Salt Water Systems: Why do I want a salt water swimming pool?

Growth of Salt Water Pools

Prior to the advent of pool chlorinators, it was necessary to keep swimming pools safe and functional by adding, handling and storing harsh chlorination chemicals. Today, salt water pool systems offer a simpler and safer alternative for pool maintenance without the negative effects of traditional chlorine chemicals.

The market for "salt water pools" (or pools equipped with a salt chlorine generator system or automatic sanitizer system) is growing exponentially. It is estimated that over 50% of all new in-ground pool installations are now equipped with this technology. In addition, a significant number of existing pools are converted to these salt-water-systems each year. The primary drivers behind this growth include better feeling, less irritating pool water - combined with simpler and safer maintenance.

Increasingly popular in the backyards of average Americans, saltwater pools use less chlorine and are more eco-friendly, but they can be hard to keep clean if not cared for properly.


The primary factor in their popularity is their limited use of chlorine. Unlike traditional pools, which require chlorine to be poured into the water manually or released from a tablet, a saltwater pool has a generator that uses electrolysis to release chlorine gas from salt in the water. Salt is added to the pool water to achieve a saturation of approximately 3,200 parts per million, roughly the amount of salt found in a teardrop. In contrast, ocean water has a salt content of 35,000 ppm.


How does a salt water pool get chlorine then?

When pool salt (NaCl) is dissolved in a salt water pool water, the salt chlorine generator system, or automatic sanitizer system electrolyzes the salt and transforms the chloride (Cl) portion of the salt into chlorine. This chlorine dissolves in the water to perform the same functions as conventional liquid chlorine used in pool maintenance. However, unlike traditional liquid chlorine used in pool maintenance, salt chlorinator systems generate "free" chlorine as water passes through the electrolytic cell which destroys chloramines responsible for "chlorine odor", red/irritated eyes, bleached/green hair and damaged bathing suits.

A saltwater pool is a closed system and generates the chlorine sanitizer from the salt, there’s no need for transporting, storing and adding chlorine to the pool.
— Ben

Many swimmers think saltwater pools are more comfortable to swim in because of the lower amounts of chlorine in the water. The harsh smell of chlorine found in traditional pools is virtually nonexistent, a plus for people with asthma and others who are sensitive to the fumes.

It is very similar to what a water softener does to the water in a home.

Because many Americans are adopting greener lifestyles, saltwater pools are appealing as a more eco-friendly option.

“The public’s awareness of the environment is a big factor,” Ms. Pires says. “The main complaint we hear is that the small amount of salt in the water can cause corrosion or leave residue on certain types of stone or other finishes.”

Saltwater pools certainly have their advantages, however a saltwater generator can erode the surface area of the pool in addition to harming the underwater lights and pool equipment.

We have found that sometimes owners of saltwater pools have a “set it and forget it” mentality, which can expose them and their pool guests to harmful bacteria.

There are three main concerns with saltwater generators. First is algae control. If the owners of a saltwater pool do not maintain appropriate chlorine levels, algae can bloom.

The saltwater chlorinator cannot create enough chlorine in a short period of time, and algae will grow exponentially.

Second, is that the level of cyanuric acid, which keeps chlorine from being burned off by the sun, is often too low in a saltwater pool.

It is often necessary to add higher levels of cyanuric acid during hot months, which can be damaging to plaster on pools and cause skin irritations.

Third, people who own saltwater pools should prepare for a high electric bill. For a saltwater generator to create enough chlorine to keep a pool filled with swimmers clean, it may be necessary to run the generator from 18 to 24 hours a day. This however is often offset with lower chemical chlorine costs.

These 3 negatives however are often a function of human error, not problems inherent with the system. Like anything pool related it must be maintained and monitored closely. A salt water pool like a chlorine pool must maintain proper water balance and filtration. It does not do away with this necessary work. In fact it often needs to be watched even more closely. However most customers really do prefer the feel of a salt swimming pool. The lack if chlorine smell is another positive. We also like the idea not keeping chlorine tabs or liquid around the house where kids and pets could get into it.

If you would like to have a salt water system installed on your pool or you need help with your current system contact Classic Pools today!