Should I Run My Pool Pump in Freezing Weather?

  • By: John Parker
  • Last Updated: November 18, 2022

Keeping your pool open in the winter months sounds like a great idea, but it takes a lot of effort, especially if you live in a very cold region.

A frozen pool can lead to a lot of issues so it’s best to take measures to stop that from happening. One of the most common methods people use is running a pool pump, but is that truly an effective strategy?

Running a pool pump will not totally prevent freezing but it can slow down the rate at which pool water and water in the pipes freeze.

This article will explain why running a pool pump can not prevent freezing in all situations. We will also go over other techniques that you can use in combination with running a pool pump which can give you better results. So keep reading. 

Will Running Pool Pump Prevent Freezing

Table of Contents

What temperature does a pool freeze?

Although water freezes when the temperature drops to below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water in the pool’s pipes will not immediately freeze at that temperature.

The water is to some degree insulated from the outside air temperature by the pipes themselves meaning that the temperature may need to drop to 20 degrees Fahrenheit before this will happen. If the pipes are underground this gives even further protection.

Keeping the water running can help to prevent freezing even at this temperature.

How running pool pump slows down freezing

Freezing happens when the temperature of water and pipes stays below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for a few days. Running a pool pump ensures your pool water is moving which creates friction between molecules and provides some heat. 

For Example: If you look at a stream in the winter, although everything around the stream may be frozen, including standing water, the running water of the stream does not freeze.

should i run my pool pump in freezing weather

This heat is not prominent enough to prevent freezing forever, but it can delay the process and push it back a couple of weeks. 

Any sort of movement requires kinetic energy. For example, every time you reach out to grab a cup of coffee, your arm is using kinetic energy. The same applies to microscopic molecules. As this happens and each individual water molecule gains energy, they start moving over each other.

This interaction creates friction and produces heat. However, this heat is insignificant and can only keep water in liquid form when temperatures are around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature goes below this point, the heat produced by the movement of particles won’t do anything. 

In fact, the cold temperatures will slow down the water molecules and reduce the already small amount of heat being produced. This will continue until the water becomes stagnant and begins freezing. 

How to protect pool pipes from freezing

While running a pool pump is not a foolproof way to prevent freezing, it is effective in delaying the process. If you use it combined with other techniques like insulating your pipes, you can keep your pool from freezing throughout the winter. 

Here are a few methods you can use to stop your pool water and pipes from freezing:

  1. Insulate your pipes
  2. Maintain proper water level
  3. Install freeze protection timers
  4. Keep your pool clean
  5. Pool heater

1. Insulate your pipes

how to prevent pool pipes freezing

Your pool’s pipes and the water in them only freeze when the temperature drops. Insulating makes it such that they don’t get cold. Using towels or insulation tapes protects your pipes and pool water from falling temperatures which is what you want in the winter months. 

Invest in tapes made from materials like foil that retain heat because they will keep your pool components warm. Unlike other materials, they trap heat and distribute it to the pipes. 

2. Maintain proper water level

Once you decide to leave your pool open during the winter months, it is essential to take care of it and make sure the water doesn’t freeze. To do so, one of the key things you need to do is ensure the water level is at least halfway up the skimmer. 

If it is below the skimmer, your pool system will be deprived of water and easily freeze. So you have to ensure it comes up to the skimmer so it can keep moving through the pool filter and stay liquid. 

3. Install freeze protection timers

Another great way to keep your pool water from freezing is using freeze protection timers. These devices automatically run the pool system when temperatures get very low. So as soon your pool’s water begins approaching freezing temperatures, your pool’s pump will start working and cycle it. 

This will trigger the heat production process we talked about before, where molecules move and create friction. If you don’t live in an area that experiences long spells of temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, this will often be enough to keep your pool’s water from freezing.

Pool pump freeze protection is great for people who want to keep their pool open in the winter months but are too busy to keep an eye on it at all times. 

4. Keep your pool clean

Keep your pool clean and remove any leaves or contaminants. This keeps the pipes in your pool from clogging and ensures that there isn’t any build-up. Also, if your skimmers get blocked, the pump won’t be able to move enough water to prevent freezing. 

So it is essential to make sure that you stay on top of your pool’s maintenance. Even though it may be cold outside, you still need to clean the skimmer baskets daily. 

5. Pool heater

This is not a low-cost option but pool heaters are another great way to prevent your pool from freezing. There are two types: electric and gas. Electric heaters are more eco-friendly than gas heaters, but they use the outside temperature to work, so you can’t use them for colder climates.

If you live in an area where you’re worried about your pool freezing, gas heaters are a better option. They rely on natural gas or propane and work faster than electric heaters. You can get one for around $1500. The average life span of one of these machines is five years. 

Pool heaters take water from the pool and channel it to a heating tank. This tank heats up the water and sends it back to the pool. This exchange of cold and warm water keeps your pool at a comfortable temperature during slightly chilly weather. 

Not only do they keep the water flowing which gives you the benefits that come with running a pool pump, but they also provide extra heat. In the winter months, this extra source of warmth becomes essential in preventing water from freezing. 

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Should I Run My Pool Pump in Freezing Weather? 1

Don’t cover your pool heater with a blanket or insulation

There are two main reasons why you should avoid covering a pool heater with a blanket or insulation. Firstly, doing so will lead to a build-up of moisture. Pool heaters are electronic devices, so this moisture can harm them. 

It can cause the coils in the heater to deteriorate and the burner component to get rusty. Both these compartments are essential to your heater’s proper functioning and moisture can damage them severely. 

Secondly, the heater could turn on by itself, or someone else could turn it on accidentally while the cover is still on. If this happens, the heat pump won’t be able to access the proper airflow it needs to work efficiently. 

The machine won’t work correctly without fresh air coming in and flue gases flowing out. Instead, it will get damaged, and you will need to pay a lot for repairs. 

run pool pump to prevent freezing

Final thoughts

While running a pool pump cannot prevent a pool from freezing, it can delay the process to some extent. This is because the movement of water molecules creates a small amount of heat. This heat is insignificant in super cold regions but it can get the job done if you live in a slightly cooler area where temperatures don’t go below 32 degrees Fahrenheit very often. 

If you do happen to live in an area that experiences below freezing point temperatures regularly, running a pool pump alone will not solve your issue. You will need to invest in a supplementary technique to ensure the water in your pool stays liquid. 

There are a few things you can do, including insulating your pipes, maintaining proper water levels, installing freeze protection timers, keeping your pool clean, and purchasing a water heater. Pick a method that is most convenient for you depending on how cold your home gets.

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