How To Maintain A Saltwater Pool ~ Saltwater pools didn’t quite hit the market well when it first came out in the 1980s. But now, many are making the switch from traditional chlorine pools to saltwater pools mainly because of two things—better water quality and easier maintenance.
A Must-Read: Best Pool Accessories
The Science Behind Saltwater Pools
The main thing that sets saltwater pools apart from chlorine pools is the salt chlorinator. It goes by many names—saltwater generator, salt chlorine cell, salt chlorine generator and so on.
A salt chlorinator converts salt into chlorine using a process called electrolysis.
In effect, electrolysis converts salt into sanitizing agents like chlorine in order to automatically clean the pool. What’s even better? Chloramines, which cause irritation, are not produced in the process. That’s essentially how saltwater pools work.
Guidelines For Maintaining A Saltwater Pool
The thing is if we’re talking routine check-ups, maintaining saltwater pools and chlorine pools are very much the same.
Even with saltwater pools, you still need to religiously check your water’s chemical balance and chlorine levels.
You need to follow a certain range of chemical levels in order to properly maintain your pool. Check them out below:
pH (7.4 – 7.6)
If you’re familiar with basic chemistry, the pH measures acidity levels by a scale. It has a value starting from 0-14, with pH 7 as the neutral level.
That said, anything above pH 7 is considered basic, and anything below pH 7 is acidic. Swimming pools wade around pH 7.4 – 7.6 to match the pH levels for the human eye and mucous membranes. Also, this pH range is good for chlorine disinfection.
When swimming pools fall off their normal pH range, bad things can happen.
A low pH gives:
- Aggressive water
- Irritation to the eyes and mucous membranes
- Damage to the pool liner
Meanwhile, too much pH means:
- Poorer chlorine disinfection
- Skin irritations
- Lime precipitation
Total Alkalinity (80 – 140 ppm)
Total alkalinity measures the number of alkaline substances in the pool such as carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides, and so on.
As far as maintaining your pool goes, all that science-y stuff is irrelevant. What’s important to note is that having a balanced alkalinity level means your pool is highly resistant to pH fluctuations.
That said, you should know that low alkalinity means your pH is more prone to instability which can lead to:
- Chlorine inefficiency
- Metal corrosion
- Pool staining
On the other hand, leave your alkalinity levels too high and you’ll have the following effects:
- Cloudy pool water
- Reduced pool circulation
- Clogged filter
- Rough surfaces
Calcium Hardness (200 – 400 ppm)
Calcium hardness measures how ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ your pool water is. In the realm of swimming pools, soft water has little to no dissolved particles of magnesium in calcium. On the other hand, hard water has a lot of those.
Ideally, you would want to keep your calcium hardness within 200 – 400 ppm. Having high levels or ‘hard water’ will cause saturation due to the excessive minerals dissolved. In effect, these minerals will want to jump out and cling to pool surfaces anywhere.
Meanwhile, having low levels or ‘soft water’ makes the water aggressive since it’s seeking the minerals it needs. In turn, this will create a corrosive environment for your saltwater pool.
Free Chlorine (1 – 3 ppm)
In essence, free chlorine is chlorine that is still available for sanitizing water. Once your chlorine interacts with other elements such as nitrogen and ammonia, it becomes what is called combined chlorine.
Note that combined chlorine isn’t anymore as effective in sanitizing as free chlorine. Therefore, as a pool owner, it’s your responsibility to increase sanitizing levels. Meaning, increase your free chlorine count.
Stabilizer (30 – 80 ppm)
Leaving your pool out and exposed under the sun without any protection is a common mistake for pool owners. What they are not aware of is that pools need sun care, too. This is where stabilizers come in.
Basically, what they do is protect chlorine from UV rays. Think of it as a sunscreen but for your pool.
The absence of stabilizers can drain up to 90% of your pool’s chlorine levels in a matter of hours under the sun. That’s how drastic the effects of UV rays are to your pool.
Standard pool kits usually don’t include a spot for checking stabilizers, but you can check out some of the stuff from Amazon.
Now that you have the basics down for chemical balancing, how often should you do the necessary tasks for maintaining your saltwater pool?
Keep in mind there are no set rules on exactly how often you should scrub your pool equipment or clean your pool of debris.
You’ll have to really play it by ear until you grow accustomed to taking care of your pool.
Nonetheless, following a little rough guideline won’t hurt.
If you want your pool squeaky clean, you need to do some daily (or at the very least, regular) cleaning.
Start with the surface of the pool with skimming. Even if you have the chemical balancing part down, you still have physical dirt to deal with.
Other elements like leaves, debris, and even small insects can invade the surface of your pool. Checking them every now and then a few times a week is enough.
Whichever you’re comfortable with, you can either manually or automatically skim your pool.
Emptying your pump basket is also crucial for better pool circulation. You wouldn’t want a simple problem like a clogged basket ruining the flow of your pool.
It can be easy to lose track of weekly habits but never forget to check your pool chemistry at least once a week.
Treat pool testing as a priority because chemical levels will dictate if your pool is swimmable or not. No matter how clean and unclogged your pool is, what’s the use of swimming in it if the chemicals prove to be too harsh?
Additionally, it will not only affect you but your pool equipment as well. Basically, anything that comes into prolonged contact with your unbalanced pool water will surely deteriorate in time.
But amidst all the scientific jargon that come with pool chemistry, pool testing is a fairly easy thing to do—thanks to pool test strips.
The most accurate way to measure your pool levels is to dip a cup upside down until elbow level, scoop it back up, then dip a strip into it.
Your pool kit, usually color-coded, will let you know if there is anything that needs adjusting. Amazon has a lot of options for your pool test kit needs.
Another weekly maintenance activity can include vacuuming. Consider this the deep-cleansing version of pool skimming. If you happen to spot some dead algae lying beneath your pool, vacuuming is the perfect way to get rid of them.
While it’s recommended you check alkalinity and calcium hardness monthly, you also need to look into other variables that affect your pool chemically.
First is the salinity of your pool. This characteristic indicates how salty your pool is. The level of salinity varies per manufacturer of your pool cell. Ideally, your salinity level should only fall anywhere between 2700 – 4500 ppm.
You can check your salt chlorinator’s control panel for its current salinity level. If they don’t have that, you can buy a test kit with a salinity test or just simply use a digital salt meter.
Aside from salinity, you also have to check on your total dissolved solids (TDS). Essentially, these are solid particles that have dissolved into your pool chemistry.
Saltwater pools normally have a higher TDS ppm than chlorine pools. However, if your TDS exceeds 1500 ppm excluding salt, it’s time to either clean your filters or partially drain your pool to replace it with cleaner water.
Ideally, it’s normal to have about 3000 – 6000 ppm before it gets very bad.
Every 2-3 months or so, it’s best to check on your pool cell to keep calcium buildup in check. Failing to do so may eventually lead to the declining performance of your cell.
Salt cells normally expire after 2-4 years but that can even go further if you know how to take care of one.
Most salt chlorinators have a light indicator that blinks whenever your cell needs a little TLC. You can use a high-pressure hose in order to remove the buildup in your cell.
The good news with saltwater pools is that their regular maintenance isn’t as demanding as chlorine pools.
What’s even better? They cost way cheaper to maintain on a yearly basis than chlorine pools. Fixr has listed down the specifics on expenses for each pool.
However, the only downside is the difficulty of fixing it when the problem reaches the pool system itself. You may have to hire a professional on that one when it happens.