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Swimming pretty in the SCV

Time for summer pool prep before your pool turns on you

Posted: May 29, 2009 9:08 p.m.
Updated: May 30, 2009 4:30 a.m.
Ben Honadel of Pools by Ben brushes down the side of a pool. Brushing is an important part of pool maintenance. Ben Honadel of Pools by Ben brushes down the side of a pool. Brushing is an important part of pool maintenance.
Ben Honadel of Pools by Ben brushes down the side of a pool. Brushing is an important part of pool maintenance.

Maybe you went out of town for the Memorial Day weekend. If so, maybe you’re still stalling on your pre-summer pool preparation. Maybe you’re afraid to even look under the pool cover — and haven’t since last fall. Well, before something crawls up out of the green, swampy depths, or the mosquito abatement folks come a-knockin, get ’er done.

If you have let things revert to nature, you’ve got a lot of work, and probably a lot of expenses, ahead of you. That’s unfortunate but understandable in this economy. Just don’t let it happen again.  

“The most common problem is a pool neglected over winter, and it’s green,” said Ben Honadel, founder of Pools by Ben. “At that point you have to drain the pool, fill it again and add new chemicals. This is much more expensive than just maintaining it over winter. ‘Going green’ can ruin the filter and the pump.”

Pools by Ben
Honadel started Pools by Ben in 1988 while he was a student at California State University, Northridge. At that time it was pool service only and merely a convenient job for him while he pursued his degree in economics. However, the business became so profitable that when Honadel got his degree in 1996, he found that his degree would earn him less than the pool business already did. So, he got his contractor’s license and focused all his energy on the pool business — and that’s when it really took off.

Honadel moved his family to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1998 so his children could benefit from the excellent school system. Headquartered in Valencia, the Pools by Ben ownership now includes Honadel’s brother Tim, wife Jill and Moises Galvez. The company services nearly 250 pools in the SCV and San Fernando Valley and also repairs and installs pool equipment. Variable speed pool pumps are featured.

General prep
From his years of experience, Honadel offered several recommendations for getting your pool ready for summer.

  •  “Check for loose wiring in the equipment, just common sense things,” Honadel said. “Does something look broken? Is the motor covered with debris?”


  • “Check your pool heater. Sometimes they need service after winter,” he said. “Don’t wait until the Friday before a holiday to turn the heater on.”


  • “Your filter should be cleaned. This is usually done every six months. Clean it before hot weather to be sure everything is ready and it doesn’t need repair.”


  • Keep the water in your pool at the proper level. If you let it get low, your pump could run dry and burn out.


  • Honadel recommends you keep your pool at your favored temperature throughout the swimming season — rather than heating up the water just before you intend to swim. “If you only swim on weekends, and you turn on your heater on Friday and turn it off on Monday, you will actually use twice as much gas than if you heat it once and maintain the temperature.”

Honadel is not a big fan of bubble covers. While they do insulate somewhat, they are hard to pull off and put back on and you usually end up dumping dirt into the pool. He said most homeowners end up rolling the covers into a ball and later throwing them away. “Practically speaking, they don’t work,” he said.   


  • Make sure your water chemistry is balanced correctly. “The homeowner can take a test sample to a pool store. They’ll test it for free and tell you what to do to balance it,” Honadel said.


  • If you have a single speed pump, don’t put chlorine tablets in the skimmer. Honadel said this is a common and costly mistake (and one a good pool man would never make). When the pump is off, the tablets will keep dissolving in the skimmer and the trapped water there will become very acidic and extremely high in chlorine. When the pump does come on this caustic mix damages pipes, the skimmer, the pump, the filter and the heater. For the same reason Honadel recommends you do not use a tablet chlorinator, even if your system has one built in.

Honadel recommends you perform a safety check around your pool.

  • Make sure your gates around the backyard close and latch automatically. Not only will this keep your dog from escaping, it will prevent small children from wandering in.


  • “Check all the drain covers. If they are missing or broken, that’s a suction hazard,” Honadel said. He explained that, while there is no law yet requiring residential pools to have special enhanced-safety drain covers, these are a good idea. They prevent hair entanglement and body entrapment.

Maybe a pool man

Honadel noted that, if you have a quality pool service, your pool man will be taking care of all aspects of your pool and you don’t have to deal with it. “The average cost for pool service is around $100 to $105 per month,” he said. “If the homeowner does the maintenance himself he will spend $40 to $50 per month on chemicals — and do all the labor himself.

When it comes to balancing your pool’s chemistry the “labor” can be quite complex. Homeowners don’t realize this. “A good service man coming once a week gets it dialed in, really nice,” Honadel said. “The homeowner sees this and thinks it’s easy.” But the homeowner lets things get out of balance and that’s where mistakes get made. By dumping chemicals into the water to catch up he creates a “toxic soup” that can damage the pool and equipment.

Honadel recommended that your check a few things before you hire someone to service your pool.

  • “Do they have an L.A. County Health Department license?” Honadel said this is not required for residential pools but it shows your pool man knows what he’s doing.


  • “They should have liability insurance,” Honadel said. “The most common claim is water damage (to neighbors) caused by leaving a hose running. It always seems to do damage to their $100,000 Persian carpet.”


  • “If they do repairs, they are supposed to have a swimming pool contractor’s license,” Honadel said.


  • “Ask if they have a background check. All my techs have passed a background check,” Honadel said. “And my techs also have auto insurance.”

Regarding qualifying your pool man with these questions, Honadel said, “It’s the difference between somebody who is doing it as a profession and not.”

So, if you have a pool man, your pool is most likely good to go for summer. If you don’t have one, you can get your pool in shape following these recommendations.

For more information visit, e-mail or call (661) 263-7503.



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