Saltwater vs Chlorine Pools


Saltwater vs Chlorine Pools ~ We’re all well familiar with chlorine pools and the patented ‘swimming pool smell’ they are known for. They have dominated the swimming pool world for decades. 

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But lately, if you’re not in on the trend yet, saltwater pools are slowly eating away the spotlight. And so, it makes you wonder, what’s really the deal with both? 

So what’s the lowdown between salt water vs. chlorine pools? How do they differ on the following aspects below?

  • Pool system
  • Pros and cons
  • Maintenance

Pool System 

The main difference between saltwater pools and chlorine pools is how they both distribute cleaning agents in the pool. 

Contrary to what most may think, none of these two are actually chlorine-free. They still depend on chlorine in order to keep the pool swimmable and clean. 

So the question is, how do they distribute chlorine?

Chlorine Pool System

The system is pretty much straightforward for chlorine pools. You just simply add the appropriate amount of chlorine to the pool using a chlorine dispenser. 

Saltwater vs Chlorine Pools

Chlorine comes in three forms—tablets, liquids, and granules.

Tablets are usually great for everyday chlorination and maintenance. They are also great for households with pools. On the other hand, liquid and granulated chlorine work best as pool shocks because they dissolve faster than tablets. 

Once in contact with the pool water, chlorine breaks down into a number of chemicals, mainly hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ions. These compounds are effective in getting rid of microorganisms through the process of oxidation. 

Hypochlorous acid can oxidize these microorganisms in a matter of seconds, while hypochlorite ions take up to 30 minutes long. 

Saltwater Pool System 

Chlorine is spread through a saltwater pool in a different manner than traditional pools. Instead of straight-up chlorine tablets or liquids, you use dissolved salt to convert it into chlorine. Hence, the name saltwater pool. 

In order to convert salt into chlorine, you must use a salt-chlorine generator. It uses a process called electrolysis to produce chlorine in the form of sodium hypochlorite and hypochlorous acid. These are sanitizing agents that kill bad bacteria floating around your pool. 

All that being said, saltwater pools are not actually chlorine-free. They just manifest chlorine differently. 

Pros And Cons 

If both pool systems have chlorine in them, how are they different? 

Chlorine Pools: Pros

There’s a reason why chlorine pools have stayed with us in our summers. They’re initially cheaper and pool equipment friendly. 

A simple chlorine float will only cost you around $8 – $15 and can last you a long time. This is in stark contrast with a salt-chlorine generator, which typically cost you at least $400 with a lifespan of 4 to 5 years. 

Pools are also surrounded by metal accessories like steps, stairs, and diving boards. The good thing about chlorine pools is that they do not cause corrosion for these metals, unlike saltwater pools.

And since chlorine pools have been the gold standard for the past 50 years, many are already familiar with how they work. You’ll have an easier time acquiring repair services for chlorine pools than saltwater pools because of the mere familiarity with a chlorinated pool system. 

Simply put, chlorine pools are your affordable, comfort pick.

Chlorine Pools: Cons 

Unfortunately, we’ve stuck with chlorine pools long enough to see its bad sides. The number one complaint about them is how they feel. 

You probably know what this means. At least once in your lifetime, you’ve most likely experienced swimming in a chlorinated pool. And while you were in there, you’ve probably tried to open your eyes underwater out of curiosity. The moment you opened them, though, it probably stung. A lot. 

Sadly, traditional chlorine pools are not exactly skin or eye-friendly. The sticky and itchy feeling becomes discernible once you step out of the pool. But it gets even worse once you realize your hair wasn’t spared from all the chemicals, too. 

An excessive amount of chloramines can also compromise your respiratory system, too. Chloramines are a by-product of chlorine and unwanted chemicals like ammonia, which can be found in urine or sweat. Chloramines are also responsible for that infamous ‘pool smell’. 

Moving on from health-related issues, chlorine pools can be surprisingly costly when it comes to maintenance. They demand more of your time and money for upkeep.

Because chlorine pools contain higher amounts of chloramine, you need to pool shock them more frequently than saltwater pools. Once a month is the usual habit of most pool owners compared to the occasional requirement for saltwater pools. That’s a lot of pool shocking in just a year. 

Saltwater Pools: Pros 

A lot of public establishments are making the switch from a chlorine system to a saltwater system because of how gentler they are to swimmers. This is all thanks to the salt chlorine generators which utilize the process of electrolysis to not only produce chlorine but to also reduce the number of chloramines in effect. 

Because they feel heaps better than chlorine pools, saltwater pools quickly became popular among your typical households as well. Many claims that saltwater pools feel silkier and lighter on the skin. Plus, they don’t sting the eyes at all.

Many pool owners also claim that saltwater pools are easier to maintain than chlorine pools. While there is truth in this, it all really depends on how you want to maintain your swimming pool. 

Saltwater Pools: Cons 

The number one reason a lot of pool owners hold back from making the switch is the upfront cost. A single salt chlorine generator could easily burn $400 straight out of your pocket, add to that your installation fees which typically cost you $150 above. 

You also might want to rethink about the type of pool accessories you have or are planning to get. Saltwater pools are known for causing corrosion among metals. Handlebars and diving boards usually have a metal component to them, so you might want to limit yourself to plastic or other materials aside from metal.

Investing in a pool sealant is also one way to go about it. 

Saltwater vs Chlorine Pools

It goes without saying that if you choose a saltwater pool over a chlorine one, you really have to be committed and prepare yourself for a higher upfront cost and corrosion problems. 

Maintenance 

There really is no exact way to do it. Maintenance depends on a lot of factors such as pool location, frequency of pool usage, personal preferences, among other things.

Both pool systems require the basics of pool maintenance, though. This means checking the chemistry levels and removing debris on a weekly basis, sometimes daily if you’re a neat freak. 

Chlorine Pool Maintenance 

It’s already a given that you need to check your pH and alkalinity levels weekly. Apart from that, you need to incorporate strict surveillance if you don’t want your chlorine levels fluctuating. Some pool owners add chlorine on a daily basis just so they can balance their water chemistry. 

However, this is bad practice, so don’t commit the same mistake. On top of that, adding chlorine that much can be very expensive. 

You’re better off using cyanuric acid, also called pool stabilizer, to protect chlorine from being absorbed away by the sun’s UV rays. 

Pool chemistry aside, you also need to clean your pool equipment at least once a week. This includes your skimmer basket, pool filter and pump. 

Saltwater Pool Maintenance 

Aside from their gentle formula, saltwater pools are quite popular for being ‘low-maintenance’ as well.

The self-sustaining nature of the salt chlorine generator makes it easy for pool owners to keep track of their pool chemistry. 

That said, you worry less about testing your water for chemical imbalances. Add to that the continuous and even distribution of chlorine. In effect, algae buildup becomes hindered. This means less time for you to do some pool scrubbing. 

Saltwater pools are cheaper on a yearly basis if we’re talking about maintenance. Chemical costs only range for about $70 – $100 for saltwater pools compared to the $300 – $800 range for chlorinated pools. 

However, every 4 or 5 years or so, you do also need to replace your salt cell which can cost you around $200 – $700, so consider that as well.

The Verdict? 

If you aim for quality summer fun experience, saltwater pools reign supreme. A higher initial cost won’t matter if you’ll be enjoying your pool for nearly a lifetime, worry-free of the skin or eye irritations. 

Saltwater pools are sure to deliver top-notch swimming experiences. On top of that, though, comes with less responsibility to actually maintain the swimming pool. You’ll worry less on chemical imbalances because your generator will notify you of that quickly. 

Paying more for lesser maintenance and lesser irritation? That surely is a bang for your buck in the long run.

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