Pool maintenance

Swimming pool maintenance: sea water or fresh water?

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Saltwater and cooler pools use some form of chlorine to keep the water clean, clear, and bacteria-free. In freshwater pools, like this one in Sacramento, liquid chlorine is added as needed.

Sacramento Bee File

More and more Americans are swimming on the salty side.

Salt water is the fastest growing trend in aquatic entertainment, according to pool experts. Ease of maintenance and much lower monthly expenses have made saltwater swimming pools common in hotels and resorts.

Saltwater swimming pools are also in great demand for home use. According to Pool & Spa News, 3 out of 4 new in-ground pools are salt water. In 2002, salt water represented only 1 in 8 new swimming pools. Of the 5.1 million residential inground swimming pools in the country, about 1.4 million are now salt water, according to industry statistics.

Saltwater pools contain a tiny fraction of the salt in seawater – 3,000 to 5,000 parts per million compared to 35,000 ppm in the ocean.

California ranks first among the US states for backyard swimming pools with more than 1.22 million residential inground pools and approximately 12,000 new pools installed each year. But the preference of salt water over fresh water often depends on the equipment initially installed.

The conversion can cost $ 2,000 to $ 10,000, said Jose Torres of Bio-Active, manufacturer of an all-natural pool clarifier and cyanuric acid reducer.

“In the long run, it could be more economical,” Torres said. “Saltwater systems use salt chlorine generators to turn the salt into usable chlorine. The best part is that your swimming pool has its own sanitation plant. As long as you provide enough salt, you have clean, good quality water.

Kristin Barr, director of All Clear Pool & Spa Supply in Sacramento, has seen a slow change in attitude towards salt water. In the older neighborhoods of Sacramento, traditional freshwater pools are still the norm.

“People who love it,” Barr said of the saltwater systems. “They wouldn’t change it for the world. “

Barr sees roughly the same pros and cons for saltwater systems.

“The advantages of salt water: you don’t need to add chlorine. The system creates its own chlorine, ”she said. “The water is softer. People who are allergic to chlorine like to use salt water because it is much gentler on their skin.

“But you have to add stabilizers like cyanuric acid or your pool could lose its chlorine,” Barr said. “Saltwater systems don’t work well in the winter when temperatures drop below 55 degrees, and you have to add chlorine. When it is 100 degrees or more in the summer, you also need to add chlorine as the system cannot meet the chlorine demands from the pool.

Torres added, “The downside of saltwater pools is that you can have high concentrations of salt in the water. This salt can be corrosive and more difficult to process.

And the most effective way to deal with a high salt content is to empty the pool. The biggest savings come from maintenance. Saltwater systems use pool-grade fine salt, which is added directly to the water and renewed annually. For an average 15,000 to 20,000 gallon backyard pool, this salt costs less than $ 10.

“Once you add it, you’re pretty much done for the year,” Barr said.

Liquid chlorine and other chemicals needed for a freshwater swimming pool cost between $ 300 and $ 500 per year.

Saltwater and cooler pools use some form of chlorine to keep the water clean, clear, and bacteria-free. In cool pools, liquid chlorine is added as needed.

Saltwater systems depend on a “salt cell” in its generator to create chlorine. The cell uses electrolysis to break down salt – a compound of sodium chloride – into hydrogen gas and hypochlorous acid. The gas evaporates; weak chlorine acid cleans water. The salt compound is reformed in the water and the whole process is repeated.

This very important salt cell needs to be replaced every five years or so, an expense of $ 500 to $ 700.

“This is where people realize that the costs balance between the salt systems and the fresh systems,” Barr said. “They have to replace the cell, and it’s so expensive.”

Pool water in general should be tested every two weeks to make sure it is at a healthy level for chlorine and that its chemicals are balanced, Barr said. (Like most pool supply stores, All Clear offers free water testing for customers.)

“With traditional swimming pools, you do the chemistry,” she said. “Every 30 days, you add chlorine. The salt water system always creates this chlorine for you. This makes saltwater pools attractive to people who travel a lot or are not around enough for regular pool maintenance.

Arguments for saltwater pools versus freshwater pools

  • Ease of maintenance
  • The system constantly renews the chlorine
  • The pool can take care of itself for long periods of time
  • Pool salt cheaper than liquid chlorine
  • The water is softer
  • Less irritation to eyes, skin and hair
  • he came with the house
  • Purifies water all year round at all temperatures
  • Conversion to a salt chlorine generator is expensive
  • Replacement salt cells are also expensive
  • Salt can be very corrosive, damaging hardware
  • The love of amateur chemistry and that scent of chlorine

This story was originally published July 6, 2016 6:00 a.m.