As the beginning of the pool filtration system, skimmers help keep the water clean and the equipment running smoothly.
What is a Pool Skimmer?
Swimming pool skimmers have two functions: They are the point where pool water enters the filtration system, and they can provide the suction for a manual pool vacuum.
Part of the Filtration System
Skimmers for in-ground pools are those rectangular openings in the side of the pool at the waterline. The body of the skimmer, which is under the deck surrounding the pool, is plumbed to the pool’s pump and filter system. When the pump is turned on, a floating door, called a weir, allows a thin sheet of surface water into the skimmer. The water carries anything that floats on the pool’s surface, such as grass clippings, leaves and dead insects. When the pump is turned off, the door closes so anything in the skimmer is prevented from flowing back into the pool. The idea is to catch anything floating on the surface before it sinks to the bottom of the pool.
Inside the skimmer is a basket that catches the debris before it enters the pool’s plumbing lines. You can reach it through a round cover on the pool deck. Even if you have a pool service maintain your pool, it is a good idea to clean out the basket every few days. A full basket can restrict the pump’s power, which means that less pool water is getting to the pool’s filter system.
When you remove the skimmer’s cover and basket, you may see two holes in the bottom of the skimmer. One is connected directly to the pump, usually the one furthest from the pool. The other may or may not be connected to the main drain in the bottom of the pool. That’s a decision the pool builder made when constructing the pool. If it is connected, there is a diverter valve to regulate the water flow; if it isn’t, the hole is plugged.
Skimmers for aboveground pools usually hang off of the side of the pool. If the pool is not surrounded by a deck, you will see that the skimmer is connected directly to the pump/filtration system by flexible tubing. Again, it is a good idea to keep the skimmer basket clear of debris.
Pool vacuums need suction to work, and they get it from the pump that is connected to the skimmer. Connecting the vacuum to the skimmer is pretty much the same for both in-ground and aboveground pools.
Follow the directions for the vacuum, but in most cases, this means that you'll connect the swivel end of the hose to the vacuum head. Push the vacuum head to the bottom of the pool and slowly feed the hose into the water. The goal is to fill the hose with water. If you can reach the return jet, where the water re-enters the pool after going through the filter, you may be able to hold the end of the hose over the jet to help push out the air and fill the hose with water.
Once the hose is filled, carefully push it through the skimmer opening. Don’t pull the skimmer up over the edge of the pool—keep it submerged. Plug the hose into the hole that leads to the pump at the bottom of the skimmer, then start vacuuming.
Pool skimmers require little attention from you, but they play an important role in the pool filtration system.