Most public pools and home backyard pools are filled with chlorinated water to keep them sanitary. However, salt water pools are becoming increasingly popular with pool owners due to its benefits compared to chemically chlorinated pools. Here we will discuss both options and explain the benefits that come from a salt water pool so you can decide for yourself.

Chlorine

Left untreated, swimming pool water will turn murky and green due to algae and protozoa thrive in water environments. If left unchecked bacteria, viruses and other contaminants will turn water toxic to humans. Chlorination is an inexpensive and effective way to sanitize pool water, keeping the algae and bacteria away.
Chlorine interacts with contaminants in the water to destroy or neutralize them.

Because it is a very reactive element, chlorine acts quickly in the presence of ammonia from urine, or nitrogen from organic contaminants such as human or animal waste. As chlorine changes and binds with other elements, the chemicals created alter pool water balance. Chlorine also dissipates in the air over time, so maintenance of a chlorine pool requires regular testing of chemical levels.

Pool with chlorine

What is a Salt Water Pool

It is a common misconception that there is no chlorine in a salt water pool. The truth is that chlorine is not added directly to the pool but eventually as the salt is converted there will be. A salt water pool is a pool that uses salt as its method of sanitation rather than straight chlorine. These pools use a salt chlorine generator. Which means instead of adding chlorine pellets or gas to the water, salt is added. The salt chlorine generator then converts that salt into chlorine.

Salt water pools use the process of electrolysis to purify the water. Pool salt is poured into the water, and the electrolyzer is connected to the pool's filtration circuit. The salt disinfects the water as it passes through the electrolyzer which turns it into active and natural chlorine.

Some may be concerned that these pools will have water that tastes like sea water. In actuality, the salty taste is mild in these types of pools. To be on par with the saltiness of seawater, there would have to be around 5,000 ppm (parts per million) of salt to water ratio. The range for a salt chlorinator in a pool is around 3,000 to 4,000 ppm. The water in a salt water pool is about 1/10 the salinity level of the ocean. It is more similar to a teardrop or contact solution.

How Does a Salt Chlorine Generator Work

The machine has two primary components: the cell and the control board. The pool water flows through the cell. Inside, a series of metallic grids with a low-voltage current create a reaction that converts the salt down to tiny little bubbles of pure chlorine. After leaving the chlorinator, this pure chlorine reacts with the water to form hypochlorous acid, which is your end goal.

What Kind of Salt is Best For A Salt Water Pool?

  • Solar salt (organic impurities)
  • Mechanically evaporated salt (mineral impurities)
  • Mined Salt

Make sure only to use salt that's only intended for swimming pools, food-grade, granular, and non-iodized. The higher the salt purity, the less trouble it'll give you in appearance and maintenance. Don't use rock salt (halite) in your pool. It isn't pure enough, and it won't dissolve well. Also, don't use calcium chloride because calcium effects the hardness of water and can form deposits on your pool walls if the concentration is too high.

Salt Water vs. Chlorine

The lower chlorine concentration of a salt water pool will be gentler on a swimmer's skin. This is a particular benefit to swimmers with allergies, but anyone will enjoy smoother skin when swimming in the pool. The lower level in a salt water pool also reduces swimsuit fading. Chlorine in a traditional pool is higher in concentration and can cause the skin to itch, burn, and become dry.

As an added health benefit, storage of salt requires no special considerations, but chlorine must be stored with regards to maintaining its effectiveness and preventing hazards to homeowners who might breathe the fumes of the chlorine products. It should be kept in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated location.

Pool with chlorine

Cost

The greatest disadvantage of a saltwater pool is the upfront cost of the saltwater generator which costs between $$ and $$$. That along with the installation cost and the initial cost of salt brings the setup of the saltwater pool system to about $750 to $2,500. Pool salt is not expensive and only costs about $ for a 40-pound bag so upkeep will not be costly but the initial investment is more than a regular chlorine pool. The start-up investment may be recouped in a few years with less expensive day-to-day chemical needs.

A saltwater pool requires less than $$$ a year in salt and chemicals if it is consistently maintained. A chlorine pool will cost between $$ and $$$ per year in maintenance chemicals. The warmer the climate is, however, the more chlorine will be required, and the harder a saltwater pool generator has to work. This means the generator will use more electricity, and the cells inside the generator will wear out faster than the typical lifespan of three to five years. This means the potential savings for a saltwater system will be less dramatic. A traditional pool in a warm climate will use more chlorine as well, making the chemical costs go up.

While the chemical cost will be lower, the electricity cost of running a saltwater system will be slightly higher, approximately $36 to $48 per year more than a traditional pool pump system. A 20,000-gallon saltwater pool will use about 500 watts of electricity to power the salt generator. This is in addition to the electricity required for the pool pump and other features. Most pool professionals agree that the saltwater generator should run about four to six hours per day in the winter and about ten to twelve hours per day in the summer. These numbers will vary depending on the water temperature and how much you use the pool.

Maintenance

Saltwater pools are relatively low maintenance. The most up-to-date systems can maintain a clean for up to two weeks by itself. A traditional chlorine pool requires weekly maintenance with chlorine tablets added regularly. Both pools will need the chlorine level checked regularly to keep the chlorine level within the correct zone for having a clean, clear, and safe pool. The difference is that a saltwater pool chlorine is adjusted at the generator control box and by adding more salt to the water. A traditional pool's chlorine system must be adjusted by the amount of chlorine physically added to the pool.

The traditional chlorine pool will also need periodic shocks. This means a period where more concentrated chlorine needs to be added to the pool to ward off algae and maintain consistent chlorine levels. This involves dissolving chlorine in a bucket of water and adding it slowly to the pool. A saltwater pool needs this shock treatment less often, usually only after an especially heavy rain or when algae bloom, making the pool turn green.

One difficulty with a saltwater pool is when a problem arises. The solution may be more complex than that of a traditional chlorine system and may require a pool professional to solve it. Most chlorine pool issues can be solved by using home testing kits and the right combination of chemicals.

An added maintenance necessary for the saltwater pool is checking the saltwater generator cells. They should be removed, inspected, and cleaned at least once a season.

Benefits of a Salt Water Pool

Less Expensive

The initial cost of setting up a saltwater pool is higher than a traditional pool. The cost over time is significantly lower due to not having to buy chlorine tablets and salt for pools being inexpensive.

Easier to Use

Since water treatment in saltwater pools is automated through the use of the electrolyzer, maintenance is much easier.

Better for Health

In salt-water pools, salt is always present, and the system generates chlorine disinfectant compounds continuously. The steady supply of chlorine helps to avoid buildup of chloramines or byproducts of the disinfection process. Chloramines or chlorine compounds cause many of the symptoms commonly associated with chemically treated pools, such as eye and lung irritation.

Because a large amount of salt needs to be added to the water to allow the machine to function, the water feels silkier.

Environmentally Helpful, Reinforced Safety

Saltwater pools don't require the addition of excess chlorine. Be sure to store these chemicals in their sheds or homes. Not only is this safe for your family, but it also benefits the environment by not giving off chemical pollutants. Saltwater pools also have softer water, which many people really enjoy.

Conclusion

Saltwater pools and traditional chlorine pools both use chlorine to disinfect the pool water. However, the saltwater method may be less irritating to people's health and may save the owner more money than a traditional chlorine pool will. The decision over which method to use is ultimately up to the owner and if they feel the saltwater benefits outweigh the initial cost.

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