saltwater pools

Saltwater Pools Vs. Chlorine Pools

When you’ve made the investment in a pool, you want it to be sparkling clean and ready for swimming whenever you are.

That’s why it’s important to choose the pool cleaning and maintaining maintenance system that best matches your needs and lifestyle. When you work with Waterscapes Pools & Spas to create your Florida dream pool, you have two choices that are commonly referred to as a saltwater pool and a chlorine pool. What’s the difference? Let’s dive in.

Understanding the Basics

A saltwater pool actually uses a system called a salt chlorine generator. This kind of system generates chlorine from dissolved salt at a very low concentration through a process called electrolysis. The generator runs the salty water through two electrically charged plates, which converts it into chlorine. So your pool still has chlorine in it, just not in the way you typically think.

A traditional chlorine pool system requires that chlorine be manually added directly into the pool water via tablet, stick, or liquid form. This needs to be done weekly to keep your pool properly maintained.

There are pros and cons to each system that we’ll explore further below. But here’s the quick breakdown:

Saltwater pools:

  • Costs more on the front end, but costs less for the chemicals needed to keep your water clean
  • Doesn’t have that “chlorine smell” people often associate with pools
  • Makes it easier to maintain your pool on a day-to-day basis, but has equipment that needs to be cleaned and replaced from time to time, or repaired if something goes wrong

Chlorine pools:

  • Costs less on the front end, but requires more expensive and unwieldy pool chemicals
  • Uses a larger and stronger amount of chlorine that can smell and cause dry skin or irritation
  • Doesn’t have a lot of extra equipment that needs to be maintained or repaired

The Benefits of Choosing a Saltwater System

Saltwater pools have become the most popular option for Waterscapes’ Southwest Florida customers, with about 80% of homeowners choosing this kind of system. A salt chlorine generator maintains a more consistent level of chlorine in the pool, because the process takes place throughout the entire time that the pool water is being circulated.

People enjoy this pool maintenance system because it produces fewer chloramines, the chemicals that form in the water and then off gas into the air that produce that “chlorine smell” we’re all familiar with. The loss of that strong smell makes for a more enjoyable experience as you cool off in a pool.

“Because the salt chlorine generator is creating free chlorine constantly, you get less of a smell,” says John Collier, vice president of Waterscapes Pools & Spas. “You get a more even and consistent input of chlorine into the pool instead of spikes when a lot of chlorine is dumped in.”

With saltwater pools, you don’t have to monitor, test, and balance the pool quite as intensely as you do with a chlorine system. And you probably won’t see huge variations in your pool chemistry if you’re doing everything correctly.

In addition to the weekly addition of chlorine, a chlorine pool will also need to be “shocked” from time to time, which means adding concentrated chlorine to both prevent algae and maintain consistent chlorine levels. A saltwater pool tends to only need this kind of treatment after extremely heavy rain or if algae has started blooming in the pool.

The Maintenance Cost Isn’t High

The cost of maintaining a pool with a saltwater system tends to be lower than with a chlorine system, because the pool salt needed for maintenance costs much less than chlorine. Figure on less than $100 a year versus several hundred dollars of chlorine costs annually.

You also don’t have to purchase chlorine or find a spot at your home to safely store it in order to reduce human exposure to potentially toxic fumes. It’s typically recommended for chlorine to be kept in a place that’s cool, dry, and well-ventilated, which often isn’t easy to do at a Florida home.

But take note: a saltwater pool isn’t a maintenance-free kind of situation. “I have heard people literally say, ‘I want a saltwater pool because I don’t want to have to take care of the pool,’” says Collier. “And I have to tell them that is not the case. All that a salt chlorine generator does is generate chlorine. You still have to brush and vacuum the pool and keep the chemistry at the correct levels.”

Many people also like the way the water feels on their skin in a saltwater pool. Plus the consistent levels of chlorine in the pool can often be gentler on your eyes, skin, and even your swimwear. A traditional chlorine pool can sometimes make people’s skin feel itchy or dry. It can also irritate the eyes and even cause some hair discoloration.

Even though people use “saltwater” as a kind of shorthand, using this kind of maintenance system won’t make your pool feel like swimming in the ocean. Pools that use a salt chlorine generator have about a tenth of the salinity of ocean water. So if you like to open your eyes underwater, it won’t sting them the way it would if you did that in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.

The Bottom Line

There are several considerations to be made with saltwater pools. First, you need to consider how much you want to spend on the front end when building your pool. You also need to think about pool maintenance, and whether that’s something you’ll be doing on your own or hiring a service to handle. Finally, you should consider your own personal preferences on how you want the pool water to feel and smell, and whether traditionally chlorinated water is something that has ever irritated your skin or caused you other problems. In the end, a saltwater system can be a good choice for a Florida pool. Waterscapes can work with you to explain how you can get the most out of a system that works best for your pool and your lifestyle.