ALL OF YOUR SALT WATER POOL QUESTIONS, ANSWERED
Does this sound familiar? “I don’t need any chemicals, I have a salt water pool!”
Salt water pools are becoming increasingly popular. Unfortunately, so are myths and misinformation about salt water pools. Today, we will answer the most common salt water pool questions that we come across to help you decide whether or not salt water pools are right for you!
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SALT WATER POOL AND A CHLORINE POOL?
In truth, there isn’t much difference between a salt water pool and a standard chlorine pool. In fact, the only difference is how they generate the chlorine needed to sanitize the water.
SO A SALT WATER POOL STILL USES CHLORINE?
Yes, a salt water pool is still a chlorine pool. The salt water system is actually used to generate chlorine automatically, rather than forcing you to add it manually.
HOW DO SALT WATER SYSTEMS WORK?
In a traditional pool, chlorine is added to the pool as liquid chlorine, powdered chlorine, or more commonly chlorine “pucks” – powdered chlorine that is bound together and compressed into a disk shape or cylinder shape.
Chlorine pucks are added to the skimmer of the pool, or a specialized chlorine feeder tube. As the pool pump draws water past the pucks, they slowly dissolve, releasing a steady stream of chlorine into the water.
Salt water systems eliminate the need for chlorine pucks by generating a steady stream of chlorine from salt. To convert a pool to salt water a chlorine generator is installed in the plumbing of the pool, commonly between the filter and the return jets. Salt is then added to the water of the pool.
When running, the chlorine generator runs a low (and very safe) amount of electrical current through the water. This current energizes the salt molecules (aka Sodium Chloride), splitting up the molecule and releasing the chlorine. When the chlorine is used up, it bonds with the sodium and turns back into salt.
DO SALT WATER POOLS STILL NEED CHEMICALS?
Yes, salt water pools still require chemicals to function. Essentially, the only thing that a salt water system replaces is chlorine pucks. You still need to ensure that the water is balanced to prevent damage to your pool equipment and make the water comfortable to swim in. Shock should also be added periodically to burn up any remaining organic waste, and free up any available chlorine in the water.
MY SALT WATER POOL LOOKS CRYSTAL CLEAR, WHY ADD CHEMICALS?
One of the benefits, and drawbacks, of salt water pools is that they stay clear very easily. This is at least partly where the myth that salt water pools are “chemical free” pool began. The truth is, however, that a clear pool is not always a healthy pool.
While clear water is usually an indication that all is well, it can also be a sign that the water:
- Is very acidic. One very common cause of cloudy water is when dissolved particulate (commonly minerals like calcium) “fall out of suspension”. This means that the minerals bond together, forming tiny particles that can make the water appear hazy. Acidic water can hold a ton of particulate in suspension. This means that acidic water can look crystal clear, even if the water is far out of balance.
- Has a high level of chlorine. Another common reason why pool water goes cloudy is a buildup of microscopic organic matter caused by there being too little chlorine in the water. While it is easy to visually see when a pool has too little chorine, it is impossible to tell if there is too much chlorine in a pool simply by looking at it.
To ensure that your salt water pool is not suffering from either of these conditions, test your water regular, keeping a close eye on pH and chlorine levels. If you notice that your pH is off, add some balancing chemicals to get it back in range. If your chlorine is too high, lower the output of your salt chlorine generator until the level is back within the normal range.
DO I NEED TO BUY A SPECIAL PUMP AND FILTER TO RUN A SALT POOL?
No, you do not need to install a new pump and filter on your pool in order to run a salt system. That said, it is a good idea to avoid heaters that have copper heat exchangers. While the salt itself will not affect any of your pool equipment, salt water pools do tend to be a little higher in chlorine and lower in pH than a standard pool. Both of these can cause copper to rust, leading to a shorter life for your heater and staining of the finish of your pool. Just to be safe, we recommend buying a heater with a titanium or cupronickel heat exchanger instead.
ARE SALT WATER POOLS EASIER TO MAINTAIN THAN REGULAR POOLS?
Yes and No. For the most part, salt water pools require the same amount of maintenance as a regular pool. They both need regular cleaning, water testing and water balance adjustments.
Where salt water pools do save you time is in adding chlorine. Rather than having to add chlorine pucks 1-2 times per week, you simply set your salt water chlorinator and let it produce the chlorine for you. Because the level of chlorine stays more consistent in a salt water pool, you also don’t have to shock them as often. Where a standard pool should be shocked every week, a salt water pool only needs to be shocked every 2-3 weeks.
Another advantage of not having to add chlorine manually comes when you go on vacation. Rather than having to get someone to come by your house to add chlorine to your pool, you can leave it knowing that it will continue to produce the chlorine on its own until you return.
ARE SALTWATER POOLS SAFER THAN REGULAR POOLS?
This is a common misconception about salt water pools that stems from the incorrect assumption that salt water pools don’t use chemicals. The truth is that salt water pools aren’t more “safe to use” or “healthier” than standard pools. The good news? Standard pools aren’t “unsafe” or “unhealthy” in the first place.
A pool that is in balance and has the recommended amount of chlorine is extremely safe, and comfortable to swim in. In fact, tap water in most cities can have chlorine levels that equal or exceed those commonly found in pools! A pool that makes your eyes go red, your skin dry out, or that smells like chlorine simply don’t have the right amount of chlorine, or have unbalanced water.
This isn’t to say that salt water pools don’t feel different than a standard pool, however. In fact, the water in salt water pools will often feel “softer” than standard pool water. There are two reasons for this:
- Salt water feels nicer on your skin than freshwater.
- Chlorine pucks are less than 50% actual chlorine. The rest of them are binders and other additives that, while completely harmless, increase the total dissolved solids (TDS) of the water; making it feel “harder” on the skin. Salt systems create their own chlorine, keeping the TDS of the water low.
ARE SALTWATER POOLS CHEAPER THAN REGULAR POOLS?
This is one of the most common misconceptions about salt water pools. Salt water pools should be viewed as a time saver, not a money saver. While it is true that you will save money by buying less chemicals, the initial cost of the system, and the cost of replacing the chlorine generating cells every 5-7 years, means that the maintenance costs of your salt pool will be about the same as a standard pool.
CAN I CONVERT A REGULAR POOL TO A SALTWATER POOL?
Absolutely. Any pool can be converted into a saltwater pool simply by installing a salt water chlorine system.
There are a ton of myths and misinformation surrounding salt water pools. We hope that today we have shed some light into the differences, and similarities, between salt water pools and standard pools. If you have any more questions regarding salt water pools you can contact us anytime!