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Thread: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

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    MGood's Avatar
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    Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Would like suggestions from people who have had both and which they liked better and why. Confused on which way to go.

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Effectively they are the same. You either have to add the chlorine manually every day or the SWG "makes" the chlorine from the salt in the water. The SWG is usually a little less work as you are not having to haul bleach, and easier to go on vacation, but costs more upfront. Although in the long term the costs are pretty comparable either way.
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Unless there's a specific reason in your scenario not to get a SWCG, get one! A valid reason might be using a very soft stone for coping.
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    I agree with Jason above. I imagine the costs equal each other in the long run. I love having an SWG So I don't have to test and dose daily. With the SWG, once I get my balance in the summer I can pretty much count on weekly testing and adjusting SWG with summer sun and heat. With my pool not being right out the back door and a 1/2 story below the house and down a walkway and then through the fence........I'd fail at daily testing and dosing until I could train the kids.
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Quote Originally Posted by AimeeH View Post
    With my pool not being right out the back door and a 1/2 story below the house and down a walkway and then through the fence........I'd fail at daily testing and dosing until I could train the kids.
    How about the dog? Some breeds are quite smart.
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    This is my .02 but I have a friend that builds 160 to 180 pools a yr and now days he builds 30% SWG. 10 yrs ago it was the other way around he said. He also owns a reg chlorine pool for his own reasons.

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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Uh-oh, that is a lot of upcoming swampy pool threads with high CYA.

    The problem is everyone thinks they can use pucks to chlorinate their pool. Easy just throw pucks in the chlorinator every now and then. And the CYA builds up week by week until it is 100+ and the pool turns green because there is not enough chlorine for the CYA level.

    You'll not find many (any?) people here with saltwater pools who are unhappy with saltwater. There are also quite a few liquid chlorine/bleach users, some who dose manually and some with Stenner or Liquidator automatic chlorine dosing systems. They all seem happy too, with the occasional grumble about having to buy and haul LC and pour it into their dosing tank.
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    I also debated between chlorine and SWG. After the first month when I could not use salt with a new pool and chemicals were crazy, I couldn't have been more happy to switch over to the salt. The only time I have had to mess with chlorine pucks was when my SWG had died (it does have a life span)...and during the winter when pool temps get below mid 50's.

    Love my SWG!


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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Will NEVER go back to a chlorine pool. My vote is for SWG hands down! My experience has been with smaller pools but even there I upgraded filters and pumps and messed with chemicals everyday. My last SWG pool was crystal clear and properly balanced the entire time. I just checked chemical levels to confirm what I already knew... it was perfect! Very little effort to keep balanced water once you have the SWG dialed in. We break ground this week on new IG pool - there was no question it was going to be salt.
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Quote Originally Posted by Paris69 View Post
    This is my .02 but I have a friend that builds 160 to 180 pools a yr and now days he builds 30% SWG. 10 yrs ago it was the other way around he said. He also owns a reg chlorine pool for his own reasons.
    That probably has a lot to do with all the SWG lawsuits/settlements and the massive amount of pushback that PBs are giving about building new SWG pool systems. Out of the 5 PBs I met with for designs/estimates, not a single one gave me a "Sure, no problem" when I mentioned wanting a SW pool. Every single one of them instantly transformed into a used car salesman who had just been told that financing was stupid. I was treated like a small child who didn't understand how the world works and needed to be lectured about the inherent evils/costs of SW.
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    We have had both and I would not go without a SWG again. It makes life much much easier in my opinion.
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Quote Originally Posted by tedujam View Post
    That probably has a lot to do with all the SWG lawsuits/settlements and the massive amount of pushback that PBs are giving about building new SWG pool systems. Out of the 5 PBs I met with for designs/estimates, not a single one gave me a "Sure, no problem" when I mentioned wanting a SW pool. Every single one of them instantly transformed into a used car salesman who had just been told that financing was stupid. I was treated like a small child who didn't understand how the world works and needed to be lectured about the inherent evils/costs of SW.
    What was their reason for not doing it??
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Interesting read:

    Salt water systems corrode the pool equipment.
    The Facts - The salt itself has issues of attacking the cement in the plaster and deck materials. This is a relatively slow process when the salt levels are low. The salt also can kill any landscaping in or around the pool as well as in the backwash area.

    If the sodium hypochlorite levels are too high, the corrosion is caused by the chlorine being produced by the electrolytic cell. Chlorine can bleach the test reagents, giving you a "false negative", and people can grossly over-chlorinate their pool damaging equipment, the pool surface, lighting fixtures, and ladders. Over time the salt will attack any area the water evaporates at.

    A common problem is corrosion at the ladder. The deck anchors are usually cast aluminum and the ladder should be stainless steel. The salt water will corrode the anchors overtime and a "safety event" will be pending.

    Buyers should be aware that if you have salt water above 2800 ppm, (often 4000 to 5000 ppm), you will need to reseal your coping every year, especially if it is a porous stone like limestone or travertine. Otherwise, the salt will dry and start to etch the coping. Besides sealing the stone, it is also advisable and an added precaution to hose down the coping at the end of any swim day with fresh water. Although the salt water in the pool may not be corrosive at levels of 3000-3500 ppm, when that water hits the coping and evaporates, it leaves pure salt behind. The pure salt is corrosive and is the main cause of the corroding coping. Most autocover manufacturers now void their track warranty if a salt system is used.

    Some pool builders are now refusing to build any salt water pools with cream limestone or taupe coping. Any customer that wants either coping for a salt water rock or gunnite pool must usually sign a release form. Pool builders have said that they have had to replace a significant amount of both these types of coping this past year. Cantilever designs simply disappear as the stone dissolves away.

    SECRET #2
    Salt water systems require chemicals almost every week.

    The obvious weekly use of muriatic acid is combined with the not so obvious need to use cyanuric acid to guarantee your salt chlorine generator can achieve 1-3 ppm chlorine residual in your pool. Since salt water pools produce chlorine, the sanitizing effectiveness of the system is impacted by changes in temperature, bather load, sunlight and rainfall. CYANIDE based, the CYANURIC acid is euphemistically referred to as conditioner or stabilizer and must be maintained between 35 and 85 ppm. Stabilized levels over 100 are harmful to children, pets, older swimmers, the pool itself and of course the environment.

    Occasional algaecide, clarifier, stain and scale control and shock will be needed with a salt chlorine pool (maybe slightly more than a stabilized "puck" pool) and only the handling of the solid chlorine is avoided. Numerous other sanitation devices will cut overall chemical use, a salt system may not.

    SECRET #3
    Salt water systems require cell replacement every 2 to 3 years at a cost of $500-$800.

    With over 40 manufacturers in the salt water generator business the cell warranty ranges from 1 to 3 years and the replacement costs are from $500 self-installed to $800 installed by a dealer. Assuming the owner gets to the fourth year with the cell, salt can be one of the most expensive methods to sanitize the pool. If the cell does not make it through the third year, salt becomes the most expensive system in terms of operating cost.

    SECRET #4
    You must worry about the pH with a salt system and do regular maintenance or you will destroy the pool and have zero recourse.

    The Fact - When the pH and alkalinity get out of balance, the chlorine is much less effective. The pH should be 7.4-7.6. Chlorinating with a salt water chlorinator is similar to chlorinating with liquid chlorine-- they both have a high pH (11.7). One common problem is that homeowners tend not to test their pools' pH and alkalinity enough. Unfortunately, too many builders and retailers sell these systems as a "set it and forget it" solution. Most people with salt systems will run their pH from 7.8-8.0. This is bad for two reasons: 1) the pool is in a scaling mode, and 2) the chlorine is locked up by the basisity of the higher pH. It is best to run between 7.4-7.6 when using chlorine. Lack of pH management can ruin the cell in less than 90 days, scaling up the swimming pool as well as the cell. "Improper chemical use" will void any warranty, a system employed by portable spa manufacturers on delaminated shells and first year heater failure.

    SECRET #5
    Salt systems are more harmful to human health than conventional chlorine, bromine or bioguanide chemicals.

    With a salt system your skin will absorb sodium, salt, AND chlorine, versus just the halogen with a chemical sanitizer such as chlorine or bromine. Sodium absorption through the skin has long been known to present health risks at levels far below the 3000-5000 ppm levels salt chlorine generators require. For nearly 20 years people with high blood pressure, stroke history or other circulatory system issues have been asked to stop using their water softeners (at 200-400 ppm sodium in the water for just ten minutes in the shower) to avoid the heart mortality risks. The chlorine level and skin absorption of the chlorine is still based on the same 1-3 ppm chlorine residuals found, dioxin forms (as do chloramines) and the backwash water contains 3000 ppm or more chlorides.

    SECRET #6
    Salt systems are damaging to the environment and have been banned on all pools in areas such as Los Angeles County.

    While the "Ban the Brine" movement may have not picked up much steam in recent years, individual counties banning chloride discharge such as Livingston County, Michigan or specific bans on salt water chlorine generators in Los Angeles County, California have gotten regional attention. Those existing Los Angeles area salt water generators when the ordinance was passed are NOT "grandfathered" in.

    SECRET #7
    One size does not fit all and salt generators use both high voltage AND high amperage outputs.

    The Facts - It is essential when selecting a salt chlorinator to oversize the unit for your pool. You are better off having a chlorinator too large for your pool, one that is undersized is a complete waste of money. A chlorinator too large can be turned back or run for less time each day, making the cell last longer. A unit too small will mean algae problems later on if you don't run it for longer periods each day or add extra chlorine on a regular basis. The high amperage output of the cell will add between 500 to 1000 watts per day or 1.0 KW to 1.5 KW to your electric demand and monthly bill, at .11 per watt, this is $5 to $11 every month. Electric rates range from .11 to .19 per KW and will not likely decrease in price.

    There is no maintenance on a salt water pool.

    Fact - All salt water generator cells require cleaning every 90 days. This must be carried out before the calcium build up within the cell housing becomes one big block. If not cleaned for six months, four expensive things occur, (even with the unit turned off the scale still forms):
    •The cell housing breaks when you attempt to clean it.
    •The cell life shortens as the high voltage/amperage cannot penetrate the scale on the plates.
    •The pool becomes a swamp when the cell scales up.
    •The electronic box blows - due to scale on the cell or salt ppm above 5000 in the pool.


    It is also very important to watch the salt level in the pool. A low salt level (less than 2000 ppm) will cause oxygen production and damage the platinum group metals on the cell anode, therefore, shortening the life of the cell. It is recommended that you try to keep the salt level at the higher end of the manufacturer's scale, for your specific model.

    With a salt water pool, the owner MUST maintain a proper pH or the pool will scale, stain brown and destroy the cell. Also cyanuric acid levels must be maintained or the chlorine will quickly dissipate out of the pool.

    Before you buy a device and throw 200 to 500lbs of salt in your pool, remember an old term - "Salting the Earth", 2000 years ago mankind knew bette

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Paris, where did you get that information? You should always cite your source.

    And now that I have started reading it ... there is SO much bad information there.

    Edit2: and as I keep reading. Nearly every statement is wrong.
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    There are so many SWG people on this forum it's nice to see the other point of view. I am just about to start my pool build and we are going straight chlorine due to large amount of moss rock and flagstone coping.

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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    That post contains blatant misrepresentations. It is so pathetic it almost comes across as a bad attempt at humor?
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Hello Mod -

    Look it up online. It's public knowledge. Don't quote me on it but I do research things every now an then.

    I am happy for whoever builds whatever. I just see +'s and -'s on both sides of the fence.

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    MGood's Avatar
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Glad to see responses to that post. We have heard a few negative things about it being hard on equipment but if there were serious health conditions it wouldn't be allowed I'm sure.

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    I am going to quickly comment on all this mess in red below.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paris69 View Post
    Interesting read:

    Salt water systems corrode the pool equipment.
    The Facts - The salt itself has issues of attacking the cement in the plaster and deck materials. This is a relatively slow process when the salt levels are low. The salt also can kill any landscaping in or around the pool as well as in the backwash area.
    The salt has no impact on the plaster, but it is true there can be an impact on the decking if soft stone is used. If you have an decent amount of rain, the salt in the backwash is not a problem.

    If the sodium hypochlorite levels are too high, the corrosion is caused by the chlorine being produced by the electrolytic cell. Chlorine can bleach the test reagents, giving you a "false negative", and people can grossly over-chlorinate their pool damaging equipment, the pool surface, lighting fixtures, and ladders. Over time the salt will attack any area the water evaporates at.
    The recommended FAS-DPD chlorine test does not bleach out.

    A common problem is corrosion at the ladder. The deck anchors are usually cast aluminum and the ladder should be stainless steel. The salt water will corrode the anchors overtime and a "safety event" will be pending.
    Use the correct materials and this problem is lessened.

    Buyers should be aware that if you have salt water above 2800 ppm, (often 4000 to 5000 ppm), you will need to reseal your coping every year, especially if it is a porous stone like limestone or travertine. Otherwise, the salt will dry and start to etch the coping. Besides sealing the stone, it is also advisable and an added precaution to hose down the coping at the end of any swim day with fresh water. Although the salt water in the pool may not be corrosive at levels of 3000-3500 ppm, when that water hits the coping and evaporates, it leaves pure salt behind. The pure salt is corrosive and is the main cause of the corroding coping. Most autocover manufacturers now void their track warranty if a salt system is used.
    This is mostly true and why we recommend SWG or soft stone and not both.

    Some pool builders are now refusing to build any salt water pools with cream limestone or taupe coping. Any customer that wants either coping for a salt water rock or gunnite pool must usually sign a release form. Pool builders have said that they have had to replace a significant amount of both these types of coping this past year. Cantilever designs simply disappear as the stone dissolves away.
    Again mostly true, I am not sure I have ever seen a cantilever dissolve away.

    SECRET #2
    Salt water systems require chemicals almost every week.
    I would say more often than weekly ... just like any other pool. In fact without a SWG, you need to manually add chlorine daily.

    The obvious weekly use of muriatic acid is combined with the not so obvious need to use cyanuric acid to guarantee your salt chlorine generator can achieve 1-3 ppm chlorine residual in your pool. 1-3ppm may not be enough ... obviously they do not understand the CYA/FC relationship Since salt water pools produce chlorine, the sanitizing effectiveness of the system is impacted by changes in temperature, bather load, sunlight and rainfall. CYANIDE based, the CYANURIC acid is euphemistically referred to as conditioner or stabilizer and must be maintained between 35 and 85 ppm. Stabilized levels over 100 are harmful to children, pets, older swimmers, the pool itself and of course the environment.
    CYA is not harmful to anyone.

    Occasional algaecide, clarifier, stain and scale control and shock will be needed with a salt chlorine pool (maybe slightly more than a stabilized "puck" pool) and only the handling of the solid chlorine is avoided. Numerous other sanitation devices will cut overall chemical use, a salt system may not.
    None of this garbage is needed for any pool, SWG or not. And obviously, we do not recommend a "puck" pool ... which is funny that they seem to recommend this as that is what causes the CYA to skyrocket, and didn't they just say that CYA was harmful?!?!?

    SECRET #3
    Salt water systems require cell replacement every 2 to 3 years at a cost of $500-$800.

    With over 40 manufacturers in the salt water generator business the cell warranty ranges from 1 to 3 years and the replacement costs are from $500 self-installed to $800 installed by a dealer. Assuming the owner gets to the fourth year with the cell, salt can be one of the most expensive methods to sanitize the pool. If the cell does not make it through the third year, salt becomes the most expensive system in terms of operating cost.
    Try every 3-7 years and the cells are not that expensive. Oversize the cell like we recommend and it will last longer. Generally in the long term, the costs of a SWG pool and bleach pool are about the same, just depends on when you spend the money.

    SECRET #4
    You must worry about the pH with a salt system and do regular maintenance or you will destroy the pool and have zero recourse.
    True of all pools.

    The Fact - When the pH and alkalinity get out of balance, the chlorine is much less effective. False. If there is any CYA in the water, then the pH has little impact on the chlorine effectiveness. The pH should be 7.4-7.6. Chlorinating with a salt water chlorinator is similar to chlorinating with liquid chlorine-- they both have a high pH (11.7). One common problem is that homeowners tend not to test their pools' pH and alkalinity enough. Unfortunately, too many builders and retailers sell these systems as a "set it and forget it" solution. Most people with salt systems will run their pH from 7.8-8.0. This is bad for two reasons: 1) the pool is in a scaling mode Not necessarily, depends on other chemistry levels, and 2) the chlorine is locked up by the basisity of the higher pH. Again, completely false It is best to run between 7.4-7.6 when using chlorine. Lack of pH management can ruin the cell in less than 90 days, scaling up the swimming pool as well as the cell. "Improper chemical use" will void any warranty, a system employed by portable spa manufacturers on delaminated shells and first year heater failure.

    SECRET #5
    Salt systems are more harmful to human health than conventional chlorine, bromine or bioguanide chemicals.
    Um, a SWG pool IS a chlorine pool

    With a salt system your skin will absorb sodium, salt, AND chlorine, versus just the halogen with a chemical sanitizer such as chlorine or bromine. Sodium absorption through the skin has long been known to present health risks at levels far below the 3000-5000 ppm levels salt chlorine generators require. For nearly 20 years people with high blood pressure, stroke history or other circulatory system issues have been asked to stop using their water softeners (at 200-400 ppm sodium in the water for just ten minutes in the shower) to avoid the heart mortality risks. The chlorine level and skin absorption of the chlorine is still based on the same 1-3 ppm chlorine residuals found, dioxin forms (as do chloramines) and the backwash water contains 3000 ppm or more chlorides.
    I know I have seen this argument before and chem geek refuted it somewhere on the forum. Search if you care.


    SECRET #6
    Salt systems are damaging to the environment and have been banned on all pools in areas such as Los Angeles County.

    While the "Ban the Brine" movement may have not picked up much steam in recent years, individual counties banning chloride discharge such as Livingston County, Michigan or specific bans on salt water chlorine generators in Los Angeles County, California have gotten regional attention. Those existing Los Angeles area salt water generators when the ordinance was passed are NOT "grandfathered" in.
    I remember this being discussed somewhere on the forum as well. I think this is twisting the facts.

    SECRET #7
    One size does not fit all and salt generators use both high voltage AND high amperage outputs.

    The Facts - It is essential when selecting a salt chlorinator to oversize the unit for your pool. You are better off having a chlorinator too large for your pool, one that is undersized is a complete waste of money. A chlorinator too large can be turned back or run for less time each day, making the cell last longer. A unit too small will mean algae problems later on if you don't run it for longer periods each day or add extra chlorine on a regular basis. The high amperage output of the cell will add between 500 to 1000 watts per day or 1.0 KW to 1.5 KW to your electric demand and monthly bill, at .11 per watt, this is $5 to $11 every month. Electric rates range from .11 to .19 per KW and will not likely decrease in price.
    Well we agree on one thing, the SWG should be over-sized so it lasts longer. I think this electric costs are inflated though. Like I said before, the long term costs are very similar regardless of the chlorinating method. Just less time typically required with a SWG pool.


    There is no maintenance on a salt water pool.
    Who says this? There is just as much maintenance on any pool.

    Fact - All salt water generator cells require cleaning every 90 days. This must be carried out before the calcium build up within the cell housing becomes one big block. If not cleaned for six months, four expensive things occur, (even with the unit turned off the scale still forms):
    •The cell housing breaks when you attempt to clean it.
    •The cell life shortens as the high voltage/amperage cannot penetrate the scale on the plates.
    •The pool becomes a swamp when the cell scales up.
    •The electronic box blows - due to scale on the cell or salt ppm above 5000 in the pool.
    Not true. You only need to clean the cell if there is a scaling build-up. And you only get a build-up if you are not maintaining the chemistry correctly.

    It is also very important to watch the salt level in the pool. A low salt level (less than 2000 ppm) will cause oxygen production and damage the platinum group metals on the cell anode, therefore, shortening the life of the cell. It is recommended that you try to keep the salt level at the higher end of the manufacturer's scale, for your specific model.
    Yes, you should keep the salt level in range so the system works. Most will turn themselves off if the salt is too low to prevent damage.

    With a salt water pool, the owner MUST maintain a proper pH or the pool will scale, stain brown and destroy the cell. Also cyanuric acid levels must be maintained or the chlorine will quickly dissipate out of the pool.
    Any pool owner must maintain the pH or it will scale ... this is due to the calcium in the water, not the salt. And yes the CYA level must be maintained for any pool as well.
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    2,637

    Re: Salt water/chlorine vs just chlorine

    Paris, do you think you are the first person to copy and paste directly from that ECOsmart page? The problem is that on their page it can be disected as the (factually flawed) sales literature it is. Posting it here without a source and writing "interesting read" is usually a way to try to make it sound like it is coming from an impartial 3rd party. It is not, it was written by a company trying to sell a product and should be viewed as such.

    As with all sales literature, it must be taken with a grain of salt. Pun intended.

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