Saltwater vs. Chlorine Swimming Pool: Which is Better?

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Saltwater vs. Chlorine Pool

When considering adding a pool to your backyard or remodeling an old pool, you often need to choose a sanitation system. Here the two main options are saltwater and chlorine pools.

While chlorine has been the more traditional option many people opt for, many homeowners are slowly switching to saltwater.

Both types have their merits and demerits, and if you are going to pick between them, it is essential to know them and understand exactly how they differ.

All About Saltwater Pool 

Saltwater pools are still chlorinated despite what the name might suggest. However, they generate chlorine using a different process. They use electricity and a chlorine generator to add small doses of chlorine to the pool water continuously.

The setup in a saltwater pool will require very little maintenance as you only need to make sure there is enough salt and the system is working correctly. However, the initial investment can be pretty high, and the system's complexity means that repairs can also be expensive as you have to call in an expert.

Given the mall doses of chlorine added to a saltwater pool, it does not fade swimsuits. Better still, the water will be gentler on the skin and eyes. But, you should be ready to spend more on electricity bills to enjoy these benefits.

Pros

  • Pool water is gentler on the skin
  • Fewer chemicals required for maintenance
  • Low chlorine levels will not fade swimsuits
  • Less frequent maintenance needed

Cons

  • Higher initial investment required
  • More complex to repair
  • Uses more electricity

All About Chlorine Pool 

Chlorine pools are still the most common option for both domestic and commercial use. These pools will not produce their own chlorine through electrolysis like the saltwater pools. Instead, you have to keep adding more chlorine directly to the pool water to keep it sanitized.

Given how fast chlorine breaks down under direct sunlight, these pools require you also to add some pool stabilizer (cyanuric acid). However, using chlorine sticks or tablets to add small amounts of the sanitizer continuously can also help.

Setting up a chlorine pool is typically cheaper than a saltwater one, and running it will also not require as much electricity as there is no chlorine generator. Most chlorine pools are easy to fix on your own if there are issues.

However, with chlorine pools, you should be ready to deal with the harshness of the compound as it can irritate skin and eyes. Also, chloramines are a big problem with these pools as they produce an unpleasant odor and affect the effectiveness of chlorine.

Pros

  • Smaller initial investment
  • Less electricity required to run the systems
  • Most problems are easy to repair
  • No extra or special fixture required

Cons

  • Chlorine can irritate eyes and skin
  • Pungent chlorine odor from chloramines

Saltwater vs. Chlorine Pool 

When deciding between these two pool types, there are some key factors you need to consider to understand how they stack up against each other, and here are the main ones.

1. Cost

When it comes to the cost, you will need to consider the initial investment when setting up the pool and the ongoing costs, such as how much you will spend on maintenance.

The initial cost of setting up a saltwater pool is often much higher as the salt generator alone can cost upwards of $1,800. However, the maintenance costs are much lower because salt is cheaper than chlorine. You will hardly ever spend more than $100 per year buying salt and chemicals for your saltwater pool.

Chlorine pools are cheaper to set up as there is no extra or special fixture that you need to buy. However, you should expect to spend up to $800 or more on chlorine and other chemicals like pool stabilizers if you own a chlorine pool.

2. Salt and Chlorine levels

Saltwater pools will have very little chlorine because instead of adding a large amount of it, they will continuously add small doses to clean water.

Also, despite what the name might imply, their salinity levels are not that high as they are around one-tenth of ocean water (about the same as tears).

Chlorine pools have lots of chlorine, as it is crucial for keeping them clean and sanitized. Maintaining the levels between 1 and 3 ppm (parts per million) is recommended to ensure safety.

3. Safety

Saltwater pools are a safe option when compared to chlorine pools. They do not produce toxic fumes from chloramines, and they are gentler on the hair, skin, and eyes. Also, you do not need special storage for the pool salt as it is a stable compound.

Chlorine can be problematic as it irritates the skin and eyes while causing excessive dryness, itching, and a burning sensation. Exposure to high amounts of chlorine also leads to respiratory issues.

Another critical thing to know about chlorine is that it requires special storage and handling. It is a highly active chemical that combines easily with others and causes serious problems.

4. Maintenance

One of the main advantages of saltwater pools is that they require very little maintenance. If you get one of those modern models with advanced features and functionalities, you can go for weeks without ever having to do any intervention.

With chlorine pools, you are almost constantly adding more chlorine. Also, you have to monitor the levels throughout, which means more work for you. The accumulation of chloramines over time on chlorine pools adds more maintenance work as you have to shock the pool to solve the issue.

That said, it is essential to know that with chlorine pools, you can do most of the maintenance on your own. However, with saltwater pools, when a problem arises, it is likely to be more complex for you, meaning you have to call in a professional to help you out.

5. Others

As you compare the two pool sanitation systems, you also need to consider the return on investment and whether you have an inground or above-ground pool.

When it comes to the return on investment, saltwater pools will be better because they have lower long-term costs despite the higher investment. Chlorine pools have a lower initial cost, but they can be pretty expensive to run.

For new inground pools, saltwater systems are always a smarter option, but if you are remodeling an existing chlorine one, it is better to stick with what you have as a conversion can be super expensive. However, when it comes to above-ground pools, both will work well, and it is all about your budget.

Conclusion 

The choice between saltwater and chlorine pool is often very personal and largely depends on personal preferences. However, it is vital to consider the cost, maintenance, and safety when deciding what to buy.

That said, if you do not mind having to invest more money at the onset, saltwater pools are your best bet. But if you want something cheaper that also allows easy DIY maintenance, go for a chlorine pool.