First of all let me begin by clarifying that salt is NOT an alternate sanitizer to chlorine for swimming pool water. Salt is a mineral used for centuries and can be added to pool water. At certain concentrations in the pool water an electrical device can be used to generate chlorine from the salt. The real question is do you buy expensive equipment with your new pool, pay electrical costs to operate it, clean the salt cell with acid, test for salt concentrations, add salt and another chemical called stabilizer and add acid OR simply buy and add chlorine tablets and acid to your pool. There is a vast amount of misinformation about these systems on the internet. The following myths are taken word for word from websites produced by individuals who are perpetrating misinformation to sell these systems.
Myths about pools with salt chlorine generators
Saltwater pools use dissolved salt instead of chlorine tablets to cleanse and sanitize the pool water. FALSE
TRUTH:Hundreds of pounds of salt is added to the pool water to reach a level from 3000 to 4000 parts per million. This salt concentration is just below the threshold of taste for most people. When the pump is operating, salted water flows through the salt system’s electrolytic cell. A mild current is applied to the water. Salt remember is sodium chloride. The electrical current breaks down the salt molecule and creates hypochlorous acid or liquid chlorine and sodium hydroxide in equal parts. The chlorine will sanitize the water. The sodium hydroxide is caustic and will slowly begin to break down the structure of stone and concrete around the pool in areas that are high use “wet/dry” areas
“I can tell you that our pool builder in Dallas was VERY happy that we didn’t go with a salt water pool. He said they are having the rip out all the coping from the pools they built last year and redoing them. They also removed the salt systems from the homes that the coping was eaten away and replaced with chlorine systems if the owners were okay with that…otherwise, they had them sign a waiver. I believe he said they all used flagstone.”July 2007
Saltwater pools have many advantages, including less maintenance and lower overall cost. FALSE
TRUTH:You should perform ph/free chlorine tests weekly and thoroughly test all other readings of your pool water at least monthly with a salt system. Obviously salt levels must be maintained. Cyanuric acid or stabilizer must be maintained. To 60-80ppm. Stabilizer acts as a sunscreen for the chlorine it generates. As a rule of thumb when salt is added stabilizer is added. This is more maintenance and increased testing as compared to a pool using chlorine tablets.
Saltwater pools are generally less time consuming as far as maintenance. The amount of time you spend balancing pH levels and making sure the chemicals in the water are all balanced will be reduced significantly.FALSE
TRUTH: You will thoroughly test your water more frequently, adding more acid than a traditional pool since sodium hydroxide is base and increases pH causing you to use more acid, making trips to buy salt and stabilizer and wasting valuable time cleaning out the calcified salt cell 6 times per year. How can that be” less time consuming” that adding a quart of acid and 4 tablets to a chlorine dispenser? To clean the salt cell get out a big bucket and pour muriatic acid right through the electrolytic cell into the bucket. Have your gas mask on to prevent being overcome by fumes from the acid burning away calcium deposits.
Building a new saltwater pool will initially cost more than a chlorine-based system. However, the cost will pay for itself within the first two to three years depending on the amount your pool is used. FALSE
TRUTH: The Myth without math, “the cost will pay for itself within the first two to three years” is completely ridiculous.
Note: We will be setting aside the long term damage to your pool coping, rock and spillways in just a few years from the use of these systems and focus on small costs that add up to a big number. Remember you are exposing your pool to thousands of dollars of potential repairs.
DIRECT COSTS OF OPERATING A SALT SYSTEM ON A 15,000 GALLON POOL
- You will pay around $1600 for a new salt system/
- The salt system actually uses $150 a year in electricity based on 10 cents per kwh!
- You will add salt regularly after heavy rains so figure $50.00 annually. Hope you like carrying 40lb bags from the pool store to your car and then into the backyard to dump into the pool.
- You will test regularly and add cyanuric acid to the water monthly as it is depleted from sun and rain both. Add another $25.00 annually.
- Since the system is making sodium hydroxide that raises ph and you will use ADDITIONAL muriatic acid to maintain the proper ph. Let’s add another $30.00 annually since acid is inexpensive. That makes your total for acid annually at $96.00
- You are now up to $321 in chemicals and electricity. Continue that for 4 years and you now have $1020 in extra direct operating costs due to the salt system. ($321 X 4 = $1284)
- The warranty expires after three years on your salt system and in year four you buy a new electrolytic cell for $850.00 installed.
- Now you have a total investment of $1600 in the ORIGINAL purchase price of the salt system, $1284 in three years for operating costs and chemicals PLUS $850.00 to replace the cell for a grand total of $3734.00!
Sample purchases 15,000 gallon pool using chlorine tablets over 4 years
- Each 3” tablet costs around $1.35 and we use 4 per week x 52 weeks = $280.80
- 1.5 lbs of shock costs $4.35 x 32 weeks a year in hot climates = $139.20
- Each gallon of Muriatic acid costs $5.50 and we use one gallon per month = $66.00
- Total annual costs of chemicals in a pool without a salt system = $486.00 x 4 years = $1944
DIRECT COSTS OF SALT SYSTEM POOL = $3734
DIRECT COSTS OF POOL WITHOUT SALT SYSTEM= –$1944
EXTRA COST OF OPERATION OF SALT SYSTEM POOL= +$1790
The Salt System pool costs you an additional $1790.00 during that 4 year period.
Cost savings with salt systems in a myth.
MYTH #5:While saltwater pools do not use any significant chemicals, chlorine is a byproduct of the salt you add to the water, so chlorine is still present in the water. However, the levels are much lower and will not hurt or sting your eyes, and these pools are much safer for pets, animals and your family because there are far less damaging chemicals being added to the water. Salt is a more natural approach and is safer on our skin and hair than the harsh chlorine chemical tablets. Also, a saltwater pool will not fade or damage your swimsuit as much as a chlorinated pool. FALSE
TRUTH: Chlorine is NOT a byproduct of the salt you add. It must be GENERATED by the operation of the salt system. The levels are not lower as you must maintain the same level of chlorine regardless of where it comes from since it is your only sanitizer for the swimming pool. Eye irritation does not come from chlorine. It comes from salinity levels being different than your eyes. The one and only benefit to putting salt in your pool is that it reduces eye irritation by nearly equaling the salt content of our own tear drops. The water is not safer for pets and your family. Do you really want your family swimming in sodium hydroxide the same chemical used in Liquid Plumber or Draino?
SUMMARY: Salt systems DO NOT: reduce maintenance, save time in maintenance, pay themselves back in two-three years or use less chemicals. Salt systems cost almost $1600 more over 4 years, increase use of acid and stabilizer, increase maintenance and can create major damage to precious stone coping, deck, waterfalls and spillways.