Thinking of buying or renting a home with a pool? Do you have visions of sunshine, sunscreen and floating around with a Mai Tai in hand? There a few things to consider before “jumping in”.

If the pool is older than 1980, you should definitely reconsider. The construction standards of the pools before this time were questionable, and if the pool needs work, replacement parts are hard to find.

You will need a fence around the pool. Your local municipality will have strict regulations for backyard pools, so before installing your own (or purchasing an existing pool), make sure your outdoor space is legally suitable. Just because there is a chain-link fence buried inside a 6-foot-wide hedge on the property does not mean that it is up to code. You may learn that the codes have changed and you may have to install a brand new fence that meets the legal standards.

The pool has to be kept clean and germ free. How do you go about this on-going job? The regular addition of chlorine and the balancing it requires takes a lot of time. Research and hire a pool pro to help. A pool pro will determine the correct settings for your salt chlorinator, and make sure to test the chlorine and pH levels regularly to fine-tune your settings. The main goal here isn’t just about achieving that crystal-blue shade of water. If you do this wrong and the pH is too low, you run the risk of irritating your skin and eyes as well as other health issues. If the pH is too high, it can stop chlorine and other disinfectants from working. And that’s just gross, not to mention dangerous. And while keeping swimmers healthy is your main priority, there are other things that are at risk in a badly maintained pool: All the delicate, expensive equipment will suffer if the chlorine and pH levels aren’t kept in check, possibly cutting your pool’s life span. The biggest mistake is when people throw the chemicals into the pool. This is not a good idea. Chemicals are heavier than water, so without mixing, they’ll settle uselessly at the bottom of the pool. Not only does that make your maintenance less effective, but it can bleach or damage your liner. If you do not have a special chemical dispenser, add chemicals near your pool’s return jet and turn the pump on high speed to properly mix the pool water. Or if your pump is off, you can thoroughly mix the water using your pole and brush.

If you have a choice, salt water is the way to go. Most people find that having a saltwater pool reduces the work of owning a pool by around 90%. The water also feels much better and there are less red eyes compared to a chlorine-only pool. If you’re worried about your new pool feeling “salty”, well that is just not true.  Expect it to have roughly one-tenth the salt content of the ocean. The benefits go beyond ease of maintenance. The owners of saltwater pools can save between $300 and $400 per year on chlorine.

Does owning a pool increase your electric bill?  Your pool can increase your home’s energy output by a whopping 49%.  Buy a variable speed pump to lessen the blow. These pumps have  a programmable timer and allows owners to adjust the speed depending on the time of day, letting your pool do the pumping whenever energy rates are lowest.

Everyone wants sunny days to maximize the enjoyment of your pool. However, in periods of hot, sunny weather, it will be necessary to keep an even closer eye on your chlorine level. UV light causes a reaction in chlorine that diminishes its ability to remove bacteria and pathogens. Sunlight, and the resulting low chlorine levels, can lead to algae bloom, which turns your water murky and green and is a pain to eliminate. In order to keep your pool safe in the sunshine add cyanuric acid. When it bonds with the chlorine, it helps reduce the negative effects of UV light.

Go to pool school! Learn the basics! You should check with local pool shops to see if they have a pool school to teach you the basics. Usually, within a few weeks of owning your new pool, you will have everything dialed in. After a short learning curve you will be able to relax, sit back in your lounge chair and enjoy your pool!