Pool / Spa Industry Terminology


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BACKFLOW The backing up of water through a pipe in the direction opposite to normal flow.

BACKWASH The process of thoroughly cleaning the filter by reversing the flow of water through it with the dirt and rinse water going to waste.

BACTERIA (chemical related) Single-celled microorganisms of various forms, some of which are undesirable or potentially disease-causing. Bacteria are controlled by chlorine, bromine or other sanitizing and disinfecting agents.

BACTERICIDE (chemical related) A chemical or element that kills, destroys or controls bacteria such as Chlorine. Silver algaecides are actually bactericidal, and are useful on "pink algae".

BAKING SODA (chemical related) Chemically called sodium bicarbonate. It is white powder used to raise the total alkalinity of pool or spa water without having much affect on pH.

BALANCED WATER (chemical related) The correct ratio of mineral content and pH level that prevents the water from being corrosive or scale forming.

BALL VALVE A simple non-return valve consisting of a ball resting on a cylindrical seat within a liquid passageway.

BASE (chemical related) Also called basic - A class of compounds which will react with an acid to give a salt. Base is the opposite of an acid. Common bases used in pools include soda ash, sodium bicarbonate, and sodium carbonate. See alkali.

BASE DEMAND (chemical related) The amount of base (or pH increaser) water needs to reach the proper pH range. For example, to raise pH from 7.2 to 7.6, a pool may "demand" 2 cups of soda ash. The actual amount depends on pool volume and other factors. Some test kits contain the titration test used to determine base demand.

BATHER LOAD  The number of people in the pool or spa at any given moment, or during any stated period of time. Bather load also is affected by lotions, deodorants, perfumes, etc.

BICARBONATE (chemical related) see "sodium bicarbonate"

BIGUANIDE (chemical related) Biguanide is an abbreviated name for polyhexamethylene biguanide hydrchoride (PHMB), an alternative to using chlorine or bromine as a sanitizer. It is a non-chlorine liquid chemical and is highly incompatible with chlorine, bromine, metals and some other common pool chemicals. It is used along with an additional product containing Hydrogen Peroxide which is used to oxidize the swimming pool water. The procedure for using biguanide as a sanitizer is commonly called 'biguanide system'. Some examples of 'biguanine systems' are Baquacil, Softswim and Clear Comfort.

BLACK ALGAE A type of algae that grows on pool walls and floors as dark spots. Colonies usually form in areas with less circulation. Black algae feels slimy and can be brushed off with some effort. The algae embeds itself into porous pool surfaces and can be difficult to completely remove.

BLEACH (chemical related) This term usually refers to liquid chlorine (sodium hypochlorite 12% available chlorine). It is the same chemical used in laundry bleach but pool chlorine is 12% available chlorine while laundry bleach is about 5 to 6%% available chlorine.

BLOWER An electrical device that produces a continuous rush of air to create the optimal bubbling effect in a spa, hot tub or whirl- pool. It is usually plumbed in with the hydrotherapy jets or to a separate bubbler ring.

BLUE FINGERNAILS (chemical related) A condition caused by too much copper in the pool water. Blue fingernails are not caused by chlorine. The copper may get into the water by the bad practice of placing trichlor tabs in the skimmer. This acidic product will cause low-pH water, which will in turn dissolve metals in the equipment. The dissolved metal (usually copper) then stains hair, fingernails and, eventually, pool walls. It can also be caused by keeping the pH too low or misusing acid.

BREAKPOINT CHLORINATION (chemical related) The application of a large dose of chlorine intended to reach the point where free chlorine, measured in ppm, is at a high enough level to break apart molecular bonds, specifically the combined chlorine molecules. When this point is reached with sufficient addition of chlorine, undesirable compounds responsible for odors, eye burn, irritation and poor sanitizing in the pool are oxidized. All chlorine added after that point is free available chlorine.

BROMAMINES (chemical related) By-products formed when bromine reacts with swimmer waste (perspiration or urine), nitrogen or fertilizer. Bromamines are active disinfectants and do not smell, although high levels are body irritants. Bromamines are removed by super chlorination or shock treating.

BROMIDE (chemical related) A common term for a bromide salt used to supply bromide ions to the water so they may be oxidized or changed into hypobromous acid, the killing form of bromine. Used as a disinfectant. 

BROMINATOR (chemical related) A mechanical or electrical device for dispensing bromine at a controlled rate. Most often a canister or floater filled with tablets of bromine.

BROMINE (chemical related) A common name for a chemical compound containing bromine that is used as a disinfectant to destroy bacteria and algae in swimming pools and spas. Available as a tablet or as sodium bromide, a granular salt.

BTU Abbreviation for British Thermal Unit. The amount of heat necessary to raise 1 lb. of water 1 degree Fahrenheit.

BUFFER (chemical related) A substance or compound that stabilizes the pH value of a solution. It is also the water's resistance to change in pH.

BUFFERING CAPACITY (chemical related) The ability of the pool water to resist changes in pH. If pH bounces, or resumes unwanted levels soon after adjustment, the buffering capacity is too low and a buffer or pH locking product should be used.

BYPASS An arrangement of pipes, gates and valves by which the flow of water may be passed around a piece of equipment or diverted to another piece of equipment; a controlled diversion.

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