While the phrase "saltwater pools" may bring to mind sand, waves and jellyfish, in reality, this alternative to standard chlorinated pools isn't really like the beach at all. The water in the ocean has a salt content of about 35,000 ppm, while the water in a saltwater pool has a far lower concentration of salt at around 3,000 – 6,000 ppm. The water in a saltwater pool is actually more like a saline solution, which contains about 6,000 ppm. This means that if your pool is properly maintained, it shouldn't taste or smell salty at all. Saltwater pools can be found both in the United States and in other countries. Saltwater pools are not chlorine-free pools. The saltwater system is actually just an alternative method of chlorinating a pool, making your own chlorine daily.
Take them with a grain of salt. The most common myth regarding salt pools is that they are sanitized by salt and a better choice, if you have sensitivities or allergies to chlorine. Salt pools are, in fact, sanitized using chlorine. A salt-chlorine generator separates the chlorine and sodium molecules in salt and reintroduces them into the pool water. It is the chlorine that sanitizes your pool!
Another misconception is that salt pools do not require other chemicals. This is completely false and not using other chemicals could damage your pool or be potentially harmful. It is critical that a salt pool still maintain a proper pH, Total Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness and Stabilizer levels. There is no magic inside a salt-chlorine generator that balances pool water. These parameters should be checked and balanced regularly.
Additionally, salt pools need to be shocked on a regular basis and salt-chlorine generators typically do not have the ability to effectively shock your pool. All pools, no matter what the sanitizer, need to be shocked regularly – preferably once per week during warm weather. Organic contaminants will build up in every pool and can only be eliminated by shocking. For chlorinated pools, this is usually done with Liquid Chlorine/Bleach. A proper super-chlorination/shock requires elevating the available chlorine level to approximately 10.0 ppm above the normal level of approximately 2.0 ppm. Even though some salt-chlorine generators feature an option to shock, they typically cannot produce enough chlorine to achieve an available chlorine level of 12.0 ppm. Maintaining a healthy salt pool still requires the purchase of regular shock treatments.
The last myth is that salt pools save money. Salt-chlorinated pools are actually more costly to maintain than pools chlorinated with tablets. You must factor in the cost of the salt-chorine generator, ongoing salt purchases and replacement of the salt cell every five years on average. Although there may not be monetary advantages to having a salt pool, some have said the maintenance is easier and that the water does feel "softer".
If you already have a pool, you can convert your standard pool to a salt pool. Two components will be added to your existing system, a salt cell and a control unit. The salt cell is attached to the pipes between your filter and water outlet and the control unit allows you to monitor the salt cell. The price for a salt system will vary based on features and brands. Check with your local Pinch A Penny expert for the latest products and pricing.
Essentially, a saltwater pool works the same way as any other pool. There are still filters, pumps and drains. However, instead of adding chlorine tablets to your pool, the "salt-chlorine generator" actually creates the chlorine and adds it to the pool automatically. Salt is made up of two elements, chlorine and sodium, thus its scientific name - sodium chloride. Therefore, salt already has chlorine in it naturally. A salt-chlorine generator uses the simple process of electrolysis in combination with the water to separate the chlorine and sodium molecules and then reintroduces them into the pool.
Please check with your specific manufacturer's recommendations and adjust the salt level to meet their specifications.