Let’s talk about pools! Have you been tempted to convert your chlorine pool to a saltwater pool? You might want to hold off.
We promise there is someone else reading this article right now who has already made the conversion and is considering converting back to a traditional chlorine system. Here’s why.
There’s a lot of buzz out there right now about how saltwater pools are better than chlorine pools, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
Although saltwater pools are touted to be easier on your eyes and skin, they come with a whole host of other issues you need to consider before committing to a saltwater system.
The Biggest Misconception: Saltwater Pools Are Chlorine-Free
Let’s start by busting the biggest misconception about saltwater pools – a saltwater pool is not a chlorine pool. Wrong. Chlorine is required in both types of pools to keep the water sanitized – it just gets added to the water differently.
A saltwater pool is a chlorine pool. The difference is instead of adding chlorine to the water, you add salt, and a salt-chlorine generator converts salt to chlorine.
Unfortunately, the chlorine created by the generator is unstabilized chlorine that dissipates more quickly. This means the chlorine in a saltwater pool doesn’t have as much sanitizing power.
Why chlorine systems beat saltwater systems: the basics.
- Installing a traditional chlorination system is less expensive than installing a saltwater system.
- Treating your pool with chlorine is less costly and less of a hassle than maintaining chemical levels in a saltwater pool.
- You are more likely to find a pool care company that can treat a traditional chlorine system.
- Because pH levels in saltwater pools tend to be higher, they require increased monitoring.
- Muriatic acid must regularly be added to saltwater pools to clean the salt water generator’s salt cells.
- Salt cells are expensive and need frequent cleaning.
- Saltwater that spills onto your pool deck and grassy areas can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.
- Saltwater can corrode and damage your pool equipment.
- Chlorine levels are difficult to maintain in a saltwater pool.
- Equipment may shut down if salt levels in a saltwater pool get too low.
The Trouble With Saltwater Systems
If you already have a saltwater pool, you may be struggling with some of the following issues. If that’s the case, then now may be the time to switch back to chlorine, before further problems arise.
Saltwater Systems Cause Corrosion
Corrosion is a common problem with saltwater pools. Saltwater systems pass salt through an electrolytic cell to produce chlorine. Pool water can become extremely over-chlorinated and corrosive if the sodium hypochlorite levels get too high.
Saltwater can wear away at the deck anchors of the ladder and diving board, causing safety issues. Over the long term, the salt itself can corrode anything near the pool where water evaporates like equipment, lighting fixtures, and cement.
High Chemical Levels Can Cause Harm
Saltwater pools may produce chlorine, but this doesn’t mean you don’t have to add chemicals to the pool. Saltwater pools need chemical treatments every week.
One of the chemicals required to ensure your salt chlorine generator reaches the required stabilizing levels is cyanuric acid.
High cyanuric acid levels can harm children, pets, the environment, older swimmers, and the pool itself. Other chemical treatments required by saltwater pools are an occasional algaecide, stain clarifier, and scale control applications.
Mismanaged pH Can Be Costly
It’s not unusual for pool owners to fall behind on checking the pH and alkalinity balance of their pools. A saltwater pool has a higher pH than a traditional chlorine pool.
When the pH gets out of balance in a saltwater pool:
- The chlorine’s effectiveness diminishes.
- The water turns corrosive.
- Brown stains appear on the pool’s surface.
Imbalanced pH levels can also destroy a saltwater generator cell in less than 90 days. The cell’s warranty does not cover this type of damage, and cells can cost $500-$800 to replace.
Generator Cell and Sensor Maintenance Is an Investment of Time and Money
Saltwater generator cells require a cleaning every 90 days, or you will end up with calcium buildup. Skipping regular cleanings for six months or more shortens cell life, increases the likelihood that the cell will break, and the pool will eventually become swampy.
The cell in a saltwater generator cell must be replaced every two to three years. The replacements are an investment of about $500 (self-installed) to $800 (installed by a professional).
You will also need to have a professional closely monitor and clean the sensor that determines how much salt needs to be added to the water, or you can end up with a serious chemistry imbalance.
Saltwater Pools Come With Health and Environmental Concerns
Human skin absorbs sodium, salt, and chlorine from a saltwater pool. Providers have linked numerous health concerns to sodium being absorbed through the skin.
Providers have also linked higher heart mortality risks to sodium absorption through the skin, particularly among people with:
- High blood pressure
- Circulatory issues
- History of stroke
Pets can also get sick from drinking saltwater and concerns that saltwater systems damage the environment have even led to “Ban the Brine” movements.
These movements have resulted in the banning of saltwater pools in some areas, including Los Angeles County in California.
It’s Difficult to Drain a Saltwater Pool
In most places, you can simply drain the water from a chlorine pool into the local sewer system. That is not so with a saltwater pool. Many towns and cities have banned the drainage of saltwater pools into the sewer system, which means that pool owners have to have saltwater hauled away in tanker trucks.
Other municipalities require pool owners to pump the salt water into their home’s sanitary drainage system. Regulations tend to shift and change around this issue, so even if draining a saltwater pool into your sewer grates is currently legal where you live, it may not be in the future.
To Sum It Up
When it comes down to it, the most straightforward reason to choose a chlorine pool over a saltwater system is that simply adding liquid or solid chlorine is an easy and extremely effective means for disinfecting water and killing bacteria and algae.
If, for some reason, your pool does turn swampy because of a bacteria or algae, then treating the water is a simple matter of shocking the pool with some extra chlorine.
- Chlorine pools are also cheaper to install and maintain. Saltwater pools can be prohibitively expensive for many homeowners.
- Chlorine is readily available, its function is well understood, and it’s easier to find qualified pool professionals to maintain your pool.
- With chlorine, you also won’t have to deal with as much corrosion and damage to your poolside decking and furnishings over the long run.
- Monitoring the chlorine levels in a traditional chlorine pool may eliminate the skin and eye problems.
- And if it’s the chloramine smell you’re worried about, that can also be removed with proper monitoring.
Of course, people need to handle chlorine carefully. And you must be diligent in testing your pool water. You also need to be comfortable and skilled in handling other chemicals, as well.
But even if you aren’t comfortable with handling chemicals or you know that consistency isn’t your strong suit, that’s no reason not to enjoy a traditional chlorine pool.
We Are Here for You
Still, have questions? Ready to turn that dream pool into a reality?
Our team stays up to date with trends and standards of pool design and installation techniques so that we can deliver you the highest quality construction of beautiful swimming pools.