The first thing to understand about salt water pool systems is that they still use chlorine to sanitize the swimming pool. With that said, I still think there is a great deal of misinformation and underestimation of the benefits of a salt water pool system. Much of this has to do with a lack of experience with proper pool chemistry. I am no expert, myself, but I have learned from others who have helped me through my many hardships and experiences maintaining a properly chlorinated pool over the past 8 years. Since I inherited a swimming pool with the house we bought 8 years ago, I have learned that a salt water chlorination system is the only way to conveniently chlorinate my swimming pool. There are other automatic chlorination systems that use traditional chlorine pucks such as the one that came with my own pool, but as I will soon explain, they are greatly flawed and may actually cause damage and harm to you or your pool; or both. Convenience the old-fashioned way comes at a price. So, the question is, can you have both convenience and a successfully maintained pool? Before I get into the review on the salt water chlorination system I just purchased, I would like to give a brief and unscientific explanation of how a salt chlorinator works and outline the most compelling reasons for owning one over manual chlorination or automatic chlorination with tri-chlor pucks.
How Salt Water Pool Systems Work
A salt water pool essentially uses salt to generate its own chlorine and dispenses it automatically into your pool. There is a salt water cell that is installed into the pool plumbing which transforms salt water into usable, free chlorine. The chlorinator usually comes with a display box where the outflow of the chlorine can be adjusted. The display box also provides you with information such as the level of salt that is in your swimming pool and display codes which indicate other issues or potential problems with your system. A salt water pool, of course, needs one other thing: Salt. My 11,000 gallon pool required about 6 x 40lb bags of salt. The recommended level of salt is 3,500PPM. My pool already had a certain level of salt before the chlorinator was installed, due to the fact that I have used regular, unscented chlorine bleach to chlorinate my pool the past few years. Chlorine bleach contains sodium hypochloride which deposits small levels of salt into the pool. If you do not have a salt water chlorinator, there are some excellent reasons for using regular, unscented liquid bleach to chlorinate your pool which I will explain shortly. Unfortunately, jugs and jugs of bleach, day after day is a messy system and is not a very convenient way to chlorinate your pool. You will soon see that this was my main impetus for going with a saltwater system for my pool.
This was my unscientific explanation on how a salt water chlorinator works. For the scientific explanation, click here: How a Salt Water Chlorinator Works.
Why use a Salt Water Pool System?
Comfortable and better for Your Skin
Just about any pool company or pool guy/girl can tell you that the levels of salt used to chlorinate your pool are better for your skin. It feels sort of like you are swimming in a saline solution rather than a harshly chlorinated pool. I can attest to this fact, first hand. My skin used to get so dry after I was out of the pool for a while. Even with chlorine and other chemical levels the same, the salt water pool feels better and softer on the skin. This is a fact. It is also important to note, that since you are not putting large amounts of chlorine into the pool at one time, that the chlorine is more evenly and consistently dispersed throughout the day as your pool pump is running. This means you are not going to ever be exposed to higher levels of chlorine at different times of the day. This, of course is better for your skin, hair and your body.
It is Better For the Health of you and your Swimming Pool
One huge thing that gets overlooked even by some of the pool gurus is the chemical relationship between Stabilizer (CYA) and Free Chlorine. Even many pool professions do not realize that the higher more stabilizer in the pool means higher chlorine levels are needed to properly sanitize it. An ideal level of stabilizer is between 30 and 50PPM. So, here is why I used regular, non-scented chlorine bleach to chlorinate my pool all these years: It doesn't raise my stabilizer!
A traditional, tri-chlor, puck chlorinator can raise the CYA level of your pool by up to 25PPM per month. That number, according to one website I read, is for a very large pool; 35,000 gallons. You see, Chlorine pucks (trichlor) are made up of 50% stablizer (CYA). Since higher levels of stabilizer require higher levels of free chlorine to properly sanitize a swimming pool, many of our traditional chlorination methods which use stabilizer are creating a huge problem for us: As we chlorinate our pools, we need higher and higher levels of chlorine to keep them properly sanitized. After a month or two of tri-chlor pucks, for example, we can expect our CYA level to be up to 100PPM or higher. Some chemists recommend that a properly sanitized pool, should have a free chlorine level which is 8-10% of our CYA. For a pool with a CYA reading of 100PPM, we would need to keep our free chlorine around 10PPM to keep the swimming pool properly sanitized. Anything less could not only result in green water and algae, but expose us to potential health risks. And as more and more stabilizer gets added, the situation only gets worse. I experienced this first hand with my own swimming pool. I had a tremendous algae outbreak before I realized how high my stabilizer was and also had trouble keeping stains and other chemistry in balance. I also had to make a very expensive replacement of my pool heat exchanger which I suspect was corroded-out and rusted from the excessively high levels of chlorine. I got on a couple of website forums and discovered the Three Bs of Pool Chemistry and Maintenance: Bleach, Baking Soda and Borax. These are the only three chemicals you will ever need to maintain a healthy pool manually. Unfortunately, the manual way is expensive and inconvenient. And, you have to worry about recycling all of the 2-3, large plastic, empty bleach jugs each weak. Knowing what I know about pool chemistry today and my past problems, however, this wouldn't stop me from continuing to do it this way if I had to. Fortunately, there is a better way. Salt water pool systems offer benefits in three ways: