S altwater pools are seen as a milder alternative to conventional chlorine pools, as they have a different way of keeping the water sanitized. Nevertheless, while there are people who love them and would never return to pouring sanitizer every week in their pool, some owners who tried them found out that they may not be that easy to maintain as most manufacturers claim. The advertising of these models is often unclear and sometimes this happens on purpose. The commercials say they make the water gentler for your skin and help you save money with maintenance.
But how much truth is in these statements?
In today’s article, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of installing a saltwater pool and try to separate the myths from the facts, so follow our analysis and decide if a saltwater model is a way to go.
Discover the most popular saltwater pool systems and switch from weekly maintenance to quarterly maintenance. All the models in this top have an excellent quality-price report and have been tested by thousands of happy customers.
How Is a Salt Water Pool Different from a Chlorine Pool?
As you know from your Chemistry classes, salt is a substance formed of sodium and chlorine, and the saltwater systems exploit this property. Unlike a conventional system, this one uses a chlorine generator, which has the purpose of breaking salt into its two compounds and extracting chlorine, which is further released into the water. Thus, instead of you handling this job manually by testing the water and throwing the necessary of chlorine to maintain a balanced environment, this step is performed automatically by the pool system.
As you have probably noticed, saltwater systems are not chlorine-free. They only use another method to feed it to the water. It is still impossible to kill germs and algae without using a strong sanitizer, so you shouldn’t expect from a system of this type to be friendly with your skin if you have a chlorine allergy.
Check out our article about pool water maintenance and learn what parameters need to be measured and how to deal with too low or too high chlorine levels.
The Pros of Owning a Salt Water Pool
Some pool owners are over the roof with this system, and this is because it does have a fair amount of benefits to offer. So, let’s take a look at the most important of them.
1. It may be gentler on your skin than conventional models
The main reason for which you have itchy eyes, dry skin, or crackling hair after spending a few hours in the pool is the chlorine. It is a disinfectant with a highly basic pH, which can even be dangerous if used in high quantities. This is an issue chlorine pools have: the fact that it is you who needs to test the water and calculate the amount of disinfectant that needs to be thrown in to keep bacteria from spreading. Human error is a real thing, and all it takes is one number to be miswritten for the whole process to turn into a mess. You can either end up spilling more chlorine than necessary and endanger the health of your family, as chlorine won’t hesitate to bite on their skin, or pour too little and, once again, put them at risk, as E-coli can thrive in improperly sanitized systems.
On the other hand, a saltwater system automatically feeds chlorine to the water in the right proportion lifting this task from your shoulders. And the water is usually less chlorinated, as only the required amount of chlorine is released.
2. You won’t need to store chemicals
When dealing with chlorine and pool sanitizers you need to find a good place to store them between treatments. They are considered hazardous substances and can affect the ecosystem of your yard or garden if a leak occurs. Not to mention that you need to find a way to protect your kids and pets from reaching to them, as they can cause severe burns.
With salt systems, this problem is solved from the start, as it isn’t your job anymore to treat the water. Moreover, you don’t need to be thinking about making supplies or losing time trying to determine how much sanitizer your pool needs this time.
3. Periodical maintenance takes place less often
A great part of the maintenance process is occupied by testing and balancing the water. Although it is recommended to test the pH and chlorine level even in saltwater systems, you won’t need to do it weekly but once every three months. This is the moment when you will add more salt if necessary and check if the generator is working properly. Therefore, weekly maintenance is pushed in this case to quarterly maintenance.
Furthermore, although you will need to shock the pool, this happens more rarely, as the system manages to maintain a good balance to fight algae. This treatment is recommended usually after a storm or if the water has been contaminated with feces.
No matter what type of system you choose, it is quintessential to keep it sparkless. A good cleaning is a good sign of good hygiene, so buy yourself a robotic pool cleaner to help you with the heavy jobs. It can scrub the walls and vacuum the water, while your only job will be to remove large debris.
4. The chlorine smell is weak or inexistent
The only smell you will be sensing is the salt, which is considered pleasant by most people, who associate it with oceans and seas. This happens because chlorine is never in excess in these systems and it is actually recycled by the generator. The result is proper sanitation, but no stingy smell and fewer skin irritations. Plus, if you accidentally end up swallowing some water, you will know the difference.
5. You will notice that your pool accessories are better preserved
If chlorine can affect your skin, you can bet it can attack other elements as well, and the best way to identify this effect is by looking at your pool accessories. Whether we are referring to cleaning machines like pool cleaners or cleaner vacuums, or to inflatable mattresses, water balloons, or even swimming suits, they will start to fade in time. And this is not the effect of the sun, as you may be tempted to believe. It is the effect of chlorine combined with the sun.
A lower level of sanitizer will reduce this effect and make your accessories and cleaning devices look like new for longer. This is a true advantage especially if you are using expensive equipment to train yourself.
6. It is safer for children than chlorine pools
It is known that inhaling or ingesting chlorine is dangerous for your health, but some studies have shown that saltwater pools have a lower probability of causing lung inflammation in children than their counter-candidates. Nevertheless, they still contain chlorine so the risk isn’t completely eliminated. The only way to be completely sure that your kid won’t develop a condition called a swimmer’s asthma would be not to take them swimming. But then, they won’t be a swimmer at all.
If your pool is located outdoors, you will need to fight the effect of sun rays, the dust-carrying wind, storms, rains, algae, debris, and other elements that are found in the nature. Keep your pool cleaner by installing a solar pool cover. It will keep the water crystal clear and even warm it, making it perfect for evening swims.
The Cons of Owning a Salt Water Pool
While the pros are enough to convince you to change teams, there’s still enough on the disadvantage side, and you will want to check these also. Some customers considered the cons to be too much and decided to stick with conventional pools.
Here’s a list with the main drawbacks:
1. It requires a higher initial investment
Building a pool from scratch is costly enough even without adding extra pool systems. As a matter of fact, getting an in-ground pool build can get you spending around $50,000. Well, if you decide to add a saltwater generator, you will need to pay an extra 2,500 dollars just to get it installed, not to mention the salt that needs to be added for the system to start running.
Nevertheless, in time this investment will get compensated through cheaper maintenance, as you won’t need to buy chlorine or other disinfectants. But it takes some time for the results to be visible.
2. Periodical maintenance takes longer and can be more expensive
Even if it happens more seldom, it can require more attention from your part. Preserving the integrity of the cell, in this case, is essential, so you will need to check it is functioning properly periodically and clean it. Thus, you will need to remove it from its casing and let it soak in white vinegar for about 8 hours. It may seem a lot, but it is not like you are going to do this in the middle of a pool party. It is enough to clean it in the evening and let it soak over the night. This way, you can place it back in the morning and even enjoy an early swim.
Nevertheless, the cell needs to be replaced every 5 years, and then you will need to spend around $650 on a new one. Chlorine pools do not come with expenses of this type.
Plus, every time a problem occurs, you will probably need to call a specialist, as these systems are more complex and easy to wreck if you don’t possess the necessary knowledge. A chlorine system can be fixed at home with some basic DIY skills, but in this case, you will need to pay extra for the repairs.
3. You will need to deal with energy costs
The generator needs to run continuously to keep the level of chlorine balanced, and this will show up on your energy bills. This is an expense specific only to these types of systems, so it may be better to go with a conventional pool if you are looking to cut on costs. On the other hand, it can be said that chlorine costs will eventually catch up or even overcome energy expenses but this would take a long time to show.
No matter what sanitizing system you use, it doesn’t hurt to check twice when it comes to chlorine levels. Take a look at our best digital pool water test kits, which will make this job more convenient. Plus, the results are super accurate.
Should You Pick a Salt Water System Instead of a Conventional Chlorine One?
It is mostly a matter of taste. Once you have understood that the water won’t be by far as salted as in an ocean and that chlorine will still be the main disinfecting element, you can see that the differences lay in other elements and not in the ones pushed forward by the manufacturers. The maintenance costs tend to reach the same levels in time, but the repair costs remain higher in saltwater systems. On the other hand, they can be gentler with your skin, but there were occasions when the internal water testing failed, and they didn’t deliver enough chlorine or released too much. So, you will need to test the water periodically.
The true advantage is that they reduce the chlorine smell to a minimum, and you will be able to swim more relaxed. Plus, as explained, they put less chlorine in the water so they are more friendly to your skin and hair. Not to mention that your gear will preserve its original color for longer.
The Bottom Line
Pools are all about fun, but fun cannot exist outside safety. There’s nothing exciting in getting a chlorine burn or catching a bacteria from the water. A saltwater pool will help preserve the swimming environment safe by extracting the chlorine from salt and circulating it throughout the water. It will use the internal testing mechanism to check parameters like pH or chlorine levels and adjust the sanitizing process accordingly. So, if you are not a fan of mixing substances and pouring them into the water periodically, this is an excellent pick for you.