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Saltwater Pool Start Up Guide

A little saltwater can make an average pool and backyard more luxurious. The choice between a chlorine and saltwater pool often comes down to costs, maintenance, health, and environmental considerations for homeowners. 

This guide will help you understand everything from what a saltwater pool is, to its benefits and disadvantages, as well as provide insight into the costs, installation process, and maintenance required. Spoiler Alert: You’re going to enjoy your pool and backyard a whole lot more. 

Saltwater vs. Chlorine Pools 

Unlike traditional chlorine pools, saltwater pools use a saltwater chlorinator to convert salt into chlorine. This gentler approach mimics the refreshing feel of swimming in a natural body of water. In contrast, chlorine pools rely on regular additions of chlorine to maintain sanitary conditions, which can lead to the pungent "chlorine smell" and the potential for skin and eye irritation.

For those with an eco-friendly mindset, the decision may lean towards saltwater systems due to the environmental concerns associated with chlorine production. The manufacturing of chlorine involves the use of mercury and significant amounts of electrical energy, leaving a substantial carbon footprint. 

Moreover, the chlorine industry has faced challenges recently, with fires at chlorine plants in 2020 and 2021 exacerbating supply issues. This has not only limited the number of manufacturers but also contributed to increased costs as the industry struggles to catch up to previous production levels, making chlorine more scarce and thus costly. 

What is a Saltwater Pool? 

A saltwater pool operates on the principle of electrolysis. Salt (sodium chloride) is added to the pool water, and through a process called electrolysis, which occurs in a device called a salt chlorine generator, the salt is broken down into its basic components, including chlorine.

This freshly generated chlorine sanitizes the pool, keeping it clean and free from algae and bacteria. Once the chlorine has done its job, it reverts back to salt, and the cycle continues. This process reduces the need for manual chlorine addition, making pool maintenance more straightforward and less chemical-intensive.

Saltwater pools also reduce the need for manufactured chlorine powder and tablets. This can be a more sustainable option, as it minimizes the reliance on the environmentally toxic manufacturing process of traditional chlorine.

girl swimming in saltwater pool with float behind her

Saltwater Pool Benefits

  1. Gentler on Eyes & Skin: Studies show that saltwater pools are better for your health (they can even reduce anxiety!). They are also much safer for eyes and skin.  In a saltwater pool, if water happens to enter your mouth, you're less likely to notice any harsh taste, unlike what often occurs with chlorinated water. Swimmers opening their eyes underwater will appreciate the absence of the stinging or burning sensation commonly associated with chlorine pools.
  1. Simplified Maintenance: A saltwater system automates chlorine production, which can simplify pool maintenance and reduce the need for storing and handling chemicals.
  1. Long-Term Cost Savings: Although the initial setup cost is higher, you may save money in the long run due to the decreased need for chemical purchases.
  1. Better for the Environment: Your health isn't the only thing benefiting from opting for a saltwater pool: They're better for the environment, too. The strong chlorine smell that traditional pools give off is the result of chloramines. Although these bind to dirt and sweat to keep the pool clean, they also emit gas from the water into the air, according to the CDC and reported by Real Simple Magazine.

Saltwater Pool Disadvantages

  1. Higher Initial Costs: The setup for a saltwater pool, including the saltwater chlorinator system, can be more expensive than traditional chlorine pools.
  1. Corrosion Potential: Salt can be corrosive. Certain pool components and nearby structures might be at risk if not designed or protected for saltwater exposure.

Saltwater Pool Costs

The initial costs for installing a saltwater pool can vary widely depending on size, location, and type (in ground vs. above ground). Initial installation, including the cost of the saltwater chlorinator, can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars more than traditional pools. However, the ongoing costs might be lower due to reduced chemical use. Remember to factor in the cost of electricity to run the chlorinator and potential replacement parts.

How to Install a Saltwater Pool

  1. Choose the Pool Type: Decide whether you're installing an inground or above ground saltwater pool, as this will affect your planning and equipment needs.
  1. Install the Pool: This step typically involves professional help, from excavation for inground pools to assembly for above-ground models.
  1. Set Up the Saltwater System: Install the saltwater chlorinator according to the manufacturer's instructions. This will include integrating it into your pool's existing pump and filtration system.
  1. Add Salt: Add the required amount of salt to your pool water. The amount depends on your pool size and the chlorinator's specifications.
  1. Balance the Water: Before turning on the chlorinator, make sure the water's pH, alkalinity, and hardness are within the recommended ranges.

Saltwater Pool Maintenance

pool and backyard area with waterfall feature

When managing a saltwater pool, understanding the role of each key component is crucial. Here's an overview of the essential parts of a saltwater pool system, including the saltwater pool filter, pump, shock treatment, and cell, which work in harmony to ensure your swimming experience is both enjoyable and safe.

Salt Water Pool Filter

The filter is the unsung hero of any pool setup, and in a saltwater pool, it's no different. The salt water pool filter performs the critical job of removing impurities from the water, ensuring it remains clear and clean. It's essential to select a filter that can handle the specific needs of a saltwater system, as the salt can be corrosive to certain materials. Cartridge, sand, and diatomaceous earth (DE) filters are all options for saltwater pools, with each offering different benefits in terms of filtration level and maintenance requirements.

Salt Water Pool Pump

The pump is the heart of the pool's circulation system, moving water through the filter and back into the pool. A robust salt water pool pump ensures that the saline solution is evenly distributed throughout the pool, preventing areas of overly high or low salt concentration. This helps the salt chlorine generator work more efficiently and extends the life of your pool cell. When choosing a saltwater pool pump, it’s vital to consider one that’s specifically designed or suitable for saltwater use to avoid corrosion-related problems.

Salt Water Pool Shock

Even though a saltwater system continuously generates chlorine, there may be times when you need to give your pool an extra boost of sanitization, especially after heavy use or a significant rainstorm. This is where a salt water pool shock treatment comes in handy.

Unlike traditional pools where you add a high dose of chlorine, saltwater pools use a process known as "superchlorination" or "shocking" generated by the pool's own chlorinator. This process temporarily ramps up chlorine production to restore clean and safe water conditions.

Saltwater Pool Cell

The saltwater pool cell, or salt cell, is the component within the salt chlorine generator where the electrolysis takes place, converting salt into chlorine. The salt water pool cell is a critical component, as it is responsible for the actual creation of chlorine from salt. 

The longevity and effectiveness of the salt cell depend on regular maintenance, including periodic cleaning to remove mineral buildup. It's also important to note that the cell will eventually wear out and need to be replaced, so it should be considered a consumable part of the pool system.

Saltwater Pool Start Up Guide

Whether you’re looking for advice on finding the right salt water pool chlorinator or are looking for the perfect pool float, we’re here to help you make your backyard a place you're excited to spend time in. Contact Aqua Terra Pool & Patio with your questions or shop our pool accessories

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