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Saltwater Pools: Pros, Cons and 5 Alternatives

Pool at home with two single-seat sofas.

Saltwater pools aren't that common.  They're usually on resort grounds, but some people do have them built in their backyards.  There's something special about swimming in saltwater which mimics the ocean.  There are other saltwater pros, but also cons which we set out below.  We then list out alternatives to saltwater pools.

Saltwater pools aren’t that common. They’re usually on resort grounds, but some people do have them built in their backyards.

There’s something special about swimming in saltwater which mimics the ocean. There are other saltwater pros, but also cons which we set out below. We then list out alternatives to saltwater pools.

Saltwater pool pros and cons

Pros

  • Saltwater pools require a lot less maintenance than their chlorine counterparts, which means that homeowners will spend less money over the lifespan of the pool making sure that it is swim ready and in great condition.
  • Do not use any significant chemicals that you have to add to the pool; instead, you will have to add salt whenever there is an imbalance.
  • The water in saltwater pools usually feels softer, which makes it much more enjoyable to swim in them for extended periods of time.
  • They’re a lot more gentle on the skin and on the eyes because they have less chlorine in them. This means that if your family is sensitive to this chemical, saltwater pools may be the best option for you.

Cons

  • They cost more initially or if you are converting your chlorine pool to a saltwater system. It is common for homeowners to recoup this extra expense over time.
  • Saltwater has the potential to be more damaging to the parts of your pool. This means that your lighting, fixtures, heaters, and even the liner of the pool itself may be at risk for damage from the water and the salt. Proper maintenance and installation can decrease this risk, but saltwater is generally more damaging than chlorine.
  • Salt cells have to be replaced if they become damaged, and only regular maintenance will keep them from being neglected and needing to be replaced.
  • Any sanitation problems that you have may require the help of an expert. Unlike chlorine pools where you can easily adjust the water with a chemical, problems with saltwater pools will generally require you to call a professional to come and help you with your pool.

Alternatives to saltwater pools

1. Traditional Chlorine Pool

Blue, steel-framed chlorine pool in a traditional style.Source: Houzz

This is the most common type of pool and supplies are easy to buy when you need them right away. It does require a lot of maintenance and upkeep to keep the water healthy for swimming, but many homeowners prefer this option.

Pros

  • These pools are incredibly affordable, and chlorine itself is not very expensive, which means that you can easily sanitize your pool.
  • One of the most effective ways to prevent bacteria and algae from growing, chlorine will ensure that everyone who swims in your pool is safe and healthy. This is important if you have children or the elderly using your pool or are concerned about compromised immune systems of any of your family members or friends.
  • These pools are a lot less expensive to install than saltwater pools. There are some homeowners who find that they can more easily afford the installation and start-up fees for chlorine pools.

Cons

  • There have been some studies that have shown that chlorine may actually cause health risks when you are exposed to it long term. Additionally, chlorine is a dangerous chemical when in liquid or tablet form, but saltwater pools mitigate these concerns.
  • Asthma can be exacerbated by the chlorine in pools, and some studies show that chlorine exposure can be linked to some kinds of cancer.
  • When chlorine mixes with cosmetic products and bodily fluids, it will change to chloramines. These can be harmful to the hair, skin, and eyes of anyone swimming in the water.
  • It’s important that the chemicals are checked on a regular basis and that they are adjusted as needed. Unfortunately, this gets to be too much of a hassle for some homeowners and they would rather hire an expert to keep the pool safe to use. This will increase the cost of pool ownership.

2. UV

A slim and vertical UV water treatment generator that limits the amount of chlorine in the pool.Source: Home Depot

Slowly growing in popularity, UV is a great way to limit the amount of chlorine in the water, perfect if you have concerns about health problems related to this chemical. These kind of pools make it easy to go on vacation without worrying about them.

Pros

  • These generators specifically kill any bacteria that is present in the pool water.
  • Because they break down organic contaminants that are in the pool, they can actually decrease the amount of chemicals that you have to put in the water, making the water safer to swim in and less damaging to hair, skin, and eyes.
  • They create soft water that is very comfortable to swim in and results in a pH neutral swimming environment.
  • These pools provide a 99.9% disinfection rate, killing the majority of bacteria in the water, which ensures that your pool is nice and sanitary for use.
  • They eliminate up to 90% of the chlorine in the water and decrease its side effects by 100%. These systems will also eliminate the toxic by-products from chlorine that are associated with many illnesses.
  • They do not require chemicals on a regular basis, which means that you won’t have to be spending that money on pool supplies each month. You also will not need to have an algaecide, creating a much healthier swimming environment and making pool ownership less hands-on.
  • They attack chlorine resistant microbes that would otherwise be able to survive the pool water.
  • You can leave the pool while on vacation without worrying about having to readjust the water when you return, as the unit can continue to run even while you are gone.

Cons

  • The generator has to be running all the time in order to be working and to be effective against bacteria in the pool. In addition, it will only be able to kill contaminates that are in the actual ozone chamber.
  • These units are not only expensive to install, but they have an increased monthly cost due to the amount of electricity that they require. This makes them ideal for spas but not the best option for full-size swimming pools. While you will save money not using as many chemicals, it’s important to factor in the monthly usage cost.
  • They do still require that you use chlorine to help treat the water, although the system will remove the majority of it.
  • A fairly expensive investment, this can set homeowners back a large portion of their pool budget.
  • You still need to use some type of chemical, such as chlorine, to ensure that the water is safe to swim in, so these units can’t be used on their own.

3. Bromine

A bucket of spa bromine tablets used as an alternative to chlorine.Source: Home Depot

Some people prefer Bromine as an alternative to chlorine for health reasons. It does a great job sanitizing water and keeping it safe for people to enjoy.

Pros

  • Bromine is a much more effective sanitizer than chlorine is and will result in water that does not need to be tested nearly as often. In addition, water treated with
  • Bromine will generally be more stable than water treated with chlorine.
  • Bromine is also very stable at high temperatures and has a low odor so that your pool will not have that traditional smell that is associated with chlorine.
  • Swimmers will not suffer from red eyes and skin irritation that is so common with chlorine pools.
  • You can use Bromine with an automatic chemical dispenser, but you don’t have to worry about accidentally increasing the amount of cyanuric acid in the water.

Cons

  • It’s impossible to stabilize Bromine against the harmful effects of UV rays, and this means that you will need to use more of the chemical in order to ensure that your pool has been completely sanitized.
  • Most often used in indoor pools because of the problems with UV rays. Outdoor pools in very sunny spots will require much more Bromine, which will increase your monthly pool budget.
  • These tablets are not as widely available for purchase as chlorine is, making homeowners plan ahead so that they don’t run out. Without enough Bromine, you will not want to be swimming in your pool.

4. Mineral Systems

A system used to filter the pool and circulate disinfecting minerals.

These systems work with chlorine but decrease the amount that you will need. You can easily drop in a cartridge and go without having to worry about testing the water as frequently.

Pros

  • One of the biggest benefits of a mineral system is that you will be able to greatly reduce the amount of chlorine that you have to put into your water. This is great for families who have sensitivities to chlorine or are concerned about associated health problems.
  • Pre-filled cartridges make it very easy to have the chemicals and minerals fed into your pool without having to do the work yourself.
  • No unpleasant taste the way that chlorine has.
  • Minimizes the amount of bacteria that is present in the pool and is actually beneficial for the skin of people swimming in the water.

Cons

  • Adds metals such as copper and silver nitrate to your water, and these can stain the surface of your pool liner and even discolor light hair.
  • These systems are very expensive to install and cost a lot in terms of maintenance over their lifespan.
  • Cartridges will need to be replaced every few months and can get quite costly if the pool is large.

5. PHMB

PHMB tablet used to disinfect swimming pools.

Ideal for getting your pool nice and clean, these cleaners are gentle on humans and on the pool itself.

Pros

  • Commonly known as Baquacil or SoftSwim, this disinfects your pool by bursting bacteria, wrapping them in a gel that sinks to the bottom of your pool, and allowing it to be sucked out of the pool by the vacuum.
  • This is much more gentle on both the people in the pool as well as the pool liner. Because it is not an oxidizer, it will not irritate skin, hair, or eyes.
  • This does provide better water treatment than chlorine is able to.

Cons

  • A very expensive option, PHMB will often cost more than chlorine.
  • It has to be regularly and manually added to the water.
  • Even the tiniest bit of chlorine will have a reaction with it, causing a yellowish vapor. This means that if you switch your pool over from a chlorine pool, you will need to carefully and thoroughly wash everything that came in contact with chlorine, including bathing suits and pool toys.
  • It’s necessary to clean the pool filters every month.
  • Since it doesn’t oxidize, homeowners have to use hydrogen peroxide in their pools as well as an additional algaecide.
    May cause a strange odor when used for a long period of time.
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