Should you switch to a salt water pool?
Salt water pools haven't been around nearly as long as chlorinated systems, however their popularity has grown quickly in recent years. This is due to their low cost upkeep, and the fact that salt water is much easier on skin, eyes, and hair.
If you're wondering if switching to a salt water pool would be right for you, we hope this article covers any questions you may have about the conversion and the benefits of changing your pool to a salt water system!
First, let's talk about chlorinated pools. Chlorine pools are much cheaper at the onset than saltwater pools, but they require more maintenance in the long run.
A pool that doesn’t get regular chlorine treatments will quickly become clogged with thick green algae. And if you live in an area that experiences months of high temperatures, like us here in southern California, an untreated pool can become a green, sludgy nightmare in about a week! Maintaining a chlorinated pool is more than just dumping chlorine in it every once in a while, there is much more regular maintenance the pool requires. There are many other chemicals involved as well as periodic testing to maintain water quality.
For example, there must be enough free available chlorine (meaning chlorine that is active) in the water to keep up with sanitizing the water. This is usually done with the use of weekly chlorine tablets. However, the addition of tablets to pools causes an increase of conditioner levels in the water by about 10ppm each year, which will eventually cause the need for a water change.
The pH balance in a chlorine pool is not consistent and will need vigilance to keep it maintained. In order for the chlorine to be effective, there are some other things you have to keep an eye on. The pH balance, alkalinity, and calcium are a few things that must be monitored. These levels require careful and ongoing additions of various chemicals so depending on how perfect you want your pool water and how often your swimming may neutralize the sanitizing effects, the costs can add up.
Chlorine pools require constant surveillance whereas salt water pools stay clean with less work because of the constant flow of chlorine from the generator.
It's a gross thing to think about, but chlorine mixes with all kinds of human output, including saliva and sweat, which turn into other chemicals called chloramines.
Chloramines are responsible for the "chlorine smell" of pools, as well as skin and eye irritation. Even though chlorine kills contaminates, the chloramines stay in the water, requiring additional chlorine to remove them. It’s imperative to keep chlorine levels stable to inhibit the formation of chloramines. Salt water pools kill chloramines faster than chlorine pools.
We consistently test the water for chloramines in chlorinated pools to try to keep the levels down! Chloramines aren’t effective at disinfecting the water like chlorine, so water cleaning is inhibited. They can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and lungs. For those who are already sensitive to it, swimming in a chlorine pool can cause rashes, hives, and itchy skin beyond the simple dryness you may experience from chlorine exposure. If you have respiratory problems, such as asthma or allergic rhinitis, you may find your symptoms exacerbated by frequently swimming in a chlorine pool.
If your pool is causing you discomfort, switching to salt water could be just the solution you’re searching for!
Salt Water Pools
It is common knowledge that the main advantage of a saltwater pool isn’t that it doesn’t use chlorine. However, a saltwater pool does in fact use chlorine to keep the water clean! The actual advantage is that chlorine doesn't actually have to be added to the pool, that means no pre-packaged chlorine and less irritation for people who are sensitive to the added chemicals!
Saltwater tends to be much softer than chlorinated water, so it’s much more pleasurable to swim in, and is much less harsh on your skin. In addition, a saltwater pool usually has a much lower concentration of chlorine than a chlorinated pool.
A salt water chlorinator creates the same kind of chlorine used in a chlorine pool. Also the salinity of the water is much closer to the salinity of your natural tear ducts, this is why it doesn’t hurt to open your eyes in a salt water pool, and why your skin and hair won’t feel as dry after swimming.
The presence of salt in the water reduces the kind of eye and skin irritation you may experience by swimming in a chlorine pool. And it doesn’t taste salty as you might think, because it has such a low concentration of salt that it’s considered to be fresh water! In the ocean, the salt concentration is between 20,000 to 35,000 parts per million, whereas in a salt water pool, it is just 2,600 to 3,200
Changing to a Salt Water Pool
Another important benefit of saltwater pools is more of a long-term one. In the short term, converting from chlorine to a saltwater pool will involve some cash outlay, since there are a few system components you’ll need to by. However, in about 2 or 3 years the salt generator pays itself off due to not having to buy extra chlorine for the pool. A pool owners expenses will be limited to bags of salt, which is much less expensive!
While you may think that converting your pool to a salt water pool must be such a hassle, the process is quite easy! It can take just a few hours on average!
Read more about switching to a salt system with Kirby's Pools!
Do I need to drain my pool to convert it to a salt pool?
The good news is, you don’t have to drain your pool. However, if you currently use an antibacterial agent in your pool, draining the pool may be a good idea.
The active ingredient in this type of pool sanitizer is polyhexamethylene biguanide, a chemical that is not compatible with chlorine. Because your salt water pool will contain chlorine, if this agent is not first removed from the water, your pool water will not be properly balanced, and the chlorine will be less effective at keeping your water clean.
You have two options in this case—drain your pool and start from scratch with new water, or “burn” the antibacterial agent out of the water with a high dose of chlorine.
This option will turn your pool water white, and it will take several days to dissipate. Once it does, you can begin the salt water conversion process.
Finally, don’t be fooled into thinking that a saltwater pool maintains itself. It doesn’t. PH levels still must be monitored and their are other maintenance tasks that still must be done. However, you’ll benefit from lower maintenance costs and a more enjoyable swimming experience, which can make it worthwhile.