Salt Water Pools vs. Chlorine Pools - Which Is Better In Australia?
The use of salt to generate chlorine, and the addition of chlorine directly to your pool are both reliable chemical methods of keeping your pool’s water adequately maintained and free of microorganisms such as bacteria and algae.
Each of these types of pool has its own benefits and drawbacks, and it’s worth considering these before deciding which type of pool you will go with.
In this article, we will help you determine if a saltwater pool or a chlorine pool is the best choice for you. Read on to learn the differences between these two types of pools as well as the various pros and cons associated with each of them.
How Do Salt Water Pools Work?
Saltwater pools require a certain concentration of sodium chloride in the water. This sodium chloride compound dissolves in your water when you add it as salt, and then reacts further in the salt chlorine generator.
Salt chlorine generators (also known as chlorinators) are necessary machines in saltwater pools that work to convert (by a process known as electrolysis) chloride molecules into free chlorine (hypochlorite and hypochlorous acid), which is necessary for sanitisation.
As the pool owner, you don’t need to add any chlorine to salt water pools, but rather you need to add salt which will be broken down into chlorine for sanitisation.
How Do Traditional Chlorine Pools Work?
Chlorine pools rely on maintaining a free chlorine level of 2-3 parts per million (like saltwater pools), but they achieve this via direct addition of chlorine to the pool by the pool owner.
Chlorine pools that are exposed to long durations of sunlight are at risk of chlorine loss without the use of stabilising products. This makes stabilised chlorine products necessary for outdoor pools.
You do not need to add any salt to a regular chlorine pool.
Comparison: Salt Water Pools vs. Chlorine Pools
Saltwater pools carry a high startup cost due to the required salt chlorine generator. These machines are available in a variety of models to fit your pool, and pricing begins at around $1,200 on the cheaper end.
Saltwater pools require an initial dose of pool salt to prepare your source water. The ideal salinity for saltwater pools is between 2,700-3,700 parts per million (ppm). This means that for a 50,000 L pool, you will require about 150 kg of salt.
Always consult your salt chlorine generator’s instructions when determining ideal levels of salinity.
Because chlorine pools do not require the purchase of chlorine generators, there is less initial investment involved. However, you will still need an initial dose of chlorine to achieve a free chlorine level appropriate for your swimming pool.
Running Costs and Maintenance
Saltwater pools still require the use of other chemicals regardless of salt content.
While you will not need to purchase as much chlorine as with a chlorine-only pool due to your salt chlorine generator, you will occasionally still need to add additional chlorine as needed to maintain free chlorine levels between 2-4ppm.
Other chemicals also become necessary due to the free chlorine, such a stabiliser like cyanuric acid.
Stabilisers prevent free chlorine molecules from breaking apart in the sunlight, and therefore reduces the amount of salt and chlorine you will have to add to maintain your pool.
Saltwater pools are also known to necessitate the use of pH reducing products in order to preserve a balanced level of acidity.
Some salt will leave your pool as water is lost through swimming and splashing, resulting in the need for fresh salt to be added once salinity levels drop below the acceptable range of 2,700 - 3,200 ppm. Test your salt level regularly.
Because salt is naturally an element with corrosive properties, it can cause damage to surfaces that have prolonged contact with the pool water.
This includes your pool lining and equipment, but also bathing suits, your pool deck area, and pool toys. Extra rinsing of surfaces and swimmers is common with saltwater pools in order to avoid corrosion.
You will also have to maintain an extra piece of equipment, namely the salt chlorinator. This isn’t difficult, but it is one extra job that you have to keep on top of.
Chlorine pools require that you maintain proper levels of chlorine in addition to other pool chemicals, such as your total alkalinity, pH, and water hardness.
Chlorine pools are known for requiring a high level of chlorine but do not create unusually large demands for any other chemicals as long as stable forms of chlorine are used.
Both chlorine and saltwater pools are effective options for keeping your pool properly sanitised and ready to be enjoyed by swimmers. There are no reports of algae or bacterial growths being more common in either saltwater or chlorine pools so long as adequate chemistry is achieved.
Health Benefits and Water Quality
Saltwater pools have a softer quality of water than in chlorine pools. Some people notice this difference when swimming in saltwater pools, and describe the water as having a smoother texture.
Many swimmers find this effect to be more relaxing than in chlorine pools, especially when varying chlorine concentrations in these pools can give rise to pungent odours.
Saltwater is known to have a few health benefits at the concentration found in swimming pools. For example, saltwater is known to be good for the skin because it functions as an exfoliant.
This can have beneficial effects on many skin conditions, such as keratosis pilaris and eczema. Despite these effects, rinsing off after a swim in a saltwater pool is recommended to avoid excessive drying of the skin.
Chlorine pools are not associated with any noticeable health benefits, and they typically have a higher water hardness than saltwater pools. Chlorine is also noted for being tough on the skin, especially for those with sensitive skin, or when chlorine levels exceed the recommended amounts.
While chlorine pools require much less initial investment than saltwater pools, saltwater pools host a variety of benefits that chlorine pools do not have, such as softer water and skin-aiding properties.
The estimated running costs of each type of pool system is about the same. While you will purchase less chlorine for a saltwater pool, it will still be necessary to purchase some that can act as a supplemental amount for your chlorine generator. You will also need to purchase salt on occasion.
Saltwater pools also require extra care in regards to corrosion, which can slowly affect your pool equipment or other surfaces that frequently come in contact with the water.
You also have to clean the chlorinator cell from time to time. Other than that, there aren't many downsides to having a saltwater pool.
We absolutely recommend saltwater pools to anyone who is interested in trying them so long as you can afford to make the initial investment and are willing to stay dedicated to protecting your pool’s surrounding area and equipment from corrosion.
If corrosive minerals aren’t your thing, or you simply can’t afford the startup costs associated with a saltwater pool, chlorine pools remain a great option, and one that has been providing reliable experiences to swimmers for decades.
Do you have any questions about the differences between saltwater pools and chlorine pools? Let us know down in the comment section!
You can also read our guide on the differences between mineral and salt pools, if you are interested.
A chemical engineer by trade, Louis is committed to debunking myths in the pool industry by explaining the underlying chemistry and making it accessible to all.