Information.

A multitude of information on safely enjoying your swimming pool is provided by various manufacturers and agencies within the industry. With new purchases of pool equipment, liners, covers, and pool accessories safety information is provided via pamphlets and instruction manuals. Most of these materials will include tips to make your pool environment safe, procedures to know in case of emergency, proper diving techniques, and how to teach your children about water safety. It is important to read all this information and be prepared. You will enjoy your backyard oasis in a much more relaxed way if you know you are aware and prepared should an emergency arise.

The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (www.apsp.org) is dedicated to water safety and has excellent safety information available to consumers.
Invest in Safety Products.

The pool and spa industry has made significant strides in offering products to make swimming pools a safer environment.

Non-Permanent Safety Fence—Because this fence is easy to assemble, you can keep have it up as your children grow, and take it down after a few years, or leave it up during the week and take it down for your weekend pool party!
Pool Alarms— Pool alarms can be set to activate if a child falls into an unattended pool. Additionally, pool alarm technology has greatly advanced in the past few years, minimizing false alarms.

Safety Covers— Safety Covers are your best option for a worry-free winter. Typically installed and removed by a pool professional, it protects your pool from unauthorized entry during the colder months.

Proper Supervision.

Nothing can replace the safety and security of attentive human supervision.

Water safety is not just the pool owner or pool builder's responsibility. It is the responsibility of the entire community to become educated and remain aware at all times. Don't be afraid to create the backyard you've always imagined, but learn to enjoy it safely.
View Merlin's line of Safety Covers and Safety Fencing at www.merlinindustries.com 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hurricane Sandy - Swimming Pool Aftermath

(Photos courtesy of Millennium Pools and Spas, Pt. Pleasant, NJ)

Hurricane Sandy, Super-storm Sandy, Post-Tropical Depression Sandy, no matter what you call it, the aftermath of the October 28th and 29th storm was nothing like I ever could have imagined it would be.  Living on the Jersey Coast, I was lucky and saw very little damage to my house or pool.  I have however witnessed first hand the semi and total destruction of homes, hotels, boats, cars and the subject of this blog post - Swimming Pools.

We have received a good number of emails and phone calls from both pool owners and pool dealers looking for advice on what to do about vinyl lined swimming pools which were under water during the storm.   Many pool owners have not even begun to evaluate the damage to their swimming pools and the timing of this post is relevant as we approach swimming pool opening season.

When it comes to Sandy flooded vinyl lined pools, removing the "contaminated" water is a good idea.

Pools flooded with ocean water look and smell a lot different than pools flooded with back bay, lagoon or river water but they both have reasons for a water change. 

The photos shown here are of a pool on a river which connects to the Barnegat Bay in New Jersey.  The water color itself tells you it needs to be removed from the pool.  This was a definite drain, clean and refill situation.  Contaminants in the back bays such as marine fuel, engine oil and such are  a reason why many pools will need to be cleaned and re-filled or have their liners replaced.  We have also seen pictures of some really strange staining issues related to the storm.

Draining a vinyl lined pool in order to perform this clean-out may not be an option depending on how old the liner is.  As a liner ages it will loose some pliability.  This is normally not an issue for normal operation of the pool, but when the water is removed and then refilled, the liner may not have the ability to stretch like when it was first installed.  The liner pictured here was less than 5 years old and had plenty of life left in it.  If you are thinking of draining your vinyl lined pool, you should consult with your pool company to determine if your liner will be ok after it is drained and re-filled.  Depending on the age of the liner, the amount of U.V. (Sun) exposure, and your chemical habits, your liner may not survive this type of clean-up and you may need a new liner in order to clean up your pool.

Pools flooded by ocean water present different reasons for draining and refilling.  Although not riddled with contaminants like the back bays post storm, ocean water presents a problem because its salinity level is around 35,000 parts per million.  This is very corrosive and if left in a swimming pool can cause a number of problems with equipment and the swimming pool itself.  Pools using salt chlorine generators operate at a salinity level of 2800 to 4500, far less than ocean water levels.  Ocean water also carries lots of micro-organisms which can lead to all types of fun algae blooms which is why it is good to shower off and rinse toys used at the beach before they or you enter a swimming pool.

If this storm affected you or someone you know, we wish you our best and hope that you are on the road to recovery.  Visit our website to see what we are doing along with our vendor, distributor and dealer partners to help the cause.
Merlin Industries, Inc. Hurricane Sandy Relief Program