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What are the advantages and disadvantages of a saltwater swimming pool?

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Saltwater vs. Chlorine, Pros and Cons
  • Saltwater is an expense when it is installed, but after that you do not have to add chlorine as salt makes chlorine. This saves you $60 for every bucket you buy.
  • Salt is softer on your skin.
  • The new salt systems are great, as they monitor and clean themselves.
  • You also do not have the obnoxious little floater in your pool all the time with salt.
  • Both systems generate Disinfection By Products (DBP). Both systems are very climate dependent and also vary based on pool usage.

More comments from WikiAnswers contributors:
  • I am using a saline system and it is wonderful. I do not run the clormatic (cell) 24/7. I only use it during the hours that the pool is open, but I do run my filters 24/7. You still need to shock your pools with some sort of chlorine agent, I use cal hypo. It is not very cheap to get started but it is in the long run. It is easier to get and hold the targeted chlorine levels w/salt. When I perform my shock (weekly) I also add the needed salt. When adding salt the cell must be off for approx 8 hours (depending on turn over rate).
  • As a builder of high end in-ground swimming pools we have not built a pool without a chlorine generator for the last 9 years or so. As the owner I wouldn't be without one myself. Many customers ask me, How can they justify owning a chlorine generator for their pool? To help them, answer that question, I ask them, "What's important to you?" Inevitably the answer is, "Everything is important." My pool owners are successful enough to buy any chlorine system. They always buy a chlorine generator because they demand perfection in everything they do.
  • The only time that having a salt system in your pool can harm the equipment is in a "runaway chlorine" environment which can be common if the unit isn't operated properly or if water isn't tested and balanced regularly. In a runaway chlorine environment, the chlorine created by the salt system could potential dissolve the heat exchanger in a heater in a couple of days. I recommend you research the product independent of the sales environment prior to making your decision to convert to salt.
  • The only disadvantage, as noted above, is if the equipment isn't used properly. My pool is a saltwater pool and it requires less manual maintenance and maintenance expense than the traditional chlorine pools our neighbors have (same conditions, same size). Replacing parts/equipment is the same as that for a traditional chlorine pool, although replacement prices are a bit higher. In the long run though, the prices are about even. I recommend talking to several different pool supply stores for more opinions.
  • Yes, depending on the amount of calcium in your water you may find that scaling will appear on your pool surface if you have a plaster pool. A salt system attracts calcium to the titanium plates and then can discharge it back into the water. This excess calcium can result in a buildup on the pool surface. I have found this to be most common in self cleaning salt systems.
  • The salt content in a saltwater pool is about the same as the salt content in the human body. It definitely does not harm pool equipment. Here are some of the advantages of having a saltwater pool: no toxic chemicals to buy, store and handle; no stinging eyes and no chlorine smell; lower maintenance. The main disadvantage of saltwater pools is that it reduces the revenue generated by pool chemical sales.
  • I just installed a pump for my pool this past summer. At first, during the high heat days, I had a tough time keeping up with the chlorine required despite the fact that I set the output to 100% with 11 hrs of pump time. I went to my local pool store and learned that the alkalinity level, which I think was directly related to pH level, is critical with a saltwater pool. After lowering the alkalinity level, everything worked fine and I was able to reduce my pump time to only 6 hrs and my output level to 7. With saltwater, your pH level goes up fast, so you need to check it more often. Also, when ask for opinions about saltwater, don't go to a pool store. Their answers will be depend on if they sell the generators or not. Don't take your sample water to Leslie's to check for salt level. I added salt based on their salt reading and ended up draining my pool of 20" of water before the unit worked right. They don't sell chlorine generators, so they don't have the right equipments to test the salt level. In general, it's not cheaper than chlorine but your water does feel quite different.
  • Saltwater pools do have disadvantages! Pools that use chlorine tablets (tri chlor), and pools that use salt (sodium chloride) are very similar. The first thing to understand is that both use chlorine. Both systems require sodium bicarbonate, calcium chloride, and muriatic acid to make chemistry adjustments. Salt chlorine systems require the addition of stabilizer (cyanuric acid) and salt which tablet pools do not. stabilizer holds chlorine in the water. Chlorine tablets have this chemical in them already. The average pool in Orlando Florida (18,000 gallons) uses 400 pounds of salt and 60 pounds of stabilizer a year. These chemicals again, are not required in a tablet pool. Salt systems have a metal cell and an electronic control panel that cost about $1,000. The cell on average lasts for three years and costs $350 to replace. $1,350 would pay for all of your pool chemicals for an average pool for 10 years. Does anyone have a water fall? Salt builds up on any surface that gets wet and then dries just like going to a mild beach. The chemical to keep the salt from building (jacks magic) runs $21 a month. As a pool retailer I hope that all pools will convert to salt, because we don't make any money on chlorine tablets. The prices have been consistent for 20 years. Salt and stabilizer though can be priced at my discretion because mass merchants don't carry them. Selling the cell is also great: Whereas a $5-chlorine tablet floater will last for 10 years, the cell only lasts for three.
  • Fluctuations in the pH cause eye irritation, not chlorine (which you have in your saltwater pool, anyway.
  • In response to the answer that states that saltwater pools use "400 pounds of salt and 60 pounds of stabilizer a year".
  • First: the salt never leaves your pool by evaporation NOR is it ever used up. The only way that saltwater leaves your pool is through back-washing, leaks, and splash out. The same is true for cyanuric acid. While it is true that a brand new 18,000 gallon pool uses only 450 lbs of salt (3,000 ppm, or about 50 lbs per 2,000 gallons). It is NOT true that it uses this amount of salt every year. In order for a saltwater pool to use 400 lbs each year would mean that 16,000 gallons of water was added to compensate for splash out, back-washing, and leaks alone (no evaporation because evaporation leaves the salt behind). To prove that no salt leaves due to evaporation, consider how salt is made in some countries by leaving trays of saltwater to evaporate in the sun. Also, consider the purification method for saltwater by using distillers. Both of these leave salt behind due to evaporation.
  • Second: You would NEVER want this level of cyanuric acid in your pool. Obviously this retailer has been misinformed by the propaganda laid out by the chemical companies. Yes, cyanuric acid helps in SMALL quantities. But as cyanuric acid increases, the effectiveness of chlorine decreases, which in turn requires more chlorine to achieve the desired effect. The tablets (unfortunately) contain MORE cyanuric acid, which now puts us in a dangerous cycle of adding more cyanuric acid with each tablet... and having to add more chlorine to keep up with the increased levels of chlorine. The chemical companies do not tell you this as it translates to more profits for them.
  • The disadvantages: Yes, you may see some salt dried up on a splashed area, but that's no big deal as it washes off very easily. You will not have to bother to remember to get more chlorine. Bottom line: They work - and have worked - for the past 25 years. The difference now is they are very reliable thanks to hi-tech electronics and hi-tech metals. These units are the best-kept secret in our pool industry.
  • I agree with 2 answers up, with the exception that in most - and I emphasis most - cases, the amount of Cyanuric acid in either Di-chlor or Tri-chlor tablets will not bring the levels up beyond 50-70 ppm, causing your chlorine to become less effective. You could also say that it benefits the chemical companies to use salt because you are creating a higher pH chlorine then you are with Di-chlor and they get to sell pH reducers. It all comes down to what you are comfortable with. Saltwater pools are chlorine pools with a softer feel. Personally I hate softeners used on showers. You are going to pay $ to maintain a pool and always come out to about the same. I personally believe that in more filtration time and a little less chemicals but I would pay for it with electricity. Chlorine when used properly and being educated on the base chemicals (Ph, Alk, and Calcium) should be easy and irritation free. Also all this changes when we start talking about an indoor pool. Salt would be the preference. The only true disadvantage to using salt systems is with chemical automation systems. It is possible, but has to be looked at carefully as the generator can distort the sensor readings. I don't agree that it is the best kept secret in the pool industry. How many things have been the next best thing: Ozone, UV, Ions, Baquacil, and the list goes on. All have good purposes, but in general are not the answer to replacing chlorine. All these things are still getting compared to chlorine after all these years. I guess time will tell.
  • Aside from the initial setup cost, I don't think there are any disadvantages in saltwater pools. Many people claim they feel better to swim in, and you don't have to worry about constantly having to handle chlorine. Nowadays, there are alternative salts to sodium chloride in Magnesium and Potassium chloride. You can even water your garden with the backwash - and this is an added boon.
  • If you have an Endless pool, say Goodbye to your pool using saltwater. It will create rust on your screws and some of your panels. Nobody every mentions the rust problem.
  • Please do NOT use a salt system! Yes, a salt system will affect the hardness of your water and suck the calcium from your grouting! And salt or chlorine does not sanitize your pool... they try... but ...OH MY! Why is swimming in chemicals such an accepted practice? Chlorine, Salt Generated Chlorine, Shock, Stabilizers, where does it stop? You add one chemical you need to add two more to balance the pool. Then jump on in! Technology has moved well beyond chemical addition! Look into UV (Ultraviolet)systems... not Ozone generated by UV, strait UV technology will kill algae, not just put it to sleep like chlorine does, and so much more. UV destroys more bacteria - which is why you use chemicals - than any other system, including - and especially so! - salt systems. Read the World Health Organization - Healthy Pool Guidelines! Read what the Centers For Disease Control and the scientific community says about swimming pools and your health. Read about cryptosporidium in your pool and your kids! Read about THM's and HAA's! Read about reproductive and developmental problems associated with Chlorine Disinfection By Products (DBP's)in pools! Then you will quit using shock, salt, stabilizers, acids,yellow treat, green treat, and use a light bulb instead! Technology is a beautiful thing!
  • I have worked with the 3 of the world's top 5 salt systems in a commercial application over the past 13 years. They are well worth the money and the cost is almost 50% cheaper than when I purchased my first one. The TRUTH is that they are in fact chlorine generators. There WILL BE CHLORINE IN YOUR POOL. Why then is it more comfortable and so popular? Because your pool will be virtually free of "chloromines". Chloromines are the nasty things that cause the smell and irritation to the eyes and skin. I can generally keep our pool at 3-5ppm chlorine with little to no smell or irritation.
  • Saltwater pools are cheaper to maintain. No need to buy liquid chlorine and slug it home from the store. You do not have the harmful effects of chlorine, i.e., eating elastics out of your suits, friendly to dyed hair, excellent for light skin disorders. Your hair is softer, as saltwater is used as a water-softening salt. Be very conscious of the fact that you must make sure your pool is balanced at all times as you will have to add stabilizer. I have had a saltwater pool for 3 years and when the hot summer comes and everybody is throwing every chemical in the world at the pool trying to keep it clear, you will have peace of mind. Just like the Caribbean, but with 1/10th the salt content. You wont make a mistake going for the salt, it's well worth the extra money.
  • A cons is that it attracts bees. I am/was considering converting to salt, but I doubt I can because my neighbor is a beekeeper. I do not mind mass murder of insects, just ruining a friend's hobby. I am still considering if a swap will be possible...
  • I've just had an in-ground saltwater pool installed. I took my first swim a couple of weeks ago. Great! Highly recommend the saltwater version. The only thing is you've got to keep the pH value properly balanced, but that's a piece of cake, as they say.
  • Many saltwater pool owners are starting to report damage to their pool equipment, and stone because of their salt chlorinator. The thing is, that saltwater generators create chlorine anyway, so what's the point?
  • I hate to burst the bubble of the first answer, but in a saltwater pool you are creating chlorine and in the majority of generators you are creating the same kind of chlorine as "liquid chlorine" Sodium Hypochlorite. The only difference is you have a dial "like a house thermostat" to control it instead of adding chemicals involving human error especially if your eating the elastic out of your shorts. You could achieve the same "thermostat" reliability with a tab feeder.
  • There is nothing wrong with a salt system. But don't be sold by thinking it's the world's greatest sanitizer. All you are doing is putting something on your pool to generate chlorine at the desired rate. You still have to buy all the other chemicals and make sure everything is in balance. The salt in your water definitely adds a softer feel in the pool. Spend some time being educated on the complete balance of chemistry and how each thing effects the water and you will have a nice pool which ever way you go. With that said, the most important thing I tell my customers is that the more time you spend messing with chemicals the worst off you usually are. The people that play the most typically cause there own problems. Get it close and move on.
  • The pool came with a house we purchased 6 years ago. It had a chlorinator and we had no problem learning how to properly use and maintain it. About 3 years ago, the wall unit started showing signs of trouble, and a technician told us the in-line piece had to be replaced at a cost of about $800. He said that after 10 years, it was normal to replace these units. We decided to forgo the chlorinator altogether and instead install a (much cheaper) automatic chlorine tablet feeder. No more hauling and adding bags of salt to the water. The difference in water quality? None as long as a proper chemical balance is maintained.
  • Cost is the same for maintenance. Instead of chlorine tabs you are buying salt. You also have to add much more stabilizer and acid to the water. You still have to shock the pool using granular or liquid chlorine because the super chlorinate setting on the generators does not bring the chlorine level high enough. The cells don't last very long and are very expensive to replace. The pro is softer water.
  • To the guy who said you never lose salt except for backwashing and splashing: We get a lot of rain in Florida and that drives the salt levels way, way down. Same with Stabilizer levels.
  • First of all Trichlor and Dichlor tablets are a very good source of chlorinating a pool but, however, should NOT be the sole means of chlorinating a pool. A pool should be set up with an adequate saltwater chlorinator that can handle that volume pool and still be oversized to allow for high bather load. Chlorine tablets cannot and will not suffice for large pools with high bather loads the average tablet will only sanitize 10,000 liters (2,641 gallons). Therefore, for the average pool would be about 4 tablets a week. We buy them at $1.5 Aus a tablet and it may sound cheap but as apposed to the average salt pool needing $24 Aus a year in Salt it works out very expensive. Sodium hypochlorite should be added to a salt pool only on very hot days with high bather usage approx 500mls every 3-4 days so in one year you could expect to use around 20 Litres at most which is $19 Aus. The biggest problem with Chlorine tablets is also one of their best features the Cyanuric Acid contained in them. If the Cyanuric acid levels in a pool reach a level over 140 ppm the pool will develoop chlorine lock which will send the pool green and the pool must be drained approximately half way in order to fix this problem. I have seen this exact problem over 500 times in my career.
  • The UV light system is another very good idea but should NOT be used as a sole disinfectant of water. Yes it is very good at completely neutralizing algae but there are stubborn algae which is commonly known as Yellow or mustard Algae which it cannot remove. The UV lights also lose there effectiveness after around 7 months which is a problem I am encountering at the moment as we are halfway through our development stage of producing UV lights as a means of backing up.
  • If you truly do your research, the best pool system, cost and convenience wise, is a copper/silver ionization system like MineralPure by Clear Water Enviro Technologies. Copper and silver has been used for decades by the Ancient Greeks, early American pioneers, and Egyptians to keep their water sanitary. Copper kills algae and silver kills over 75 other different bacteria's and diseases. NASA has also used copper/silver ionization systems for their Apollo flights. You can visit their website mineralpure.com for more information.
  • Salt systems have been called a "green alternative" to chlorine systems; they are not. A salt system simply uses NaCl (salt) to generate/make hypochlorous acid, which is chlorine. The only real difference is a "feel thing", since now you not only have chlorine, which is a toxin, but you now have salt, which is a corrosive. Just ask anyone who's having to replace their $1,200.00 salt system after a short 3-4 years. Salt system "sellers" do not necessarily reveal this to you when selling you the system. Before "converting" to a salt system, research the new "truly green" alternative systems, like Nature Boy™ Advanced, which uses a new, "copper pentahydrate" solution. UV systems also lose their efficacy (effective disinfecting power) quickly because swimmers bring SPF into the pool water with sunblock. Sunblock is measured in SPF or "sun protection factor" and since UV is only effective as it can DIRECTLY CONTACT your water-borne bacteria and organics, the efficacy is lowered over time as SPF builds up in your system.
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