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What are the benefits of a salt water pool? Well, in this article we answer all of your questions and give you the information you need to make a decision.
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Intro | Benefits of A Salt Water Pool
As the temperatures start climbing many people seek the enjoyment of having a pool. Among many factors to keep in mind when choosing, one of the biggest considerations is the benefits of a salt water pool. Conventional chlorine pools have been the standard for decades while salt water pool systems have only been around since the late 70’s. They have gained significant popularity over traditional chlorinated pools through the years, making up nearly 70% of the pools in the U.S.
How Salt Water Pool Systems Work
Most pool owners have heard of salt water systems, but many don’t understand how they work.There are many misconceptions when it comes to these sanitation systems. For starters, a salt water pool isn’t technically chlorine-free. A saltwater pump uses a process that generates free chlorine in a pure form to safely and effectively sanitize the water. In fact, a saltwater system may also be referred to as a salt water chlorine generator or an electronic chlorine generator. The science behind a saltwater pump is a process known as electrolysis. A salt system cell, which is a component in the plumbing, uses a mild electrical charge that splits molecules apart as the salt and water molecules pass through it.
VIDEO | Pentair IntelliChlor Salt Chlorine Generator System
There may be some confusion among new or current pool owners looking to shy away from using chlorine when they learn that a salt water system produces its own chlorine. It’s actually chloramine that’s behind the negative effects of chlorine, not the chemical itself. Chloramines are released as chlorine begins breaking down organic contaminants. As the chlorine works on sanitizing the pool water, the amount of available free chlorine lowers and raises the chloramine levels. When a pool has a strong ‘chlorine smell’ it’s usually a result of low chlorine levels and actually a sign that you need more chlorine in your pool to effectively clean the water.
A salt water system produces a lower amount of chlorine than auxiliary chlorine (tablets), but in a higher quality. It doesn’t get broken down as easily when it sanitizes so the amount of free chlorine available remains consistent, keeping chloramine levels low. The unique filtration process in a salt water generator helps to keep the chemicals balanced, reducing the need to add anything and no harsh side effects.
Contrary to belief, salt water pools are not nearly as salty as they are perceived. Many believe a saltwater pool is comparable to the ocean in terms of salinity; however, it is only one-tenth the salinity of seawater. It is so subtle that you likely can’t even taste it (not that you should be consuming pool water in the first place).
Saltwater vs. Conventional Chlorine Pool
As more consumers are turning to salt water pool systems further research has been conducted to determine if the benefits of a salt water pool are really worth it. There are many advantages as well as disadvantages to going with saltwater pool systems vs. conventional chlorine. Both are mentioned below and broken down.
- No smell
- No ill-effects from chlorine
- Low maintenance
- Safer to maintain and enjoy
- Costly initial investment
- May corrode certain materials
One of the biggest notable factors in a salt water pool is the smell. Most people find the strong chemical odor in traditional chlorine pools unpleasant and bothersome to the eyes. As previously mentioned, the smell is a result of higher chloramine levels; however salt water systems keep those levels low. This is very beneficial to swimmers that suffer with allergies or respiratory issues. Studies have shown a higher chance of lung inflammation from frequent exposure to strong chloramine levels. In outdoor pools the smell from chloramines may not be as pungent as it evaporates. In indoor pools, however, the chloramines stay contained and can cause irritation to those who have difficulty breathing normally. Many hotels and spa resorts have switched to or are going with salt water pool systems for this reason.
How A Salt Water Generator Works
Conventional chlorine pools can have many ill effects on your time spent in the pool. For instance, swimmers with color-treated hair sometimes experience an undesirable color change (green!) as a result of the chemical reaction. A salt water generator won’t do this. It also feels softer and better for the skin. Likewise, you won’t experience your bathing-suits becoming faded or bleached from a salt water chlorine pool.
Some pool owners may feel that a salt water system is harder to maintain, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In traditional chlorine pools you have to add in chlorine tablets along with other chemicals such as shock to sanitize and stabilize the water. This may be required multiple times a week depending on conditions and how frequently you use your pool.
The filtration process in a salt water pool converts the salt and water into a high quality chlorine for you so it’s one less step you have to do. It is not maintenance-free, however. You do need to test the water’s pH and chlorine levels on a weekly basis to monitor it and make adjustments as necessary. Your total time spent maintaining your salt water pool will be cut in half or greater than maintaining a traditional chlorine pool. It’s also much safer than handling and storing chemicals that can have harmful long-term effects on your health.
Converting Your Pool to Salt Water
If you currently have a traditional chlorine pool, whether above-ground or an inground pool, you can convert it to salt water easily. You will have to choose a salt system that is best suited for your pool based on size and your budget. Some systems offer advanced features like self-diagnosis and can even help you manage pool equipment. Your next step is deciding whether to have it installed professionally or do it yourself. If you are knowledgeable and confident on performing basic plumbing and electrical work you can tackle installation yourself to convert your pool within 3-6 hours.
After installation of your salt water system you will need to add pool salt to the water. The amount of salt needed will depend on the size of the pool and may be from 400lbs to 1,000 lbs. This may sound like a lot but bear in mind that pool salt is typically sold in 40lb bags. You may need to add 10 bags of salt to your pool (or more based on how much is needed), but the salt remains in the pool. It doesn’t dissolve like chlorine tablets so you may only need to add salt a few times per year depending on conditions such as heavy rain.
The amount of salt your pool should contain is measured as PPM or parts per million. Most salt water systems require a range of 3,000 to 3,500PPM. It is advised to use salt test strips prior to adding any salt as your pool water may already naturally contain sodium in it. After distributing the salt, allow it to run through the filter pump for 24 hours and test it with another salt test strip to ensure the reading is within the recommended range.
Disadvantages of a Salt Water Pool vs. Chlorine Pools
A salt water pump system will cost you a great deal more initially than a traditional chlorinated pool. Depending on the size of your pool, a salt water system can cost between $400 to $2,000 or more. The higher-end models, of course, have more features that make it much easier to manage and won’t need replacement parts as quickly. The salt water cell within the pump system will need to be replaced every 3-7 years. These range anywhere between $200 to $800 depending on the size of your pool. Considering the long-term costs of chemicals and supplies needed to maintain a chlorine pool, you will spend close to the same overall on a salt water pool.
Another disadvantage that is up for debate is the effect salt water has on certain materials. There are many factors that can also be responsible in this, however, such as not regulating pH and alkalinity levels. For instance, if you currently have a concrete pool it may need to be resurfaced sooner with a salt water chlorine system. Fiberglass pools should be fine. Other pool equipment to keep in mind are accessories such as pool heaters. A cupro-nickel pool heater is recommended with a salt water system as they hold up better with a heavy duty heat exchanger.
Cupro-Nickel Heater | Trane TR250NA
In salt water pools the pH levels tend to rise more than traditional chlorine pools. Higher pH levels can lead to a buildup of calcium that can affect the equipment and cause corrosion. This can be easily monitored by measuring the pH levels on a weekly basis. If the levels are too high, muriatic acid can be added to stabilize it. Another solution is to add a sacrificial zinc anode to the skimmer to absorb any corrosion.
The benefits of a salt water pool over traditional chlorine pools are pushing more pool owners to make the switch. A salt water chlorine generator is one of the most popular alternatives, but it’s not the only option.
This is a sanitizer that is commonly used in spas to effectively clean and purify the water without the use of chlorine. It is more stable than using chlorine and requires less testing and maintenance. The only downfall is it’s much more expensive to use, especially in outdoor pools. Unlike with chlorine, Bromine does not have the potential to stabilize against UV rays, which causes a ‘burn-off’ effect. This makes it less effective and ups the cost for pool owners in keeping their pool properly sanitized. This chlorine-alternative is ideal for indoor pools and spas that are covered from sunlight.
A Mineral System
In addition to salt water pool systems, mineral pool water systems are gaining popularity as an alternative to chlorine for pool sanitation. These systems reduce chlorine usage by up to 50% and control bacteria and algae. A complete mineral sanitation system is unique in that it slowly releases silver or copper into the pool water in combination with a salt system to conveniently maintain the automatic sanitizer generation. This also creates softer water that is gentler on skin and eyes.
An ozone generator aids in keeping your pool water clean and free of contaminants by breaking them down and prevents calcium build up. They reduce the usage of harsh chemicals by 60-90%, although they must still be used in combination with a sanitation system. An ozone generator will not purify the water to the recommend standards on its own. A benefit to adding this system to your current sanitation is that it’s pH neutral.
There are many careful considerations to keep in mind when choosing the best method for keeping your pool clean and healthy to enjoy. A professional pool company can answer questions you may have and offer suggestions on what’s best for your needs.