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Chlorinated or Saltwater Pool System - Which is Better?

Chlorinated or Saltwater Pool System - Which is Better?

Choosing an efficient sanitation system for the swimming pool often leaves most people confused. Well, this Gardenerdy article enlists the pros and cons of chlorinated and saltwater pool systems. Take a look to know which one is better.
Dhanashree Patane
Pool water must be tested for water chemistry parameters at least once in a week. The pH, combined chlorine, free chlorine, total alkalinity, and calcium hardness should be checked.

Swimming pools are great for recreation and relaxing on a hot day. However, maintaining the chemistry and hygiene of the pool water is an important factor. For ages, people have treated swimming pool water to chlorine in order to sanitize it. However, in the recent years, another option for treating swimming pool water has become the trend, which is saltwater pool systems.

Basically, both these systems have the same purpose―maintaining the swimming pool water chemistry and sanitizing it. If we look at the process, it will be evident that both chlorinated and saltwater pool systems use chlorine for sanitation. So, where does the difference lie? Why are they considered different, and what leads them to comparison? Given below are the details of each, along with the pros and cons.

Saltwater Pools Vs. Chlorinated Pools

The Working Mechanism

▣ Saltwater Cleaning Systems
Saltwater systems too use chlorine to treat the water. The generator or the salt cell in the saltwater pool breaks down the salt (NaCl) to form chlorine through the process of electrolysis. The chlorine is further broken down to sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) and hypochlorous acid (HClO). These are the sanitizing agents that keep the pool water clean. The salt cell acts as a chlorine generator, which releases salt in the water at regular intervals to balance the chemistry and sanitation of pool water. So, we could say that the difference lies in the way chlorine is introduced in the water. Here, salt is added to pool water, which breaks down to chlorine.

Chlorinated System (Standard pool cleaning systems)
As the name suggests, in this type of pool, chlorine is added in the water in powdered or tablet form. So, we could say that the chlorine added to pool water is in a direct form. This is broken down to hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ions. Chlorine acts as a disinfectant and sanitizes water. It removes algae and other bacteria from the pool water.

Pros and Cons

▣ Saltwater Pools
They are easy to use and maintain. Chlorine is automatically generated in water. You no longer need to handle harsh chemicals to maintain swimming pool water.

The chlorine produced in a saltwater pool is less caustic as compared to chlorine that is directly added to pool water in chlorine pools.

It also has other health benefits. These pools are less harmful to the skin. They do not irritate the eyes. The skin and hair remain softer in comparison to chlorine pools.

Saltwater pools also have the advantage of shocking the pool, whenever the chlorine levels go low, or the pool needs a thorough cleanup.

The initial cost of saltwater pools is high. However, maintaining this system for a long term is not expensive. These pools only need regular addition of salt, as the system recycles salt for producing chlorine.

Salt is inexpensive than chlorine in powdered or tablet form. The system does not always need professional help. So, you save up on maintenance costs.

The salt cell that generates chlorine is made up of metal, which erodes away. So, this cell needs to be replaced from time to time.

Saltwater pools may, however, require regular checking of the salinity. You need to check the pH levels. As they have higher pH levels, you will have to keep a regular check on the chemistry of the pool water. This will also keep your salt cell in good condition for a longer period of time.

Salt is also corrosive, so you will have to maintain the levels in order to avoid corrosion. Pool equipment should also be of good quality metal, or of composite, sealed steel etc., so as to avoid corrosion.

The material on the deck of the pool should also be considered. Splashing of water during general use of the pool can also cause salt to reside on the deck surface.

Chlorine Pools
Chlorine sanitizes the pool faster than saltwater pools. It is also easy to buy, with virtually low installation costs as compared to saltwater pools. Chlorine pools are also easy to shock, with 1 pound bags easily available in stores. These shock bags are already mixed and also come with clarifier. So, your pool is cleaner than you expect it to be.

➝ The chlorine added to pool water is stronger and produced by various methods; however, they have a lower pH, as chlorine added to the pool water is lower in pH.

➝ Chlorine tablets also dissolve too quickly, (especially the cheaper varieties), so the pool water has excess chlorine in it, which is harmful for the human body. It also leads to excessive chemicals like stabilizer in the pool water.

➝ Chlorine is harmful to the human body. It has an unpleasant smell that can be overwhelming at times. It also causes the skin and hair to become dry and itchy at times.

Which Is Better?

You may think that both these systems work effectively. However, saltwater systems are a safe and easy option for maintaining swimming pool water chemistry. If you have sensitive skin, or if there are kids who will be staying in the pool for a long time, then saltwater pools are the best option. They are easy to run with set controls. You no longer need to worry about excessive chemicals in the water and about adding chlorine tablets. The saltwater pool is simply running always.

If budget is the problem, considering the initial cost of installation of saltwater pools and any other costs of maintenance, like replacing the salt cell, then chlorine pools might work best. However, because of lower health risks and low exposure to harsh chemicals in saltwater pools, it is definitely an appealing contender in pool sanitation. So, given a choice, a saltwater pool is better than traditionally chlorinated pools.

Choose what suits your budget requirements. At the end of the day, both these work well for sanitizing your pool.