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5 Need To Know Items Before Installing a Pool

With the sunny days of summer in full swing, it’s hard to not let your thoughts turn to the cool, refreshing blue waters of a backyard pool. Maybe you’ve been considering putting a pool in for years or maybe it is just so hot your interest in being a pool owner has been rising along with the temperature. Either way there are likely aspects you’ve not considered.

A pool is hard to undo, which is why we’re going to address the top five need-to-know things about pool installation and ownership right now.

Pool Installation is Awful

Pools are cool. They are. But only when you go into the whole process and future ownership with open eyes. A pool build is not for the faint of heart, for starters. In urban and suburban neighborhoods with yards that are measured in square feet instead of acres, the process may literally destroy your entire back yard while the mess is being made. Grass will grow again, but in the meantime, it can seriously be the worst.

Taking the dog out means getting the leash and pants, he’s not going to be able to go out into the back yard. You may also have to take part of the fence down to allow the trucks and other equipment access, depending on the size of the pool and your yard’s configuration. If you’ve ever had to replace a sewer line, think about that and then multiply it by about a hundred. That’s the mess you’ll have until your pool is done.

If you can handle the stress, great. If not, your local gym or YMCA might have a pool you can use. They’ll take care of everything and it’ll spare your grass. For homebuyers thinking they can save money by building their own pool rather than buying a house with one, this may be true. But this is a big project requiring a lot of dirt work, you may be happier to buy a house with a pool already installed.

A Few Less Obvious Points to Ponder

That digging a giant hole in your yard is going to be a serious pain may be a no-brainer, but there are other things that aren’t as obvious. That’s what this is really about, after all. We want to be sure you’ve considered all the angles before taking the plunge.

Splish, Splash, You Don’t Want to Take a Bath

Real estate agents and appraisers get the same question about pools over and over again: “How much will this increase my home’s value?”

The Devil, with this question at least, is in the details.

  • What kind of pool?
  • Is it inground or above ground?
  • What kind of neighborhood are you living in?
  • Do a lot of homes in your market have pools?
  • How long will you live in your home?
  • What kind of equipment are you installing?

Of course you don’t want to take a bath on your pool, but it’s one of those items that you should consider to be a luxury purchase and not give a lot of care to whether or not it’ll pay for itself. Unfortunately, whether or not your pool can increase the value of your home is such a loaded question that it’s really impossible to answer.

A pool can simultaneously attract and terrify buyers, especially in the middle to low upper buying ranges. For a family with no small children, a pool might seem like a needed asset due to physical therapy that’s on-going or just to shake the frustration of swimming in a club pool without interruption. But for a family with small children, it might be the single thing about your house that’s so wrong it can’t be made right.

Ask Permission, Not Forgiveness from the HOA

A lot of people go through life asking forgiveness for something they did that they knew was questionable to begin with. We’re not saying that’s you, just that this is a common practice among humans. The problem with this approach to pool building in a neighborhood with an HOA (which is most neighborhoods these days) is that if the HOA doesn’t like what you’re doing, you’ve spent a lot of money for a big muddy hole in the backyard.

Find out if your HOA allows pools. Do it even if your next door neighbor has one because the HOA rules can be changed by the membership. If enough people voted for a “no new pools” rule, well, the ayes have it. If they are allowed, there may still be rules about how and where they must be installed in your yard. Learn the rules now before you end up learning a costly lesson.

Pools Change Your Homebuyer Profile

This was already touched on in the section about taking a bath, but it bears repeating. Installing a pool, unlike building a garage or putting in a fence, changes the kind of buyer who will be looking at your place. If your neighborhood is largely made up of the kind of people who like pools and aren’t worried about the safety aspects involved for children and pets, then when you go to sell, you may not notice a lot of difference in buyer traffic.

But, if your neighborhood is full of starter homes or just a lot of small children because you happen to be a half mile from the local elementary school, adding a pool will do you no favors if you want to sell your home. Other families with young children will be the ones looking at your house, more likely than not. Unless you get lucky and find some retirees who want to be around elementary kids, that pool might make it really hard to sell your home.

Budget Pool Buying is Worse Than No Pool

A lot goes into the decision to install a pool, including the cost of that cement pond. While you should be budget-aware, if budget is your driving factor you will not be happy with your pool. If you’re not happy with a purchase that can start around $20k and go up from there indefinitely, you might as well have not put it in.

Pools are needy and have ongoing care and maintenance. They require you to constantly interact with them to keep them working properly, as well as input from the pros now and again. If budget is your first concern, the yearly costs may not figure in, either. Plus, there’s the bump in your insurance rates to consider.

Having a pool is like having a sports car. Some people buy them and love them and can’t get enough. Some people want them, but realistically understand they can’t keep them in tip-top shape, so postpone the purchase. Some people buy the cheapest Porsche 911 they can find and then get frustrated that it’s constantly in the shop.

Your pool priorities should begin with the purpose for the pool, the site location and appropriate equipment. Then you can start price comparing. There’s no reason to miss out on a deal, but buying the cheapest pool because it’s the only one you can fit in the budget is only going to end in disappointment.

Photo by Murilo Viviani on Unsplash

Spring Cleaning… Your Air Conditioner?

Spring is a time of beginnings. You get a chance to start over, to try something new and to get your air conditioner ready for the hot summer to come. It might not be as romantic as the budding of trees and blooming of flowers, but having your air conditioner in tip-top shape is arguably far more useful.

When you start your spring clean, don’t forget your air conditioner. In just a few minutes, you can improve its efficiency while helping it continue to run well for years to come.

First, A Basic Explanation of Air Conditioning Technology

Your air conditioner isn’t magic, but it’s pretty close. These devices were actually invented in the early 1900s as a way to reduce indoor humidity in paper plants. It just so happened they have a side effect that we rely on even today.

Air conditioning systems depend on the expansion and contraction of gasses to pull moisture out of the air by cooling it down. This is basic physics at work — warm air holds more water, cool air holds less.

When air is pulled into your air handler (for many, this is a furnace) through your warm air return, it’s forced over a tent-shaped coil that uses refrigerant to cool the air as it passes. A blower then blows that cooled air back into the house.

So What Does the Outside Condenser Do?

The air conditioning condenser that most people consider to be “the air conditioner” is actually a giant heatsink. See, when the air is cooled inside your air handler, the refrigerant is what’s absorbing most of the heat. It then gets pumped to the condenser, where the heat collected inside your house is released to the environment.

It’s really a pretty simple idea that has made a huge change to how we live, play and work.

Your Air Conditioner Spring Cleaning Checklist

There’s no time like spring to do a little air conditioner tune-up. A lot of the heavy lifting will have to be performed by HVAC professionals, but there are things you can do to keep your system running longer as a homeowner. Generally, these items should be done at least once in the spring before you start using the A/C and again in the fall when you’re ready to put it away for the year.

Change your furnace filter. Whether it’s on the ceiling, on the floor or inside your furnace or air handler, a clean filter is a filter that can let the most air through for cooling. And the easier it is for the system to pull air in and cool it, the more comfortable you’ll be with the least amount of cost. Investing in an electrostatic filter that you can wash and reuse is a smart move for the long term.

Flush your condensation line. There’s a pipe or tube that comes out of your furnace or air handler and runs to a drain somewhere. This is the condensation line. All the moisture your system is pulling out of that warm air has to go somewhere, you know? That somewhere is a pan that empties via this tube. Just open it up from the top (which tube it is should be obvious, but if you can’t find it, ask your HVAC professional), slowly pour in about a cup of vinegar or bleach. If the liquid moves, you’re gold. If not, you may need to spend some time investigating the issue. More often than not, it’s algae growth in the tube or mineral deposits, both things you can flush out, but require some patience to remove.

Clean your a-coil. That tent shaped coil mentioned above is called the “evaporator coil” or the “a-coil.” It can get dirty, which makes it a lot less efficient at removing moisture and cooling the air. If you feel brave, and you’re careful, you can wipe the coils clean or use a shop vac. They’re very similar to the coils on the back of your refrigerator, treat them the exact same way.

Comb the fins on the condenser. If you look closely at your outside condenser, you’ll notice that the part that’s inside the cage is made up of a whole bunch of teeny fins. These little guys can get damaged by accident, causing them to be less efficient because they’re not really in an optimal configuration anymore. All you need to fix this is a fin comb. This simple device lets you straighten bent fins, restoring your unit to its former glory.

Spray the condenser down. Last, but far from least, you’ll want to spray your air conditioner’s condenser down with a hose. Start by wetting all the fins with a garden sprayer, then go back around and spend some time slowly flushing out the dirt, one section at a time, working top to bottom.

Ready For An A/C Tune-Up?

If spring cleaning your air conditioner isn’t getting the results you’re looking for, it may be time to get an HVAC pro out to give it a once-over.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash