Saltwater Vs. Chlorine Water Pool
Pools have become a prevalent adornment for many home-owners in recent times. As a highly valued recreational commodity, pools require quite a lot of planning and care in order to be set up properly. One of the common dilemmas that owners often face is saltwater vs. chlorine water pool. Therefore, in this article we attempt to breakdown all the important aspects of this debate and hope to help you in choosing one.
When deciding between the two types, a lot of factors come into play - like budget, safety, ease, etc. Contrary to popular belief, saltwater is not as salty as seawater, nor is it free from chlorine. Saltwater does contain some chlorine, though not as much as chlorine water. Both types employ chlorine as the active ingredient to sanitize the pool water. Then, what's the difference between saltwater and chlorine water you ask? Let's take a look below.
Difference between saltwater and chlorine water
The salt (sodium chloride) in saltwater is converted into readily available chlorine using a process called electrolysis, carried out by a generator (chlorinator).
The amount of chlorine produced by this process is just enough to clean and disinfect the water. As a result, saltwater is much gentler to the body, which is particularly advantageous for households with children.
The source of chlorine in this type of water includes tablets or liquid chlorine. Despite the amount of chlorine being much higher in this type, chlorine water has been the popular choice since a very long time due its low cost and ease of use.
In short, the main difference between saltwater and chlorine water is the source and amount of chlorine present. Below we have listed some pros and cons of both the types, that can determine the suitability of each based on the user's preference.
Pros & cons of saltwater & chlorine water
- Low chlorine levels.
- Gentle on hair, skin and eyes.
- Requires fewer chemicals.
- Suitable for kids and anyone who tends to spend longer hours in the pool.
- Less chlorine means swimwear and gears are not to be tarnished quickly.
- Requires less frequent maintenance comparatively.
- Initial setup cost is high.
- Consumes electricity.
- Involves complex machinery system that could need professional technicians in case of repairs.
- Saltwater is corrosive and thus would require additional accessories to protect pool liners, heaters, lights, etc.
- Salt cell needs to be replaced periodically.
- Process of adding chlorine to the water is simple.
- No complex machinery is involved and thus no electricity consumption required.
- Suitable for all pool types and fixtures.
- Regular feasible expenses; no one-time hefty investment is needed.
- Maintenance and repairs are easy and can be done without technicians.
- More economic overall.
- High chlorine levels could be harmful for the body and swimming apparatus.
- Maintenance is frequent and requires manual addition of chlorine and other chemicals.
- Calls for routine attention to the chlorine level and pH of water.
- Prone to algal and bacterial growth.
- Chlorine and other chemicals need appropriate storage.
Setup and maintenance
The cost of a saltwater pool system can range from $1500 to $2500, including the price of the chlorinator, filter and other necessary components. Throw in another couple of thousand bucks for various annual maintenance.
Setting it up is pretty straightforward. The initial step requires addition of pool grade salt to the water - usually 2 pounds of pool grade salt to 100 gallons of water, but the amount could differ according to salt system manufacturers. The second step calls for the chlorine generator's control box to be plugged into an electric outlet, while the salt cell is to be plumbed into the return line. The control panel enables you to set all the parameters to your desired levels - chlorine output, temperature, salt level, etc. In case of above ground pools, the generator usually hangs on the wall of the pool or is attached to the pool return.
Once done, you can turn the generator on. With proper water flow and temperature, the salt cell receives low voltage energy that continuously produces chlorine until the target level has been reached. The system is automatic, i.e. it turns on and off on its own and maintains the chlorine level throughout. Despite this feature, you should test the chlorine level regularly and adjust the output accordingly.
Other than the daily maintenance, saltwater pool systems need some extra care. The salt cell comprises energized plates that attract calcium scale deposits, resulting in reduced chlorine output overtime. Therefore, you have to clean these cells regularly using mild acidic solutions (as per the specific manual). However, if your system is self-cleaning, you have one less thing to maintain. Nonetheless, replacing the salt cell after a certain time is inevitable and important.
As mentioned earlier, saltwater is corrosive and can damage various pool fixtures. You can add products like sacrificial zinc anodes to protect the stainless steel components in the pool; the ladders for instance. Also, the conventional soft rubber seals are susceptible to damage by saltwater. And salt-resistant pump seals can solve this issue.
Lastly, you should regularly monitor the pH, alkalinity, calcium, chlorine and cyanuric acid levels using compatible testing kits. Follow the system user manual for monitoring the aforementioned levels.
The video below demonstrates setting up one such saltwater pool:
The instructions for setting up a chlorine pool is pretty basic, but we still advise you to carefully go through the product specific steps before starting. The first thing to do is test your water using appropriate testing kits or strips. Check the alkalinity, calcium hardness, pH, and cyanuric acid levels. Adjust the scale of all these factors by adding corresponding chemicals.
After balancing all the former chemical levels, you need to add some pool clarifier before adding the chlorine. The clarifier locks the adjusted levels of all the initial chemicals and minerals, which would otherwise be disrupted by the chemical shock. After adding the clarifier, filter the pool for 6 to 8 hours before moving on to the next step.
Then comes shocking the pool. Many people tend to start with this step or add all the chemicals at once - this is wrong. The reason is, shocking disrupts the clarifier and algaecide structure, rendering them useless. This would throw the previously adjusted chemical levels off balance. Moreover, chlorine works best at low pH. So balancing the initial factors enables you to have a correct measurement of how much chlorine you actually need. The amount of chlorine you need for shocking depends on the pool water condition and amount. Therefore, to determine how much chlorine you need, go through the instructions on the packaging.
After shocking, you have to wait for a couple of days for the chlorine level to drop down to certain level before adding algaecide. This is because algaecide only works at or below a specific chlorine level. Again, read the algaecide instructions to know about the correct time and amount of application.
Lastly, after everything else has been taken care of, add the chlorine floaters or tablets to the feeder at this point. The usual amount is two tablets per week for 10,000 gallons of water, but it can vary. Finish up by once again checking the chlorine level, ensuring the water is safe for swimming.
As you can see, the entire process is simple but it takes a few days for completion. So plan accordingly. You can either buy each chemical separately or buy complete start-up kits that contain all the necessary items to execute the setup.
These steps are just a guideline to help you have an idea about the whole process. Follow product specific instructions for accurate information.
Besides general pool maintenance, chlorine water upkeep is simple. Regularly check the chemical levels using a good testing kit and shock the pool periodically, as per packaging instructions. Adjust the levels by adding the respective chemicals according to the guidelines.
Few other important things to keep in mind:
- Store chemicals in a cool, dry and covered storage.
- Do not mix different types or packages of chlorine.
- Do not mix or add all the chemicals together - add each separately.
- While application, avoid breathing vapors or fumes.
- Do not buy chemicals more than required - they will not work after expiring.
- Keep chemicals away from kids and pets.
Check out the video below to understand the method better:
Saltwater Vs. chlorine water pool
In the end, it all comes down to your personal inclination between the two primary and crucial factors - safety and cost. While saltwater is safer, environment friendly and requires little maintenance attention, it does take a toll on the wallet due to a sizable cost of the machinery, installment, electricity and proper fixtures that can withstand corrosion. Not to mention any occasional replacement of parts or damage repairs.
On the other hand, chlorine water does not include any significant investments behind electrical equipment or additional pool fixtures, making it cost effective in every aspect. The drawback being the elevated chlorine levels, along with the constant monitoring and regulation of chemical levels.
Also, do bear in mind the secondary factor of how frequently the pool would be in use. For households with few members or in regions with short summer seasons, a saltwater pool might turn out to be frivolous.
If money is not an issue and you can splurge some comfortably, saltwater pool is the way to go. But in case of a stringent budget, having a chlorine water pool won't be the end of the world - just take the necessary steps to avoid any bodily irritation, buy proper swimming accessories and be wary of proper upkeep.
Did you find this article useful? What type of water does your pool have? Let us know in the comments!