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Plunge Into Salt Water Pools

By Tom Saxton Rise Writer
Jul 12, 2021

The summer heat is dialing up here in North America. For some, this is when desires for a private pool lurk into the mind. Or perhaps you are on the hunt for an alternative to convert your existing pool to. 

Pools offer tremendous value in their ability to help a working mind relax and feel like you are on vacation while in your own backyard. But, they can utilize chemicals that can potentially have negative health implications for some. For decades, the standard option has been chlorine-treated pools. But, newer alternatives are out there, like salt electrolysis, biguanidebromine, ultraviolet, and even natural and living pools. Some pools use a combination of treatment techniques to combat harmful pathogen establishment in the water. This article is going to cover saltwater pools. Let's dive in.


What Are Salt Water Pools?

A saltwater pool is a chlorine pool, in essence. The chemical created by the salt-chlorine generator is the same as that produced by straight chlorine treatments. Salt pools convert salt into chlorine by passing salty water through electrically charged metal plates. Still, chlorine levels can be slightly decreased overall compared to conventional chlorine systems. You don't need to use concentrated chlorine to fill the chemical feeder regularly. With these systems, you add salt, and the salt-chlorine generator does the rest. A saltwater pool still uses other chemicals similar to those of standard chlorine pools as well. 

Feet Pool

How Long Do Salt Water Pools Last?

It comes down to how much regular maintenance and upkeep you do, more so than the system itself. Salt cells often only have a 3-5 year lifespan, after which they reduce their chlorine output potential. Replacement cells can be costly. Lifespan can be extended with regular cleaning of the salt cells in the generator with a mild acid solution to dissolve calcium scale that accumulates on the energized metal plates. Some advanced but more expensive salt generator systems are self-cleaning. 


Is a Salt Water Pools More Expensive?

Salt and chlorine systems, both maintained regularly, have similar costs over the long term. A saltwater pool has a higher initial cost, but this is offset by the need to buy chlorine chemicals for a chlorine system regularly.

Pools are a lot of work to maintain, and it's going to cost you money. Before you consider a pool, take a realistic look at the cost and time involved.

Are There Any Salt Water Pool Health Risks?

Saltwater pools are not chlorine-free. The filters convert salt to chlorine through electrolysis. This process could slightly reduce the overall chlorine content compared to chlorine-treated pools. Therefore, you can reduce the risks of potential side effects from exposure to chlorine with a saltwater system.

You will likely need all the additional chemicals used in chlorine-treated pools in a saltwater pool, just not the straight chlorine itself. These chemicals could include cyanuric acid, pH balancers, algaecides, clarifiers, or occasionally sanitizers like chlorine tabs. Often the same chemicals used to shock the pool are used in chlorine pools. At a chemical level, the two are more similar than you might initially expect. Many still argue that the need for these chemicals is reduced with a saltwater pool versus chlorine.

Legs Pool

What are the Pros of a Salt Water Pool?

The consensus is generally that salt pools require less weekly to monthly maintenance than a chlorine pool. The initial cost for salt generators and necessary repairs and replacements are expensive but infrequent. A chlorine system has a lower upfront cost but requires more minor charges, and chlorine is typically more costly than salt. Salt systems are generally less harsh on your skin and aren't as drying as chlorine pools. The high salt content can leave the skin feeling soft. Salt pools also leave less of a chlorine smell on your skin after getting out of the pool. 

From a chemical perspective, while salt pools are very similar to chlorine-treated pools, they can potentially require less chemical use overall. This reduction results in a safer operation because you don't need to handle chlorine products as frequently, outside of periodically shocking your pool. Some salt pool owners have claimed they experience a more stable pH than chlorine-treated pools, which means fewer chemicals are needed to balance. 

What are the Cons of a Salt Water Pool?

Salt generators are a higher upfront cost and can have a short lifespan of 3-5 years. They also require more electricity to function. You will consume more energy and have higher utility bills. Depending on the source of your electricity, the ecological footprint of greater energy use can range drastically. 

Salt can corrode and fade certain types of metals and rubbers. You'll want specific appliances designed for saltwater, and a little bit of regular maintenance will dramatically extend their lifespan. Salt can also potentially damage areas surrounding the pool like tile or certain types of stone. Install a sealant over these if near a saltwater pool. 

Salt generators often can't produce chlorine if temperatures are below 60° F/15° C. You'll want chlorine treatments for times when the temperature drops.

How Can You Reduce Energy Use With Salt Water Pools?

To reduce energy consumption, pool owners can run pumps less frequently while still running enough to keep algae from growing in the pool. You can program variable speed pumps to meet specific requirements for your pool and run as needed. Salt generators can only run as necessary to maintain the minimum level of chlorine required to reduce algae growth. Try to purchase ENERGY STAR-rated pumps. 

Home energy monitoring systems can help determine how much power is consumed by individual appliances like pool filters.


Weigh the pros and cons carefully, and remember there are options beyond salt pools. Always remember that clean freshwater is the scarcest natural resource we have on the planet. As our population grows, our water demands increase simultaneously; many areas are being polluted more and more. Water must be respected, conserved, and used efficiently. You can consider options that use less water, like DIY stock tank pools or container pools too! If you decide to install a pool, please follow suggestions on how to reduce your impact. 

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-12T19:28:37+0000
Tom Saxton

Article by:

Tom Saxton

Based in Washington State, Tom's education focuses on holistic land management that sustainably grows renewable building materials in a way that replenishes natural systems. His interest is in building systems that combine old techniques and modern science.