Ionizer

JohnT

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Adds metal ions, usually copper, zinc or silver to the water. It's not needed and can potentially cause pool or hair staining.
 

Toomchfun

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May 28, 2012
47
Dallas, Texas
My parents have a pool with an Ionizer and my cousin is taking care of it this year. Pool store told him he needs to get ionizer cartridge replaced ($100 online). Can anyone advise the pros and cons of using heavy metals as an algaecide. I say buy bleach instead and save the money, seems simple to me. He may need a better explanation.
 

fast1971chevelle

Well-known member
Apr 15, 2012
456
SW Ohio
im sure chem geek will be around and explain it, but from what i have read the metal (copper) ions takes like 10 times longer to kill bacteria in the water than bleach does plus there are alot of other issues that copper does to the pool plus it can turn blonde hair green.....Mike
 

JohnN

Well-known member
Jun 24, 2012
977
Howell, NJ
This is just general, someone with more experience will be here soon with a more detailed answer.
1) It is expensive. Those refill cartridges, like you said, cost a lot of money.
2) It does not kill bacteria/viruses fast. It is much slower than chlorine at killing viruses and bacteria, so will not prevent person to person transmission.
3) Chlorine is still needed. Because of 2 above, you still need to maintain chlorine in the pool. Since there is already chlorine in there, why not just use the levels we recommend here?
4) It is not needed. If you follow the recommended levels of chlorine, you do not need metals to prevent algae.
5) It can cause staining. With the levels of copper needed to prevent algae, you risk staining the pool. Copper stains are not easy to get rid of.
 

chem geek

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Mar 28, 2007
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This post contains a table comparing the kill times for chlorine (with roughly our recommended FC and CYA relative levels) vs. copper and silver. As you can see, there is no comparison, and copper doesn't kill fecal bacteria. If one were to use metal ions for even controlling bacteria growth, then one would use both copper and silver combined, copper mostly for algae and for some bacteria and silver for the fecal bacteria, BUT there's no reason to do this because chlorine kills both quickly as well as viruses, etc. You also need a chemical to oxidize your bather waste and chlorine does that, while metal ions (i.e. copper or silver) don't.
 

Michael Assad

In The Industry
Aug 25, 2014
10
Toronto, Canada
This post contains a table comparing the kill times for chlorine (with roughly our recommended FC and CYA relative levels) vs. copper and silver. As you can see, there is no comparison, and copper doesn't kill fecal bacteria. If one were to use metal ions for even controlling bacteria growth, then one would use both copper and silver combined, copper mostly for algae and for some bacteria and silver for the fecal bacteria, BUT there's no reason to do this because chlorine kills both quickly as well as viruses, etc. You also need a chemical to oxidize your bather waste and chlorine does that, while metal ions (i.e. copper or silver) don't.

If you use an ionizer, you still need chlorine, but in a much lower concentration.

EPA and Health Canada approve 'copper ion releasing devices' with a chlorine concentration of 0.5 to 0.6 ppm vs. 3 - 5 ppm approved without one.

Copper is a very effective aglaecide which frees up the chlorine to kill bacteria. This allows you to safely reduce the concentration.

Some people prefer pools with less chlorine. It is a toxic chemical that some people are sensitive to. You could argue that copper is toxic too, but you would never reach toxic concentrations of copper with an ionizer.

If someone tries to sell you an ionizer as a 'stand-alone' sanitation system, they are full of it. It's not and no government body has approved it as such. However, it is a very effective solution for lowering overall chlorine requirements which many people like.
 

chem geek

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Michael,

I see you've hopped over here from poolspaforum.com.

If someone wants to run with a lower active chlorine level then there are other ways of doing that by controlling algae with Polyquat 60 algaecide or by using a phosphate remover (for situations where phosphates aren't constantly increasing such as from fill water high in phosphates). Neither of these have the risk of staining plaster surfaces nor turning blond hair greenish (see this paper) that can both happen when using copper ions. So why use copper and take such risks?

Also, most people do just fine with the 7.5% FC/CYA ratio recommended on this forum for non-SWG pools (5% for SWG pools) that is equivalent to less than 0.1 ppm FC with no CYA so is already very low. The FC level is irrelevant by itself since most chlorine is bound to CYA and essentially inactive in that state (less than 1/150th the oxidizing power of hypochlorous acid). The FC just tells you the capacity or reserve of chlorine so that you do not run out. By itself when CYA is present it has nothing to do with the chlorine strength. It is the FC/CYA ratio that is proportional to the active chlorine level.
 

JohnT

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If you use an ionizer, you still need chlorine, but in a much lower concentration.

EPA and Health Canada approve 'copper ion releasing devices' with a chlorine concentration of 0.5 to 0.6 ppm vs. 3 - 5 ppm approved without one.

Copper is a very effective aglaecide which frees up the chlorine to kill bacteria. This allows you to safely reduce the concentration.

Some people prefer pools with less chlorine. It is a toxic chemical that some people are sensitive to. You could argue that copper is toxic too, but you would never reach toxic concentrations of copper with an ionizer.

If someone tries to sell you an ionizer as a 'stand-alone' sanitation system, they are full of it. It's not and no government body has approved it as such. However, it is a very effective solution for lowering overall chlorine requirements which many people like.

What is the EPA pesticide registration number for ANY ion system? Every pesticide or pesticide device sold in the US must have a registration number.
 

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chem geek

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The EPA didn't used to require registration of ion generating equipment until this notice on March 21, 2008. Note that "Determinations as to whether a product is a device or pesticide are made on a case-by-case basis." The Federal Register Notice said the following:

Potentially affected equipment include but are not limited to, washing machines containing electrodes that emit silver, copper, or zinc ions and ion generators used in swimming pools to kill algae and as an adjunct to the chlorination process.
:
The articles covered by this notice are ion generators that incorporate a substance (e.g., silver or copper) in the form of an electrode, and pass a current through the electrode to release ions of that substance for the purpose of preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating a pest (e.g., bacteria or algae). Because these items incorporate a substance or substances that accomplish their pesticidal function, such items are considered pesticides for purposes of FIFRA, and must be registered prior to sale or distribution.

Because of these additional requirements, you won't find as many ionizer systems as in the past. There are still copper chemical additive products on the market and they are EPA registered (mostly copper sulfate products though some copper citrate and chelated copper products). As you will see from this post, some makers of these products make false pesticidal kill claims, get reported to the EPA (by myself and others), and then they are forced to change what they claim.

Michael is also wrong about the level of chlorine allowed with metal ion systems. As shown with these NSF Standard 50 Copper/Silver and Copper Ion Generators, they require at least 0.4 ppm chlorine or 0.8 ppm bromine while the minimum FC without such ionizers is NOT 3-5 ppm as Michael claims, but rather 1 ppm (that is consistent with both the EPA and with state codes though some state codes require a 2 ppm minimum when CYA is used). So the minimum required is cut in half. Also, as I noted, with CYA in the water the active chlorine level is far less than 1 or 0.4 and we operate our pools with an active chlorine level that is less than 0.1 ppm.
 

Michael Assad

In The Industry
Aug 25, 2014
10
Toronto, Canada
EPA has several ionizers registered. Health Canada only has one. You can find them on their respective websites.

Why is there so much hate for ionizers?? They work well and lots of people love them. I'm not saying they are the ONLY solution, but they are a viable solution for minimizing chlorine without any special tricks or knowledge required.

Can we all please keep an open mind? :)
 

Michael Assad

In The Industry
Aug 25, 2014
10
Toronto, Canada
The EPA didn't used to require registration of ion generating equipment until this notice on March 21, 2008. Note that "Determinations as to whether a product is a ...while the minimum FC without such ionizers is NOT 3-5 ppm as Michael claims, but rather 1 ppm (that is consistent with both the EPA and with state codes though some state codes require a 2 ppm minimum when CYA is used). So the minimum required is cut in half. Also, as I noted, with CYA in the water the active chlorine level is far less than 1 or 0.4 and we operate our pools with an active chlorine level that is less than 0.1 ppm.

My bad - 3 - 5ppm is for public pools. It's 1-3ppm for private. Thanks for catching that.

So 0.5ppm with an ionizer is 50%-90% less chlorine concentration required, as per EPA and Health Canada
 

Michael Assad

In The Industry
Aug 25, 2014
10
Toronto, Canada
Michael,

If someone wants to run with a lower active chlorine level then there are other ways of doing that by controlling algae with Polyquat 60 algaecide or by using a phosphate remover (for situations where phosphates aren't constantly increasing such as from fill water high in phosphates). Neither of these have the risk of staining plaster surfaces nor turning blond hair greenish (see this paper) that can both happen when using copper ions. So why use copper and take such risks?

There are certainly bad apples in the ionizer bushel, but not all of them cause staining. That's like saying all cars explode when they're hit from behind because the 1971 Ford Pinto did that.

If you are worried about your plaster pool getting stained, don't use an ionizer. Or use one that's not built in someone's basement.

But if you have tile, vinyl, fiberglass or anything else, there is no worry of this, even if you build your own ionizer :)

As for staining of blonde hair, that probably happened once in 1983 and people are still worried about it. Relax - it's not going to happen if you buy an EPA or Health Canada approved ionizer. Again, just watch out for the cheapos!
 

JohnT

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There are certainly bad apples in the ionizer bushel, but not all of them cause staining. That's like saying all cars explode when they're hit from behind because the 1971 Ford Pinto did that.

If you are worried about your plaster pool getting stained, don't use an ionizer. Or use one that's not built in someone's basement.

But if you have tile, vinyl, fiberglass or anything else, there is no worry of this, even if you build your own ionizer :)

As for staining of blonde hair, that probably happened once in 1983 and people are still worried about it. Relax - it's not going to happen if you buy an EPA or Health Canada approved ionizer. Again, just watch out for the cheapos!

No such thing as an EPA approved ionizer. And they all add metal to the water and all can cause staining if you get enough metal in the water. Since no ionizer has any method to limit the level of metal in the water, all ionizers can cause staining.
 

Bama Rambler

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As for staining of blonde hair, that probably happened once in 1983 and people are still worried about it.
If you believe that just try a search for green hair and you'll find plenty of examples of people asking how to fix green hair caused by metals in a pool way after 1983. Since you must have chlorine anyway it just doesn't make sense to have an ionizer. All it does is add extra cost.
 

one_knight4u

Well-known member
Jul 17, 2014
199
Bastrop, Louisiana
As for staining of blonde hair, that probably happened once in 1983 and people are still worried about it. Relax - it's not going to happen if you buy an EPA or Health Canada approved ionizer. Again, just watch out for the cheapos!

After reading both threads and then seeing this one, it screamed to me that there are other interests involved. You seem to be defending ionizers like you have a fortune invested in them. It may just be me, but that is the feeling I get.
 

RobbieH

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There are certainly bad apples in the ionizer bushel, but not all of them cause staining. That's like saying all cars explode when they're hit from behind because the 1971 Ford Pinto did that.

False analogy. It would be more accurate to say "all gasoline fumes explode". The specific design of the Pinto led to a risk of exploding the gasoline fumes due to improper protection of the gas tank. There is no way to design a copper ionizer so that copper ions are not released into the pool and still have it be effective.
 

Leebo

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One of the reasons TFP can shy away from promoting Ionizers is due to the ability to look at ONLY facts of a product, while not being influenced by money from major companies looking to promote their products. We can promote a non-biased viewpoint on these systems and speak solely on facts, not some marketing booklet.

The introduction of metals into a pool and slow kill times are the main reasons we shy away from these systems. The Cons simply outweigh the Pros. All pools have items that are prone to staining from metals. The surface on Plaster and Fiberglass pools are VERY prone to stains, as are various items in vinyl pool. The steps, returns, skimmers, and ladders all can easily be stained by the introduction of metals to the water. Add to that the fact that you still must add chlorine to the water, and these products simply fall into the waste of money category here at TFP. As Chem Geek stated above, if one wishes to reduce the chlorine level in their pools, Polyquat or phosphate remover remains a FAR safer alternative to any metal based product on the market.
 

chem geek

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Do a search on this site for Copper Stains and you will see many such reports including those using an ionizer and even those with vinyl pools. Do a search on this site for green hair and you will also find complaints of that also from copper in the water.

We deal with reality and facts, not marketing hype nor even the personal experience of any single member (though obviously such experiences are validly looked at across many members). How nice for you to not run into any issues with copper, but that does not mean we will start recommending it because the risk of problems is too high in general and the caveats too many for the average user. There ARE a few users who use metal ions and they carefully measure both the copper ion level and the pH and they don't have plaster pools, but this is a very small minority. We don't say to NEVER do anything under any circumstances (except those things that are safety hazards like mixing Trichlor and Cal-Hypo in concentrated form), but our recommendations are designed to work for nearly everyone in the simplest and least expensive way whenever possible. See this post I wrote back in 2009 -- nothing has changed since then and no one is telling you that YOU can't use copper -- we're just saying you should not say it's a great recommended solution for everyone.
 

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