Pros: Very affordable, completely equipped, easy to set-up
Cons: Handle with care, needs level surface, takes three times the promised time to install
Sure, our public pool is great, and not too far away, but I still wanted an own pool for the kids to enjoy the summer. A friend of mine had bought the 12' version of the pool, and was very enthusiastic about it. When we visited him, our kids just loved it. But for our 18 months old, it was definitely too big. So I went to the Walmart and got the 10' version, for a mere 83$, with tax.
The pool came in a surprisingly small box, that was easy to transport, even in our small car. Once I had opened it, I was surprised at what was in there. The pool, very efficiently folded, the pool cover, the filter-pump with hoses, a big fish-net like scoop, an aspirator, and a VHS tape with instructions. Very impressive! Excited, I decided to skip the instructions to get the thing installed.
I hesitated between an almost level piece of lawn, nicely exposed to the sun, and our concrete patio, partly in the shadow of the aluminum roof. I chose the latter, and think I did right given the trouble some other reviewers had with pools that had been installed on not so level surfaces. I removed all gravel and spread out the pool as evenly as I could. I then inflated the rubber ring with a standard foot-pump, which took me 5 minutes or less. The valve was a bit defective, I believe, because at first I couldn't get it closed in an air-tight fashion, it just kept loosing air. Only after a couple of tried I got the thing stuck. I also noticed two "aneurisms" in the ring, one smaller and one more serious. I think the thickness of the wall was quite variable. It looks rather funny, with a small and large "bubble" on the ring, but I hope the walls are thick enough to withstand cat claws, or bird feet. The plastic of the ring definitely is the weakest spot of this otherwise pretty sturdy pool. Handle with care!
Once the ring was inflated, I glanced in the instructions, and, as suggested, I first added one inch of water and started to remove wrinkles working from within the pool. Since we had a very even floor, this was no problem, although it took me another 15 minutes. Therafter, I filled the pool, sat back, and relaxed. 30 more minutes later, the water-level was high enough to mount the tubings for the filter unit. Out of curiosity I opened it and was amazed by the elegant simplicity of the thing. De-gasing the filter was very easy, and the long power cord allowed me to plug it into several outlets of choice. That was it! All in all, very easy to set-up, though certainly not within the 10 minute range as promised. I'm also pretty sure that I will not be able to squeeze the whole thing back into the box, once summer is over. But we'll see by then.
Maintenance is fairly easy. Changing the filter is a breeze, some reviewers even suggest to just rinse the filter and re-use it. I might try that the next time. The aspirator works very well, and is another example of elegant simplicity. You'll add some extra gallons to the pool while aspirating, since it uses the water force of a garden hose. The "sieving device/fish-net" works very well and can be mounted on a long, light-weight aluminum handle (included!)
You do neet to "sanitize" the water regularly. I decided not to buy special chemicals, but to use standard clorox, which is nothing more or less than sodium hypochlorite, or NaClO. Stick with the cheap brands, not with the clorox brand, because they add other stuff to it, with unknown effects for eyes and skin. After some calculation, I found out that about one-third of a quart of standard Clorox would give about 1-2 ppm (parts per million) of hypochlorite, which is what the experts recommend. I used my nose to check whether I had added enough, or perhaps too much, but I think I was about right (no blisters after a day :), and for those interested in the calculation, I included it at the bottom of the review.
Finally, a word or two about the actual usage of the pool. I like it a lot, and I can even float on the surface, with some paddling, and with my eyes closed I've almost the impression of being on a lake. But, most importantly, our kids love it! For a 3-7 year old, it's great, and without any danger. However, for younger kids it actually is a bit dangerous. Though our 18 months old daughter can stand upright in it, once she falls over, she struggles to get up, and I'm pretty sure that she could drown when in panic. Never use it without supervision and proper swimming aides! The border of the pool is high enough to prevent access, but I always make sure that no chairs are around, or other objects that the kids might use as a step. And I keep the pool covered as soon as they're done. The cover is easy to install, but only offers visual dissuasion and is not strong enough to hold the weight of a toddler. After swimming I put some plastic garden chairs in the pool, and some plastic crates, so our daughter would have something to hold on when she would fall in it in an un-supervised moment.
I agree with the other reviewers that the pool does not keep the water at a steady temperature, it tends to cool off considerably during a fresh night.
Taken together, a nice investment, with an excellent value-to-price ratio. But I think the pool is a bit too deep for kids under 3.
And now for those interested in the calculation:
density of water = 1000g/l
molecular weight of water = 18 g/mol
1 liter of water thus contains 55.55 mol of water molecules.
The whole pool, at 3500 liter (according to manufacturer and the PI-R square-times-height method), thus contains 195708.3 moles of water molecules.
1 millionth of that amount in hyperchlorite would mean about 0.195 moles of the stuff.
Molecular weight of sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) = 74.4 g/mol
Thus, you need to add 14.56 g of NaClO
The walmart brand comes as a 4.5% solution (4.5 g / 0.1 l), thus you need to add 323 ml of that stuff to get a 1-2 ppm solution.
Anyway, it works fine with me, and saves quite a bit of money. I repeat this about once a week, according to the (subjective) pollution level, but I add the stuff in 100 ml increments and let the pump disperse the clorox before I check it again (with the "nose" method).
Be careful, though, and if you are not sure what you are doing, buy a kit instead...