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Do Pool Ionizers work?

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October 04, 2010 1:01AM

Pool ionizers do work. They use a very low level of copper and/

or other metals such as silver to kill bacteria and algae. The

recommended copper level is less than half the National Sanitation

Foundation 0.3-0.4ppm. for drinking water.

However, getting rid of large quantities of algae usually needs

to be dealt with by shocking the pool with an oxidizer such as

chlorine. Ionizers can't generate enough ions to clear a pool with

lots of algae already in it. This is why it is recommended that the

pool be shocked and the pH balanced to 7.2-7.6 before activating

the ionizer.

40-50 years ago, swimming pools were plumbed with copper

plumbing. The chemicals eventually decayed the plumbing, as did the

velocity of the water and the corrosive effects of the chlorine

(think what the chemicals are doing to your body, if it was

deteriorating your pipes). This put traces of copper into the

water. The copper would eventually cause a blue staining of the

plaster, because there is an unregulated level of copper being

introduced into the water and the chlorine oxidizing the copper

causing it to drop out of solution. It also reacted with the blond

hair of some bathers, to cause that "green hair" effect - that is

oftentimes blamed on the chlorine (remember: yellow + blue =

green)! This is usually caused by incorrectly shocking the pool. If

you have an ionizer, it is recommended that only liquefied chlorine

be used when shocking. Otherwise, it super-oxidizes the copper and

it could drop out of solution causing staining.

Not only does copper kill algae, it also kills bacteria and

viruses. This leaves you with just organic material which needs to

be oxidized to clarify the pool. Usually ionizer owners shock the

pool with about 1 quart of liquid chlorine (Clorox) per 10,000

gallons, once a week or if the pool gets cloudy, whichever is

sooner. Or you can leave your pool chlorine dispenser set to

deliver 0.5ppm at a constant rate. This practice is accepted by

many public health localities throughout the United states. The

copper (and actually all heavy metals) is an algaecide. It

interrupts the plants ability to photosynthesize, thereby killing

it. Additionally, more recent studies have shown copper is an

excellent germicide and virucide it will be used in hospitals for

surgical trays, countertops and even door knobs in the future.

As pools were eventually plumbed with plastic pipe, pool

chemical companies started to manufacture liquid algaecides that

contained heavy metals (primarily copper, nickle, and silver). Also

in the solution, was a sequestering agent, sometimes also called a

chelating agent. The purpose of this additive, was to keep the

metals in solution in the presence of variations of high & low

pH. Without these additives, in the presence of pH extremes, these

metals would precipitate out of solution, staining the pool


So it goes without saying; reasonable pool maintenance must be

incorporated in your pool activity, such as checking the pH,

alkalinity, and the parts per million of copper in the pool

(.03-.04ppm) on a weekly basis. These metals do not evaporate out

of the pool, but are consumed by the algae, etc. and could to

become concentrated if not checked. Another disadvantage of liquid

algaecides, is that these additives eventually wear out, (actually

they are consumed by the algae).

Since copper and /or silver are not subject to deterioration

from the sun's ultraviolet rays, as is chlorine. The metal that is

not consumed by the algae, bacteria and viruses remain in the pool

as residual purifying agents. This gives you a very economical and

low maintenance method to keep your pool clean.

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