Saltwater pools are gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional chlorine pools. Saltwater pool owners enjoy key benefits, but it’s important to learn what you’re in for before deciding on the right type of pool for your home.
Here, we’ll clear up some common misconceptions about saltwater pools, and weigh the pros and cons of saltwater pools over traditional pools.
In a traditional pool, the chlorine level is maintained by periodically adding chlorine to the pool. However, a saltwater pool generates salt chlorine from added salt by the process of chemical electrolysis, using a salt chlorine generator. This highlights an important fact: a saltwater pool is a chlorine pool, it simply uses an alternate means of chlorination. That being said, a saltwater pool’s chlorine content tends to be much lower than that of a traditional pool. The significantly lower chlorine content in a saltwater pool is much gentler on the skin, hair, and eyes.
But, What is a Salt Chlorine Generator?
A salt chlorine generator is a metal cell that carries a low voltage electrical current. The generator is installed inline the pool’s existing pump system so the water is pumped through the generator before being returned to the pool. As the water passes through the metal cell, the current splits the salt into water and hypochlorous acid, which provides the disinfecting function normally achieved by adding chlorine.
A saltwater generator creates salt chlorine from simple table salt (NaCl), eliminating the need to handle chlorine. Because the chemical electrolysis converts the salt back and forth between salt and salt chlorine, and because salt does not evaporate (unlike chlorine), there is a reduced need to replenish the pool’s chlorine content. Still, the chlorine content of a saltwater pool must be monitored and salt must be added, as appropriate, to maintain safe levels.
Is It Like Swimming in The Ocean?
Note quite. The salinity of a saltwater pool is about one-tenth that of seawater. In fact, a saltwater pool is less salty than human tears. In the ocean, it’s easier to float on your back due to the added buoyancy of the salt. Saltwater pools don’t provide the effect quite as well.
The reduced salt of a saltwater pool in comparison with the ocean has a few benefits. You won‘t feel the “salty” feeling on your skin and hair quite as intensely after drying off. A pool’s water also does not sting your eyes in the same way ocean water will.
How Do I Convert My Pool?
Converting a traditional chlorine pool to a saltwater pool is fairly easy, but can be expensive. First, you would need to determine what size pool you have and install a salt chlorine generator capable of handling the volume. Salt chlorine generators range in cost from several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. If you are not completely confident in your understanding of the system, you might also want to high a professional to do the installation so as to avoid damage to your equipment. It’s also important to not that the salt chlorine generator will need to be replaced every few years.
Then, you need to determine how much salt your pool needs. Pool salt test strips can tell you your pool’s existing salt level so you can accurately determine how much you need to add. Again, a saltwater pool uses simple table salt which should be easy to find. After you add the salt, you should run the pump (but NOT the salt chlorine generator), for 24 hours to allow the salt to evenly mix with the pool water. After that, you should test the water for appropriate salt, free chlorine, pH, cyanuric acid, total alkalinity, and calcium hardness, before running the salt chlorine generator. This process is referred to as “balancing the pool water.”
Are Saltwater Pools Low Maintenance?
Again, we’re here to debunk a common misconception. While saltwater pools require reduced maintenance steps, the water must still be routinely tested and adjusted to maintain proper sanitation. The salt chlorine generator cell must also be inspected at regular intervals for buildup and debris. Calcium buildup is a common issue in salt chlorine generators.
Is It Worth It?
The general consensus has been that the benefits of a saltwater pool far outweigh the negatives. The popularity of saltwater pools is on the rise as people appreciate the improved swimming experience:
- The low salinity of the water means that very little salt remains on the skin.
- The significantly lower chlorine level gives the water a softer feel, and is gentler on skin, hair, eyes, and even clothing.
- Not having to physically handle toxic liquid chlorine or tablets has also been a big selling point among pool owners. Owners also appreciate the savings from no longer needing to purchase chlorine.
- Also, there is generally less loss of chlorine to the environment with a saltwater pool than there is in a traditional pool.
- Restoring a saltwater pool’s chlorine level can be as easy as simply adding some table salt.
While the benefits of saltwater pools are clear, it’s important for a potential owner to know the facts about what they are and what they are not:
- A saltwater pool is not quite like the ocean. The salinity of a saltwater pool is far lower than that of seawater.
- Installing a saltwater pool requires a higher initial investment, and fixing any broken equipment can be more expensive.
- A saltwater pool is not low maintenance. Maintaining a sanitary saltwater pool requires consistency and attention to detail. All other parameters required for a safe pool still need maintenance.
- Since a saltwater pool simply employs an alternate means of chlorination, many of the same issues that come up with a traditional pool will persist with a saltwater pool.
- Salt can be corrosive to equipment surrounding your pool.
About the author:
Jason Caldwell is a Seattle-based writer and contributor to lifestyle blogs and magazines. His clients include An online swimming pools supply company. When he’s not running up against a deadline, he enjoys planning DIY projects and cooking for his family.