Saltwater Pool Guide: How They Work & Why They're Worth It

How They Work & Why They’re Worth It

Your home’s backyard is your retreat from the world, a place you can go to unwind and enjoy the outdoors free from intrusions. On warm days, a backyard pool allows you to relax, exercise, and socialize with family and friends. Even on days when you aren’t swimming, you want to see sparkling clear water in your pool, waiting for you to jump in and partake of all your swimming pool has to offer.

Keeping a pool clean involves chlorine. Traditionally, this involved frequently adding chlorine and shock. There is another option, however. With the right equipment, a saltwater pool keeps your pool’s water beautifully clean and sanitary. Saltwater systems are easy to use and maintain, freeing you from the constant maintenance needs of a traditional chlorine pool and giving you more time to enjoy pool-time fun in the sun.

An Introduction to Saltwater Pools

The first question someone unfamiliar with saltwater pools often asks is, But what about chlorine? This is a good question because, with a saltwater pool, you add salt instead of chlorine. That salt makes chlorine. How? The answer is simple science.

Saltwater pools rely on a chlorine generator instead of the manual addition of chlorine. The chlorine generator uses electrolysis, a process by which the dissolved sodium chloride (salt) splits into its two elements: sodium and chlorine. As with a traditional chlorine pool, the water circulation system moves the chlorine throughout the water to keep the pool clean.

In both cases, your pool is kept clean with chlorine. The difference is how chlorine gets into the water. Traditional chlorine pools rely on the addition of chlorine to the water; saltwater pools rely on salt in the water. A saltwater pool is as clean and sanitary as a traditional chlorine pool.

Another frequent question is, Does a saltwater pool taste like the ocean? No. Ocean water’s salt levels are around 35,000 parts per million, which is a very high concentration of salt. Saltwater pools have salt levels at only about 3,000-4,000 parts per million. The salt content is lower than that found in a teardrop. The taste of salt in a saltwater pool is almost unnoticeable.

The Benefits of Saltwater Pools

Swimmers notice differences between saltwater and traditional chlorine pools. Chlorinated water is known for being hard on skin and hair. One benefit of saltwater pools is the elimination of the harsh chemical byproducts (“chloramines”) that usually cause a pool’s nasty effects. In many cases, saltwater pools have a lower concentration of chlorine than that of a traditional chlorine pool. The result is pool water that is gentler and less likely to dry out your skin and hair. Saltwater pools also mean reduced eye irritation. The swimming experience is more comfortable and enjoyable, and swimmers don’t feel as dry and irritated afterward.

Saltwater pool water also feels better on your skin. Many homes employ water softening systems that use salt to reduce the concentration of certain minerals that can damage your home plumbing and your skin and hair. Similarly, saltwater pool systems generate softer-feeling water to make your swimming experience smoother and softer.

Chlorine is a bleaching agent, and items worn and used in and around the pool often suffer from its effect. Saltwater pools also mean bathing suits and pool toys stay brighter and last longer.

Another benefit of saltwater pools is the elimination of the noxious chlorine smell many people associate with a clean swimming pool. The smell is unpleasant, and it’s not a sign of a clean pool. That smell isn’t chlorine. It’s chloramines. Saltwater chlorination lessens the buildup of chloramines, keeping the smell often associated with chlorine at bay.

Saltwater Pool Care Tips

Another advantage of saltwater pools is the ease of saltwater pool maintenance. Understanding and learning the system takes little time and effort. Afterward, your pool may seem virtually maintenance-free, especially when compared to a traditional chlorine pool.

The basic saltwater pool care tips are the same as they are for a traditional chlorine pool. The core components of any pool system are the filter, pump, and skimmer. These need to be well-maintained for your saltwater pool to work efficiently. Keep your pool clean by skimming and vacuuming it as needed. This should be done a minimum of once a week, but some situations require more frequent cleaning.

Since salt is the source of your chlorine, maintaining the salt level is a top priority. Pool salt can be purchased in bags at your local swim shop and often at your local hardware store. The salt is dumped into the pool water where it dissolves and the chlorine generator turns it into chlorine. Follow your manufacturer’s suggestion for the appropriate salt level for your system.

Since salt does not evaporate, you will not need to add salt to your pool frequently. Salt is lost through swimmers’ splashing water, the filter backwashing process, or purposeful draining of water. In most cases, salt may only need to be added annually at the beginning of swim season and possibly again after a period of high use or high rainfall. This is so much easier than the constant adding of chlorine needed by a traditional chlorine pool.

Once a week, use test strips to check the free chlorine and PH. After you’ve tested your pool, you will know if you need to make adjustments to your system. Once a month, use test strips to check your pool’s salinity, alkalinity, stabilizer, and calcium. If any of these are out of range or you want to manage other possible issues, there are products available to keep the water clear and swimmers happy.

All of these tests are similar to the monitoring any pool requires. Every few months, saltwater pools require something different: checking the salt cell for buildup or debris. If the salt cell is clean, it can be reinstalled. If you see mineral buildup or debris, start by spraying the salt cell with high-pressure water. If this does not clean the salt cell, soak the cell in a 4:1 mixture of water to muriatic acid. Soak the cell for approximately 15-20 minutes, then hose it off. If the salt cell still is not clean, repeat the process until it is. Then reinstall it and resume usage of the system.

What is the Average Cost of a Saltwater Pool?

Pools can be installed with a saltwater system from the start. Most other previously installed pools can be retrofitted for the saltwater system. The highest initial cost of a saltwater pool start-up kit is for the chlorine generator. Typically, these cost around $1000-$2000. Don’t get turned off by the price, however. The costs after installation are much lower than the costs of maintaining a traditional chlorine pool, typically allowing the savings to more than pay for the salt system.

After installing the chlorine generator, the next purchase is salt to get the system up and running. Your initial purchase of salt will be much more than you will need to purchase in the future. The amount of salt varies depending on the size of your pool. You will need to add approximately 30 pounds of salt for every 1000 gallons of pool water. Fortunately, salt is inexpensive. A 40-pound bag of salt can cost less than $10. Higher purity salt costs about $20 for a 40-pound bag

To maintain the chemicals for a saltwater pool, you can expect to pay $100 or less to maintain each year. This includes the purchase of salt and any additional chemicals needed to maintain proper levels. In contrast, chlorine pools frequently cost as much as $100 a month in chemicals, and sometimes even more! That adds up fast, making the saltwater pool a clear choice for lower monthly costs.

Jump In

The majority of new pools are installed with saltwater systems. As people become familiar with the myriad benefits of saltwater pools, more people are interested in converting their traditional chlorine pool into a saltwater pool. There’s no reason to be a slave to your pool’s chemicals when a saltwater pool makes chlorination so much easier. The allure of silky water that’s kinder to skin, hair, and eyes is enticing, and it can be yours! Check out all the benefits of the saltwater system yourself. Jump in and check out the saltwater system for your pool; the water’s perfect!