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Thread: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

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    Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    We are getting bids for an ig pool, gunnite, 18k gallons, 33x16, 3.5-6ft deep, spa, waterfall with weeping rock wall, oklahoma flagstone, pepple tech interior, etc etc in north Texas. One builder strongly suggests swg while another says they are only doing 10% swg and recommends chlorine with added borate or chlorine with ozone generator (I have noted a lot of anti -ozone sentiment in the forums and understand the bias).

    I'm looking for a good article or discussion that investigates true pros and cons. What are the finances - ie, How much is the chlorine cost over time vs real cost of replacing swg in 3-5 years? What is the real risk of corrosion from the salt? How much time and frustration will swg prevent in pool upkeep and chemical monitoring? Are swg owners unhappy or do more people wish they had swg? I have not found this comparison so far on the forum, but I may not have searched back far enough.

    This is the big hold -up for us starting our pool construction - we want to make sure this is well thought-out. We are 1st timers to a home pool.
    20K gallon, 99' perimeter, IG Quartzscapes, Pentair FNS 60 SF DE filter, Pentair Intelliflo Variable Speed 3 HP pump, 400k BTU Pentair (NG) heater, Pentair IntelliChlor and SWG, Pentair Legends platinum cleaner with booster pump, Spa with rock spillway, 3' grotto waterfall, 12' weeping wall with Pentair 3HP WF pump, IntelliColor Pentair LED lights

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Welcome to TFP!!!

    Much of that has been discussed in many threads, but not likely in a chart form like you seem to be looking for.

    Every time an analysis is done as far as cost of SWG vs. bleach ... it ends up being about the same in the long run (like over the life of the cell). You will pay ~$1000 to start with SWG and then every 3-5 years have to pay another $500 for a new cell. With bleach, you are just going to be paying a little bit every month.

    The convenience is the big driver for the SWG ... being able to leave on vacation and not worry about the pool and not having to carry all the jugs of bleach every day/week/month. You can get similar convenience with pumps to automatically add the bleach to the water, but you will still have to haul the jugs.

    Only some softer rocks are susceptible to salt erosion. And I have never seen any problems with the salt affecting other equipment ... it really is not that much higher of a salt level than could be found in a regular pool. Ocean is 35,000 ppm, SWG pools are 3,500 ppm, a bleach pool can easily get over 1000 ppm in salt.

    Ozone just does not seem to add anything besides cost in an outdoor pool
    Borates are optional but people seem to say the water feels better. Also, some use borates to help control the pH rise with SWG.
    You can add salt to any pool even if not a SWG to get the improved feel.

    Read through Pool School to get more understanding of the chemistry and our recommended methods. Also be sure to start with a good test kit, like the ones we recommend.
    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Welcome to TFP!

    All of that is around if you search for it.

    Borates are nice, and work equally well with or without a SWG. Lots of people love their SWG, but plenty of people love bleach. Salt is pretty much a non-issue corrosion wise except in a few special cases generally involving soft natural stone. Ozone adds little to no value unless you have lots of pool parties. Many of the less expensive SWGs are very competitive with the cost of bleach if you count the total cost over the entire lifetime of the unit and don't mind paying most of that up front. A SWG adds convenience over manual chlorine additions, but isn't fundamentally different in the total amount of work you need to do.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Well, I cannot speak to the SWG from personal experience. I grew up using trichlor, and my newest pool has quartzite coping which is impervious to almost everything, acid, salt, you name it. Yet I still use bleach because I prefer the feel of the water in a pool that does not have a SWCG. What I can share is that most of our friends who have built pools over the past decade have all gone with the 'lagoon' look with lots of stacked rock, flagstone coping etc etc. About half of those owners had SWCG and many are replacing simply because their rock is completely corroding. Even with regular sealing, there has been so much corrosion that the pools often have layers of silt in the bottom from the deteriorating rock and coping.

    But again - not my personal experience. I'm a trichlor turned bleach guy, plus borates for sure!

    FWIW If you go with bleach you can automate with a stenner pump and once you get it dialed in you pretty much know exactly how to increase your dosing as needed. I love pressing a button and knowing that my chlorine just went up 1ppm. But then again I am an admitted automation-control freak.
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    This is what I'm talking about! Some say that the salt is not very corrosive and others have horror stories. Are there any objective studies out there that pull together data to see how damaging the salt truly is to the stone? Or perhaps pool builder professionals that can see results of hundreds of pools over time?

    We plan on doing all of the pool care, so the swg is very attractive - and most of the people I've talked to in our neighborhood have swg pools. Can't tell if that's because it was trendy/popular over the last 8 years and there is a bias that it is "better" or an upgrade , or if there is a true advantage. We have to use Oklahoma flagstone on the coping to match the existing decking, but will use stamped concrete for the decking. Can the flagstone be sealed to reduce salt damage - and is this considered a soft, absorbant stone?

    Your replies are much appreciated!
    20K gallon, 99' perimeter, IG Quartzscapes, Pentair FNS 60 SF DE filter, Pentair Intelliflo Variable Speed 3 HP pump, 400k BTU Pentair (NG) heater, Pentair IntelliChlor and SWG, Pentair Legends platinum cleaner with booster pump, Spa with rock spillway, 3' grotto waterfall, 12' weeping wall with Pentair 3HP WF pump, IntelliColor Pentair LED lights

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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    All of our friends have the Oklahoma Lister flagstone and seal it regularly. My personal opinion is that because it's a natural product there will be variances in strength. Granted I'm not a geologist, but when I look at some of these pools there will be one piece of unaffected coping bordered by some that are pitted like Swiss cheese. This even with regular sealing. My experiences with the pool builders, even with the reputable ones, is that they tend to waiver a bit on their answers in an attempt not to scare off a sale. Trending to chlorine? "That's all I've been doing now that salt has caused so much damage." Trending to salt? (which yes we all know is actually a chlorine pool) "I don't blame you, it really is the way to go." The bottom line for us was the water feel as I really don't like the feel of the 'salty pools'. If I would have been considering salt the house across the street from us would have made me change my mind. The coping is so pitted that you can stand in the pits in some spots and your feet are halfway covered. Unless a builder is going to guarantee the stonework for an extended period for me it just seemed like a gamble.

    But again I was biased to non-salt from the get go. When I learned about installing a 15 gallon tank and a stenner pump for bleach I was committed. I have my bleach on a schedule but should I need to give it a bump I have three programs to pick from +1ppm, +2ppm and +3ppm to be able to increase it by a known amount and walk away. We go to the store on a weekly basis anyway so I have my wife pick up a couple of gallons each week. Granted I may feel differently after our first summer but I don't think so!
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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Seems like most of the stone work problems I have read come out of the Texas / Oklahoma area ... must just be soft stone there.

    That said, I agree all stone varies. I had a flagstone walk way at previous house and most of them still look great and a few just start to crumble and flake. Risk comes with the use of a natural product, but the variation of stone is why they look nice.

    Posted from my Droid with Tapatalk ... sorry if my response is short
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Is there any way you could substitute something else for the flagstone? Most people I know that built pools did so at least 10 years ago and none of them used any flagstone around or in the pool. I agree it looks beautiful, but there has to be something different that can be used.

    Not a rock expert, but it seems logical that any soft stone will erode when water is poured over it, salt or not. Salt may "help" the erosion process along....soft stone and running water don't mix well. Even the regular freeze/thaw cycle up here in Oklahoma will cause the flagstone I have seen to crumble.

    I believe there was a thread from last year that someone put down the cost that was spent on chlorine vs. SWG. Pretty much a wash as I recall. Convenience is the reason to get a SWG.....nobody has noticed much of a difference in water feel (at my house) when I did the bleach thing only and then converted to a SWG. The ONLY reason everyone loves the pool now is because I test my water (properly now), adjust the SWG as needed or add a touch of bleach to have perfect water chemistry......it's not because of the SWG....it's because of testing and adjusting chemistry levels for perfect balance.

    I was seriously considering doing the stenner pump/tank thing versus doing the SWG thing. I seriously threw a coin up in the air and went with SWG just to see if it was "that" good. I look at the stenner pump thing as every bit as convenient as a SWG system....both add chlorine at a level you can control. Lug salt bags or lug bottles of chlorine........If I didn't have the SWG thing, I would have a stenner pump and a nice sized tank.

    Bob E.

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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Across thousands of pools, just about every complaint about salt damaging rock is from Texas. The commonly used rock in Texas seems to be more susceptible.
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Well, at least it's nice to know that I am not hallucinating when I visit these damaged pools!

    Michellef - if you want a natural stone and can bear the expense, consider Quartzite. Your mason will hate you for it because it is SO hard, and it will likely look more manufactured that you want (more like travertine) but man is it awesome stuff on my opinion. I still need to post some pics of our pool which has quartzite coping and stacked quartzite on the columns. And we still use bleach + borates! (LOL)
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Thanks for all the posts! I talked to another pool builder today - he recommended a swg pool but to prevent the erosion he recommends sealing the stone in the spring and fall - easy to do yourself. If this is done properly than it prevents a majority of the erosion. He also recommended doing a travertine instead on the coping in a color that matched our existing decking. Worth the extra cost in the long run. I'm sure quartzite would work too - I would love to see pictures.
    20K gallon, 99' perimeter, IG Quartzscapes, Pentair FNS 60 SF DE filter, Pentair Intelliflo Variable Speed 3 HP pump, 400k BTU Pentair (NG) heater, Pentair IntelliChlor and SWG, Pentair Legends platinum cleaner with booster pump, Spa with rock spillway, 3' grotto waterfall, 12' weeping wall with Pentair 3HP WF pump, IntelliColor Pentair LED lights

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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    easy to do yourself.
    My Dad always said, "'easy to do' is easy to say". If you are considering a fairly sizeable amount of stonework, the idea of sealing it twice yearly may turn out to be a chore.
    Dave S.
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Yes - at least in our case travertine & quartzite were the same price. Travertine is much softer and slicker, and the quartzite had a much more natural appearance. Just took some pics and will post for you to get a look
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Colors are a bit muted by the fine layer of POLLEN that covers everything. Hopefully these upload OK - struggling with the file size.
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    One additional photo
    Attached Images Attached Images
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Beautiful. Probably less abrasive on little fingers, too. Thank you for posting - that may be the right way to go for us. Just need to make sure it doesn't make a lagoon-style pool look too artificial.
    20K gallon, 99' perimeter, IG Quartzscapes, Pentair FNS 60 SF DE filter, Pentair Intelliflo Variable Speed 3 HP pump, 400k BTU Pentair (NG) heater, Pentair IntelliChlor and SWG, Pentair Legends platinum cleaner with booster pump, Spa with rock spillway, 3' grotto waterfall, 12' weeping wall with Pentair 3HP WF pump, IntelliColor Pentair LED lights

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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Thanks. It should be available as a rough / uncut stone to be used like the flagstone. A lot of landscapers use it for walkways etc in its un-honed state. Good luck and I hope you find something that works!
    18,000 Gallon IG, Pebble Sheen, Quartzite coping
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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    And as to the "chore" aspect - I'm guessing that is why so many pools erode - people are not keeping up with the process. Agree that it would take some time, but I think what they mean is that you don't necessarily have to spend lots of $$$ to source it out. However, if I'm trying to save time not checking chemicals daily, I don't need to be finding more jobs to do to make that option work!

    Would quartzite or travertine still need sealing yearly?
    20K gallon, 99' perimeter, IG Quartzscapes, Pentair FNS 60 SF DE filter, Pentair Intelliflo Variable Speed 3 HP pump, 400k BTU Pentair (NG) heater, Pentair IntelliChlor and SWG, Pentair Legends platinum cleaner with booster pump, Spa with rock spillway, 3' grotto waterfall, 12' weeping wall with Pentair 3HP WF pump, IntelliColor Pentair LED lights

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    Re: Swg vs chlorine with borate vs chlorine with ozone?

    Travertine would need sealing as it is pretty soft. Quartzite does not really need it but we went ahead and had the color enhancing seal added. Not that you can tell in these photos but it really enhances the color.

    Agreed to the chore aspect. The best comparison I saw here at TFP was to taking care of teeth. About 5mins a day, plus an extra 15-20 on the weekend for a full series of tests and tweaking as needed versus THOUSANDS of dollars later to deal with the cost of neglect.
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