SO You’re Thinking About Making Your Pool A Salt Pool?
Salt Pool Conversion.
No doubt you have already hear about some of the advantages of a salt swimming pool. Well if you have, you can thank your friend because they are right. There are a few things we should go over first before you take the next step.
Let’s quickly go over some of the advantages in case you missed some of them.
First, you don’t need to buy any more chlorine. This is completely true most of the time. There are some scenarios where you might need to buy a little liquid chlorine to shock the pool. Although, most of the salt chlorinators have a super chlorinate mode (24 hour mode) to generate enough chlorine to reach breakpoint and kill algae, remove contaminants, or heavily oxidize the water. If you do need extra chlorine please use liquid chlorine because it is salt based and has the least amount of byproducts. The other time you might need to add liquid chlorine is in the winter. If your pool is uncovered (depends on the climate) the chlorinator will not function with water temperatures under 50 degrees. Pools do not need much chlorine this time of year but if you do need liquid chlorine, it won’t be much.
Second, the water will feel smoother and silkier. Most people agree that you can’t smell chlorine and that it doesn’t dry out your skin or bleach your swimsuit. All of this makes a ton of sense and also does not.
The reason that your skin feels softer or silkier is from the salt itself. Salt is well known to smooth the skin and it definitely does feel good.
As far as the lack of chlorine odor, this is because of oxidation. The salted water goes through the salt cell and is converted into chlorine. The salt in your pool goes through a process when it is being turned into chlorine. This process is known as oxidation (at least the part we care about). When water is heavily oxidized you will not have a chlorine odor and you will have less organic matter in the water (more on this next).
The part about not drying out your skin or bleaching your swimsuit is a little incorrect. Your skin will not feel dry because of the salt. This does not mean that the chlorine is not drying your skin out because it still does. Basically you just don’t notice it as much. The same is true about the swimsuits. The chlorine that is generated from the salt system is the same that you get by adding any other form of chlorine (tabs, liquid, granular shock, or granular chlorine). It can still bleach your swimsuits over time.
Lastly, you most likely won’t have to deal with any algae! As alluded to above, whenever water is heavily oxidized you will have less organic material and because of that you will have less algae. It is still possible that you can have algae with a salt system.
Here Are The Disadvantages.
Salt is corrosive and if your pool plaster is not in good condition the high levels of salt will make matters worse. If you are seeing plaster missing in areas or have a very rough surface the salt can accelerate the deterioration. If you have plaster that is in good condition you are fine to add salt. You may slightly shorten the life of your plaster but it is doubtful you will ever know it did. If you have “Pebble Tech” or similar exposed aggregate style surface instead of plaster (small rocks), you have the perfect surface for a salt pool. You will most likely not experience and deterioration from the salt because most of your pool surface is rock and rock does not easily degrade.
The other disadvantage is that even though you will not be out there buying chlorine from the store, you will however be there buying acid instead. Salt pools often continually have higher pH levels that need to be lowered. In my experience, they need acid weekly or bi-weekly. Of course you will need to test your pool water before adding any acid. Please do not ignore your pH with a salt pool or any pool for that matter. Your water pH is very important for the pool surface, the effectiveness of your chlorine, and the swimmers comfort. You will have a very high pH if you don’t add the acid the pool needs and a high pH is scale forming meaning you will form scale on your pool walls and tile. Any pH imbalance will cause your chlorine to be less effective. Lastly, your skin and eyes are irritated when the pH is either high or low.
To Sum it up.
If you think soft skin and no algae is worth better pH monitoring and possible shorter plaster life, you should convert your traditionally chlorinated pool to a salt pool.
How Hard Is It To Convert Your Pool?
In short, it’s not too difficult. Depending on the model you choose you may even be able to do it yourself. There are brands that make salt conversion as easy cutting a short piece of your pool plumbing and installing the cell with unions and plugging the controller into an outlet. Of course you would still need to add the right amount of salt to the pool but after that you would have a salt pool. Other brands and units will most likely require professional installation because the pool plumbing needs to be modified and a controller needs to be added. Most installations should cost between $250-$500 (Labor) depending on your plumbing/electrical and what needed to be changed.
Don’t forget to add a sequestering agent to protect your cell from calcium buildup. I like the one by Natural Chemistry called "Cell Protect". One liter treats 20,000 gallons of pool water and you can add this as often as monthly although I have found it only necessary to add in the spring and fall.
Here are Units You May Be Able To Install Yourself
Here are The Slightly Better Units That Will Need Professional Installation