10 Signs of a Quality Pool/Spa Test Kit

All questions and answers on this page have been used with permission from Taylor Technologies, Inc.

Pool or spa? Outdoors or inside? Type of surface? Nature of source water? Self-maintained or with help from a service company? Deciding which test kit has the right features for your particular needs may best be determined by discussing your situation with an expert at your pool supplies store. You should consider:
  1. Ease of Use

    Buy a test kit you feel comfortable using, one that doesn’t intimidate you. After all, a test kit that sits on a shelf—no matter how good its chemistry—is a waste of money. You'll find it's a big help if the reagent caps are color-coded to the instructions.
  2. Completeness

    A good basic test kit should contain the following items:
    • A test for sanitizer (chlorine or bromine) for health reasons
    • A test for pH for health and maintenance reasons
    • Complete test instructions
    • Recommended ranges for each measurement

    Better test kits have the above features and also allow you to:
    • Distinguish between free chlorine (active sanitizer) and combined chlorine (spent sanitizer), an important feature if you have high bather loads
    • Test for total alkalinity
    • Test for adjustments to pH (acid demand/base demand)
    • Determine the correct amount of each chemical additive (treatment tables)

    The best, most complete test kits (generally used by professionals and do-it-yourself homeowners) have one or more of these, too:
    • Test for calcium hardness (note: a test for "total hardness" is not as helpful)
    • A test for cyanuric acid (a stabilizing treatment that slows down the destruction of chlorine by sunlight)
    • Tests for iron and copper
  3. Accuracy

    In order to calculate effective water treatment dosages, true readings for each testing parameter are a must. Your best defense against buying an inaccurate test kit is a reputable manufacturer whose testing system has proven reliable and a professional, conscientious dealer.

    If your test kit isn't made by a specialty chemical manufacturer, you may not be enjoying all the benefits of the latest technology. Also, if you ever question the accuracy of a test kit's chemistry, ask your retailer whether the manufacturer provides standard solutions to "test the test kit." The better ones usually do.
  4. Consistency of Results

    Your purpose in testing is to catch changes in your pool or spa's water chemistry before problems develop. So it is absolutely essential to be able to repeat tests accurately over periods of days, weeks, and months. In fact, many experienced pool/spa owners carefully log their testing and treatment regime.
  5. Suitability of Testing Method

    For any test kit to be truly useful, the test results must be expressed in terms you can easily translate to a treatment or maintenance action. A prime example is the test for chlorine. A test using "OT" (orthotolidine) can only tell you the total amount of sanitizer in the water—not the amount of active sanitizer and not how much combined chlorine you need to destroy.

    With low bather loads, you may be able to get by with using an OT test. However, most pool owners discover that using "DPD" reagents to measure chlorine is more helpful. That's because the DPD method allows you to distinguish between the free chlorine and combined chlorine in the water. All of which makes calculating treatment dosages easier and more accurate, so there are no more wasted treatment chemicals. A variation of the liquid DPD method is the FAS-DPD method that employs both a powder and a liquid reagent for analyzing chlorine levels. No color-matching is required with FAS-DPD, which makes it a favorite of testers with red-green colorblindness.

    If you think test strips may be your best bet, consider this fact:  the health inspectors who regulate public facilities do not use test strips. While test strips can provide peace of mind with a well-run pool or spa, liquid tests are still the gold standard of poolside water analysis particularly when trouble-shooting.

    These are some of the factors worth considering when choosing the right test method for you. Whenever you're in doubt, ask your Taylor dealer for a recommendation. We manufacture a wide range of products to meet most needs.
  6. Appropriate Design

    Leading manufacturers carefully design their products for poolside use. The kits are free of glass or brittle plastic components which can cut and leave no waste paper to dispose of after testing. Color standards are protected from bleaching and scratching by a plastic faceplate. Fill marks are molded, not painted on.
  7. Durability

    You will use a good test kit frequently. When making your selection, consider how well the kit will withstand repeated use in a wet environment. Two indicators of a durable test kit are tearproof, waterproof instructions and vinyl reagent labels.
  8. Availability

    The best test kits are always in stock at your local pool/spa store. Make sure that replacement reagents are readily available, too.
  9. Independent Manufacturer

    To ensure an unbiased presentation of treatment alternatives, choose a kit from a manufacturer who doesn't make treatment chemicals. Taylor is an independent manufacturer.
  10. Value

    As with any purchase, it pays to comparison shop using price as just one of several determining factors. The kit with the best value for your needs may not necessarily be the least expensive. Remember, when compared to your overall investment, a good test kit is inexpensive and indispensable.