What’s the Deal with Saltwater Pools?

Having a pool is a lot of fun, and some work. And that’s already a pretty good balance by me. But pool water is also notoriously irritating—and I don’t just mean when you don’t want to be splashed. Without the right chemical balance, chlorinated pool water can cause your eyes, skin, and throat to react in less than happy ways. Plus, the water can be tough on that new swimsuit—and if you have blond hair, actually turn it green. Whoops.

But what if I told you that you can have a pool that’s even lower maintenance, with less noxious water, and you don’t even have to start from scratch? Here I’ll explain everything you’ve wanted to know about saltwater pools, weigh the pros and cons of making the switch, and bust some myths while I’m at it.

Give It To Me Straight: What Exactly Is a Saltwater Pool?

You didn’t think we found a total chlorine workaround, did you? It’s common to assume that a saltwater pool doesn’t use any chlorine, but it actually does—in fact, the difference is that it produces chlorine on-site, and only as much as is needed.

Basically, a saltwater pool uses a salt cell—which is added to your greater circulation system—to make chlorine. Not only does this mean you’ll never have to remember how to chlorinate your pool again, but it also means that your pool will have super stable, super low chlorine levels. There’s so little chemicals, you’ll hardly know they’re there. Cool, right?

Why Would I Want a Saltwater Pool, Anyway? 

So you haven’t had a chance to swim in a saltwater pool lately and feel the difference, huh? Don’t worry, it’s simple: a saltwater pool has less irritating water. But these pools are a favorite of swimmers and pool owners alike, because they’re also easier to maintain and cut down costs over time.

Looking for the most affordable and reliable way to convert to a saltwater pool? The Salt Ways Eco-Friendy Salt Water Generator is the most cost-effective model on the market, comes with a lifetime warranty, and is self-regenerating—so no need to stock up on either chlorine or salt. 

Saltwater in your pool

Gentler, Softer Water for a Smooth Swim

Although saltwater pools use the same type of chlorine that you’d find in any chlorine pool, the fact that there’s less of it, that it’s super stable, and that its complemented by salt all work together to make the water similar to the salinity of the human tear duct. The result? No stinging eyes, skin, nose, or throat.

Want to dive even deeper? When chlorine is unstable, it creates what is called a chloramine when it attacks a contaminant in your pool (you might’ve learned about this in the crash course about pool shock). After the contaminants themselves, chloramines are the bad guys of your pool. They’re super irritant to your body, they smell like chemicals, and they work to limit how much work chlorine can do. That’s why pool shock is so important. But unlike a chlorine pool, the stable chlorine of a saltwater pool helps to prevent the creation of chloramines. So that’s one step effectively skipped. Nice!

Once You Start Up, Saltwater’s Easier to Maintain

Are you all about the DIY approach, but constantly feeling strapped for time? A saltwater pool might be the solution. You’ll still need to vacuum your pool (or use a robotic cleaner like my top recommended model, the Blue Torrent MyBot In Ground Robotic Pool Cleaner), and check that everything is operating properly, as well as routinely clean your equipment—this isn’t quite the world of The Jetsons. Yet.

You’ll also still need to check your chemical levels, but here’s the thing: the amount of chemicals you need to check up on will be seriously reduced, and can be looked at less frequently—even up to two weeks.

Save Money Over Time

Now you know that there is some maintenance involved in keeping up that new, shiny saltwater pool. But since there are significantly less factors to maintain, such as chemicals themselves. The salt that you’ll need to add to your system is wildly inexpensive—in fact, if your pool is properly maintained, it’ll cost less than $100 a year in salt and chemicals, whereas a chlorine pool typically costs between $300 and $800. Cha ching.

What Are the Drawbacks of a Saltwater Pool? 

While saltwater pools are pretty great, they’re not without inconveniences. Because the greater circulation system can be a little more complicated with the addition of the salt cell, it might be harder to fix any problem that arises without calling in a professional. Plus, they take a little more energy to run than a chlorine pool—what amounts to about $35-$50 a year. That’s what I’d call a minor inconvenience, especially if you have a variable-speed pump.

Although saltwater pools are cheaper than chlorinated pools over time—and that’s a big deal if you’re thinking long term like I recommend—there’s also a major up-front cost to get your saltwater pool converted: a saltwater generator costs between $400 and $1,800 and the installation can be $300 to $500, unless you can do it yourself. Plus, you’ll want to install a sacrificial anode on the equipment, which only an electrician should do for safety purposes. This will keep your system from corroding due to salt exposure.

My recommendation? Get a salt chlorine generator you can trust, like the Salt Ways Eco Friendly Salt Chlorine Generator, which is the most cost-effective model on the market and comes with a lifetime warranty. Plus, it self-regenerates, meaning you won’t have to buy chlorine or salt ever again. Why wouldn’t you make maintenance as easy as can be?

Myth 1: My Saltwater Pool Will Be Free of Chlorine

I’ve already touched on this—but since it’s the biggest myth about saltwater pools out there, I want to make it crystal clear. All saltwater pools have chlorine. However, it’s such a stable amount of chlorine that you’ll hardly detect it in the water. Plus, you’ll never have to actually distribute chlorine or other sanitizing chemicals to your pool. The salt generator—installed between your pool filter and the pool itself—will take care of that.

Myth 2: With a Saltwater Pool, I Won’t Need a Pool Filter

If only! As with any other type of pool, you’ll still need to have the right pool filter for you. This is because while a saltwater pool keeps chlorine super stable, it doesn’t magically vanish contaminants. Once bacteria is neutralized (that’s one nice way of saying killed), it still has to exit your pool somehow. Plus, there’s also microscopic bits of contaminants and debris throughout your water that your pool vacuum will miss—especially if they float up from the pool floor. It’s just better to keep them far, far away from you and your fellow swimmers.

Myth 3: Saltwater Pool Water Smells Strong and Tastes Like Salt

When you imagine owning a saltwater pool, you might assume that it’s like having a little piece of the ocean in your backyard. It’s not—and that’s a good thing. A saltwater pool won’t dry out your hair, make you smell like salt, and cover you in sand. As a swimmer, this pool type couldn’t be more convenient. 

And no, it doesn’t taste like salt, either—but you shouldn’t be drinking it anyway! And by the way, that includes your pets, too. This is not a water source for Fido, for his sake and yours—the last thing you want to deal with is a dog’s stomachache. I’ll leave it at that.

If you’re interested in saving the cost of operation significantly over time, the first thing to do is get a variable-speed pump. The 1.5 HP Blue Torrent Thunder Variable Speed In-Ground Pump is the way to go: it comes with a lifetime warranty, is available for rebates, and pays itself off in under a year. As customer Brian Turner says, “delighted with the purchase… first class service.” 

Myth 4: Switching to Saltwater Will Wreck My Pool

This one is a partial myth—unless you take some precautions, converting your pool to saltwater might introduce rust. My recommendation is to get a sacrificial anode, which is a zinc cell that takes on the damage that would otherwise hit the parts around it. You’ll want a professional electrician for this—as you probably know by now, electricity and water aren’t recommended for a novice’s first try. Yowch.

It’s also best to avoid all steel, aluminum, or metal inside and nearby your pool, and invest in a vinyl pool liner if you have an above-ground pool.

Myth 5: Saltwater Pools Need No Maintenance

Oh, boy. Saltwater pools need less maintenance for sure, and they require maintenance less frequently, but they absolutely need consistent care. And when you have a saltwater pool, you might have less chemicals to worry about. But you still need to make sure your:

- pH levels are between 7.2 and 7.8

- Free chlorine is between 1 and 3 parts per million (ppm)

- Salinity level is between 3,000 and 3,500 ppm

- Stabilizer is between 70 and 80 ppm

- Calcium is between 200 and 400 ppm

It’s not a lot, but it certainly does take some time. Make sure to check your levels every other week. Still sound like a lot? Compare that to the frequency of maintaining a chlorinated pool... that’s half! 

Take It With a Grain of Salt

So you decided a saltwater pool is the way to go. That’s great, and after you get your saltwater generator, you’ll never regret it. Now you can enjoy smooth, relaxing swims—all without any of the drawbacks of chlorine. And the next time your hair changes color, it’ll be because you wanted it to. That’s all the more reason to swim and keep swimming. Enjoy.


Related articles:

Sand in Your Pool? Here’s Why—And How to Fix It

Chlorinate Your Pool in Three Easy Steps

The Safest Way to Store Your Above Ground Pool For Winter

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