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One of the first questions we ask prospective customers when they enquire about a new pool is what type of water they would like to swim in. Nine times out of ten the answer is the same: salt. When asked why, the reasons are invariably the same. “My friend has one.” “Salt water pools require no maintenance.” “I want the experience of swimming at the beach.”
Now I don’t know about you, but my memories of swimming at the beach aren’t all that rosy. Frizzy, dry hair and skin, stinging eyes, faded bathers and the need to have a shower after swimming are not the attributes I’d want in my new pool. I’d prefer to have perfect skin and hair, clear eyes, bathers that last at least a few months, and avoid showering after every dip. So what are your water options?
Salt vs. Ionic
Every pool has a filtration system of some kind including a filter (sand or cartridge) and a pump (motor). A filtration system circulates the pool water. Every pool needs to be regularly tested and balanced to ensure safe and crystal clear water and to also comply with warranty conditions on both the pool and equipment. “Balancing,” means that the pH, Total Alkalinity, chlorine, stabiliser, calcium and metals are tested in the water before specialised products are added to ensure these levels are maintained within ideal parameters.
If the pool owner doesn’t want to manually add chlorine or sanitise the pool manually (to keep their chlorine level within the ideal parameter), they can choose to incorporate a sanitisation system in with their filtration system on the pool to automatically generate chlorine or some form of sanitiser.
The most common sanitisation systems are:
- Liquid Chlorine and Liquid Acid Feeder (commonly known as a Chemigem)
- Salt Chlorination System
- Mineral System
- Ionic Fresh Water System
Ionic Fresh Water System
If you want to avoid the hassle of washing salt off everything after you swim, then we recommend opting to have an Ionic Purifier in your Albatross Pool. An Ionic Purifier delivers a natural ‘soft’ feel to the water akin to freshwater. The Ioniser is an effective sanitisation system that releases controlled amounts of silver and copper into the pool water via electrolysis. Silver is a powerful disinfectant that prevents bacteria forming in the water, while copper inhibits algae growth. The presence of the silver/copper mixture creates a neutral water balance that effectively reduces the amount of chemical maintenance required throughout the year. As an added bonus, the Ionic Purifier is not affected by water temperature or swimmer usage, meaning a fresher, natural feeling pool year round. As chlorine is required in all pools, we recommend the use of an Inline Tablet when using the Ionic System. This will help circulate a small amount of chlorine throughout the pool.
An Ionic system is also a preventative system as copper and silver prevents algae and bacteria from even forming whereas chlorine/salt kills algae and bacteria once they are present in the pool water. An Ionic system is also ideal if garden beds are close by the pool, as water that splashes out of the pool (kids having fun…or even adults!) won’t kill the plants like chlorine/salt will. The water from an Ionic pool will not leave a residue on the surrounding pool paving and glass pool fencing whereas salt leaves a white residue, which is the dried out salt itself.
Salt Chlorination System
Contrary to the marketing spiel, salt chlorinated pools are not the ‘set-and-forget’ miracle pool of your dreams. A lot of monitoring, maintenance and money goes into the daily running of a salt pool and could find you ruing the day it ever landed in your yard!
While cleverly marketed as being able to swim at the beach at home, it is somewhat of a misconception and the truth is a little left of centre. Many salt chlorinated pools are sold to owners as maintenance free systems. This often leads to salt pool owners becoming complacent and only maintaining the pool’s salt level. Doing this will lead to great amounts of chlorine being produced, but none of the other essential levels that are fundamental to swimmer comfort and safety such as pH, Total Alkalinity, Calcium and Stabiliser.
A salt water pool requires constant monitoring, especially during the heavy summer usage period. For example, during the peak of summer an average sized pool (8 x 4m) would need 1 bag of salt per week. Unfortunately there is no home test kit to monitor the salt level in the pool. You must employ the expertise of the local pool shop which is an additional ownership cost that needs to be factored in.
While you may relish the thought of swimming in a salt water pool, you may very well be sick of the sight of salt by the time you conduct your regular maintenance! The process involved in creating the salt water environment is complicated and a fine balancing act to ensure optimum swimming conditions.
Some of the technical aspects include:
- Adding 20-25kg of pool salt to the pool. As it dissolves it passes over the salt cell and through a process of electrolysis; the dissolved salt is turned into sodium hypochlorite (also commonly known as liquid chlorine – the big blue 15L drums you may see at a Bunnings or Mitre10).
- Sodium hypochlorite is the main ingredient in household bleach. Think about that for a minute!
- Sodium hypochlorite has a pH of about 13ppm, whereas your eyes/skin/hair require a neutral pH of 7.4ppm, hence the need to constantly add liquid acid or dry acid to bring the pH down.
- Effective pH dosing systems can be incorporated into the salt chlorination system but the probes need to be serviced regularly to ensure the right amount of acid is being added to the pool.
It is a fact of life that people who live in countries where winter brings snow, often find themselves renewing their cars faster than those who live in warmer climes. The reason for this is often found in a particular road safety method called ‘gritting’. This is where councils spray a salt-based mix on to the roads to dissolve the fallen snow and give vehicles safer passage. The downside is in the salt. It literally eats your car over time. Salt is corrosive and your pool will not be spared its wrath! Due to its pH and aggressive nature, salt can cause maintenance problems for your surrounding plants and paving. Salt delaminates sandstone and after only a few years can cause damage as seen below.
Salt can also cause headaches for those with tiled, pebble and concrete pools as seen below.
As mentioned earlier, high levels of chlorine are often produced by unbalanced salt water pools. Chlorine has a wonderfully unwanted ability to deteriorate all pool surfaces, whether they are concrete, pebble, tiled, fiberglass, the PVC membrane and the gel coat. It also plays havoc with the internals of gas heaters. While not intended to send you running for the hills at the thought of owning a salt water pool, it goes to show that there are many factors of salt water pool ownership that are often conveniently omitted from the sales brochure.
What about Mineral Pools
Salt is a type of mineral and therefore most mineral pools (magnesium for example) are subjected to the same inherent problems attributed to salt based systems.
While a salt system is a great system that many pool owners opt for, it’s not as maintenance free as everyone assumes and certainly has additional expenditure and harmful repercussions for the pool internals and surrounds. In saying that, while we will always promote the benefits of an Ionic Purifier we also encourage customers to explore all options before settling on their water type. A swimming pool will be an integral part of your family’s time together for many years to come and extensive research should be conducted to avoid impacting the enjoyment of your new pool. All information supplied in this article is intended as a guide only and we strongly encourage customers to conduct further investigation into every available option.
As a business we choose products for our customers based on close to 50 years of experience and knowledge and we also choose products that provide value both short and long term for the pool owner. In an Ioniser’s case, we recommend it as it is gentle on the swimmer and will not shorten the life span of the pool equipment, the pool and all of its surrounds. Salt chlorinators are just marketed very well – they do require maintenance, they shorten the lifespan of the pool equipment and the surrounding area, and by no means is it like the salt from the beach.