On this episode of "How to Speak Maintenance" host, Jason Fein with Camden, will be talking to our guest, Grant Almquist with Texas Apartment Pool Services. It's already hot in Texas and it is important that everyone on property be aware of how they can "speak maintenance" when it comes to the pool maintenance and safety.
[00:00] Jason Fein: Hello, good afternoon, and thank you for joining our discussion on how to speak maintenance, where we decode maintenance talk so that everybody can understand what pulls our maintenance teams in different directions. My name is Jason fine. I'm joined by Becca Ramati with TAAEF. Hello, Becca.
[00:17] Becca Ramati: Hi, Jason.
[00:19] Jason Fein: And today, our special guest is Grant Almquist, who is the owner of Texas Apartment Pool Services. Thanks for joining us, Grant.
[00:27] Grant Almquist: Happy to be here. Thank you.
[00:28] Jason Fein: Would you be willing to tell us about your company and how long you've been in the pool industry?
[00:33] Grant Almquist: Sure. Been in the pool industry for going on 26 years. Started the company seven or eight years ago. We are a full service pool company for the multifamily industry. Anything customers need for their pool, we can take care of, whether it be weekly maintenance, equipment repairs or replacement education, furniture, remodels, you name it. For a multi family, we do it.
[00:59] Jason Fein: That's great. And you're based out of Houston?
[01:02] Grant Almquist: We are. We're based out of Houston. Statewide. We cover multifamily statewide for repairs and renovations in the Houston area, we can offer the weekly maintenance.
[01:10] Jason Fein: That's great. You're going to be a great guest. For our topic today, our conversation is going to be about pools with the hot weather, pool season from a high level, what are the two key things that a property manager can focus on that would increase their chances of their pool being open all season?
[01:31] Grant Almquist: Filtration and chemicals. Those are the two main items for your pool to make sure it stays blue and clear. Those two have to be good, making sure you're cleaning your filters properly and then keeping your chemicals. And they need to be if that stays constant, you've got a really good chance of keeping your pool blue and clear year round.
[01:51] Jason Fein: That's true. Well, let's dig into it. Let's break down the component. The first piece is you've got these trees and flowers, and all this stuff is blooming. And with that comes challenges to your filtration system at the pool. What sort of things should they be looking for and what systems should they be checking on a regular basis?
[02:12] Grant Almquist: Well, definitely if you have a pool around trees, checking your skimmer baskets multiple times a day, I will help in that because a clogged skimmer basket will slow down your filtration, which will then again, hurt your water quality. So check in your skimmer baskets two to three times a day. A lot of people say they don't have time, but it doesn't take that much time. Just empty those bad boys. And that will help keep your water flowing. It will keep your pump baskets empty, all that fun stuff. So those on the pool deck are very important.
[02:46] Jason Fein: That's great. I shared a little diagram that I found on the internet today. So what you're looking at is the pool skimmer and kind of walk us through. You can see the deck up at the top right. The top left hand side. Correct. In the lid. And then all they do is pull the lid up and pull the basket out just to verify that it's not clogged up with leaves and debris, correct?
[03:11] Grant Almquist: Correct. Yes. Do that bad boy and good to go.
[03:15] Becca Ramati: That seems like something Grant, that even I could do.
[03:20] Grant Almquist: It is very simple. Yes. You just want to make sure that they are in good condition. A cracked humor basket does you no good, and one that floats does you no good. So make sure it stays down and it's intact and it will do its job for you.
[03:34] Jason Fein: That's important. Definitely. After a storm, I think we had some storms last night, and the trees were blowing around and checking those baskets to make sure that they're not clogged with leaves and branches is a pretty important topic, right?
[03:51] Grant Almquist: Yes. Again, it will slow down your filtration, and the slowing down your water is not a good thing.
[03:58] Jason Fein: So if the water level drops in the pool with evaporation, with baths getting in and out, the water levels will drop over time, correct?
[04:08] Grant Almquist: Yes. You can expect to lose a quarter inch of water per day to evaporational loan. So if you have a lot of swimmers and they're taking that water out when they get out as well, and all the splash out, you're going to lose quite a bit of water during the summer just due to the use of nature.
[04:26] Jason Fein: Definitely. On this diagram, you've got the coping, you got the waterline right there. So if it drops below what is titled here, the Weird. Right. If it drops below that, then the water is not going to go through and get to the pumps. Correct.
[04:40] Grant Almquist: Correct. If it drops below your skimmer, you're more than likely going to lose prime in your pump, which means your pump gets a lot of air in it. You're no longer pulling water, and you're in danger of not only your water going bad because it's not filtering anymore, but you're in danger of burning up your pump as well.
[04:56] Jason Fein: That's costly.
[04:58] Grant Almquist: Yes.
[04:58] Jason Fein: Especially with the new regulations on pumps these days. Right. With the VFD pumps versus just the standard older pumps. VFD stands for variable frequency drive. Correct.
[05:09] Grant Almquist: There's variable frequency and there's variable speed. We work mostly with variable speed because they're easier to understand and they're easier to program. The variable frequency. They're a little bit of a different program, but they all basically do the same. But a lot of those have the safety backing release systems in the programming as well. And so if your water were to drop below that level and the pump were to pull a bunch of air, it would shut itself off.
[05:38] Jason Fein: Definitely.
[05:38] Grant Almquist: So you wouldn't have that problem with your equipment burning up, but you still have no water movement, so you're looking at a bad looking pool.
[05:46] Jason Fein: Just sounds expensive. If you're not in tune with the pool world, then you don't know. I mean, all that just sounds like you're just paying a lot of money for replacement.
[05:56] Grant Almquist: They are more expensive. But unfortunately, fortunately everyone looked at it. But the Doe did pass that law and so we are rapidly running out of single speed pumps and motors, I'm sure.
[06:07] Jason Fein: Well, with that being said, let's move into the pump room. We talked about making sure that the pool is free of debris, making sure that the water levels at the right height in your pool, and then making sure that your skimmer baskets are free of leaves and flowers. Then you move into the pump room. And I found a picture of a pump online that we could just demonstrate. And what is he pointing out right there at the front? It looks like another basket. Right?
[06:36] Grant Almquist: He's pointing at the pump lid. Yes. You take that lid, turn the pump off, take that lid off. There is a basket in there that is there to catch any debris that gets through the skimmer basket to get it before it gets through the pump and into the filter. Because if you get a bunch of leaves into your pump, they can clog up your impeller. And your impeller is basically the engine that moves the water through your system. So if your impeller clogs up, even though your pump is on again, you won't pull any water. So those baskets are very important, empty as well.
[07:09] Jason Fein: Right. I remember when I first started getting into the pool industry and property management, I learned that way. I learned about those two baskets, not just the one that's out by the pool. You got to make sure that you're taking care of both those baskets. So it's a good thing to teach property managers and leasing agents that are out and about. And if they're walking past the pool pump room and they have a couple of minutes, it's always good to poke your head in and take a look inside. And most of those covers are clear, correct?
[07:39] Grant Almquist: Yes.
[07:41] Jason Fein: Pump leads should be clear right from there. Sometimes I'm glad you brought up the impeller because the impeller, that could cause issues with your pump as well and filtration and be a culprit for causing your pool to turn green.
[07:59] Grant Almquist: Correct. It just won't pull any water.
[08:04] Jason Fein: Right. And then the filter, maybe you can walk us through what to look for on the filter.
[08:10] Grant Almquist: Okay, sure. So there's three main types of pool filters de, SA, sand, and cartridge. Each one of them does need to be cleaned different ways depending on the filter you have, obviously. But if your filter gets clogged up, it's not going to filter the water. And again, you're going to run into a quality problem. So making sure you're checking. The best way to know if you need to check your filter or clean your filter is the pressure you want to first know what your starting pressure is. Say your starting pressure is ten. Once you get to 18, you want to clean that filter whichever way you need to do it.
[08:48] Jason Fein: That's really cool. Some of those newer pressure gauges, too, they can even put a little mark on there to say, hey, this is the pressure that you need to start looking at. Cleaning your filters, correct?
[08:59] Grant Almquist: Yes. You can turn the collar and it's got a green and a red arrow. And you set the green arrow at your starting pressure. Once you get your needle gets up to the red, you want to clean your field.
[09:10] Jason Fein: It's interesting because sometimes you can walk in these rooms and you can feel lost. Especially if you've never done anything with pools. You've never worked with pools. And so once you start to understand the flow and you start to have these little dummy proof items, right, like the little marks on the filter pressure gauge or just flow arrows, right. Being able to label all your pipes and show how the flow goes through the system, that could help anybody better understand what they're looking, where to look for, and what to look for as well, right?
[09:42] Grant Almquist: Definitely. The more information, the better. So whatever you can do to help out whomever is going into your pump room, whether it be a season maintenance guy or a guy who started yesterday, the more information he's got, the more successful you're going to be.
[09:57] Jason Fein: The other thing you talk about so you said the two main things that we need to focus on, our filtration and water chemistry. So let's start talking about water chemistry. So what are some takeaways that our listeners can use when it comes to water chemistry and what our teams can do to help make sure their water chemistry is where it needs to be?
[10:19] Grant Almquist: Well, to start, you need to make sure you're testing properly. So in most instances, the state says you need to check your water three times a day, every day, and that includes Sunday. So to abide by state law, three times a day, and that is the best way to make sure you're adjusting your chemicals as needed. Because if you don't know what your levels are, you can't fix them.
[10:44] Jason Fein: Yeah, that's true. And there's different things. And they all interact with each other as well, correct?
[10:51] Grant Almquist: Yes. All the chemicals do work hand in hand. And your chlorine and PH, those are the two main ones you need to check that the state says you need to check three times a day. And so the higher your PH, the less effective your chlorine is. So that's why we want to keep those in the ideal range.
[11:12] Jason Fein: It's interesting when you start really diving into it and how the water will tell you what, maybe there's something wrong if it's green or if it's cloudy. The longer you're in the industry, the more in tune you are with those telltale signs as well. Correct?
[11:29] Grant Almquist: Oh, yeah. The more you're working around, and each pool is different. Pools are like people. They all have their own personalities. They all have their own wants and needs. So you can go from one pool to the next, even on the same property, and it's going to act different. So just the more you know about it and the more you're around it, the more you're going to just be able to look at it and see if there's a problem or not.
[11:50] Jason Fein: That's true. Now, in my time working with pools, I've seen different testing methods. Right. There's the strips, and then there's the drops. Right. What's your preference?
[12:01] Grant Almquist: Preferences at minimum, the drops, the strips, it's a point of contention whether they're even allowed or not via the state, but they're not as accurate because it's really based off of your color perception and if your bottles faded. So I really don't recommend strips minimum. You can go with the drops, or you can go up to photometers and electronic testing. It just all depends on how much money you're willing to spend and how much time you want to take doing it.
[12:35] Jason Fein: That's true. And maybe I'm a small time property management company, right? Maybe I just started getting into it. I've got a small 100 unit property, and maybe I don't have the right people on site or we're still learning about water chemistry. You and I were talking earlier about maybe taking your pool water to a pool vendor like Leslie's, right?
[13:01] Grant Almquist: Sure. Yeah. Most pool stores, even the small ones, offer free testing. They'll print out a report and just kind of guide you on what changes you need to make.
[13:13] Becca Ramati: I can give you a baseline so that you can know where you're starting from and where you should be and how to maintain that.
[13:20] Grant Almquist: Correct.
[13:22] Jason Fein: Most of the time, if you give them the dimensions of your pool, they can be able to tell you how many gallons are in it, and they can be able to tell you how much soda ash to add or how much chlorine to add, and they'll help you out through the process. Or you can be able to talk to Grant here and be able to maybe set up a contract and have them take care of your pools as well. Right. Real quick, we're talking about total dissolved solids, right? What is that again? That's where you just added so many chemicals to your pool over the years or over time, and it's just it can't absorb anything else. Correct.
[13:59] Grant Almquist: Well, TDF totals, all solids are, in essence, all of the solid matter in the pool that is just mixed in solution that you can't see. So the higher that level gets, your water is going to get cloudier and cloudier because there's all that solid matter in there that's showing itself via cloudy water. So if you look at it this way so I know a lot of science classes, the teacher would take a spoon of sugar and mix it in a glass of water and the sugar disappears. But then you take that so in water and you boil it, the sugar stays in the bottom. So same thing here. The total is that sugar. It's all the stuff that you were to snap your fingers and evaporate your water away. It's all the solid matter that's going to stay on the bottom of the pool. So the more that builds up, the harder it is to keep a good looking pool. And the only way to get rid of that is to drain the water out of the pool.
[14:58] Jason Fein: It can be expensive. But you were saying most of the time you're going to do it on a more frequent basis with your spa, right?
[15:05] Grant Almquist: Correct. So spas of course, are smaller. And the usage in a spa for the volume of the spa is extremely high. So that TDSo is going to go up a lot faster. So in the summertime, if you have a spa on a commercial property, we just recommend draining that thing every other week. Just make it a force of habit, drain it. It's going to be about 1000 gallons, give or take, but it's going to help your equipment last longer because you're resetting that chemical relationship there. You're going to keep your heater from getting damaged via the bad water chemistry. And it's just a lot easier on your main staff. And it's make your residence a lot happier because the spa is going to stay looking good because you're replacing that water every so often.
[15:57] Jason Fein: Definitely. That's a lot of great information. So water filtration, making sure that you have proper filtration through your skimmers, through your pumps, making sure your impeller is not impacted by debris. Right. We talked about the filters, making sure that the pressure is not too high and cleaning it out periodically, whether it's like the cartridge or it's back washing on a de filter. Right.
[16:23] Grant Almquist: De or sand. Yes, sir. Back wash, both of them.
[16:26] Jason Fein: Yeah. And then making sure your chemistry is in balance. Man, there's a lot of great information. Once again, this is Grant and he is the owner of the Texas Apartment Pool Services Company. And you can find him on LinkedIn and on Facebook or go to our website.
[16:45] Becca Ramati: We talk about the shows. Really, we want everyone to speak maintenance. So if we're talking about speaking pool maintenance, if there's three things that the office team or property manager could do to help the maintenance team with their pools, what are those three things in your eyes?
[17:04] Grant Almquist: One, if they're able to help make sure the water level stays where it needs to be. Because after a busy, even Saturday going into Sunday, most maintenance isn't on site. But there's usually somebody in the office take a look and see where your water levels at and maybe turn that fill line on and help fill that pull back up. That will help. Coming in on Monday with the back washing and the cleaning of the water level is already where it needs to be. The second thing would be to enforce the attire for swimming. So you should have a sign that says swim attire only. Because if you get people get in with cotton shirts and denim jeans or shorts, we see it all. But if people get in and start swimming and things like that, that's going to clog up your skin. The link will clog up your skimmer baskets, clog up your pump baskets. It'll actually clog up your impellers and work its way to your filter and shorten the life of your filter. If nobody's on site on Sunday, teach whoever is in the office, go out and there's no maintenance there to check that water. And that way if there is an issue with the chemistry that they can maybe call somebody on a call to come address that so it doesn't go bad through Sunday and Monday.
[18:20] Jason Fein: That's a great point. It doesn't need to be maintenance, right? I mean, testing if you teach somebody and you show them how to use the drop method and to check the colors and record it on the pool log, there's no reason why somebody in the office couldn't be able to help out with that.
[18:35] Grant Almquist: Correct. And once you know what you're doing to check your minimum chlorine at PH take you less than five minutes.
[18:42] Jason Fein: Definitely.
[18:43] Becca Ramati: That's a great tip.
[18:44] Jason Fein: This is a great conversation. I appreciate your time. Grant, Becca, do you mind telling everybody where they can find our conversations?
[18:54] Becca Ramati: Sure. So to find previous episodes of how to Speak Maintenance or our other program Hints from HR, you can check out TAAEF, the Texas Apartment Association Education Foundation Facebook page, or we're also on YouTube as Texas Apartment Careers and you can find them all there. Or if you prefer to listen, you can find both shows as podcasts. Wherever you find your podcast, you can search for TAAEF or each of the shows and you'll find them there.
[19:26] Jason Fein: Awesome. Great. Thanks for your time everybody.
[19:29] Grant Almquist: Thank you.
[19:30] Becca Ramati: Thanks everyone. See you next time.
[19:32] Grant Almquist: Bye. Me.