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Everything You Need To Know About Your Skimmers

April 30, 2019

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What Is A Skimmer, Anyway?

When discussing skimmers in regard to your pools and spas, we usually use the term to refer to two different things:

  • A mesh basket attached to a utility pole used for scooping up surface debris
  • The devices installed at the surface of the pool to help with circulation and cleaning of the pool and spa.

Though understanding how both work is important, this article will focus on the latter of the two, the devices that aid in surface water removal and debris collection. Across the pool and spa industry there are a few different styles of skimmers you may encounter, but the primary types we use in the commercial industry fall into two different styles. 


Are There Different Types Of Skimmers?

The two skimmer styles that we encounter in the pool industry are:

  • Gutter Type Skimmers
  • Wall-Mounted Skimmers

Both types serve the purpose of removing surface water and collecting debris but each type does it in a very specific way.


How Does A Pool Skimmer Work?

Gutter Skimmer

The gutter type skimmer looks similar to that of the gutter that surrounds the roof on your house. It operates by utilizing the water's surface tension to pull surface water into the gutter itself. The water then runs down the gutter and into the circulation system. 

What Are The Benefits of the Gutter Type Skimmer?

  1. Safety. Safety is the #1 benefit of a gutter type skimmer system. Since the system works off of gravity, the chances for a suction entrapment emergency are very, very low. 
  2. Visual Appeal. The gutter skimmer can be installed in many different configurations that will allow your pool or spa to sit flush with the deck, offering a more premium-looking pool or spa. Many infinite edge pools operate using a gutter system as well. 

What Are The Drawbacks of the Gutter Type Skimmer?

  1. Water Level Concerns. Really the only drawback to a gutter type skimmer system is the fact that we as operators need to be sure our water level stays at least 1/8" above the gutter lip or edge in order for the water to be pulled into the skimmer. Without this level of water, the gutters run dry as does your pump. We know our pumps need water to circulate and without it the system fails. This is why most operators who use a gutter type skimmer choose to also install an auto-fill line to the pool to ensure that any pool or spa water that is lost is sure to be replenished quickly. 


Wall-Mounted Skimmer

The wall-mounted skimmer is arguably the most common type of skimmer in the commercial pool and spa community. It is the skimmer that has a box-like opening in the side of the pool at the surface. This skimmer type will also have an access lid or cover on the deck. 

What Are The Benefits of A Wall-Mounted Skimmer?

  1. Cleanliness. When installed correctly, the wall-mounted skimmer provides an amazing amount of surface cleaning ability. The wall-mounted skimmer will draw surface water into it and in turn will also draw surface debris into the skimmer box as well. 
  2. Ease of use. Wall-mounted skimmers allow the operator to clean and maintain each skimmer with ease through the access hole located on the deck area of the pool. It is important to note that many state and local codes require that skimmer lids be screwed down during operating hours so as to prevent guests from accessing the components within the skimmer box. 

What Are The Drawbacks of A Wall-Mounted Skimmer?

  1. Potential Suction Entrapment Hazards. It is important to remember that wall-mounted skimmers still pose a potential suction entrapment hazard to swimmers, primarily through the skimmer's equalizer line. This line is designed to draw water from the pool body should the water level drop below the skimmer's opening at the surface of the pool. If this equalizer line is not up to VGB Code and does activate, a swimmer can become entrapped on the line's opening. These suction hazards are mitigated by ensuring your water level is at least to the middle of the skimmer opening or in the middle of the tiles of the pool. It is also crucial that all operators cover their equalizer lines with VGB approved drain outlet covers. For more details on VBG compliance please click here
  2. Water loss issues. If you water level goes below the skimmer opening at the surface of the pool, your skimmers are in danger of losing prime due to the fact that the pump is likely not receiving enough water to continue operation. This is another reason it is crucial for operators to keep their water levels up, to prevent long-term damage that could occur from improper operation. 


What Is A Weir Door?

It is also important for wall-mounted skimmers to have its weir door installed. This door is a flap located between the skimmer opening and the skimmer box itself. This door provides the water movement needed for actual skimming to occur, meaning the process of drawing the water into the skimmer itself. Without this weir door it is very difficult for surface debris to make it into the skimmer itself. It should also be known that many state and local codes require that a weir door be in place. If you don't have one installed, your skimmer manufacturer can help you with the purchase of one. 


Can I Vacuum Through My Skimmer?

You can indeed vacuum through your skimmer line! In fact, it is highly encouraged to vacuum your pool through the skimmers. If you would like more information on vacuuming through your skimmer, please watch this video.


Do I Really Need My Skimmer Basket?

Think about your skimmer basket as the first line of filtration defense in your circulation system. This basket catches all the large debris that could potentially clog your impeller or cause other complications to your circulation system. 


Can I Put Chlorine Tablets In My Skimmer Basket?

Many, and I mean MANY, pool and spa service and maintenance companies will recommend putting chlorine tablets directly into your skimmers, but it cannot be stressed enough how bad of a practice this is. By pulling that heavily chlorinated water through your skimmer and down through your circulation components it is highly likely that you will shorten the lifespan of all components significantly by doing so. 


How Do I Learn More About My Pool And Spa?

Pools and spas can be complex and skimmers are just one of the areas where good information is needed when it comes to making sure your property or home is as safe as possible. Enrolling in one of Pool Training Academy's CPO® (Certified Pool Operator) Classes is the best step toward making sure you and your property are as covered from liability as possible. We have CPO® classes taking place all over the United States, from Denver, CO to Missoula, MT, Moab, UT to Kansas City. Pool Training Academy's Certified Pool Operator Class is the premier choice for those who want to learn more about their pools and spas. To sign up for a class near you just click here. 



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