What's the Difference Between a Saltwater and a Chlorine Pool?
Installing a pool is an expensive undertaking, so it's important to really think about what you want out of it before you start digging. One of the most impactful decisions you'll make is choosing a method of sanitation: saltwater or chlorine. Christopher Argenziano, CEO and owner of The Pool Boss says that most of his clients are choosing to install saltwater pools because they're easier to maintain and are generally considered more comfortable to swim in. However, he does preface that there are disadvantages to the method that might make chlorine a better choice for some.
Don't Expect Saltwater to Feel Like the Ocean
A saltwater pool isn't going to be like going for a swim in the ocean. "Basically, the way it works is you add salt to the pool and the generator uses electrolysis to convert it into chlorine," says Argenziano. Though it does technically use chlorine to sanitize the water, the method is an entirely different experience. First of all, it is more expensive upfront: The generator typically costs somewhere between $500 and $1,000 and you'll have to replace it every five to seven years. It does, however, require less maintenance and costs less over time. A bag of salt costs about $5 and you only need to salt the pool once or twice a season, depending on how often you swim.
Chlorine Pools Don't Use Any Motorized Parts
Instead, you disperse chlorine through one of two methods. If you use pool shock, you'll typically need to distribute the liquid or granules every month or so to keep it properly disinfected. It dissolves quickly but is quite strong, so you should wait about a day and test the levels before going for a dip. Over-chlorinated water will irritate your skin and eyes and can even cause long-term health issues.
Chlorine tablets are easier to use: Instead of distributing it by hand, you'll stick the tablets in the skimmer basket, a floating dispenser, or an automatic feeder which is attached to your pool's plumbing system. Tablets are less work-intensive than shock, but you will need to replace the tablets every week or so. You'll have to do so more often if it's especially hot outside, as the chlorine will burn up a lot faster. Over-chlorination is less of a concern with tablets, but you'll still want to check the levels from time to time. Floaters rely on the current, which means they can be inexact; this might mean that your pool is unevenly sanitized. All three methods require regular purchases of chlorine which can cost as much as $40 per barrel.
Saltwater Pools Are Easier to Monitor
While it is possible to over salt a pool, the digital panel makes it much easier to monitor and control the levels. "Add a couple of bags at a time and allow 24 hours for the pool to circulate so you can get an accurate reading," says Argenziano. If you do over salt the pool, you'll have to drain the water a bit so you can dilute it. "It's always easier to bring it up to a level than to bring it down," he says. Around the same time that you salt, you'll want to clean out the generator to keep it running properly.
Saltwater Erodes Certain Materials
Although saltwater pools are much gentler on both the eyes and skin than chlorine, the same cannot be said about the building materials used in and around the pool. Salt corrodes certain materials so you'll have to take that into consideration when building your pool. Natural stone must be sealed and anchor sockets for handrails or ladders must be made of plastic or brass as other metals will rust.