The Pros and Cons of Saltwater vs. Chlorine Pools

Fenced in backyard swimming pool with a yellow slide

Understanding the difference between saltwater vs. chlorine pool systems is vital to maintaining safer pool water. Pools require sanitation to keep the water clear, clean, and protected from biological contamination. As the two most popular sanitation system types on the market, understanding the benefits of a saltwater pool vs. chlorine sanitizer helps you make a more informed decision about your water conditioning and the long-term cost of operating a swimming pool. Whether you’re installing a new pool or thinking about switching to a new sanitation system, we have the details you need to make the right choice for your swimming lifestyle.

The Importance of Sanitation

Balancing swimming pool water chemistry

When you own a pool, you have to become pretty adept at applied chemistry. Large, relatively still bodies of water can start to stagnate fast, attracting vermin and allowing algae and other biological contaminants to proliferate. While the filtration and circulation system helps, you also need the right balance of chemicals to adjust the quality of the water to keep it safe and comfortable to swim in. That means adjusting the pH balance, hardness, and alkalinity and then sanitizing the entire volume. If done properly, the result is clear water that feels good on the skin and actively fights off contamination.

All About Chlorine

Both of these systems rely on chlorine as the sanitizing agent, but they arrive at the desired sanitizer levels in different manners. When we’re talking about saltwater vs. chlorine pools, we really mean saltwater vs. directly introduced refined and processed chlorine. 

  • Saltwater Pools – In chemistry, a salt is created when a positively and negatively charged ion bond together to create a neutral compound. Saltwater pools use a chlorine salt–similar to the table salt we use to season our food–suspended in water. This saltwater is passed between charged plates inside your sanitation system, breaking these ionic bonds so that the necessary chlorine is freed from the salt to sanitize your pool’s water.
  • Chlorine Pools – This is the traditional style of pool water sanitation that requires checking your water quality and then adding the appropriate amount of concentrated chlorine to ensure your chlorine levels are high enough to fight off contamination.

If you’re just interested in sanitation when it comes to the benefits of saltwater pools vs. chlorine introduced directly, both will get the job done. Each system is trusted by tens of thousands of pool owners who rely on it to keep bacteria in check. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re exactly the same.

Adding Chlorine is Fast and Easy

Chlorine tablets sitting next to a swimming pool

One of the benefits of direct chlorine vs. saltwater pools is that you can easily make adjustments, and as soon as the water has circulated–usually in around four hours–you can enter the pool. Saltwater chlorine generation takes two to three times as long–up to twelve hours! If you’re expecting guests and need to make a last-minute adjustment, direct chlorine will get your pool ready faster.

Saltwater Generation Can Smell Better

Chlorine generated from saltwater produces fewer chloramines–the chlorine-related compounds that create the heavy chemical smell sometimes associated with overly treated swimming pools. Along with the smell, chloramines are rougher on your skin and hair, so lower concentrations are definitely a plus.

Climate is a Factor

If you plan on keeping your pool active during months with colder days, a chlorine pool vs. a saltwater pool may be the better choice. Saltwater chlorine generation requires temperatures of at least 60℉ for the chemical reaction that breaks the chlorine free from the salt. This means using the pool in the fall or early spring can be difficult.

Cost Distribution

Chlorine vs. saltwater pools distribute your cost of pool upkeep differently. Chlorine pools require constant, ongoing sanitizer treatments, requiring the regular purchase of chemicals and testing supplies. Saltwater pools just require the salt as an ongoing expense–a relatively low-cost additive–however, the generation apparatus that converts the salt represents a larger up-front expenditure. Only you can weigh the cost benefits of saltwater pools vs. chlorine additives as it relates to your budget.

Complexity Can Be Costly

Along with the higher upfront costs of your saline system, there are more parts to break down. Should repair be needed, these repairs may prove costly for your saltwater pool vs. a chlorine pool, where you just need to revamp your chemicals.

Make Safety a Priority

While both sanitation systems can help you keep your water safer, you still need to protect your friends, family, and pets from unsupervised access that could lead to accidental drownings. Drowning injuries take thousands of lives annually and send tens of thousands more people to emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and doctors’ offices. Safety barriers save lives by blocking access to the pool area or the surface of the water. 

  • Removable Mesh Pool Fencing – Featuring strong poles and a rip-resistant mesh that deters climbing, these fences protect your pool area but move completely out of the way when you need more space for parties.
  • Pool Safety Nets – Safety nets are anchored around the edge of your pool and tensioned to keep potential drowning victims up and out of the water. Pets and kids have trouble navigating the net, becoming captured near the edge so they can be helped to safety.

Get Your Free Quote

Whether you choose the benefits of saltwater vs. chlorine pool sanitation systems, there’s no obligation when you take the first steps toward a safer swimming pool and request your free quote. Your local pool safety expert is just down the street and will set a time to visit with you about your swimming needs, take measurements, and create a tailored written quote that lays out your pool protection options. Get your free estimate from Lifeguard on Duty today.

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