Salterwater vs. Chlorine vs. Ozone Pools: The Great Swimming Pool Debate
You’ve looked at pictures, measured your yard, priced out features, and dreamed of backyard water falls, and now the day has come; you’re ready to have your own swimming pool installed.
But while you’re trying to decide what shape of pool you want and whether or not to enclose it, don’t forget to also pay attention to how you’re going to keep the water clean. While you probably grew up swimming in a bright blue, chlorinated pool, and you’re likely comfortable with what that entails, it isn’t the only type of backyard pool available today. Saltwater pools, as well as ozone pools are creating steep competition for chlorine.
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Best for Keeping Your Pool Clean
Swimming pools are beautiful, innovative additions to your yard. They can enhance your backyard and even include waterfalls for additional peaceful and soothing qualities. But whatever type, size, and shape of pool you include, one thing remains the same; you need to keep it clean. Any amount of standing water – even water being used in an infinity pool – is going to eventually grow algae and bacteria if not properly treated. Chlorine is the probably the most well known treatment for most pools, but is it right for your yard. Make sure by comparing it to other methods first.
You’ve probably swum in chlorine a dozen or more times without giving much thought to what it is. Chlorine is a chemical found in bleach, and is very effective at keeping your water clean. It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and you can likely fix most problems at home. It also won’t damage your pool or surrounding gardens. Unfortunately, chlorine can also dry out your skin, making you itchy and flaky by summer’s end. It can also irritate your eyes and mucous membranes, and it requires a lot of regular maintenance to keep the levels right.
Funnily enough, a saltwater pool also contains chlorine – just a lot less of it than a traditional chlorinated pool. Like the name implies, you actually add salt to the pool; electricity is used to turn the salt into hydrochlorous acid, or essentially – chlorine! The difference is that the chlorine is produced at a slower rate, so there’s less maintenance, and the resulting mixture is much friendlier to your skin, your eyes, and your swimsuit. And despite the name calling to mind the saltiness of the ocean, the resulting liquid is actually closer in salt concentration to your tears, which means that it’s a lot less harsh than you imagine it to be. Unfortunately, saltwater set up is a lot more expensive than chlorine, because you need to purchase the generator that will convert the salt. In addition, the salt may damage your pool lining and surrounding garden over time, so this should be kept in mind.
The whole point of keeping your pool clean is to eliminate not only things like algae, but also harmful bacterias that might grow there. And there’s nothing quite like ozone to help kill bacteria and other harmful organisms in water. Ozone generators also help your filters function better, getting rid of anything that you don’t want in your water, producing crystal clear results with none of the hazards of chlorine. This is ideal for anyone who is sensitive to chlorine – even the lower levels associated with saltwater pools. An ozone generator uses only electricity to run, so there’s no chemicals to add to your pool, and no levels to check. It’s a more expensive upfront option than traditional pools, though, and it can be more difficult to find a technician to give it the service it needs.
What Does Each System Cost?
You’ve likely already priced out all the associated costs with the swimming pool design of your choice, so you shouldn’t be shocked to discover the range of costs associated with keeping it clean, too. Just remember that keeping your pool clean is a way to protect your investment – especially when the average swimming pool costs more than $29,000 to install.
The start up costs for a chlorine pool aren’t much; it’s the ongoing purchase of the chlorine, shock, and test kits that’s going to get you. A chlorine pool costs around $300 – $800 a year just in materials.
Saltwater pools cost more to set up, as the generator comes with a pricetag of around $400 – $1,800 with installation costs of around $300 – $500. However, you’ll save in the long run as the yearly chemical and maintenance costs are only around $70 to $100, allowing the system to pay for itself over time. Just keep in mind that you’ll also have a yearly electricity cost of around $36 – $48 as well.
The great thing about an ozone generator, is that there’s no chemical or yearly maintenance costs involved beyond the electricity needed to run it – around $40. The cost of the generator upfront is around $400 – $1,200, with installation running another $300 or so. Ozone can help pay for itself over time, however, without the maintenance costs, or the leaks and other damage that sometimes occur with both chlorine and saltwater pools.
What Kind of Maintenance Is Involved?
Let’s be honest; you want to get maximum enjoyment out of your pool, and that means finding a maintenance level that works with your personality.
Chlorine pools have the highest level of maintenance involved. You need to test the pool water each day, and add the requisite chemicals to help maintain its balance. This may involve periodically “shocking” the pool with additional levels of chlorine. For some people, this is fine; it becomes a daily ritual to dip and test the pool and tinker to get it just right. For others, testing the chlorine can be a real pain and something that takes a lot of effort to get right. Remember that you’ll also need to pay closer attention to your filters, as the chlorine won’t affect surface particles like pollen and other debris. Many people with chlorine pools end up choosing to hire out their maintenance just to make it a little easier.
Saltwater pools have less maintenance than chlorine pools, because the generator will release the right amount of chlorine for you. All you need to do to keep the pool running well is to add the right amount of salt recommended for its size. There’s no testing involved, which can definitely take some of the stress out of your summer. You still need to filter the pool regularly, though, as well as skim the surface as the salt/chlorine mixture doesn’t take care of surface particulates either.
Ozone pools have the least amount of maintenance. You don’t need to add anything or check the levels, and the generator actually helps your filters work even better, meaning that you may not even need a pool cover whenever it’s not in use. If you’re looking for a maintenance free pool that stays crystal clear all the time, this is definitely your best option.
What About Health Issues?
Pools are a great way to include some exercise, fun, and recreation in your life. Unfortunately, they can also create some health concerns if you aren’t careful. Some of these concerns also are inherent in the type of system you use as well.
Many people are sensitive to chlorine, particularly when the levels are high. Chlorine can dry out your skin and irritate your eyes. And if the levels aren’t maintained properly, a chlorine pool can quickly get out of whack, allowing harmful bacteria levels to grow. Read more here about the dangers of chlorine.
Saltwater pools are better for you than chlorine, simply because they’re easier to maintain. You don’t need to worry as much about bacteria growth, and the lower chlorine levels mean they are less irritating to your skin and eyes. Unfortunately, for those that are very sensitive to chlorine, however, they may still irritate you over time. In addition, the salt may also harm your installation, including wood decking and natural stone pavers. Salt isn’t always the healthiest thing for the environment, particularly if you live in a watershed area or use groundwater for wells, so choose carefully based on your area.
Ozone pools are one of the easiest ways to create a safe, healthy pool with no side effects. With no chemicals involved, there’s little to no chance of irritation, and ozone pools are extremely easy to maintain, so there’s no chance of bacteria growth.
Which Is Right for You?
Chlorine pools are cheap to set up, but can become time-consuming and costly over the years. Saltwater pools are lower in cost overall, while they can be a bit of an issue to their surroundings. Ozone pools have a higher upfront cost than traditional chlorine pools do, but they take the work out of maintaining your pool, doing the bulk of it for you. All of these options can give you a healthy, safe pool to swim in.
Ultimately, the right pool system for you is likely to be a very personal choice. The upfront and ongoing expenses, amount of maintenance, and your personal comfort levels will all play a role. Just remember to treat your pool right, and to find a system that works for you to get the most enjoyment possible out of your yard each summer. And when you want to know more about what things like this will cost you, be sure to visit our Cost Guides.