Saltwater Pools vs. Chlorinated Pools: Which is Better?
Saltwater Pools vs. Chlorinated Pools
Long gone are the days when buying an above ground pool was a "fire and forget" procedure. Back then, it was pretty clear from the get-go what equipment you would need, what chemicals you should store, and how you'd be cleaning your pool. Indeed, even if you were performing a self-installation, you could be reasonably confident in the choices you made.
But while chlorinated pools are still the "gold standard" in the industry, saltwater pools are becoming more and more popular. Of course, if you've ever taken a dip in a saltwater model, you know why. Compared to chlorine, salt water is much softer and healthier-feeling, easier to maintain, and much easier on your skin and eyes.
Still, there's much more to choosing between the two than that! In this article, we'll attempt to highlight the real differences between saltwater and chlorinated pools. In the end, we'll see if one type is truly better than the other, or if it all just comes down to a matter of preference.
First things first: we should establish that the term "chlorinated pool" is meant to refer to any pool model that uses chemicals to maintain the cleanliness of the water. These pools can come in many shapes and sizes, and will use many different types of equipment. However, there are a few things you can say about chlorinated pools that will, for the most part, hold true for all of them.
Chlorinated pools do not feature any alternative system to sanitize the water.
Chlorinated pools generally require more maintenance because there is no automated form of sanitation. This typically comes in the form of manually added chlorine powder or tablets.
On the "Pro" side, chlorinated pools are typically much cheaper to install and maintain. They also use less electricity. This is because saltwater pools (as we'll see) require a special generator to convert the salt and sanitize the pool. Chlorinated pools only need a pump to circulate the water and prevent the build-up of bacteria, dirt, and algae. Another benefit is that installing and maintaining a chlorine pool is typically a DIY ordeal, and won't require assistance from a third-party professional.
That said, some of the "Cons" associated with chlorinated pools include the fact that the chemicals used can be very harsh on one's skin, hair, and eyes. This means frequent swimmers need to use bath products specially designed to remove the chlorine that builds up on their bodies. In fact, the chemicals present in these pools are so powerful that special paint and sealant will be required on any decking attached. Lastly, you need to be very hands-on with chlorine pools. This means ensuring the chemicals are in balance and you're constantly on the lookout for any bacteria or algae growth.
As I said, saltwater pools are growing in popularity for a number of reasons, which we will detail below. They, too, come in a variety of different sizes, models, and types, yet there are few factors that unite saltwater pools against their chlorinated counterparts. For instance:
Saltwater pools are typically more durable and made out of longer-lasting materials than chlorinated models. This is because they need to be able to withstand the corrosive nature of salt.
Saltwater pools are not actually "chlorine-free," nor are they anything like seawater. Instead, they use a generator to manufacture chlorine from their salt content. Still, this chlorine is only present in levels low enough to keep the water disinfected.
You can expect saltwater pools to be use higher-quality components due to the need to handle a constant barrage from corrosive salt. This means resin will typically be used in the tracks, joiners, and ledges, which will prevent rusting and generally help the pool last longer.
Of course, the main benefits of a saltwater pool are that the water will be much easier on your skin, eyes, and hair. The chemical components will also not be strong enough to fade swimwear or other gear. Another significant "Pro" of saltwater pools is that they require far less maintenance, with the generator itself handling most of the work.
Still, high-quality components don't come free (or cheap, for that matter). Because they are designed to last, saltwater pools tend to cost quite a bit more than chlorinated models. They are also a bit more complex in their function, which means that you'll need to hire a specialized technician nearly every time something goes wrong. Lastly, you can't just purchase any old pool supplies to use with your saltwater pool. Indeed, any lighting, heaters, fixtures, and liners you install will have to be able to resist corrosion for years to come.
As you can see, both types of pools have their benefits and their problems. And while either one would be perfectly suitable for some backyard swim time, there are many factors to consider in making your selection. We'll review them below:
Saltwater pools will require a large up-front investment, while chlorinated pools will generally cost much less. That said, you have to factor upkeep into the equation as well. Where chlorinated pools require a constant flow of chemicals, they can generally be repaired quite easily. Though more hands-off, saltwater pools will likely need a specialist when they break down.
You can expect your saltwater pool and all of its components to last much longer than your traditional chlorinated pool parts. That said, you'll also need to purchase special equipment that can stand up to the salt exposure, which can put an additional dent in your wallet.
With a saltwater pool, you don't have to worry as much about eye, hair, and skin irritation, as the chlorine levels will be much lower. Of course, your pool won't be completely free of chlorine either, so some discomfort is still a possibility.
No matter which type of pool you decide, what matters most is that you consider all the “ins and outs” of your family’s pool experience. In the end, you want to select a pool type that you’ll all be happy with for years. After all, the only way you can guarantee spending too much is tearing down one type of pool to install another.