The best preventative maintenance possible for your heater is to operate the unit continuously; unfortunately this is also the least cost effective. Full time usage prevents the most likely malfunction problems from occurring-little animals nesting, corrosion or windblown dirt. Unfortunately most heaters are only used in the spring and fall to extend the swim season or during a cold spell midseason.
While the inactivity allows any combination of dirt, insects, rodents and moisture to create havoc, we do not suggest 24-hour runs for your heater either. A regular firing up of your heater could help cut back on problems.
Many of the new heaters available are self-diagnostic and will pinpoint the area that needs attention. However, the older units aren’t as user friendly. Before dismantling the heater or calling Swim Rite Pools, make sure that you have adequate water flow. Dirty filters will not allow the heater to receive enough water flow to run. Also check for clogged skimmer or pump baskets, main drain blockage and shut off valves. A low water level in the pool can cause heaters to not function if the skimmer is their main source for water pressure.
Water balance is a key factor in the longevity of any heater. Scale build up on the inside of the heat exchanger can develop over a period of time if the water is not properly balanced. Corrosion of the heat exchanger occurs when the water is not in balance. Low pH and/or low alkalinity will dissolve the copper from the inside. A pH of 7.2 to 7.6 and an alkalinity of 90-120 ppm is much cheaper to maintain than the cost of a new heat exchanger. Calcification of the heat exchanger occurs when the pH and alkalinity are too high for an extended period of time. We replace many heat exchangers a season due to improper water chemistry.
Improper ventilation is also a cause of many heater problems. The carbon starts as a dirty black coating and builds up to the point where hunks of carbon burn and break off, falling onto the burn tray. The burners become clogged, shutting down the heater’s full capacity and causing the heater to smoke. Cleaning the burning tray and components can temporarily solve this problem but for a long term solution the ventilation needs to be fixed. Debris, insects or small animals can plug the burner as well as the burner’s air inlet.
If you plan on fixing the heater yourself, take the necessary precautions.
- Consult the owner’s manual-every heater is different. Never begin making any repair unless the unit is turned off.
- Disconnect the electrical source so that the unit won’t turn on if you touch the wrong wires.
- Make sure that the heater is cooled down properly. Heaters produce tremendous amounts of heat and their metal components will remain hot for a long period of time after firing.
Regular maintenance and basic trouble-shooting may help you avoid a service call.