Salt Water Pool Systems Are En Vogue
Salt water pool systems are all the rage. Swimming Pool builders who have been hurting in recent years are trying to find new revenues by up selling these systems. There are some reasons to go with a salt generator. In this article we will examine both the pro’s and con’s.
Chlorine generators are not good for all pools types. In fact they are corrosive and can cause major damage to pools made of metal.
Salt is corrosive to metal! There is no dodging this fact. Add some stray electrons as you power the salt cell and you make things even worse. For this reason I void all warranties of people who put them on my above ground swimming pools.
In-ground Pool Salt Water Pool Systems / Chlorine Generators
There are really only two decent systems available on the market. The Hayward Aqua Rite system, and Pentair IntelliChlor IC40 and IC20 models. I would not even consider Compu pool. Both Pentair and Hayward have models that will handle 25k to 40k gallon in-ground pools. These systems range in price from $850 to $1000.00 before the cost of installation, the 150 lbs to 350 lbs of salt required, or any markup necessary to cover a profit to contractors or pool stores.
My top pick is Pentair IntelliChlor IC40 Swimming Pool Chlorine Generator – up to 40,000 Gallons available on amazon.com, with the Hayward AQR15 Goldline AquaRite Electronic Salt Pool Chlorinator With Control Box Complete a close second. Also available on Amazon.
I find the Pentair system interface much easier to understand and work with. It has a very clear display with lights. Both of the systems are complete and equally easy to install, and cost about $1000.00.
Pool Maintenance With A Chlorine Generator
Using a Salt Water Chlorine Generator (SWCG) will help keep a maintenance dose of chlorine in your pool at all times, and prevent algae growth. The higher end systems I mentioned above also monitor chlorine levels and generate maintenance doses of chlorine as needed. This is best for the long periods when the pool is not in use.
When the pool is in use and with various bather loads, you will have to monitor your chlorine level and make adjustments to the dose. With these systems you can set a level of chlorine to produce, but if you make more than you need, you may end up with too much, and if you have high bather loads, you may have too little little.
As both situations can cause health risks, you are left still having to do more maintenance work than you would like.
What They Don’t Tell You When Purchasing
You still have to monitor your chlorine level manually, and shock your pool occasionally. Breakpoint chlorination is required to reduce chloramines, and kiil certain bacteria. Sunshine and swimmer loads will affect chlorine levels. Regular maintenance doses of chlorine (1.5 ppm) will not kill chloramines and diseases.
You have to monitor your pool salt levels closely also prevent damage to the Hayward system. If salt levels get too high or low, you can not run your unit without the possibility of damaging the system.
Increasing a pools salt level is easy enough, but lowering it can be a costly pain. To lower your salt level you have to drain off water and add new water to dilute the saline level. Just be careful not to put to much salt in your pool to avoid this concern. Add a little less than recommended for your pool based on amount of gallons, and add half bags till you reach the correct level, measuring at each interval.
The only maintenance the pool owner can do to the unit is clean the electronics in the T-cell. If you find your generator not producing enough chlorine you can simply remove the T-cell, unscrew the electronics, and clean the contacts.
Health Benefits & Water Condition
Chlorine is dangerous! Whether you add it yourself, or generate it with a salt water pool system. Chlorine is chlorine! Any claims that it is “softer on your skin”, or you won’t feel as itchy, or the water is better for you is bogus marketing talk. A properly balance pool feels exactly the same, generator or no generator. High doses of chlorine are dangerous!
I think people believe these salt water generators will make their pools more like ocean water. These systems do not do that, you will not even taste the salt if, you take any chlorine water in your mouth (which no one should). The only true benefit is that you do not have to purchase, handle, transport, or store as much chlorine.
What They Definitely Don’t Tell You
These systems can destroy your pool. Salt is corrosive, but that is not the worst of it. Stray electrons will rot metal. This in why they suggest a sacrificial anode in the installation. But I would say, unless you have a pool with a polymer wall, or fiberglass, do not use a chlorine generator.
This means all pools with metal walls are not good candidates, especially above ground pools. If your above ground pool wall is not sealed properly where the water is collected at the skimmer, or at the return jet, your pool wall won’t last 2 seasons.
If you have a copper heat exchanger in your pool heater, the salt water will destroy it.
Do you have a gorgeous Travertine deck? You wont for long if your pool water gets splashed onto your pool deck
The only real danger is the possibility of over chlorination. If the electronics go screwy and the system for whatever reason (bad sensor) believes the chlorine level is low, it will continue producing chlorine while the pool is running or the SWCG is active.
Above Ground Salt Water Pool
All above ground swimming pools have a metal wall except for Intex Pools. So it is not recommended to install a SWCG (Salt Water Chlorine Generator) on an above ground pool.
Let me back up a little bit. SWCG systems are just that, a system that turns salt water into chlorine. There are no salt water pumps, or salt water pool filters. You simply add an electronic cell to your pools existing plumbing, and it creates chlorine as your water passes through the cell.
Why Do Pool Companies sell Above Ground Salt Water Pools?
For the money! The pool is either so expensive they will gladly give you a wall or two once yours rots out. Or as in most cases, the warranty begins to prorate after just two years. So you pay for a portion of the walls “retail” replacement cost. You actually end up covering the cost for the pool company. You pay the discounted rate for the wall (usually 50%), this covers the pool companies cost for the wall. Then they charge you to ship it.
But wait… there’s more!
But your pain is just beginning, because you will also have to buy a new liner and pay to have the wall installed. It cost as much to have a new wall installed as it does to build a new pool. Sometimes it cost even more. The laborer has to disassemble and remove the old wall first before they can install the new wall. Except for the excavation and the pool base, replacing a wall is like building a new swimming pool.
I don’t play these games. I consider it a ripoff. So I tell customers right out. If you buy one of my pools and install a SWCG, your warranty is null and void!
I could easily play the same game, and either charge a little extra for a “so called” salt water pool, or ship off walls at 50% off to the unsuspecting masses.
If you are looking for a way to maintain some level of chlorine to prevent Algae and to handle some aspects of sanitizing without having to purchase, handle, store, or transport as much chlorine, and your pool walls are not made of metal, then these are good systems.
If I were looking for a way to handle pool sanitation and maintain a healthy pool for me and my family, I would go the same route as the Beijing Olympics, and most colleges, with an Ultraviolet (UV) System.
Commercial pools in at least two states require UV by law. With a UV system you only have to maintain a chlorine level of .5 ppm. .5 ppm of chlorine is considered a safe level for drinking water. UV light will also destroy organic chloramines and bacteria that do not respond to super-break-point chlorination. UV is the future…
Most homeowners do not understand how to properly shock (super-break-point) a pool. I have heard people say a million times, “Well… that water is cleaner than the pond down the street I grew up swimming in”. But the pond down the street has natural ways of dealing with bacteria, and does not use chlorine which produces chloramines.