Salt vs. Chlorine

The disagreement over salt versus chlorine pools has been going on for quite some time, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both systems. Cost, maintenance and health concerns are the main reasons for debate between these two systems. However, there is no clear-cut winner. Based on your needs and wants, only you can make the decision that you feel is appropriate for your situation.

Saltwater Pools
Saltwater pools use dissolved salt instead of chlorine tablets to cleanse and sanitize the pool water. The salt chlorinator unit uses electrolysis to break down the salt and adds the salt to the water. The pool owner has to maintain the pH levels of the water on a regular basis. A consistent salt-to-water ratio level must be maintained. The amount of salt you add weekly or monthly to your pool water would depend on the amount of rain, the amount of backwashing you do to the pool, as well as the amount of water lost due to splashing or draining of the water.

Once you have added salt to your pool, you will only be adding additional salt over time to maintain the levels. Keep in mind that salt never "disappears" from water once it is there. That is why the initial up-front cost of the salt is more than chlorine, but over time the cost goes down significantly. More rain will dilute the amount of salt in the pool. Also, the more you backwash the pool and the more water loss you have, the more water you will need to add to the pool. Which again, would dilute the amount of salt in the water.


Chlorine Pools
Chlorine pools are the most common types of pools built today. The system to filter and chlorinate the pool is easy to operate, and pool owners often feel better about maintaining their chlorine pool because the chlorine tablets are readily available. Chlorine tablets are sold at many pool stores and other major retailers. Users add chlorine tablets to either a pump unit separate from the pool water or in a floating disbursement device that dilutes the chlorine tablets over time in the water.

Owners test the pool water regularly with a kit and add chlorine tablets based on the pH levels needed to balance out the water. The chlorine added kills mildew, mold buildup and bacteria living in the water, making it safe to swim. Chlorine pools require a bit more maintenance, and may end up costing more overall because of the amount of chlorine you may need to add to balance the pH levels in the water. The more rain water, backwashing or water loss that occurs to the pool water, the more variation in the pH levels there will be. The chlorine in the water will help keep the water clearer and cleaner and prevent a buildup of naturally occurring bacteria.

Advantages of Saltwater Pools
Saltwater pools have many advantages, including less maintenance and lower overall cost. Building a new saltwater pool or converting your existing pool to a salt system will initially cost more than a chlorine-based system. However, the cost will pay for itself within the first two to three years depending on the amount your pool is used.

There is no clear-cut winner when you compare and contrast saltwater pools to chlorine pools. It all depends on the amount of maintenance and overall use of the pool. While saltwater pools do not use any significant chemicals, chlorine is a byproduct of the salt you add to the water, so chlorine is still present in the water. However, the levels are much lower and will not hurt or sting your eyes, and these pools are much safer for pets, animals and your family because there are far less damaging chemicals being added to the water. Salt is a more natural approach and is safer on our skin and hair than the harsh chlorine chemical tablets. Also, a saltwater pool will not fade or damage your swimsuit as much as a chlorinated pool.

A saltwater pool will not leave you feeling as though you just got out of the ocean, and the water will not taste salty like the ocean. Instead, this system is meant to provide you with the same benefits as a chlorine-based system pool, without the large amounts of harmful chemicals.

Advantages of Chlorine Pools
Chlorinated pools may be better at clearing up bacteria in the water than saltwater-based systems. A chlorine system will clear the water up much quicker than a saltwater based system if there is bacteria present or if the pH levels are off. Clearing the water up in a chlorine system can take 24 to 48 hours, but a saltwater system may take three to five days depending on the levels.

Chlorine pools are easy to operate in the sense that the owner can simply add tablets to the system through either a floating disbursement device in the water or through a pump-like system.
Maintenance Cost Comparison

The cost to set up a saltwater pool will cost between $1,000 and $5,000, not including the cost of the construction of the actual pool. This cost also depends on the size of your pool---the larger the pool, the more water you have and, thus, the more salt you will need to add to the water. However, once you have this "base" in the pool water, you will only need to add salt when needed.

Saltwater pools are generally less time consuming as far as maintenance. The amount of time you spend balancing pH levels and making sure the chemicals in the water are all balanced will be reduced significantly. Keep in mind, though, that saltwater pools do contain chlorine. The way the pool operates is that the saltwater is run through an electrical system and creates chlorine on its own naturally. Instead of adding chlorine tablets, you will simply add salt when needed. In a typical summer, expect to spend $20 to $30 total for the whole season. This is after your saltwater system has already been established and you already have an initial "base" level of salt in the pool.

Maintenance for the upkeep of a chlorinated pool will set cost about $50 to $60 a month depending on the size and amount of use of your pool. The bigger the pool, the more chlorine you will need. Also, the amount of rain, back washing and water loss will affect the amount of chlorine you will need to add to the water to balance out the pH levels.

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