Has anyone used the Smartchlor system?

Sjde

Well-known member
Apr 29, 2016
297
Denver CO
I'm looking to get feedback on the new-ish Smartchlor system. Apparently it knows how much chlorine to add.
TIA.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
18,602
Tucson, AZ
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Pentair Intellichlor IC-60

Richard320

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Jan 6, 2010
23,933
San Dimas, CA (LA County)

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
18,602
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
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Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
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Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Those chlorine compounds are analogous to dichlor but more similar to bromine tablets. They are often found in the manufacturing of toilet bowl cleaner tablets, the kind you hang inside the tank. The “smartchlor” cartridges basically add chlorine and DMH at a very low and constant rate. There is no cyanuric acid stabilizer to buffer the chlorine. These chemical, like dichlor, are acidic in nature. Which is where the second cartridge comes into the play - the “mineral” cartridge.

The mineral cartridge is a combination of crushed granite (calcium & magnesium carbonate) and silver chloride. The crushed granite will reduce the acidic effects of the smartchlor cartridge while simultaneously releasing low levels of silver ions. Silver ions are bacteriostatic at hot tub temperatures.

The entire system is NOT smart. It doesn’t sense anything. It’s just a constant source of chlorine and silver. Given that the manufacturer states that the smartchlor cartridge will last 3 weeks (I give it half that value in the real world) and the mineral cartridge lasts 3-4 months, it sounds to me like you’ll be changing cartridges a lot. I’d look up the pricing on this stuff as I can guarantee it ain’t cheap at all.

Sounds to me like nothing more than another way to rob hot tub owners blind .... it’s a market with lots of snake-oil products that unknowing consumers buy into hook, line and sinker.
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
91
San Juan Islands, WA
My new tub (Bullfrog A5L) will be coming with the Frog @ease SmartChlor system. I’m naturally skeptical, but plan to give it a fair trial after an Ahh-some purge and will track results with my TF-100 kit.

The manufacturer claims the system builds a chlorine reserve that “shifts” to free chlorine as needed. What triggers this shifting? They also state that reserve will show up as Combined Chorine on standard test strips, so they include their own test strips. Curious how the FAS/DPD test will indicate.

I managed my previous tub TFP/BBB style, and eventually upgraded it to an in-line SWCG with excellent results. I may ultimately follow the same route with the new tub.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
18,602
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
My new tub (Bullfrog A5L) will be coming with the Frog @ease SmartChlor system. I’m naturally skeptical, but plan to give it a fair trial after an Ahh-some purge and will track results with my TF-100 kit.

The manufacturer claims the system builds a chlorine reserve that “shifts” to free chlorine as needed. What triggers this shifting? They also state that reserve will show up as Combined Chorine on standard test strips, so they include their own test strips. Curious how the FAS/DPD test will indicate.

I managed my previous tub TFP/BBB style, and eventually upgraded it to an in-line SWCG with excellent results. I may ultimately follow the same route with the new tub.

That is complete and utter nonsense on the part of the manufacturer and there is nothing in that statement that makes any chemical sense based on the layout and materials used in these cartridges. It’s simply a “word salad” of marketing gobbledygook to make the system sound like it’s doing something fancy. The chlorine cartridge is nothing more than toilet bowl sanitizer that will dissolve at a slow rate and release low levels of chlorine into the water. Any sanitizing chlorine in the water is free chlorine, either in the form of hypochlorous acid (HOCl) or hypochlorite (OCl-). When it combines with bather waste it forms chloramines (combined chlorine or CCs). There is no conversion of CC back to FC. If you use their non-chlorine shock product (MPS), it will show up, falsely, as combined chlorine if your FC is zero or very low.

The silver ion cartridge is mostly crushed granite which is there to reduce the acidity of the chlorine cartridge and any non-chlorine shock added. It also contains a small amount of silver chloride to establish a reserve of silver ions in the water which may act as an anti-microbial agent. However there is no active process here, the amount of silver ions that build up is simply based on the solubility chemistry of silver chloride in water. You could go buy a bottle of silver chloride powder, add a teaspoon to the water and get the exact same effect.

I would suggest you price out the cost of these cartridges and assume you’ll go through a chlorine cartridge at a rate of 1-2 per month and 4 mineral cartridges per year. My guess is the cost of that stuff will easily pay for a brand new SWG for your tub which will be far more effective at keeping your hot tub clean than any “magical” cartridge system....
 

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
91
San Juan Islands, WA
Yes, I priced out the cartridge costs, sort of. The system seems to run about $45 per pack of four SmartChlor plus one Silver, which for a 245 gallon tub sounds like it might just eek out 3 months with a light load. Those prices are for the inline and floater versions on Amazon. Bullfrog has their own specially-shaped cartridges, so proprietary-squared, and I don't have their prices yet. If the Bullfrog cost is similar, it would run ~$200/year, which is well on the way to a SWCG already. So, I seriously doubt I would continue with the cartridge system even if it works as advertised (and certainly not if it doesn't).

As I said, my previous experience of rebuilding and managing a small tub (Hot Springs Jetsetter) using TFP chlorine approach, and later an in-line SWCG worked amazingly well. The SWCG even kept the tub sanitized for several months while I was out of state. I was blown away to come back home to the same FC/CC and pH that I had left the tub at months prior (I had used Borax to buffer the pH and improve the water feel). Before the SWCG, if I was leaving for a few days for travel, I would drop the tub temp and run the FC up to about 10 or 15 ppm depending on how long I expected to be away.

If the Frog SmartChlor system actually works, I could see it being a viable option for people who travel and don't mind the extra cost.
 

Sjde

Well-known member
Apr 29, 2016
297
Denver CO
So maybe I don't want it! I was told it would dispense the proper amount of chlorine as needed. And that you may only need to shock monthly. They said the mineral cartridge lasts 4 months (@$30?) and the chlorine cartridges 2 to 3 months ($50). With a vacation rental, I thought the convenience/peace of mind might be worth the expense, not having to worry about the sanitizer level being ok when guests stay 3 or 7 nights or whatever. But it won't work for us, I see now , because there is a setting, and our tub doesn't get consistent use. We may have 2 guests or 8 and we have some groups with kids who may use it heavily and others not.
 
Last edited:

BravoRomeo

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 15, 2012
91
San Juan Islands, WA
So maybe I don't want it! I was told it would dispense the proper amount of chlorine as needed. And that you may only need to shock monthly. They said the mineral cartridge lasts 4 months (@$30?) and the chlorine cartridges 2 to 3 months ($50). With a vacation rental, I thought the convenience/peace of mind might be worth the expense, not having to worry about the sanitizer level being ok when guests stay 3 or 7 nights or whatever.

If it works as the manufacturer claims, I could see it being useful for a vacation rental. That's the rub - does it actually do what the tin says? Another consideration would be any regulations you might fall under with rental / commercial operation of a pool/spa.

No system is hands-off. Even the @ease system requires balanced water, per the manufacturer instructions. If you haven't read the manufacturer's info and operating manual (vs. what a pool store salesperson told you), you might look here:
Frog @ease In-Line System

I'm not sure what approach I would take for a vacation rental, especially when guest health and safety is paramount. Time-share condos I've stayed at with pools / spas often have someone checking the water first thing every morning, but even that might not be sufficient for a heavily used/abused hot tub that could crash the free chlorine overnight.

It sure seems like there's a need for a system that can auto-dose appropriate amounts of chlorine after some random number of people of random levels of hygiene use a tub for a random amount of time with or without random drinks tipping in! Even a salt water chorine generator (SWG) can be overwhelmed. From my own experience: I arrived home after a three day business trip to 0 FC in my SWG tub. An ordinary garden slug had managed to slime its way into the tub.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
18,602
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
So maybe I don't want it! I was told it would dispense the proper amount of chlorine as needed. And that you may only need to shock monthly. They said the mineral cartridge lasts 4 months (@$30?) and the chlorine cartridges 2 to 3 months ($50). With a vacation rental, I thought the convenience/peace of mind might be worth the expense, not having to worry about the sanitizer level being ok when guests stay 3 or 7 nights or whatever. But it won't work for us, I see now , because there is a setting, and our tub doesn't get consistent use. We may have 2 guests or 8 and we have some groups with kids who may use it heavily and others not.

Bromine with a functioning ozone system is what you need for a tub like yours. You also need someone that can manage it before & after renters use it. It should be setup on a strict timer system with a preset temperature range so that hot tub users don’t have any control over it other than turning on a timer. The CDC guidelines suggest that no one person should soak in a 104F hot tub for longer than 45mins, and far less than that for children or woman who are pregnant. It’s tough owning a vacation rental with pools/hot tubs as your exposure to liability is a lot higher.
 
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Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
1,445
Corona de Tucson, AZ
You guys are forcing me to admit this...

My 245 gallon "American Whirlpool" (MAAX) came with this too. I am using it for the first fill because the guys who set it up threw in what I later read was dichlor and CYA from a small packet and dropped the thing in. IMHO it doesn't put enough FC in, and apparently MAAX Spas must somewhat agree because they also gave me MPS and said to hit it after every use, and Hit it hard weekly. (They also gave me dry acid, and sodium bicarbonate). This is contrary to the instructions from "King". In theory this should transform CC into FC, but I don't know because I've not had an issue with CC yet... because of my modification to the kit...

With a decent test kit (which right now mine is a hodgepodge, look at my "hello" message) I really didn't like the maybe not quite 1 PPM FC that the floater gives you consistently, and if you were to turn it up to 3 to 5 you'd be out in a week. Supposedly the silver is what they claims sanitizes but we know about that BS.

Since I have to do a water change at three months anyway, I have it set to run out at 3 months, but most of the time I oxidize, and in doing so, raise the FC up to a more reasonable range with Wal-Mart 10% Liquid Chlorine diluted with RO water from the kitchen sink. This combination works and my water is as great as you can get in Arizona (the TA was super high when I started and it took 2 weeks to stop the pH upwards creep, I might want to ask all of the Tucsonians here some questions as I see some specific problems with the water here...especially what are the other minerals in such high quantity in our water other than Mg, Ca and Na?)... but that's because of the initial CYA packet and the bleach, not really the Frog system.

I do like the idea of having a floater so I can go away for a few days and not worry about it, so on the next fill I will switch to Bromine. It will work the same way or better than the Frog system plus bleach and will cost $14 for 3+ months at Wal-Mart....

The intent of that @Ease system is to make a chlorine version of the Bromine floater which to me seems kind of silly. I think the dimethylhydantoins might make the spa foam a little too, but a chemical engineer (I'm an electrical) will have to chime in on that. I suppose that will happen on Bromine too, since they are the "stabilizer" for Bromine -ish. I don't have a problem with that, but... It's interesting that they reformulated Bromine powdered chlorine shock as a slow release non CYA releasing chlorine, but it doesn't really seem to work that well.

No matter what, putzing with this thing was good practice for the pool I am building... I am more or less doing TFP on it on a small scale with that Frog thing as a small cheat.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
18,602
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Combined chlorine, mostly monochloramine (NH2Cl), does NOT convert back to active, free chlorine (HOCl/OCl-), period. Chloramines are only oxidized further into chlorides and nitrates. What non-chlorine shock (potassium monopersulfate, MPS) does is interfere with the standard DPD-FAS titration test by looking like it increases the FC because MPS reacts with FAS (the titrant) and this causes a positive interference in the test (uses up more drops to go from pink to clear). That is NOT proof that CC is being converted to FC but simply a misunderstanding (or willful ignorance) of how the chemistry works.

If MPS or any other swimmer-safe chemical converted CC into FC, the person discovering it would be richer than Bill Gates as he would have discovered a game changing chemical in the world of water sanitation....don’t believe the hype! The frog inline system is nothing more than glorified toilet bowl sanitizer in a fancy package.
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
1,445
Corona de Tucson, AZ
Interesting, I never actually read that it interferes with FAS-DPD, or maybe I did and didn't remember.

Right now, I don't have a FAS-DPD kit and I have to admit the OTO is a pretty useless test, it's about as good as strips are. I suppose it is good to know that since some MPS has been used in the tub maybe it doesn't matter that I don't yet have that test. In between a cheapie Home Depot kit and my beer brewing water testing kit (LaMotte titration, it's good, mainly used for CH, but I think it's TA is better too) I have everything but CYA and FAS-DPD. (There was a fixed amount of CYA added at startup and none since on the portable spa, so CYA testing isn't important to me yet.) I am holding off buying the proper kit until the pool build gets... well at least physically started...because it likely will be three months before I need a good kit and would use the testing agents. But for the tub, I've been okay so far without it. I suspect that actually the Frog is doing nearly nothing except maybe letting me slip a day or two on adding bleach when I need it. I think it's garbage and that is from using it for a month. Don't get me wrong on this. I really would have been happier if they didn't give it to me and I would have probably done Bromine from day one in the portable spa. But it's okay until I do the drain. The water smells like PVC glue (since day one) anyway, so that might be sooner than three months as it is. The new spa smell was novel for the first couple of weeks.

By, the way, Matt, thanks for sharing your pool math logs. It gives me much insight for what I will be up against with Tucson water. I already am going to make sure that I have the PB attach the autofill to a soft line in the house due to reading your stuff. Makes a lot of sense and I suspect it will be well worth it.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
18,602
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Yes, if you have access to soft water, use it! I ran my CH up to 1500ppm and it was no fun trying to manage that. Your pool will add the equivalent of another person to your household water use so if your softener is not keeping up now, consider upgrading it as well. Just DON’T fill with soft water. Tucson municipal water in most areas is actually well balanced for a plaster surface right out of the tap, you’ll only need to do minimal pH adjustments to keep it in range. So if your water starts off with a soft autofill line, you’ll be able to maintain a decent saturation index. In Tucson, the evaporation rate is around 95-100” of water per year so you lose an entire pool volume worth of water to the environment.
 
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Sjde

Well-known member
Apr 29, 2016
297
Denver CO
You guys are forcing me to admit this...

My 245 gallon "American Whirlpool" (MAAX) came with this too. I am using it for the first fill because the guys who set it up threw in what I later read was dichlor and CYA from a small packet and dropped the thing in. IMHO it doesn't put enough FC in, and apparently MAAX Spas must somewhat agree because they also gave me MPS and said to hit it after every use, and Hit it hard weekly. (They also gave me dry acid, and sodium bicarbonate). This is contrary to the instructions from "King". In theory this should transform CC into FC, but I don't know because I've not had an issue with CC yet... because of my modification to the kit...

With a decent test kit (which right now mine is a hodgepodge, look at my "hello" message) I really didn't like the maybe not quite 1 PPM FC that the floater gives you consistently, and if you were to turn it up to 3 to 5 you'd be out in a week. Supposedly the silver is what they claims sanitizes but we know about that BS.

Since I have to do a water change at three months anyway, I have it set to run out at 3 months, but most of the time I oxidize, and in doing so, raise the FC up to a more reasonable range with Wal-Mart 10% Liquid Chlorine diluted with RO water from the kitchen sink. This combination works and my water is as great as you can get in Arizona (the TA was super high when I started and it took 2 weeks to stop the pH upwards creep, I might want to ask all of the Tucsonians here some questions as I see some specific problems with the water here...especially what are the other minerals in such high quantity in our water other than Mg, Ca and Na?)... but that's because of the initial CYA packet and the bleach, not really the Frog system.

I do like the idea of having a floater so I can go away for a few days and not worry about it, so on the next fill I will switch to Bromine. It will work the same way or better than the Frog system plus bleach and will cost $14 for 3+ months at Wal-Mart....

The intent of that @Ease system is to make a chlorine version of the Bromine floater which to me seems kind of silly. I think the dimethylhydantoins might make the spa foam a little too, but a chemical engineer (I'm an electrical) will have to chime in on that. I suppose that will happen on Bromine too, since they are the "stabilizer" for Bromine -ish. I don't have a problem with that, but... It's interesting that they reformulated Bromine powdered chlorine shock as a slow release non CYA releasing chlorine, but it doesn't really seem to work that well.

No matter what, putzing with this thing was good practice for the pool I am building... I am more or less doing TFP on it on a small scale with that Frog thing as a small cheat.
I thought there already were chlorine floaters out there.
 

Sjde

Well-known member
Apr 29, 2016
297
Denver CO
Bromine with a functioning ozone system is what you need for a tub like yours. You also need someone that can manage it before & after renters use it. It should be setup on a strict timer system with a preset temperature range so that hot tub users don’t have any control over it other than turning on a timer. The CDC guidelines suggest that no one person should soak in a 104F hot tub for longer than 45mins, and far less than that for children or woman who are pregnant. It’s tough owning a vacation rental with pools/hot tubs as your exposure to liability is a lot higher.

Yup, we do all of that now. Bromine ( with a floater that doesn’t seem to be working) , new ozonator, someone who checks after each group and before the next, and temp locked at 102-103 ( renters are always messing with it but it won’t go over 104).
 

Rattus Suffocatus

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2019
1,445
Corona de Tucson, AZ
I thought there already were chlorine floaters out there.
Yeah but there are real issues with trichlor and dichlor in 250 gallon tubs. The frog is selling itself as a "low chlorine" equivalent to a bromine floater. For $79 every three months versus six months worth at Walmart for $14 of Bromine.

The way that I use the spa I think Bromine will work the best for me. In about 7 weeks when I do the water change. But like I said it was really good practice for the in ground pool we are building. Because ultimately I am really doing liquid chlorine. The Frog isn't doing anything IMHO.
 

cranbiz

Well-known member
Feb 17, 2021
78
Wentworth, NC
With the way the system is designed, no. You need Dantochlor for the chlorine system. I have not been able to find a retail source for Dantochlor and the wholesale outlets that sell bulk chemicals won't sell it to individuals (even the Chinese who will sell to anyone won't do it).

The system works but using retail packages make it expensive vs the dichlor/chlorine TFP way. I'm only using it as I got a years worth of cartridges with the purchase of my tub. When they are gone, I'm switching. It will be a bit more work but the cost vs convenience is a choice only you can make.
 

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