Salt Water vs. Chlorinated Pools

by Sandra Franks on January 4, 2012

Comparing the pros and cons of two popular swimming pool treatment options

If you’re on the market for a pool, choosing a water treatment system is not only a big decision, it can be extremely confusing. When I bought my new pool, I consulted the various Houston pool builders around my area to discuss the many water treatment system options for my new pool. I found out that the most popular were salt water system vs. a chlorine or bromine systems, and that both lend to the proper maintenance of the chemical levels in your pool’s water, creating a safe and comfortable swimming environment.  I also found out that both salt water pools and chlorine pools have pros and cons associated with them, such as:

The pros of chlorine/bromine pools

  • Chlorinated pools use easy chlorine sticks or tablets and bromine tablets to sanitize the water in pools and spas
  • The sticks and tabs are placed in a pool feeder tank, which that holds the tablets in place until the tablets fully dissolve into the pool’s water
  • Chlorine is an effective bacteria killer and it keeps pool water sanitized and clean
  • Although chlorine is a powerful chemical—it’s completely safe when used at proper levels
  • Chlorine kills bacteria instantly when added to water—and it continues to kill bacteria that may be introduced by new bathers long after it was added

The cons of chlorine/bromine pools

  • Chlorine tablets cost more—approximately $60 or more per bucket
  • Chlorine pools maintenance takes more time and patience
  • Chlorinated water can damage the surrounding environment—the soil, drinking water and plants
  • Changes in temperature, number of swimmers, sunlight and weather will require “shocking” the pool system with chemicals to destroy bacteria and algae
  • Chlorine will eventually damage pool components—such as vinyl liners, automated pool covers and solar covers
  • Over-chlorinating can cause itchy eyes, green hair and a chemical smell on the skin

The pros of salt water pools

  • An electric salt water system generator supplies a constant level of chlorine to a pool
  • Salt is dissolved in the pool water to destroy bacteria, viruses and algae, then turns back in to dissolved salt and dissipates in to the water
  • Salt water creates a more balanced comfortable environment for swimmers
  • Salt water experiences fewer fluctuations in water pH levels
  • The pool water does not cause burning, itching, dry skin, or green hair
  • Salt water smells and tastes better
  • A salt water pool is a lot cheaper over time because you do not have to add chlorine tablets to the water—and salt costs, on average, $20 per summer
  • It’s less time consuming to maintain a salt water pool as the control system regulates the water levels on its own
  • You can go away on vacation by setting up your salt water pool system on a timer
  • Salt water pools are the safer option for pets and kids

The cons of salt water pools

  • A salt water system still utilizes chlorine—salt is put into the electronic chlorine generator, which turns salt into chlorine
  • Salt water systems are initially more expensive to maintain
  • Salt water pools require frequent pH and calcium level checks
  • Salt water is unhealthy for the environment, causing soil and drinking water problems and killing plants
  • In fact, backwash from salt water pools can kill plant life and sterilize soil and is prohibited in many U.S. states
  • Changes in temperature, number of swimmers, sunlight and weather will still require “shocking” the pool system
  • Salt water may damage or cause fading on pool components—such as vinyl liners and pool covers
  • In warmer climates a salt water system may not be strong enough to fight bacteria and water can turn sludgy

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