3 Options To Consider Buying For Your Pool Instead Of Salt Water
You want a salt water pool...I know. Do you know how I know? Everyone wants a salt water pool due to some really great marketing over the last decade but the question is do you really want a salt water pool? Do you know what the advantages and disadvantages are? There is a great deal of misinformation circulating the pool and spa industry in regards to salt water, how it works, if it is bad for the pool and what you can expect as an end user of a salt water pool.
The truth is that salt water pools are not as great as many people believe them to be and getting caught up in the marketing of a product might cause you to overlook some options for your pool that might actually meet your needs better than going to salt water. The most common reasons people want a salt water pool are:
1) Easier chemical maintenance
2) Reduced bather skin & eye irritation / softer skin
Automatic Chlorine Delivery
The reality is that a salt water chlorinator can (mostly) eliminate your need to handle concentrated chlorine products specifically big jugs of liquid chlorine which
are heavy and prone to leaking. However a salt water chlorinator will cost you $1000 to $2000 to have installed on your pool where you could easily just install an
erosion feeder such as the Hayward CL220 off-line chlorine feeder or a Hayward CL200 in-line chlorine feeder which will accomplish the same relative freedom from difficult to handle chlorine. These simple erosion style feeders use chlorine pucks to maintain
your chlorine levels at the touch of a dial just like a salt water system however erosion feeders are not a few thousand dollars - you can usually pick one up for
less than $75.
Since there are much more cost effective methods of simplifying the sanitizer delivery can you really consider this a benefit of salt water? For a million dollars you can "automate" your chlorine delivery by way of hiring me to mouth feed chlorine to your pool water like a baby bird but this is probably not the best option for you (or me) since there are much better and cheaper options available to you.
Salt Water Pools Are NOT Easier To Maintain Than Traditional Chlorine Pools
Anyone who tells you that salt water pools are "maintenance free" or are "so easy to maintain" are probably not a good source of advice for you. A salt water pool must be balanced in the exact same way as any other pool with any other form of sanitizer. The only real difference that you might notice as the pool caretaker is that your pH levels are higher than what you are previously accustomed to. The type of chlorine that a salt water pool generates has a very high pH which causes a continual pH creep in the upwards direction. If left unchecked a salt water pool will easily develop a pH of 8.2+ which is very bad for your pool. At these pH levels your chlorine is only about 10% active in the water so its ability to do its job is severely limited. Owning a salt water pool will require you to understand and maintain your total alkalinity and pH levels to keep your pool water in the ideal ranges.
A salt water pool is not easier to maintain - it is just different than other forms of sanitizer and will require a learning curve to get used to. Once you have the process down to a science you may experience a slightly reduced, or minimal chemical maintenance program, but to call salt water maintenance free is just simply incorrect. Your ability to easily manage your water chemistry is a direct function of how well you understand the chemical balance process and how the different levels interact in the water. If you still do not understand what the heck is going on in the water you should probably start with the basics in the water chemistry crash course
The Number 1 Cause For Skin & Eye Irritation Is Poor Chemical Balancing
It is important to understand that if yourself or someone else in your pool is having sensitivity issues with the water, switching to salt water is not likely to solve this problem. In the majority of cases skin and eye sensitivity is a result of poor chemical balancing, specifically pH levels that are too low or too high as well as chlorine levels that are too low or too high. Any of these situations could easily result in a bather sensitive to chemical imbalance having a reaction to the water. If you switch to salt water in hopes of solving these problems you will likely not be happy with your purchase. New salt water pool owners will need to go through an adjustment period as they get used to the new maintenance schedule which often results in periods of poor water quality in the beginning.
Instead of spending a few thousand dollars on a salt water chlorine system that is unlikely to resolve your water sensitivity issues you should invest in a good quality water test kit and develop a strong understanding of how to balance your water. Balancing your water well will result in a longer lifespan for almost every part of your pool from the interior surface to the pump and heater. We are not talking about a marginal difference either - a poorly balanced pool will fail twice or three times as fast as a well balanced pool. Save your money on a salt water chlorine generator and buy yourself a solid water chemistry test kit like the TAYLOR K-2006 and really get your head around how to balance the water.
Reduce Your Exposure To Harmful Chemical Sanitizers
A salt water pool is not a chlorine substitute - a salt water pool is a chlorine pool. If you are thinking about going with salt to reduce your chemical exposure you are barking up the wrong tree. Whether you use chlorine pucks, liquid chlorine, chlorinated unicorn tears or salt water chlorine the end result is identical - a chlorine pool. If you want to reduce your chemical exposure you need to find an option for killing bacteria and organic debris that is not chlorine based.
Since chemical sanitizer such as chlorine is your primary line of defense against harmful bacteria it is important to always have a minimum of 1ppm of free chlorine in the water at all times. If you were to supplement your sanitizer with a strong oxidizer such as an ozone system or even a UV system this will actually reduce your need for chemical sanitizer - a claim salt water can not make. Since systems like UV and ozone lack the ability to build a residual in the water they are not considered suitable as a stand alone solution to bacteria growth but as a supplementary system you can reduce your overall chlorine usage by as much as 90%. These systems will oxidize the majority of debris and bacteria in the water and trace levels of chlorine become the secondary form of protection. Instead of salt water consider adding a high end ozone unit such as the DEL Ozone Eclipse-2 or perhaps an entry level unit such as the Prozone Ozone Generator. Since ozone requires contact time with the water in order to function at its maximum potential it is most suitable for new pool installations where you can run a return line to the floor of the deep end with which to release the ozone.
One BIG Reason To Not Switch To Salt Water
Salt water pools are not without their benefits to be sure however it is important to understand the risks as well as the benefits in order to make an informed decision as to whether this is a good investment for you. Most often overlooked is the damage potential that salt water has and there are some very serious problems that can develop after making the switch. Specifically the galvanic corrosion that will result from elevated salt levels in your pool must be accounted for by bonding the pool grid and all equipment on the system as well as installing a sacrificial anode to help reduce the brunt of this corrosion damage.
Even with these additional preventative measures the equipment on a salt water pool is likely to fail earlier than equipment installed on a similar pool with traditional chlorine sanitizer delivery. Is all of this risk really worth the water in your pool feeling slightly softer and smoother on the skin? The answer to that is up to you but now that you know a little more about salt water and alternative options to salt water you are better equipped to make that decision.
1) Ozone & UV will reduce your chemical exposure - salt water will not
2) A good pool water test kit & understanding of water balancing will reduce bather irritation more than salt water
3) Automate your chlorine delivery with an erosion feeder - same dial interface as salt water for thousands less
If you are thinking about converting yoru swimming pool to salt water then before you buy anything you MUST read this detailed article about is salt water bad for pools?.
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Pool and spa chemistry crash course
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