Salt Water Pool vs Chlorine Swimming Pool — Which one is better? What’s the difference between the two types of pools? Is a salt water pool healthier than a chlorine pool? It might seem like magic to some people, but a salt water generator, like the Pentair IntelliChlor (above), takes in pool grade salt and converts it to chlorine via the process of electrolysis. After the chlorine has done its job and cleaned your pool, it gets converted back to salt, only to repeat the cycle. Occasionally you’ll still have to shock your pool, but overall it’s an automated system to maintain a healthy pool.
In this article we help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each pool type, allowing you to decide which pool is most suitable for your needs and budget.
Salt Water Pool vs Chlorine Swimming Pool
The debate around salt water vs chlorine pools has been raging ever since saltwater pools was presented as a healthier option. This really took off in the 1980’s and has continued to the present day.
If you’re deciding between a saltwater pool and a chlorine pool, it’s best to know the facts beforehand. That’s what this article is going to do – dispel the myths and present you with the correct information in order to make an informed decision. In truth, both saltwater and chlorine pools have their pros and cons. This has mostly to do with the cost and the time it takes to maintain your swimming pool.
Before we begin, one fact needs to be clarified. A salt water pools is basically a chlorine pool, it just has less chlorine in the water. Chlorine, at high levels, can be harmful to your eyes and skin. So, essentially, less chlorine is healthier. However, careful monitoring of your pool’s PH level will negate this issue and a chlorine pool need not be bad for the condition of your eyes and skin. You just need to take more care in testing your pool regularly.
Since a saltwater pool is just a different type of chlorine pool, you’re probably asking what the difference is between the two.
Advantages of Salt Water Pools
- Easy to maintain.
- Clean, clear, soft water. More comfortable.
- Salt chlorination is a natural sanitizer.
- Fewer chloramines produced, eliminating the harsh chemical odor we associate with chlorine pools.
- Salt cells convert regular salt into active chlorine, making it much cheaper to operate.
- Reduced likelihood of skin or eye irritation. Greatly minimized chlorine smell.
- No need to store or carry chlorine.
✓ Learn more about the benefits of a salt water pool.
How A Salt Water Pool Works
Table salt, or rock salt, has the chemical formula NaCl (sodium chloride). It is made up of sodium and chlorine. A saltwater chlorinator uses electrolysis to extract the chlorine from the salt. It’s a fairly simple device that uses an electrically generated magnetic field to separate the chlorine from the sodium.
VIDEO | For Above Ground Pools — Pentair IntelliChlor
The chlorine generator used in saltwater pools provides a slow and steady chlorine supply and is therefore very effective. Furthermore, the dose remains consistently low and won’t cause the irritation associated with high doses of chlorine. This constant chlorine dosing means that a saltwater chlorinator is better at controlling algae and bacteria.
VIDEO | For Inground Pools — Hayward AquaRite
Cost — Salt Water vs Chlorine Pool
Initially, your saltwater pool is going to cost more. This is because of the cost of purchasing and installing a chlorine generator. When you first fill your pool with water, you’ll need to add a lot of salt and this will be relatively expensive. Thereafter, you’ll only be adding small amounts of salt from time to time. When considering the cost of the salt that you use, remember that you can only use quality salt recommended for saltwater pools. This is going to cost a little more, but is still much cheaper than using chlorine and all the other chemicals that you need to keep a chlorine pool in top condition.
Some pool pumps are not recommended for saltwater pools and this may affect your installation cost. Having a limited selection of pumps to choose from means that it’s not as easy to shop around for the best price. Though, pool pumps that recommended for saltwater pools are generally higher quality pumps and should last longer. So, in the end, you’ll probably be saving on pool pump maintenance, repairs, and replacement costs in the long run.
How A Chlorine Generator Works : Pentair IntelliChlor
Not all pool linings are suitable for a saltwater pool, so this is something to consider. Salt can be corrosive and may damage some pool linings. You’ll need to check with your pool manufacturer or installer if the lining used for your pool is appropriate for a salt chlorine generator. The salt can also leave a residue on some surfaces. It’s not just the pool itself that needs to withstand the salt. A wooden deck, for example, will be damaged by the salt in the water.
After your installation costs, your saltwater becomes much cheaper to maintain. Salt is cheap, chlorine is not all that cheap. The saltwater chlorine generator will use electricity and this is going to cost a bit. Though the additional electricity cost of a saltwater pool is insignificant when you compare all the chemical costs of maintaining a chlorine pool.
Because saltwater chlorine generators maintain a constant chlorine supply, there’s virtually no algae growth. If you’re using chlorine, you’ll need to use a shock treatment regularly to ensure the water doesn’t turn cloudy or green. You’ll probably need to use an algaecide to remove algae that grows on the walls of your pool. All these chemical treatments increase your running costs.
If you intend owning your pool for a long time, the initial investment in a saltwater pool will pay for itself (and then some) over time. A saltwater pool is, therefore, the better long term investment.
Maintenance of a Salt Water vs Chlorine Pool
When you start looking at the time and effort it takes to maintain your pool, the saltwater pool beats the regular chlorine alternative. This is not to say that a saltwater pool is totally maintenance free – no pool ever is. You need to add salt occasionally, this requires very little effort and you don’t need to be too strict about how much salt you use.
The main difference when maintaining a saltwater pool, compared to a chlorine pool, is keeping your chlorine generator clean. A salt scale builds up inside the generator and this needs to be removed. It’s essential that this is done properly and that the chlorine generator is not damaged in the process. For this reason, most people prefer to have their chlorine generator maintained by a professional.
When we start looking at maintaining a chlorine pool, the job becomes more arduous. A chlorine pool needs to be scrubbed regularly to remove algae. This requires draining the pool and scrubbing the walls and floors. You won’t need to do this as often with a saltwater pool.
You also need to test the PH of your pool water regularly when using chlorine. An incorrect PH balance causes irritation of the eyes and skin. Not only do you need to check the PH level, you’ll usually have to add water softeners to combat the effects of chlorine on your PH balance.
A chlorine generator uses a timer to control the production of chlorine and requires no additional input. When you first start using your saltwater chlorine generator, you’ll need to monitor it for a while. This will take a little analysis before you get the perfect running time for your chlorine generator. From here on, it’s plain sailing. The chlorine generator will take care of itself and maintain a perfectly safe, and highly effective, chlorine generation rate.
Testing your Pool Water
Chlorine pools require regular PH testing, whereas saltwater pools only need initial testing to adjust the timer settings for the chlorine generator.
Pool water testing kits are not expensive and are pretty easy to use. The kit consists of a water sampler and test drops. All you need to do is fill water sampler to the line indicating the correct water level and add the correct amount of drops to the water.
The water will change color according to the PH level and you compare this to color chart. The corresponding color will have a PH numeric value. The ideal pool water PH level is 7.2 to 7.6. If you have a chlorine pool the PH will always fluctuate as the chlorine is absorbed into the water.
Complete Pool Test Kit | Taylor Technologies Inc K-2006
If this seems like too much effort, you can consider an electronic PH tester. They cost a fair bit more than PH testing kits, but are easy to use and 100% accurate. An electronic PH tester can be a very small device that can fit into your pocket. All you need to do is dip the testing probe into the water and you will have digital readout of the PH displayed on a small screen.
Automatic pool chlorinators for chlorine pools use chlorine tablets inside a chlorinator. The unit is connected along the pipe that returns the water from the pump filter to the pool. You control the amount of chlorine in the water by the adjusting flow of water through the chlorinator. While this makes things easier, you’ll seldom get the perfect chlorination rate and will usually have to add a water softener to maintain a perfect PH. So you will always need to test your chlorine pool regularly to ensure the correct PH for your pool water.
Keeping Your Pool Clean — Salt Water vs Chlorine Pools
We’ve already established that saltwater pools are easier to keep clean as there’s virtually no chance of algae. If you’re using an automatic pool cleaner, this can have an effect on the type of pool cleaner that you use.
Skimming Your Pool
Every pool needs to be skimmed to remove floating debris from the surface. This can entail using a skimming net to manually remove the debris – like leaves and insects floating on the surface. If this all sounds like too much effort, you can use an automatic pool skimmer that uses the water flow generated by the pump to capture the floating debris in a sock-like net. All you need do is empty the skimmer as it fills up.
Regardless of whether you have a saltwater or chlorine pool, skimming is essential. This is of particular importance after a storm or strong wind, as more debris will be blown into the pool.
Apart from skimming, the walls and floor need to be cleaned regularly. Dirt and other debris sinks to the pool floor and needs to be removed. Some types of pool linings can attract dirt to the walls as well and chlorine pools will have algae growing on the walls. Since most of us use automatic pool cleaners these days, you need to have the correct automatic pool cleaner for the type of pool that you have.
Automatic Pool Cleaners
Some automatic pool cleaners are not the best for chlorine pools and you can often get away with cheaper pool cleaners if you have a saltwater pool. This is because the walls don’t need to be scrubbed in order to remove algae. So cheaper automatic pool cleaners, that don’t scrub the walls, used in a chlorine pool will require extra effort on your part.
Other considerations, when choosing the best automatic pool cleaner, will be steps and corners, as well as the type of pool lining. It’s best to do some research before buying an automatic pool cleaner and online reviews can help a lot in this regard.
Suction Side Pool Cleaners are usually the cheaper option, but are also the slowest and can be the least effective. Though more expensive suction side pool cleaners can be as good as (sometimes better) than entry level robotic pool cleaners. They can also be as expensive, even more expensive, than some cheap robotic pool cleaners.
They work by inserting a pipe into the suction outlet that leads from the pool to the pump. These pool cleaners move slowly, so they take a long time to clean the pool. Cheaper models follow a random path. This means that they may not always clean pool thoroughly. They can often cover the same area repeatedly, whilst not cleaning other areas at all.
Example of a Suction-Side Pool Cleaner | Zodiac Baracuda G3
Suction side pool cleaners only suck up debris, they don’t scrub the floors and walls to remove algae. This is fine for saltwater pools. But if you have a chlorine pool, and use a suction side pool cleaner, you will have to scrub the walls (and possibly the floor) regularly to prevent the growth of algae.
Many of the cheaper suction side pool cleaners can’t handle larger leaves or heavy debris. They simply aren’t powerful enough and the diaphragm mechanism that propels the pool cleaner can be become blocked by larger debris. When this happens, you have to remove the obstacle in the diaphragm before it can resume cleaning.
Pressure Side Pool Cleaners work in very much the same way as a suction side pool cleaner. The difference being that these pool cleaners use the power side. In other words, they use the power of the water entering the pool, instead of the suction outlet.
These pool cleaners are faster and more effective, especially at removing larger, heavier debris. The downside is that they require a more powerful pool pump. These pumps cost more and require more electricity. Power side automatic pool cleaners are also more expensive to buy. So your initial outlay and running costs are higher for a power side pool cleaner.
Pressure-Side Pool Cleaner | Zodiac MX6
For salt water pools, a quality power side pool cleaner can be your best option. However, if you have a chlorine pool, you’ll still need to scrub the pool as regularly as you would using a suction side pool cleaner.
Robotic Pool Cleaners — These are the most advanced, and usually, the most expensive type of pool cleaner. I’d avoid buying a cheap robotic pool cleaner. You’d be better off buying a high-end suction or power side pool cleaner. Robotic pool cleaners have the advantage of intelligent pool monitoring and drastically reduce the time it takes to clean the pool. They also clean the pool more thoroughly, as well as filtering the water as they clean. You should end up using much less chemicals for a chlorine pool if you use a robotic pool cleaner.
Advanced Robotic Pool Cleaner : Dolphin Sigma
They also use their own power and don’t rely on the pool pump. Because a robotic pool cleaner uses a fraction of the electricity, compared to the average pool pump, they are cheaper to run. The best robotic pool cleaners have very effective scrubbing brushes. These pool cleaners are the most hassle-free option for owners of chlorine pools, as they eliminate the need for manual scrubbing of the walls and floor.
If you want speed, the QC model will clean your pool in 90 minutes, as well as a longer 3 hour clean time. All of the models will clean your pool floor, walls, coves and waterline.