I've owned a pool all my life and I know the hassle of keeping it balanced and looking good. It's very important to continuously keep an eye on pool water chemistry or you could easily find yourself with a green or cloudy nightmare. What does “continuously” mean? Ideally, pool chemistry should be checked every day during the swimming season.
Realistically, if you don't use the pool every day, it's best to test the pool a few days before you plan to use it — that way you'll have time to make most common adjustments before letting your guests get wet.
Your pool water is delicate, and in order to reach perfect pool harmony, it must be balanced. Balance is achieved by maintaining proper pH, Alkalinity, and Hardness. A “balanced” pool means having a pH between 7.4 and 7.6, which is slightly above neutral on the pH scale. Alkalinity and Hardness can affect the pH, so think of them all as a 3-legged table.
pH can fluctuate daily from bathers, rain, and other chemicals, so it's important to test this one often. Alkalinity and Hardness can be tested less often; monthly is a good goal.
Chlorine is the most common form of pool sanitizer, but there are others you can use, including: Bromine (chlorine’s halogen cousin), Biguanide (Baquacil or SoftSwim), or Minerals (silver and copper).
I have only used Chlorine in all of my pools, primarily because it is cheapest and most readily available, so I can't comment on the benefits of the other methods.
Cyanuric Acid is used as a chlorine stabilizer. Sunlight naturally breaks down chlorine; stabilizer is like “chlorine sunscreen” that helps it last longer. Like everything else, there is a proper range for stabilizer. If it's too low, you'll waste money. If it's too high, your chlorine won't be as effective. More advanced kits include this test, or you can have it checked at your pool store.
Basic Test Kit
A basic test kit has two liquid reagents which test for Chlorine/Bromine and pH only. Test your water every day or two, but be sure to take a monthly water sample to your pool store for more advanced analysis.
Taylor K-1000 ~~ $15
Advanced Test Kit
An advanced test kit includes tests for all aspects of your water's chemistry. This kit is more accurate that a basic one because it uses titration instead of color matching (great option if you are color blind!).
This type of kit is often used by professionals and pool stores. If you don't want the hassle of taking a water sample to your pool store, you could consider getting one of these.
Taylor K-2006 ~~ $50
Test strips are a cheap and convenient alternative to a traditional test kit, but they less accurate and often hard to distinguish the color differences.
AquaChek Select Test Strips ~~ $15
Electronic Test Kit
For maximum accuracy, an electronic test kit gives results in seconds but the price is hefty.
Smart Pool Water Chemistry Monitoring
For maximum convenience, you can get a smart device that continuously monitors your pool water chemistry and notifies you when to take action. This product has a subscription level that also includes free chemicals.
pHin Smart Pool Monitor ~~ price varies
Total Alkalinity: Yes*
Total Hardness: Yes*
Cyanuric Acid: Yes*
*At this time, these tests are done periodically during the calibration action.Shop for pHin
For more information on my experience with the pHin Smart Pool Monitor, click the button below:Learn More about pHin