It's summer again, should I get a salt water pool system?

Posted by Anthony A. on 6/20/2011 to Salt Pool Need-to-Know

Summer is in full swing and another swim season is upon us. Many pool owners are asking themselves again if they should put a salt system on their pool, but don't know what to think about what they've heard. A very common question that comes up this time of year goes something like this, "I've thought about changing my pool to saltwater, but I've just heard so many different things about it. Is it true that ____?" You can fill in the blank with any number of crazy things that we've heard a pool guy or pool store tell their customers. If you've heard some confusing things, then this article is for you. Here are the top answers you need to know. For those pool owners that are already relaxing and basking next to their glorious saltwater pool, get back outside!


"The pool will taste salty!"

 The first thing to know is that the level of salt in the water is so low that you should not taste it. There is just enough in the water that the salt pool system can use it and convert it into chlorine. It is not like the ocean, at all. In the ocean, salt levels are usually 35,000 to 38,000 parts per million. In your pool, its closer to 3,000 parts per million, or only 7% - 10% as much salt. Most people taste salt at around 4,500 part per million. Even if too much salt has been added and the salt level is high, what most people say is that if they lick their lips, they just barely get a slight hint of saltiness. But the main effect is that it makes the water feel softer or smoother, some people use the word silky.


"It will just be one more thing I have to deal with on the pool"

 For real? Putting a salt system on your pool is one of the best ways to free yourself from being tied to your pool. Dealing with your chlorine levels is the absolute #1 thing that causes the majority of pool maintenance. A salt system is a chlorine generator, or in other words, it automatically creates chlorine for you pool when you run your equipment! Since it works so consistently, you won't have those high and low chlorine levels when algae gets started and makes you have to work even harder. It virtually eliminates the nightmare scenarios of pool ownership. All in all, what most people have to do on a regular basis is continue to check your water maybe once a week (just to make sure everything is staying fine) and then add a little bit of pH balancer once a month, since that is the other chemistry level that wants to change in pools.


"Converting your pool to saltwater costs too much!"

 It's not uncommon that we hear from other pool owners that they have gotten a quote from a pool store or pool company for $1500 - $2500 to install a salt pool system, even for a small pool. Yes, agreed, that is too much!! Pool stores that carry salt systems usually double the price, and many pool professionals pad on even more to the cost because they know that the salt system is going to cut them out of a lot of pool maintenance business. A typical price range for most people who put a saltwater system on their pool is more like $500 to 900. Of course, it depends on what type of system and what pool size you have. That is still a chuck of change, but for the equivalent amount of chlorine, you actually save a significant amount of money. Consider this: Hayward rates their Aqua Rite T-15 salt pool system to be the equivalent of 580 pounds of Trichlor. Even if you bought that amount of chlorine in bulk at an amazing sale price, you would spend 30-50% MORE on that chlorine than you would on the salt system .

If you've been using Baquacil or other biguanides or alternative sanitizers, get ready to save hand over fist. Many Baquacil users spend more in one year than they would on a whole salt pool system.


"They don't tell you that you have to keep replacing the system because it wears out"

That one is partially be true, but there is a big upside. The cell (the salt system's replaceable component) does wear out. It's also true that everyone out there does a good job hyping the magic of a salt system, but unfortunately sometimes they don't do equally as well telling people that the salt system's cell is a part that gets replaced. No one likes to get surprised. HOWEVER,  let's go back to the Hayward Aqua Rite example above to see why it is actually where you start saving even more money. In that example, we see how buying a salt system saves 30-50% over chlorine costs. And then, say in 3-5 years, yes, the cell wears out. A replacement cell is usually less than half the cost of a full complete salt system. So then in this example for the next 3-5 years you're saving something more like 60-75% or more over what you would be spending on chlorine! But back to the point, a salt systems is not an infinite supply of chlorine; the cell does wear out. Go here for a whole post that tells you all about that.


"Salt will affect my pool and equipment"

You can hear some pretty crazy things on this one, some even get humorous in how outlandish the stories get. People imagine that corrosion might occur, like rusty snow tire chains, or like if your pool was a New England lighthouse with salty waves constantly crashing into it. Remember the salinity levels in a pool are virtually insignificant, 90% - 93% less than that pounding ocean surf (99.7% less than the raw salt that affects snow tire chains). More damaged is caused by imbalanced pH and LSI levels to pools than low levels of salt could ever do. In fact, saltwater pools can actually reduce the amount of wear on pools with vinyl liners. Salt pools eliminate Chloramines, which are the caustic corrosive particles that traditional chlorinated pools have. The fact is that there are millions of salt pool systems out there, and they've been around since the late 1970's. If they were a problem, the entire pool-filled neighborhoods of Phoenix and Orlando would have melted down by now. Companies like Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Lowe's wouldn't be climbing over themselves to carry the materials you need to set up your saltwater pool. One in every two new pools built in the US wouldn't be saltwater pools. To be fair, if you have used exotic materials (or materials that are unsealed and unfit to be around pool-water in general) you'll want to check with your pool builder just to double-check that there isn't something rare that might be affected. But in general, the salt is usually the least noticible aspect of a "saltwater pool".  For most people, putting a salt system on your pool is as uneventful as putting a microwave in your house. And if you remember how much your parents loved that, get ready for your turn at being wowed by technology.

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