Whether you’re a new pool owner or simply looking for an efficient alternative, selecting a swimming pool sanitation system can be confusing. You might consider a traditional chlorine system or opt for a salt water pool conversion. There are also bromine systems and ionizers that release minerals into the water. Each system offers distinct advantages and disadvantages, so compare all the variables to pick one that works best for you.
Benefits of a Salt Water Pool
A pool salt system has distinct advantages, but swimming in a saltwater pool isn’t like swimming in the ocean. A saltwater pool actually has a lot less salinity, about a tenth of the ocean. In a pool salt system, salt passes through a cell or salt chlorinator where an electric charge breaks it down into chlorine. This chemical process is known as electrolysis and the result is water that seems softer, less irritating to your eyes and less drying to your skin. Choose saltwater pool care products designed to address the unique needs of a saltwater pool, such as SaltScapes™ from BioGuard, to make maintaining your pool simpler and easier.
Disadvantages of a Salt Water Pool
Salt is usually cheaper than traditional chemicals you’d use to keep your pool clean, but the initial investment is much higher. Salt chlorinators, also called chlorine generators, can cost $5,000 or more. Also, the cell won’t last forever and require replacement about every three to five years. These systems are also more complex, so even minor problems often require experienced technicians for repairs.
Another undeniable truth about salt pools is they aren’t chlorine-free. Despite many misconceptions, salt systems create chlorine to disinfect the water. Furthermore, this chlorine is unstabilized, so it diminishes rapidly when exposed to the sun’s UV rays. The conversion of saltwater to chlorine also contributes to higher pH, so higher amounts of pH decreaser may be required to keep it within safe levels. One of the biggest disadvantages of a salt water pool conversion, however, is salt can damage certain materials and pool accessories. Some types of masonry and pool liners, and certain fixtures, underwater lighting, and heaters may not hold up well.
Salt Water Pool vs Chlorine
Maintaining a pool with a chlorine generator isn’t that much different than using chlorine tablets. For example, maintenance includes regular water balance testing, just like traditional chlorine pools. Also, the same level of chlorine is required to maintain your pool no matter which type of system you use, and both must be shocked regularly.
Chlorine tablets have been the most common pool sanitation product for decades. These tablets are dispersed into the water either with an external chemical feeder installed near your pool or an in-pool floating device. Tablets are stabilized to prevent chlorine loss due to UV rays and some contain additional ingredients to prevent scaling and soften the water. Chlorine tablets are suitable for all pool types. Alternatives to tablets include liquid or gas chlorine that work the same way. Consider easy weekly programs to make maintenance simpler.
Salt generators are much newer to the market. Salt is poured into the pool and brushed until it dissolves, then the salt generator will electrolyze the salt to produce chlorine. Appropriate salt levels are key in effectiveness. If you add too little or too much salt, the generator may stop producing chlorine. Salt is corrosive, so high levels of salt may cause damage even sooner, making a salt water system inappropriate for some types of pools. Consider saltwater pool care programs that include all the steps to maintain your pool.
Bromine systems are another alternative for effective pool sanitation that offer reduced skin and eye irritation. Bromine is more often used in spas, but can be used in pools. It’s more stable than chlorine, so it doesn’t require as much testing. However, it does cost more and takes more product, because it can’t be stabilized against burn-off caused by UV rays. This makes bromine systems more suitable for indoor pools.
Mineral systems have become a fast-growing sanitation alternative because they’re easy to maintain and allow you to reduce chlorine usage by as much as 50%. Options range from simple, pre-filled floating dispensers to complete sanitation systems. Mineral systems may use active or passive devices to create ionic silver and copper to eliminate algae and bacteria while reducing chlorine demand and skin and eye irritation. Systems often require a costly initial investment and must pass U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
When comparing saltwater pools and their alternatives, keep in mind:
- Salt water pools are less irritating to your eyes and skin but still contain chlorine.
- Chlorine systems remain the most common choice and are suitable for all pool types.
- Bromine systems are more expensive for outdoor pools but reduce eye and skin irritation.
- Mineral systems are growing in popularity, easy to maintain and reduce chlorine usage.
Contact the Pool Experts
Aqua Spas and Pools in Gig Harbor, Washington is a full-service pool and spa company. We offer everything from installation to upkeep and can help you choose a pool sanitation system that’s perfect for your needs. Contact us to discuss all your options.