If you live in Texas, it’s normal to want your own pool. They’re fun, keep you cool in the heat, and add so much to your home. If you’re serious about getting a pool, you’ll have to make some choices, and one of the most important is which treatment system you will choose. Typically, you have the option of using a chlorine system or a saltwater system to keep your pool sanitized. Let’s look into the differences in these systems to help you decide which is right for you.
The Major Differences
Saltwater and chlorine pools are more similar than most people realize. They’re both freshwater pools that are treated to be clean and safe. You don’t have to import seawater into your saltwater pool.
The main difference between the two general treatment systems is perceived levels of comfort for the swimmer. Both use chlorine – a fact that surprises many. There is no better sanitizing element on earth. Chlorine kills bacteria and algae, and it remains present in the water to do so for as long as there is a residual amount of it remaining (the active surplus of the compound that has not been used up). Available, active chlorine keeps things from growing in pool water.
Traditional chlorine pools use feeders, chambers holding chlorine tablets, to slowly disperse chlorine into the pool water. These can be floating canisters or can be integral to pool equipment plumbing, which can be more easily regulated and introduce well-diluted chlorine evenly by way of the pool inlets. In both traditional and salt chlorine pools, there always comes a time when granular chlorine (calcium hypochlorite) is necessary to boost sanitizer levels or kill algae growth.
A saltwater pool ultimately still uses chlorine, but the process is a little different. Because food-grade salt is purely sodium and chlorine (NaCl), pool experts add it in proper amounts to pool water to achieve a solution of roughly 3,000 parts per million (ppm). The water passes through a cell across titanium plates, where the proper amount of DCV current splits the compound into sodium and chlorine. The customer or pool professional can regulate how frequently this happens. Most scenarios have chlorine production occurring 75% of the time water is circulating. Chlorine becomes free and available to sanitize the water.
When chlorine interacts with substances to do its job, it gets metabolized. That’s why you have to keep adding chlorine to a traditional pool. It gets used up. With a saltwater pool, the process of breaking down salt replaces the chlorine as it gets used. As long as the salt level is maintained, you get a steady concentration of chlorine. This leads to some interesting pros and cons.
The Pros and Cons of Saltwater
Saltwater is an innovation on the swimming pool concept. It brings new ideas to the table, and there are distinct advantages to doing so. But newer is not always better in all respects. The cons are important and will be included.
When functional, and when water temperatures are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, salt chlorine generators will allow you to maintain a steadier amount of chlorine in your pool. Of course, this is always subject to environmental conditions. Organic materials will use up more chlorine, and precipitation will dilute salt levels. You do have to replenish the salt over time, but the system is more chemically efficient, so you won’t be adding salt nearly as often as you have to add chlorine to a traditional pool. However, there are major concerns involved with other aspects of salt water pool chemistry. Salt water tends to push pH upward constantly, so it has to be counteracted with muriatic acid very regularly – sometimes to the point that homeowners need to install acid feeding machines to keep steady levels of pH. Scaling (white calcium flakes left on surfaces) occurs when sodium drives up pH and ‘pushes’ calcium out of solution, causing a maintenance nightmare.
The startup cost of a saltwater pool is higher. The systems are more advanced and more costly. Over time, some aspects of maintaining the pool will be cheaper, but salt water ruins stone and other surfaces – even decks. It can also lead to damaged equipment if leaks go unnoticed or if other aspects of a pool’s chemistry are neglected. Additionally, the more complicated system is more costly to fix when something goes wrong.
Pros and Cons of Chlorine
Saltwater pools were invented to replace traditional chlorination as a means to cleanliness, but chlorine is still a popular treatment option. There are points where chlorine still shines, and there are points where saltwater alternatives just don’t cut it.
Traditional chlorine pools require tri-chlor tablets and granular chlorine to maintain chemical levels. You must have a way to introduce the tablets (leaving them on the pool floor or in the skimmer basket equals bad practices). These costs will be higher annually than the cost of salt. However, equipment maintenance costs are much lower with traditional chlorine, both up front and through years of ownership.
Turning salt into chlorine requires additional electricity. For this reason, saltwater pools use more electricity than chlorine pools. If you want to keep the electric bill down, traditional chlorine dissolution only depends on your typical filter pump run time.
Uneven Chemical Levels
When you directly add chlorine to the pool, you get big spikes and declines in the chlorine levels. This means the water is very harsh when it is at its cleanest and clearest, but algae growth can take off if you forget to replace tablets or monitor levels for more than a week. The steady conversion of chlorine in a saltwater pool is just plain superior in this respect.
The salt you keep on hand for a saltwater pool is chemically identical to the salt you keep in your kitchen. It’s virtually harmless. Chlorine is not harmless. It can get in the air and cause problems with people’s lungs. It has to be stored with proper ventilation in a place where children and pets can’t access it. On top of that, you have to stockpile more chlorine than you do salt to keep the pool clean.
You have plenty of options to weigh when you choose between salt and chlorine for your pool. Whichever you choose, Select Pool Services has the resources you need to turn your dream pool into a reality. We can help you convert your equipment into a salt or traditional system and can help remodel your pool if either system has caused wear and tear.