The Pros and Cons of Salt Water Pools

Hazardous to handle and store, chlorine can irritate the skin and the eyes. It’s no wonder, then, that many people opt for salt water pools, which offer some big advantages over traditional chlorinated swimming pools. Salt water pools do have some downsides you need to consider before purchasing one, however. To decide which type of pool might be right for you, consider the pros and cons of each.

Salt Water Systems vs. Traditional Chlorinated Pools

If you don’t know much about salt water filters and pools, the facts may surprise you. For one, they aren’t anywhere close to being as salty as seawater. In fact, they have only about one-tenth the salinity. Second, they aren’t completely chlorine-free. Instead, the system uses a process called electrolysis to create chlorine, which disinfects the water.

What are the Pros and Cons of a Salt Water Pool?

Salt Water Pool Advantages

  • Because they have lower chlorine levels, salt water pools are much gentler on the eyes and skin.
  • Research indicates that salt water systems may be safer than chlorine pools, which force owners to store and handle unsafe chemicals. Likewise, studies suggest that regular exposure to heavily chlorinated swimming pools could pose long-term risks.
  • Salt water pools produce softer-feeling water, which many find desirable.
  • Because the salt cells in a salt water system only produce chlorine as needed, the pools require far less maintenance when compared to traditional chlorinated swimming pools.

Disadvantages of Salt Water Pools

  • Salt water pools require a larger initial investment, making them more expensive than traditional pools.
  • More complex than traditional pools salt water pools often require experienced technicians even for minor problems.
  • Salt can cause damage to certain materials, so you may have to avoid using specific types of heaters, fixtures, underwater lighting, liners and even some types of masonry work.

What is a Salt Chlorine Generator?

The primary piece of machinery in a salt water pool is the salt chlorine generator. Using electrolysis, the generator breaks dissolved dissolved salt into hypochlorous acid and sodium hypochlorite, two sanitizing agents used in chlorine-based swimming pools. The continuous process also prevents the buildup of chloramines.

A salt chlorine generator is often incorrectly called a salt water filter. This is inaccurate, as the generator does not filter pool water. A separate salt water filter removes debris from the pool.

What Kind of Salt Does a Salt Chlorine Generator Use?

Three types of salt are used with salt chlorine generators: solar salt, mechanically evaporated salt, and mined salt.

  • Solar salt is derived from seawater evaporated by the sun, and contains impurities such as dead brine shrimp and bactertis. Impurities make the salt generator (and the salt water filter) work harder.
  • Mechanically evaporated salt is also made from sea water, but generated heat is used to evaporate the water instead of sunlight, which burns of organic matter. Mechanically evaporated salt may, however, include pool-damaging minerals.
  • Mined salt is dug from the ground, and is considered the purest form of salt.

How Much Salt Does My Pool Need?

The amount of salt your pool requires depends on the level of salt needed for your salt chlorine generator to function properly. Check the owner’s manual to find this amount–it usually ranges from 3,000 to 4,000 ppm (parts per million).

The number of gallons in your pool and its current salt levels determine how much salt to add. Use a salt water test kit to determine the pool’s current salt level, then calculate how much salt you need based on the pool’s size in gallons with a salt table, subtracting the current salt level (your generator manual should contain a salt table).

As an example, a 20,000 gallon pool with a current salt level of 500 Ppm would require 501 lbs of salt.

How Much Does a Salt Generator Cost?

A salt chlorine generator can usually be purchased for $500 to $600. Bear in mind the generator is only one part of the salt water pool system. With a salt water filter and other components,  a saltwater chlorination system costs between $1,500 to $2,500.

How Long Does a Salt Chlorine Generator Last?

The salt cells used in most residential salt water pools are good for 10,000 hours of operation, or approximately three to five years. The life of a generator depends on multiple factors, including the frequency of pool maintenance, salt level, water chemistry, and other factors.

Making a Decision

If you can afford the extra cost, a salt water pool can offer significant benefits you don’t get from traditional chlorinated pools. When it comes to making a choice, however, you should consider how often you and your family will actually use your pool, especially if you live in a region that enjoys fewer warm weather days.

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