In an effort to make pool and spa ownership as easy and enjoyable as possible, we have included this handy glossary to help you become familiar with the terms commonly used in our industry.

AG: Above ground pool

Air leak: what happens when something on the suction side is not airtight. Pool pumps need to create a vacuum in order to work properly. Air leaks can be dangerous as trapped air can be compressed, causing high pressures. Aeration of water can cause foam.

Algae: small plant life which grows in pool water. It comes in green, yellow and black. Slimy in texture. Yellow and black are hardest to kill.

Algaecide: A strong chemical which kills algae and stops it from growing.

Alkalinity (Total Alkalinity): a measure of how stable the pH is. A low total alkalinity level will cause the pH to fluctuate drastically whenever small amounts of acid or base are added to the pool water. A high total alkalinity level will make the water more susceptible to scale and high pH.

Alum: aluminum sulfate, commonly called Floc. Used to help clarify water. Causes small particles to join together so they can be trapped in filter. Alum lowers the pH of the water.

Aluminum sulfate: see Alum

Automatic pool cleaner: device which cleans debris in the pool automatically.

Backwash: a means of cleaning which involves reversing the flow of water through the filter, forcing the water and dirt out a "waste" line. This is done by setting the backwash valve to the backwash position. NOTE: never adjust this valve when the pump is running!

Bacteria: One-Celled organisms - some of which cause disease and/or infection.

Ball valve: used to regulate the flow of water and to shut off skimmers, drains and other lines in order to vacuum or run a spa or water feature.

Biguanides: an alternative sanitizer which is part of a pool water treatment system which uses no chlorine. Most chemicals used with chlorine are incompatible with biguanide sanitizers, and vise versa. The recommended shock for biguanide treated pools contains hydrogen peroxide.

Broadcasting: distributing chemicals in the pool by scattering over the water surface

Bromine: an alternative sanitizer similar to chlorine, commonly used in spas. Very effective against bacteria, cannot be stabilized, so it is susceptible to deterioration by sunlight. When it combines with ammonia compounds, it is still an effective sanitizer, unlike chlorine.

Calcium Hardness: a measure of the level of calcium salts in the water. Helps determine how scaling or corrosive the water is. Especially important to monitor in pools with a plaster finish.

Cartridge filter: filter with a pleated element which traps debris. Looks like a giant oil filter.

CFE: short for Coplanor Fluid Ejector. The patented water movement system that allows Saratoga Spa to offer a truly unique Hydrotherapy experience.

Chelating agent: chemical which binds up metals. Used to prevent metal staining and discolored water.

Chloramines: smelly organic by-products caused by using too little chlorine to keep a pool sanitized.

Chlorine: a sanitizer and an oxidizer. As a sanitizer it kills bacteria in pools. As an oxidizer it burns off organic matter and kills algae.

Chlorine demand: the amount of chlorine required to rid a particular pool of existing bacteria, algae and swimmers wastes.

Chlorine residual: the actual level of chlorine in a pool after the chlorine demand has been satisfied.

Circulation: the flow of water in a swimming pool. Ideally, the circulation of your pool should have no "dead spots" (areas of stagnant water).

Clarifier: chemical used to remove haze from water. Usually works by causing small particles to join together so the filter can pick them up.

Coagulating agent: see flocculating agent clarifier.

Coping: the material which "joins" the pool to the deck. Made of concrete, aluminum, plastic, brick or wood. Commonly concrete on concrete pools, aluminum on vinyl pools.

Cyanuric acid: stabilizes chlorine. Can be a part of chlorine, as in "stabilized chlorine" or can be added separately if using unstabilized chlorine. Helps prevent deterioration of chlorine from heat or sunlight. Avoid high levels (over 75 parts per million) which can cause discoloration, odors, and other problems.

DE - Diatomaceous Earth: A white powder commonly used to filter water. DE is added tot he skimmer and as it goes into the filter, it coats the elements. The earth does the filtering, not the elements. When the DE is dirty, the filter is "backwashed" or drained and new DE must be added to the filter. DE is a fossil material.

Defoamer: a chemical which reduces and/or eliminates foam. It pops bubbles, squirt it over water surface.

Directional fitting: "eyeball" type device which attaches to the pool return so that the water can be directed a certain way.

Discoloration: presence of unusual colors in the water, commonly clear, green or brown.

Enzymes: break down oily, gooey substances and convert them to water and carbon dioxide.

Fiber optics: lighting system which has light generated at a remote source. Light is then transmitted along fibers.

Filter: tank which is used to filter fine debris out of pool water. Types of filters are: Cartridge, Diatomaceous Earth (DE), Regenerative DE and Sand

Filter cycle: length of time between cleaning or backwashing the filter until it has to be done again.

Flocculating agent: added to water to coagulate particles that cause haze. See alum or clarifier.

Free chlorine: the active form of chlorine that actually kills bacteria and algae.

Gizzmo: a hollow, collapsible plastic fitting used to plug the skimmer. If ice forms in the skimmer, the gizzmo can absorb the expanding ice. It is green and looks like a thermos bottle.

Haze: cloudiness in water, caused by very small floating particles. Also called turbidity.

Hydrogen peroxide: an oxidizer used with biguanide systems. Typically used once a month.

IG: In-ground pool

Ionizer: a device which generates copper and/or silver ions needed to kill bacteria. Decreases the amount of sanitizer needed.

Organic waste: debris such as microorganisms, perspiration, urine, etc. which needs to be burned up or "oxidized" regularly to prevent haze, algae, chloramines, etc.

Oxidizer: chemical which burns up organic matter. See above.

Ozone: a form of oxygen which disinfects and deodorizes. It is generated and entered into spa water by an ozonator.

pH: potential Hydrogen. A measure of how acidic or basic the water is. pH of 7.0 is neutral. Pool water should be kept slightly basic: pH 7.2 - 7.6

pH buffer: a chemical which when added to water will cause it to resist pH change.

Pool surfaces: not to be confused with water surface, refers to the walls and floor of a pool. Common surfaces include fiberglass, plaster, painted concrete, vinyl and tile.

Pool types: Above Ground, AG; In Ground, IG.

ppm: parts per million, a standard measure of chemical or mineral concentration.

Priming: filling the strainer or vacuum hose with water to help the pump push air out of the lines. If the pump won't prime, a full flow of water to the pump is being impeded by an air leak or restricted by clogged lines or baskets.

Pressure gauge: round dial located on backwash valve or on top of filter. Indicates in pounds per square inch the pressure in the filter. When the pressure reads 10 psi or more above what it did when the filter was freshly clean, the filter needs to be cleaned.

Pump: moves the water through the filter and around the pool.

Returns: the point at which water "returns" to the pool after having traveled through the filter.

Sand Filter: uses sand to filter the pool water.

Sanitizer: a chemical used to kill bacteria. Generic names: Bromine, Biguanide, and chlorine.

Sequestering agent: chemical which bonds with metals so they can't cause staining or discoloration. See also: chelating agent.

Shock: an oxidizer tat "burns off" the organic wastes which case cloudiness and algae. It is a generic term for a chemical used to oxidize organic wastes.

Skimmer: white, box-like compartment on the side of the pool which automatically skims the top few inches of water, removing debris and oily film. Contains a removable basket which needs to be cleared of debris periodically.

Strainer: a basket in front of the pump which keeps fine debris from reaching the pump's impeller area. Must be cleaned periodically.

Solar heating coils: accessory tubes through which water warmed by the sun heats the pool.

TDS - Total Dissolved Solids: as the name implies, a measure of the solids dissolved in the water. A high level of solids interferes with sanitizer effectiveness.

Tetra borate compound: generic term for a chemical commonly used to treat and prevent pink slime, water mold and algae.


  • Leaf vacuum: attaches to a garden hose, causing leaves to be swirled into a bag on top of the leaf vacuum.
  • Leaf rake: like a surface skimmer but has a bag for picking up piles of leaves.
  • Surface skimmer: plastic, flat mesh net skimmer used to scoop up floating debris.
  • Telescoping pole: used to vacuum, brush, etc. and is adjustable in length.

Total Alkalinity: see Alkalinity.

Vacuum hose: used to vacuum debris from the floor and slopes of the pool. It attaches to the vacuum head on one end, and to the vacuum plate on the other.

Vacuum plate: provides a vacuum sealed connection for the vacuum hose through the skimmer intake.

Valve: an equalizer device used in pools where the main drain line is plumbed into the skimmer. Used to adjust the amount of flow from the skimmer and main drain, usually adjusted before vacuuming.

Water balance: balanced water occurs when the pH, Total Alkalinity and other mineral levels are in their proper range.

Water mold: a type of bacteria found in nasty looking pool water. White-gray or pink in color. Very slimy and difficult to eliminate.

Whisper Clean: A Saratoga Spa Trademark and the heart of their Luxury Line's operation system. The Whisper Clean Constant Circulation System operates an independent energy efficient pump so your water is always warm, always clean, always waiting.

Whisper Zone: represents the Saratoga Luxury Line Spa's custom designed Corona discharge ozonator and ozone diffusion chamber. Standard in the Luxury Line.