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Salt Systems

Salt Systems (also know as chlorine generators or salt water systems) are an increasingly popular choice for sanitizing swimming pool water.  There are certain advantages to switching to salt, but there is also a lot of confusion and misinformation when it comes to these systems.  Additionally, salt systems are billed as a cost-savings measure which is typically not the case when swimming pools are used seasonally, as they are in New England.  Here at Atlantis, we have done many salt system conversions over the last 10 years, but it is not the right solution for every pool.  The following information should help clear up any confusion you have regarding salt pools.

Facts about converting your pool to a salt water sanitation system:

  • Salt systems (also called chlorine generators) are simply a new way to deliver chlorine to your pool.  Salt is added to your pool and the salt water passes through an electrolytic cell which converts Salt (which is NaCl) into Sodium (Na) and Chlorine (Cl) elements.  Ultimately, it is just introducing chlorine into the pool through generation rather than by adding chlorine manually or through a chemical feeder.  Fundamentally there is no difference between chlorine generated by the salt system or chlorine added to the pool through liquid, granular, powdered, or tablet chlorine.  In other words, a pool with a salt system IS STILL A CHLORINE POOL!  People often think that switching to salt means getting away from chlorine.  This isn’t the case, however, it also isn’t necessary.  Check out our chlorine page to find out why chlorine gets a bad rap.  There is a reason why chlorine has been the best method to sanitize water for many, many years.

  • A salt system does NOT replace your pump or your filter.  The entire system remains the same as it did previously.  The salt system ONLY replaces your chlorinator or the need to manually add chlorine to the pool.

  • People that have their pool professionally maintained or that are diligent about maintaining their own chlorine levels probably won’t notice a huge difference in the quality of water with salt or traditional chlorine.

Pros of salt systems:

  • Salt pools are NOT like swimming in the ocean.  Ocean water has 30k ppm of salt.  Salt pools have about 3k ppm.  For most people the amount of salt is under the detectable taste level and you don’t even realize there is salt in the water.

  • Salt pools DO have a bit of a softer feeling on the skin.  Since the salt that is used in these systems is the same as is used in household water softening systems the water will typically feel less “hard” than traditional chlorine systems.

  • Salt systems DO make maintaining the pool chemistry easier.  Because they are always generating chlorine they are sort of “dummy proof” and can avoid some of the pitfalls commonly associated with chlorine as well as reducing some aspects of pool maintenance.

Cons of salt systems:

  • Companies promoting salt systems claim that they will pay for themselves in about 2 years.  That is pretty accurate for regions where the pool is used year-round (like Florida), but NOT accurate in seasonal regions like New England.  In our experience the return on investment for salt systems is about 6 years.  Within 6 years it is possible that components like the electrolytic cell or the circuit board need to be replaced.  As a result, we do not recommend salt systems as a cost saving measure.  They have plenty of benefits, but cost savings typically won’t be seen until about 8 years after purchase of the system.  For most customers salt systems and traditional chlorine systems cost about the same amount over an 8 year period.  The difference is the salt system is a big purchase up front with low operating costs, whereas traditional chlorine is spread evenly year to year.

  • Additionally, claims are made that there is no ongoing cost once a salt system is installed.  This is NOT true.  Salt pools still require pH, TA, Calcium Hardness, Algaecide, Clarifier, specialty chemicals, and occassional supplemental additions of chlorine (especially at the beginning of the season), as well as periodic addition of additional bags of salt.

  • Salt water IS slightly more corrosive than traditional chlorine pools, so older pools with metal piping or fixtures should consider the problems of increased corrosion before installing a salt system.

  • If the pool has a leak at any point in time it can be very hard to maintain a consistent salt level in the pool and as a result it is very easy for the water balance to be off as well.

Hopefully this clarifies any false information you have heard about salt systems.  Salt systems are a great option for many pools, but unfortunately the hype surrounding them in recent years has overplayed many aspects of their operation and omitted some of their short-comings.  We always want our customers making an informed decision when purchasing a big ticket product like this, so we wanted to present you with all the information on these systems.  Most customers are extremely happy with the water quality that results from a salt system, so if you weigh your options and decide a salt pool is right for you we will be happy to get one installed for you!

The descriptions and wording contained on this webpage are exclusively the property of Bryan Mills / Atlantis Pool Service LLC.  Any reproduction or use without the consent of Atlantis Pool Service is strictly prohibited.

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