Saltwater applications have become a growing interest in the past several years and every major pool product manufacturer is jumping onto the bandwagon. Hot tub manufacturers, not so much. But what’s the big deal about saltwater pools and hot tubs? Sales and marketing! At Water Works Pool & Spa Service , we want you to be informed, so let’s talk about the pros and cons of saltwater applications.
But first, what is a “saltwater pool” and why? Salt is added to the pool water to a range of 2500 – 3500 parts per million (ppm). It’s less salty than ocean water, and the equivalent or less than a human tear. You don’t necessarily notice a huge difference in the taste of the water, but it does give the water more of a soft, silky feeling. The reason salt is added to the water is to generate chlorine. Going back to chemistry class, the salt added is the compound NACL, or sodium chloride. A “chlorine generator” is a cell that is electrically charged and separates the compound into sodium and chlorine. The sodium remains in the water and the chlorine becomes available to sanitize the water. The generator provides a consistent level of chlorine and reduces the amount of maintenance needed and chemical usage.
One of the biggest myths or sales pitches about saltwater pools is that they are maintenance free. This is not true at all. Pools still require water chemistry balancing, cleaning, and other maintenance and chemicals. The chlorine generator level can be increased or decreased depending on the bather load, but if left unchecked, it may not keep up with the demand and additional chlorine may be required regardless. The cells also require routine maintenance and cleaning. Cell life is suggested to be about 12,000 – 15,000 hours which equates to 5+ years based on our pool seasons here in Wisconsin. However, if the cell isn’t routinely cleaned or you have poor water chemistry, cell life can be dramatically reduced.
The cost of converting a standard pool to a saltwater pool can be cost prohibitive depending on your budget. You can expect to pay around $2200 or more to convert a pool. A dedicated electrical connection is recommended for the power supply required for the cell. For most pools it takes about 700 to 800 lbs. of Aqua Salt to reach the 2500 – 3500 ppm salt level needed. Additional salt is also required throughout the season as you backwash the filter and add fresh water. It’s also critical that a sacrificial anode and a check valve for the heater be installed. The sacrificial anode is made of zinc and designed to protect any metal components such as your pump, filter, and heater from being corroded by the salt. A check valve should also be installed directly after the heater to prevent concentrated chlorine produced by the cell from back feeding into your heater when the pump is turned off. Failure to install these items can become a costly mistake.
Most hot tub manufacturers have avoided saltwater like the plague. It turns out the contrast in pool temperatures at 80 – 85 degrees and hot tub temperatures over 100 degrees have a very drastic difference in results. In combination, hot tubs with salt water and poor water chemistry corrode and destroy the pumps, heater, and anything else metallic including the jets at a stunning pace within 3 – 5 years. It’s pretty amazing, not in a good way!
All in all, feedback from customers who have saltwater pools is very positive. Most people enjoy the luxurious feel of the water and appreciate not having to babysit the chlorine level all the time. From a service standpoint, saltwater pools tend to stay nice and clear and don’t turn green with algae due to the constant chlorine present. At Water Works Pool & Spa Service , we like salt. We also like happy customers. Let us help you if you’re interested in converting your pool to saltwater, we’ll make sure it’s done right.