Salt Water Pools – The Pros and Cons

It seems that more and more people are requesting salt water pools these days, but what is a salt water pool and how does it benefit you?

First and foremost I think that it is important to understand that the salt in a saltwater pool is there to create chlorine.  But wait a minute, you may be thinking that the salt replaces the chlorine which is what makes the pool more healthy to swim in.  Well if that is what you are thinking I am sorry but you have been misinformed.  A “saltwater pool” is not much different from a regular chlorine treated pool.  To give you a better understanding lets go through the process that a chlorine treated pool undertakes.  First after filling your pool with water you will have to add some pool shock.  This is basically chlorine that gets directly poured into the pool.  Next the water flows through the skimmers, and main drains and enters the pump.  From there is is forced through the filter where the majority of debris is removed.  Next it will either flow through the heating element like the gas heater or heat pump, and finally through what is known as a chlorinator.  Some systems may not have a chlorinator but many pools being built have them today.  This is an in line chlorine feeder.  It is plumbed into the system, and chlorine tablets are placed inside so that when the water passes through it becomes rich with chlorine.  The chlorine is what sanitizes the pool and keeps it clean and healthy for swimmers.  Now like anything else in this world, excess can have a different effect.  Too much chlorine in the pool can cause itchy skin, burning eyes, rashes, and other types of skin related issues.  It can also damage the pool liner if left unbalanced for too long.  This is why it is very important to maintain proper water chemistry at all times.  If the water chemistry is spot on then a lot of these issues won’t be much of a problem.

So this brings me to the “salt water pool”.  Don’t let that name fool you, it is not going to be like swimming in the ocean.  You may not even be able to tell that there is salt in the pool.  That is because the amount of salt in the pool is very small compared to the volume of water.  To get the exact amount for your pool it is best to go to your local pool supply store and talk to one of their professionals.  As I have said before, this type of pool is not much different than a typical chlorine treated pool.  It undergoes the same filtering process.  The water flows through the main drains and skimmers, then enters the pump, next it flows through the filter, and then into the heating element.  The last part is where it gets a little different.  Instead of flowing through a chlorinator where it would become chlorine rich, it will flow through what is called a salt cell.  Within this salt cell the water goes through an electrolysis process.  To avoid going through a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo this process basically converts the salt in the pool to chlorine which then gets used to sanitize the pool, then shortly there after the different elements merge back together to form the salt again.  This process repeats itself over and over again to keep the pool water clean.

There are some benefits to having a “salt water pool”.  The first thing that I will mention is that the salt will never have to be replaced, that is unless the pool is completely drained.  The only thing that you might have to do is add a bit here and there to keep it at the proper level.  When it comes to adding anything to your pool water it really is better to have it be salt rather than a harsh chemical like chlorine.  I know that most people have enough sense to not pour chlorine on themselves but accidents do happen and when they do it would be better to have a dusting of salt on you rather than a splash of chlorine.  The use of this technology will save you money on chemicals in the long
run but how much will it cost to repair the damage caused by the salt?  Now you know that a salt water pool still uses chlorine to clean the water and that the benefits are that you don’t have to directly handle the chlorine, and that it might save you money on chemicals.  So what are the cons to having a salt water pool?

As far as I can tell there is really only one downside to having a salt water pool.  Unfortunately it is a relatively large problem.  If you live in the northern states you are probably aware that many states use salt on the roads in the winter time to melt the ice, well except Ohio, they use beet juice.  Anyway that salt they put on the roads gets up underneath our vehicles and begins to oxidize.  Many car dealerships offer to sell you an undercoating for the car to help prevent this type of oxidation.  The point is that salt causes rust.  If you have a salt water pool then you are running the risk of having any metallic element of the pool prematurely rust away.  The fact is that many vinyl liner in ground swimming pools being built today consist of steel walls, aluminum coping, steel hand rails, aluminum or bronze rail sockets, auto covers full of metal parts, steel steps, zinc screws, steel screws, steel bolts, nuts and really the majority of what holds the pool together is metal.  I have seen instances where a one year old pool has had problems with rusting to the point where it needed to be addressed right away.  That meant that the liner had to be replaced and the pool owner had to pay for a new one not to mention the expense they took on to repair the rusted area.  The fact is that regardless if your pool is salt or chlorine, if it is composed of steel walls then it will inevitably begin to rust.  Don’t get to discouraged quite yet.  There is still hope.

To help alleviate some of these issues Only Alpha Pool Products has come up with a composite wall that is not affected by oxidation problems.  It is truly the pool of the future.  Many builders are beginning to offer this pool system.  However there are still some builders that prefer the steel wall pools.  Well Only Alpha has got you covered there as well.  You might be thinking that steel is steel.  Especially if you are a builder and you are reading this.  Well you are somewhat correct.

The industry standard for a steel wall pool is G35 14 gauge steel.  That is what almost every if not all manufacturers use, but Only Alpha has the upper hand here as well.  While all the steel being used to build pools is galvanized, Only Alpha has taken another step forward.  They have created another layer of protection beyond the standard galvanization, and it has revolutionized the vinyl liner steel wall pool industry and has their competitors scratching their heads.  This process will certainly prolong the life of their steel wall pools well past the life of their competitors.  However, it is still steel and it will inevitably rust.

My recommendation for anyone who is thinking about getting a salt water pool would be to first make sure they are getting a composite pool wall preferably from Only Alpha Pool Products simply because they make the best quality non-corrosive swimming pool wall in the industry.  This will help keep the corrosion down that the salt in the water will create.

When to Add Salt to Your Salt Water Pool

There have been many technological advancements made in the field of swimming pool maintenance.  With that there had been a steady increase in the amount of salt water pools.  Some people might think that a salt water pool will be similar to swimming in the ocean, but the truth is that with the proper amount of salt in the pool swimmers will not be able to detect it.  Today I want to give some information regarding salt water systems on swimming pools and how they work.

First of all the amount of salt in the pool will be very small even though it may seem like a lot at first.  You will add about 50 lbs. of salt for every 2,000 gallons of water.  I know this may seem like a lot but when it is all said and done you will not be able to tell its there.  This will give you about 3,000 – 3500ppm (parts per million) and that is the magic range.  If you have more than that then you will start to notice the salt content in the pool.  Also having the salt at a high level will increase the corrosion of any metal elements of your pool.  To maintain the correct amount of salt you will simply have to periodically check the salt content and make the adjustments needed if any.

The way this system works is actually very clever.  Before I get to that it is important to know that “salt” is sodium chloride which is a combination of sodium and chlorine.  The system breaks down the sodium chloride into its separate parts, sodium and chlorine.  Then the chlorine goes to work killing the contaminants in your pool.  After that it rejoins the sodium once again forming salt and the process repeats itself.  So ultimately you are getting clean water through the use of chlorine.  The difference is that you are not constantly adding chlorine to the pool which results in less potential skin irritation, and less of that chemical smell we all know so well.

So the salt water in the pool will flow through a chamber where an electrode interacts with the salt effectively separating the sodium and chlorine.  This process is referred to as electrolysis.  From there the two elements go back into the pool where the chlorine kills any contaminants before rejoining the sodium to again form salt.  After that the process repeats itself over and over again.  Over time through back washing and regular use of the pool you will inevitably lose some salt content.  This is why it is important to periodically check the salt level of your pool.  Usually the salt system itself will have some sort of indication letting you know that the salt level is low, and that you need to add more.

To add salt to the system the easiest way is to pour the salt directly into the pool.  Some people say that it is best to pour the salt directly over the main drain.  I actually disagree with this.  I think you will find that when adding salt a majority of it will settle to the bottom.  When this happens it is your job to help the salt dissolve by using your pool brush to move it around which can take a little bit of time but its better than just letting the salt sit there at the bottom of your pool not doing anything.  After that it is important to let your pump run for at least 24 hours to get all of the salt water circulated through the system.

You are now ready to sit back and let the salt system do what it does.  No noxious chlorine smell, no more itchy skin, and no more time and money spent on chlorine.  Just relax and enjoy your pool.