Saturday, January 31, 2009

Freeze Guards

It seems appropriate, given the time of year, that this first post should address proper operation of your pool's Freeze Guard. Dallas pools all have a Freeze Guard mechanism of some sort. And part of what your Dallas pool service should do for you is to make sure that your Freeze Guard works BEFORE the first freeze.

If you have a computer for your pool, then your Freeze Guard, or Freeze Protect function is automated, and is dependent upon selections you make on a Freeze Protect menu. Often, the only place to observe whether the Freeze Protect function is operating properly is from inside the house. Many of the computer systems don't provide a readout display at the Service Panel, which is all your pool service has available to them. So a little help from you, checking a couple of indications can make all the difference in ensuring a smooth, trouble free winter. This is how it's done:

There is an Air Temperature Sensor, usually located at the pool equipment, often times directly under the computer's Service Panel out there. This sensor is where we get the Air Temp data you see displayed on your panel in the house - or on your handheld remote, if you have a wireless system. It tells us the outside air temperature year around, and tells the computer when to turn on the Freeze Protect in the winter time.

An easy way to test to see if the Temperature Sensor is doing it's job is to just compare the Air Temp displayed with the actual air temp. If the reading is close, within a few degrees, then you're good to go. If it's not, then here are the things to look for:

1. Is the Temperature Sensor in the sunlight? That's usually why they tuck the sensor up under the computer Service Panel, to keep it out of direct sunlight so that you get an accurate temperature display. If it's in the sunlight, tuck it back a little further and re-check the displayed temperature in about an hour (updating isn't instantaneous because displayed value is averaged  value).

2. Are the pumps running while you're seeing this out of spec temperature reading? I've seen the situation on several Dallas pools where the heat radiated by the pump motor will affect the temperature at the Sensor by as much as 10 degrees. Often, the computer Service Panel is located directly above the pumps. Often, too, on pools in the Park Cities and Preston Hollow, it's more likely there will be more than just the filter pump, with as many as two or three additional pumps to drive water features, spa jets, things like that. If this is the case, then it may be necessary to relocate the Temperature Sensor to an area away from the pumps, yet still shaded from direct sunlight. If you hear your pool turning on and off during the nights when there is freezing weather, this is most likely the case, as the area around the pumps heats up just enough to turn the Freeze Protect off, then turns back on when that heat dissipates. If this is happening, then you need to contact your Dallas pool service company to correct this issue.

3. Some systems have a calibration capability for the Air Sensor. Also, on some of the systems the temperature at which the Freeze Protect kicks on is adjustable. Jandy systems allow you to adjust the Air Temperature Sensor in a range of 8 degrees; 4 up or 4 down from it's present reading. Also, you can adjust the Freeze Protect temperature in a range between 34 and 42 degrees.

Here's a link to the Jandy Owner's Manual. Look on page 36 for the Temp Calibration Procedure and on page 34 for the Freeze Protect adjustment procedure. These are two of the more popular Jandy controllers. If your indoor controller looks like this, then you have a Jandy.

jandy aqualink all button submitted by Park Cities Pools & 4 Seasons Pools, Dallas Pool Service Companies

jandy aqualink one touch submitted by Park Cities Pools & 4 Seasons Pools, Dallas Pool Service Companies

Here's a link to the Pentair Owner's Manual. Look on page 45 for the Temp Calibration Procedure. The Freeze Protect is set to come on at 35 degrees and is not adjustable. All the more reason to make sure that your Air Temperature Sensor has been calibrated going into the cold winter months.

Here's a link to the Hayward Goldline Owner's Manual. Now, Goldline doesn't have a way to calibrate the Temperature Sensor. But the Freeze Protect temperature can be set to come on anywhere from 33 to 42 degrees. So, there's a way to adjust your Sensor if you find that it's just a few degrees off. Go to page 19 & 20 and read the section for Filter Pump Config. You'll see that on page 20, there's an icon for Freeze Temp. This is where you set Freeze Temp globally for your system. Notice that the icon prior to Freeze Temp is Freeze Enable/Disable. You have the option of setting Freeze Enabled for any device controlled by the Goldline computer, but Freeze Temp can only be set under the Filter Pump Config. Good to know, eh?

There's something else about Hayward Goldline computers that's unique, and not so much in a good way. Back on page 19 & 20, when you were looking at the Freeze Protect temperature setting, the icon above it was Freeze Enabled/Disabled. Make sure that's enabled. Hayward Goldline is the only computer that allows you to turn off the Freeze Protect function for the filter pump. The other two that we've talked about - which, along with Hayward, probably represent 98% of the market - don't allow you to change that setting. The filter pump is always assigned to Freeze Protect.

And that's a good thing. Why? Because as much as you're protecting the filter pump from freezing up, you're protecting the filter, the automatic cleaner booster pump and especially the heater. Freeze damage to the heater is the most expensive, and the most common freeze related damage. You have to have really cold temperatures with the Freeze Protect off to do any real damage to the filter or the pumps. But heaters, especially older heater with cast iron headers, are very susceptible to freeze damage.

So, you NEVER want your filter pump Freeze Protect disabled, especially here in the Dallas area.

Which brings us to those other pumps on your equipment pad. You need to check to make sure they're assigned to Freeze Protect. Even f they were initially assigned when the computer was installed, if your computer gets reset, then they're no longer assigned.

To assign items to Freeze Protect on the Jandy Aqualink, go to page 34 of the Owner's Manual.

To assign items to Freeze Protect on the Pentair Easy Touch, go to page 37 of the Owner's Manual.

To assign items to Freeze Protect on the Hayward Goldline, you have to review each item in the Configuration Menu and enable the Freeze Protect. You'll find the details about the Configuration Menu on pages 17 through 29.

It's always a good idea to assign the Spa Mode to Freeze Protect along with the pumps that you want to protect. That way, the automatic valves will periodically rotate between Pool Mode and Spa Mode, keeping water moving in all of the above ground plumbing.

Easy, huh? Having a computer to operate your pool and spa sure makes life easier when you want to get in the spa at nine o'clock at night. No going out to the dark equipment pad and moving valves and lighting heaters and such. But along with that ease of operation comes a bit more responsibility when the weather turns cold. And taking time to meet that responsibility will save you lots of money in the long run.

If you have a time clock and Freeze Guard, you actually have less things to check than the computer owners. On this type of installation, the Freeze Guard element is almost always a coil of copper wire. It will usually be located inside of the Freeze Guard enclosure, or if you have a combined Freeze Guard with Timer, it will be behind a panel in the Timer enclosure.

They will often have a dial where you can select the temperature that you want the Freeze Guard to come on. I'm fond of setting it a few degrees above freezing, like 35 or 36 degrees. That way if there's any variance in the element or in the surroundings, you've got a little cushion. Here are some examples of what you might see in your back yard. The one on the left is the Intermatic PF1102 Freeze Guard only. On the right, the PF1202 Dual Timer w/ Freeze Guard. They're probably the most common type used out there today.

pf1102 submitted by Park Cities Pools & 4 Seasons Pools, Dallas Pool Service Companies

pf1202 Dual Timer submitted by Park Cities Pools & 4 Seasons Pools, Dallas Pool Service Companies

The simplest and most straightforward way to check your Freeze Guard is to wait until the first cold night of the year and wait and see if it turns on when the temperature gets down to the temperature that you've set for it to come on. It's that simple.

There are other ways that require you to disassemble the Freeze Guard enclosure, identify the Freeze Guard thermostat coil and place a piece of ice against that coil. But that's best left to your Dallas pool service company. It's never a good idea to start taking apart electrical enclosures unless you're familiar with that kind of work.

And that's Freeze Guards.