Swimming pool servicers clean, adjust, and perform minor repairs on swimming pools, hot tubs, and their auxiliary equipment. There are millions of pools across the country in hotels, parks, apartment complexes, health clubs, and other public areas. These public pools are required by law to be regularly serviced by trained technicians. In addition, the number of homeowners with personal pools is increasing, and these private pools also need professional servicing.
History of Swimming Pool Servicer Career
Swimming pools date back to the bathhouses in the palaces of ancient Greece. These bathhouses were elaborate spas, complete with steam rooms, saunas, and large pools. But swimming was a popular pastime even among those who did not have access to bathhouses; many swam in the rivers, oceans, and the lakes of the world. The plagues of medieval Europe made people cautious about swimming in unclean waters, but soon swimming regained popularity. Swimmers swam with their heads above water in a style developed when many people were still afraid of water contamination. This swimming style changed in the mid-1800s when Native Americans introduced an early version of the modern “crawl.” Swimming in natural spring waters was even recommended as a health benefit, inspiring hospitals and spas to develop around hot springs.
The first modern Olympics held in Athens featured swimming as one of the nine competitions. Swimming as both a sport and a pastime has continued to develop along with the technology of pool maintenance. By the 1960s, the National Swimming Pool Foundation had evolved to support research in pool safety and the education of pool operators.
The Job of Swimming Pool Servicers
Swimming pool servicers usually travel a regularly scheduled route, visiting several pools a day. They are responsible for keeping pools clean and equipment operating properly. In general, a pool that receives routine maintenance develops fewer problems.
Mark Randall owns a pool service business in Malibu, California. “My tools range from a tile brush to a state-of-the-art computer and printer,” he says. Randall has two employees, so his day usually starts with phone calls to his crew and customers. “Then I go out and clean a few of the more difficult accounts,” he says.
Cleaning is one of the regular duties of pool servicers. Leaves and other debris need to be scooped off the surface of the water with a net on a long pole. To clean beneath the surface, servicers use a special vacuum cleaner on the pool floor and walls. They scrub pool walls, tiles, and gutters around the pool’s edge with stainless steel or nylon brushes to remove layers of grit and scum that collect at the water line. They also hose down the pool deck and unclog the strainers that cover the drains.
After cleaning the pool and its surroundings, servicers test the bacterial content and pH balance (a measure of acidity and alkalinity) of the water. While the tests are simple and take only a few minutes, they are very important. A sample of the pool water is collected in a jar and a few drops of a testing chemical are added to the water. This chemical causes the water to change colors, indicating the water’s chemical balance. Swimming pool servicers use these results to determine the amount of chlorine and other chemicals that should be added to make the water safe. The chemicals often used, which include potassium iodide, hydrochloric acid, sodium carbonate, chlorine, and others, are poured directly into the pool or added through a feeder device in the circulation system. These chemicals, when properly regulated, kill bacteria and algae that grow in water. However, high levels of chemicals can cause eye or skin irritation. As a result, pool servicers must wear gloves and use caution when working. Because the chemical makeup of every pool is different and can change daily or even hourly, servicers keep accurate records of the levels of chemicals added to the pool during their visit. Pool owners or managers take up the responsibility of testing the water between visits from the servicer. Home pools usually have their water tested a few times a week, but large public pools are tested hourly.
Swimming pool servicers also inspect and perform routine maintenance on pool equipment, such as circulation pumps, filters, and heaters. In order to clean a filter, servicers force water backwards through it to dislodge any debris that has accumulated. They make sure there are no leaks in pipes, gaskets, connections, or other parts. If a drain or pipe is clogged, servicers use a steel snake, plunger, or other plumbing tool to clear it. They also adjust thermostats, pressure gauges, and other controls to make the pool water comfortable. Minor repairs to machinery, such as fixing or replacing small components, may be necessary. When major repairs are needed, servicers first inform the pool owner before making any repairs.
“An accomplished pool tech,” Randall says, “can do a pool in about 20 minutes. Most pool techs would do this 10 to 20 times a day.”
Another major task for swimming pool servicers in most regions of the country is closing outdoor pools for the winter. In the fall, servicers drain the water out of the pool and its auxiliary equipment. Openings into the pool are plugged, and all pool gear, such as diving boards, ladders, and pumps, is removed, inspected, and stored. The pool is covered with a tarpaulin and tied or weighted in place. In warmer climates where water does not freeze, pools are usually kept full and treated with special chemicals through the winter.
Extra work is also required when a pool is re-opened in the spring. After the pool is uncovered and the tank and pool deck are swept clean, swimming pool servicers inspect for cracks, leaks, loose tiles, and broken lamps. They repair all minor problems and make recommendations to the owner about any major work they feel is necessary, such as painting the interior of the pool. Equipment removed in the fall, such as ladders and diving boards, is cleaned and installed. Servicers test water circulation and heating systems to make sure they are operating properly, and then fill the pool with water. Once filled, the pool water is tested and the appropriate chemicals are added to make it safe for swimming.
For every job, servicers keep careful records of the maintenance work they have done so they can inform the company and the customer.
Swimming Pool Servicer Career Requirements
Take science courses such as chemistry and biology to gain understanding of the chemicals used in testing pool water. Shop courses with lessons in electrical wiring and motors will help to develop skills for repairing and servicing machines and equipment. Bookkeeping and accounting courses are also helpful to learn how to keep financial and tax records. You should also learn about spreadsheet and database software programs because you will probably be using computers to maintain files on profits and expenses, customers, equipment, and employees. Finally, serving as an assistant on a swim team can teach you firsthand about the requirements of maintaining a regulation pool.
You can gain most of the technical training that you will need for this career on the job. By working with another trained professional, you’ll learn the basics of pool maintenance within a few months. However, if you are considering running your own business, prepare yourself further by enrolling in college courses in sales, math, accounting, and small business management.
Mark Randall has had college and technical training in various fields and has worked as a mechanic, data analyst, and prop builder for a movie studio. “I had no idea I would end up in the pool business,” he says. “Luckily, my background was actually very good training for my current business.” He recommends that people interested in pool maintenance take advanced courses in electrical applications, electronics, plumbing, and hydraulics.
Certification and Licensing
Randall believes that certification and licensing are very important to running a professional outfit. He is certified by the health department, has a business license, and belongs to the Independent Pool and Spa Service Organization. Certification is available from the National Swimming Pool Foundation, the National Spa and Pool Institute, and by service franchisers. Certification programs consist of a set number of classroom hours and a written exam. While not a requirement, certification does indicate that you’ve reached a certain level of expertise and skill and can help you promote your business.
Because servicers often work alone with minimum supervision, it is important that you have self-discipline and a responsible attitude. Inner drive and ambition will determine the success of your business as you work to attract new clients.
“Persistence is probably the most important quality,” Randall says. He also emphasizes a strong work ethic and good communication skills. You’ll also need to keep up with the technology of swimming pool maintenance to stay knowledgeable about new equipment and services available to your clients.
Exploring Swimming Pool Servicer Career
A summer or part-time job with a school, park district, community center, or local health club can provide you with opportunities to learn more about servicing swimming pools. Hotels, motels, apartment buildings, and condominium complexes also frequently have pools and may hire summer or part-time workers to service them. Such a job could offer firsthand insight into the duties of swimming pool servicers, and may help in obtaining full-time employment with a pool maintenance company later.
AQUA Magazine is a good source of technical information concerning pool service. Contact the magazine for a sample issue, or visit their Web site (http://aquamagazine.com/content/) to read from a selection of online articles.
A majority of swimming pool servicers are self-employed. With close to 7 million residential swimming pools in the country, pool service owners can find clients in practically every neighborhood. In addition to servicing residential pools, workers service the pools of motels, apartment complexes, and public parks.
Some servicers choose to work with a franchise service company. These franchisers often offer training and usually provide an established client base.
Once servicers have the training and the money to invest in equipment, they work on pursuing clients. This may involve promoting their business through advertising, flyers, and word of mouth. They may be able to get referrals from local pool and spa construction companies.
“I started out riding with a friend who worked for a large pool service company,” Randall says, “and I learned as much as I could. After that, I found a small route for sale.” Randall borrowed money from the bank to buy the established route of customers, then used his training to start servicing pools. “It was sink or swim, pardon the pun,” he says. “But I worked very hard the first couple of years and have been fairly successful.”
Advancement is usually shown through a growth in business. More area pool construction, positive feedback from customers, and some years in the business will attract more clients and more routes to service. If a business does really well, swimming pool servicers may choose to hire additional employees to do most of the service work, allowing more time to focus on office work and administrative details. Servicers may also expand their business to include the sale of pools, spas, and maintenance equipment.
After many years in the business, Randall is debating his next career move. “I’m toying with the idea of getting a contractor’s license,” he says, “and building pools.”
The amount of money swimming pool servicers make depends upon the region of the country in which they work (which determines the length of the swimming season), services provided by the business, and levels of experience. Experts in the business estimate that an experienced pool service owner can average $40,000 to $50,000 a year. Beginning servicers just starting to build a clientele or those who work in an area of the country that allows for only a few months of swimming may earn less than $20,000 a year.
Swimming pool servicers generally work alone and sometimes have little client contact. Most of the work is not particularly strenuous, though kneeling, bending, and carrying equipment from your van to the pool is necessary. Servicers work both indoors and outdoors and usually work in pleasant weather. They must handle chemicals, requiring the use of protective gloves and possibly a breathing mask to guard against fumes.
Pool servicing can be an excellent job for those who enjoy spending time outside. “I find cleaning pools to be kind of relaxing,” Randall says, “and a good time to enjoy my surroundings. Some people find it boring and monotonous. I guess you just need a good perspective.”
Swimming Pool Servicer Career Outlook
The number of swimming pools in the United States is on the rise. Industry experts attribute this growth to increasing wealth among homeowners, a growing desire to enhance and alter existing homes, and a general rise in the standard of living.
With the growing number of pools, the demand for professionals trained to maintain and repair them will be strong. In addition, with more homeowners installing personal pools, there is growing concern about pool safety. The establishment of pool laws benefits servicers because they are often hired to help owners meet and keep up with safety regulations. A growing awareness among pool owners about the need to keep pools and hot tubs clean to prevent infection will continue to keep servicers in business.
Technological developments will also create more work for servicers. The need to maintain and repair new equipment, such as solar heaters, automatic timers, pool covers, and chemical dispensers, will keep pool services in demand.