Pass the pool salt!
PASS ON THE POOL SALT
Don’t do it, don’t do it, DON’T do it. I don’t want to say I told you so! So let's pump the brakes on the saltwater pool fad for a second. Not everything about saltwater pools is what it seems. Let's dive into the real truths about salt systems. In this blog article,I will dispel the “fake news” associated with Salt Water Pool Systems and give you my perspective after building and servicing pools for the last 24 years.
Salt Pools are maintenance-free: This couldn’t be further from the truth. Saltwater pools require more testing and adjusting your water chemistry over any other type of sanitizing system on the market. In a saltwater pool, you have a salt cell that converts salt into chlorine. During that conversion process, a byproduct of hydrogen is made. This hydrogen is passed off into the water which in turn increases your ph. If left unmonitored every 3-4 days your ph will spike. High ph levels lead to scaling or staining, calcium build up clogging of filters or build up on your salt cell, a decrease in the efficiency of the chlorine in the pool, damage to heat exchangers, automatic pool covers, etc. To combat the rise in ph you must ad muriatic acid to the pool every few days or purchase an acid feed system that will monitor ph levels and adjust ph when it is too high. These systems are costly, typically a few thousand dollars installed. With a salt system, you will need to test your water more frequently, add more chemicals to balance, and routinely clean the salt cell to keep it free of scale. If I had to break it down in time, there is about an extra 40 minutes per week involved to keep a saltwater pool running properly. That’s the last thing any pool owner wants is to have to spend more time caring for a pool.
Saltwater pools are chlorine-free: Absolutely not true. The salt poured into the pool is converted into salt through a process called electrolysis, where a small electrode emits a small amount of energy into the water in a salt cell that causes the salt to be broken down into hypochlorous acid (chlorine) and hydrogen. At the end of the day, a salt pool is still a chlorine pool.
Saltwater is softer: False. Saltwater pools feel different to the user due to what is called TDS or total dissolved solids. Total dissolved solids is as it sounds, is the amount of solids that are dissolved in the water. With saltwater pools, there is around 3,200 ppm of total dissolved particles in the pool which comes from the salt that is added to the pool. These particles give the user a more buoyant feeling while using the pool but the water is not any softer. The term water softness comes from calcium hardness. Calcium hardness in a pool can vary depending on the type of pool, ie. Concrete, fiberglass, vinyl. Calcium hardness is something that is tested periodically throughout the season and adjusted as needed. However, calcium hardness and pool salt are completely independent of one another and should be the same in a pool with or without salt.
Saltwater pools won't burn my eyes and or irritate my skin? Again this is false: Chlorine levels in a salt pool or a traditional chlorine-based pool won't affect your skin or eye irritation unless you have an existing skin condition typically. Ph is the factor that affects eye and skin irritation. The human eye has a ph of 7.25. So if the ph of your pool is above or below that you may get eye irritation at varying levels based on your ph reading. It typically nothing to do with chlorine levels, unless the chlorine levels are unusually out of range. pH is the typical culprit of pool water sensitivity.
Saltwater Pools Cost Less: Again this is false. The average cost of operation of a saltwater pool is 2 times the cost of a traditional chlorine system. A saltwater pool system can range from $800-$4,500.00 for the system and installation. Then there is the initial cost of the salt which averages out to be $250.00. Then you have to add 1-2 gallons of acid to the pool per week at a cost of $18.00. You also need to add a quality scale inhibitor like Scale Free from Natural Chemistry or a Salt Water Magic Kit per month that optimizes the pool water at a cost of $48.00 per month. You also need to remove the cell and clean it every 30-90 days depending on manufacturer recommendations. This costs around $150.00 to have done professionally. Last but not least you will need to replace the salt cell anywhere from once per season to every 3 years, at a cost of $400-$1300.00. The average operating cost over a 3 year period is approximately $1,700.00 per year for a saltwater system based on a 30 week season. A traditional chlorine system will cost approximately $700.00 per season based on a 30 week season.
AVERAGE OPERATING COST OF A SALTWATER SYSTEM
Initial Salt: $250.00
1-2 Gallons of Muriatic Acid Per Week at $9.00/gallon x 2 per week $18.00 x 30 weeks = $540.00
Additional Chemicals $12.00 per week x 30 weeks = $360.00
Salt Cell Replacement cost average out per season for 3 years = $300.00
Salt Cell Control Cost averaged over a 10 year period = $265.00
Total Average Operating cost of a saltwater pool system = $1,715.00
Total Average Cost of Traditional Chlorine Based Pools = $700.00
HIDDEN COST OF SALTWATER POOL OWNERSHIP
There are other hidden costs of ownership of a saltwater pool system as well. The salt can damage your pool deck, metal handrails or ladders, pool lights, water features, and last but not least your automatic pool cover. This is where it can get expensive. The track channel and the track for an automatic pool cover can become corroded to the point where it needs to be replaced and in most cases that includes removal of decking around the pool to install new track channel. All of these potential repairs are not covered by any builder warranty or manufacturer warranty either. So if and when these damages show up the pool owner is on the hook for the entire cost of the repair. Which can be tens of thousands of dollars. This is not my idea of a good investment. Save yourself the headache, and the hassle, and pass on the salt. Here is a video describing some of the problems pool owners have faced with Saltwater Pools.
THE SILVER LINING
There is one advantage to the problems of saltwater pool systems, and that is, it opened up the opportunity for other manufacturers to think outside the box and come up with alternative sanitizers that are truly easy to use and are nearly maintenance-free. We know pool owners want an alternative to chlorine or at least a system that can help improve water quality without adding toxic chemicals to the water, and or to worry about damaging other pool equipment and reduce the amount of work involved in maintaining a pool. Pool Pros has found that solution in Ultra Violet Sanitizing. It is a great technology that helps improve water quality while not affecting water chemistry and not adding any additional chemicals to the pool water. Take a look at our Ultra Violet Sanitizing Blog for more info. As I stated earlier, DON’T DO IT. Pass, on the salt.
The Moral of the Story:
Don't believe the hype and do more research about what is being presented to you. Saltwater pools are a costly trend that we don't recommend to any pool owner with any type of pool.