While owning a swimming pool can be considered a luxury, Saltwater pools are the more luxurious option than regular Chlorine pools. Owning a saltwater pool is appealing because of its self-dependent nature, but - 'with great luxury, come more chores.'
Eventually, choosing one of these two is a personal decision, but you must look at some factors before deciding. Follow this short guide below to learn more.
What is a Saltwater Pool?
A saltwater pool is a regular pool equipped with a saltwater chlorine generator (a.k.a salt chlorinator) that converts pool salt into chlorine. The resulting chlorine sanitizes the water, killing microorganisms like bacteria and algae.
The generator utilizes the electrolysis process to separate the chlorine from the pool salt (essentially the ordinary table salt we eat). The resulting chlorine is pure and feels light and soft on the human body.
While some may confuse the term 'saltwater' to believe that the water tastes like water in the sea, the salinity levels in a saltwater pool are almost a tenth of that in seawater.
How much salt do I need for my pool?
The optimum salt level in such pools is close to 3200 ppm, and about 30 lbs of salt for every 1,000 gallons of water (if the water has 0 ppm salt).
The average household pool stores about 20,000 gallons of water which will need close to 600 lbs of salt to keep the levels normal. However, most chlorine generators have in-built electronic systems to alert about salt levels and the amount of salt needed to fix it.
What is a Chlorine Pool?
A chlorine pool is our everyday regular swimming pool which relies upon the manual addition of chlorine on a routine basis. The frequency of testing chlorine levels in the water ranges from once a day to once every week, depending upon factors like temperature, climate, and bather load.
Pool owners can use pool test kits or digital pool monitoring systems like Sutro to keep track of the water chemistry, especially the chlorine levels, pH, and total alkalinity. The normal chlorine levels in a pool should be maintained between 1.0 and 3.0 ppm (parts per million) to ensure proper sanitization.
Pros and Cons of a Saltwater Pool
You must consider several factors before opting for a saltwater pool. Here’s what you need to know:
Pros of a Saltwater Pool
- Unless salt levels drop too low, it produces chlorine in perpetuity, resulting in comparatively less frequent maintenance. It eliminates the need for daily monitoring and shocking the pool, which can be tedious and take up to 12 hours.
- Low to no chlorine odor, and the water feels softer and more natural on the skin. It improves your swimming experience and eliminates issues like skin irritations and bleached swimwear.
- The salt needed for the pool is cheap, readily available, and doesn't require much care for storage.
Cons of a Saltwater Pool
- Initial setup is expensive, and maintenance (whenever needed) can be comparatively pricey because of the costly/complex components and need for professional assistance.
- The generator constantly consumes electricity and runs 24/7, resulting in higher energy bills.
- Saltwater is corrosive. It can corrode the metal components in your pool and also cause staining or damage to the surrounding items (floor tiles, plants, soil, etc.)
Pros and Cons of a Chlorine Pool
You must consider several factors before opting for a chlorine pool. Here’s what you need to know:
Pros of a Chlorine Pool
- Low upfront costs. Setting up a simple chlorine pool requires no extra or expensive equipment other than basic electrical and plumbing.
- Needs little help from experts. Most problems with a chlorine pool are related to balancing the water chemistry or cleaning, which the pool owner can easily handle. An expert is usually needed when there's a pool leak, broken equipment, or irresolvable water imbalance issues.
- Water is not corrosive. Hence, it does not damage any metal parts or other equipment.
Cons of a Chlorine Pool
- Strong odor and irritation issues. Many people find the odor of chlorine in these pools to be uncomfortable. Plus, problems like eye or skin irritation can occur with higher chlorine levels.
- Requires frequent maintenance and may involve significant manual labor.
- Regular chlorine handling exposes you to a potentially hazardous chemical that requires careful storage.
- Adding too much chlorine can result in potential chemical imbalances, which further require adding other chemicals.
How to choose between Saltwater Pool vs. Chlorine Pool
Both these pool types have their pros and cons that outweigh the other in some aspects. We have condensed all these into a summary with the crucial factors to consider.
A saltwater chlorine generator costs between $500 to $1,800 and add another $500 for installation. That is about $2300 overhead, compared to a basic chlorine pool.
Starting a 20,000 gallons saltwater pool will require about 600 lbs (15 bags) of pool salt, and considering the cost of a 40 lb bag to be $7, this amounts to $105.
So setting up and starting a saltwater pool costs a maximum of $2,400. However, once the pool has been set up, the ongoing costs are about $100 per year for pool salt.
On the other hand, the installation cost of a basic chlorine pool requires nothing more than a shock.
Winner: Chlorine Pool
Overall Costs of Chlorine vs. Saltwater Pool
According to various estimates, the chemicals needed to maintain a chlorine pool for a year averages around $800. Saltwater pools usually require a quarter of that because regular chlorine production usually keeps the water balance in check.
The only 'big cost' associated with maintaining saltwater pools is the change of chlorine generator cells every three to seven years. It can cost between $500 to $1,100 to replace these generators, which is still better than the average maintenance cost of chlorine pools over the same period.
Apart from this, saltwater pools cost about $36-$48 extra per year in electricity bills, but the convenience justifies it.
The whole point of using a saltwater pool is its easy maintenance. All you have to do is check the salt levels weekly, add more salt when needed (occasionally), and scrub the plates in the chlorine generator once every three months.
Chlorine pools need at least a bi-weekly check of chlorine levels, and adding shock is a tedious process. Additionally, if chlorine levels have dipped too low and you're unaware, you're also looking forward to other maintenance issues.
Winner: Saltwater Pool
Water in a saltwater pool is softer on the skin, whereas water from chlorine pools is harsher, leading to eye and skin irritations. If you prefer soothing water and are willing to spend some extra bucks on it, go for saltwater pools.
Winner: Saltwater Pool
You can convert a chlorine pool to a saltwater pool, but doing the other way around is challenging. So, try a chlorine pool first, and switch to saltwater when you think it's a good idea.
Winner: Chlorine Pool
Installing and maintaining a saltwater pool costs almost the same as maintaining a chlorine pool in the long run. Plus, the chores of care and cleaning are the same for these pools. A saltwater pool's only significant advantage is the soft and odorless chlorinated water for a better swimming experience.
Please check these commonly asked questions about saltwater and chlorine pools.
Do saltwater pools get algae?
Yes. Saltwater pools are also prone to algae infestations.
Do saltwater pools smell like chlorine?
No. An advantage of saltwater pools over regular chlorine pools is the absence of a strong chlorine odor. Plus, the chlorinated water in these pools also feels softer on the body.