If not maintained properly, traditional chlorine-based pools can be complicated and costly. For any folks concerned with potential health risks, there are alternatives out there.
Maybe you’ve heard about a chemical-free pool but aren’t quite sure what it is or how it works. After all, the idea doesn’t even sound possible. But not only is a chemical-free pool a legitimate option, in many cases it’s cleaner, cheaper, and easier to maintain than other types of home swimming pools.
Let’s take a closer look at whether a chemical-free pool is something you may want to consider.
Chlorine: The Traditional Way to Keep a Swimming Pool Clean
We’ve all experienced that burning irritation from swimming in a pool that has too much chlorine. Red eyes, bleached hair, itchy skin, and other unwanted maladies quickly ruin the fun. What is chlorine, anyway, and why does it cause these problems?
Chlorine is the most popular chemical for pool cleaning. It’s used to kill germs in personal pools, public pools, and venues such as water parks. While chlorine is effective at removing germs, it also has an unwanted side effect.
Chlorine binds with human waste, such as sweat and urine. Binding creates new chemicals called chloramines. These chloramines are the main cause of problems. Along with dichloramine and trichloramine, they create a gas that rises from the water into the air. It’s this gas that irritates skin, eyes, and lungs.
According to the CDC, most health departments across the nation limit the amount of chlorine in a pool to 0.4 ppm or less. Achieving the correct balance is difficult, and depends to a certain extent on the number of people in the pool.
Does Chlorine Cause Health Problems?
Anyone who has spent time in an overly-chlorinated pool knows that it’s unpleasant on your eyes and skin. Unfortunately, that’s not the worst potential problem. Several studies show that exposure to chlorine in a pool can dramatically reduce lung function. The issues are especially pronounced in indoor pools but can occur anywhere near a chlorinated body of water.
Ultimately, while chlorine can keep your pool germ-free, you’re exposing everyone who swims in it to potential health problems.
Salt Water Pools: A Potential Alternative?
It’s easy to understand why many people want to stay away from chlorinated pools. One popular alternative is a saltwater pool. As the name suggests, these are pools that use saltwater instead of fresh.
Saltwater pools do have a few advantages over traditional pools, such as:
- They require low levels of chlorine
- You don’t need to store a large number of chemicals at your house
- The saltwater has a soft feel that some people like
However, if you’re like most people, you’ve probably never heard of a saltwater pool. That’s because they have some significant disadvantages, such as:
- They’re typically far more expensive than traditional pools
- They’re often incredibly complex to maintain
- Even minor problems are often expensive and complicated to fix
The saltwater limits the materials you can use on the lighting, fixtures, masonry, and more
While a saltwater pool is better for your health than a traditional one, it’s often too expensive and too complicated for most homeowners.
What are Chemical-Free Pools?
If you’re not familiar with chemical-free pools, the concept might seem strange at first. After all, what separates a chemical-free pool from, say, a pond or a lake?
In reality, chemical-free pools use a fairly sophisticated system to keep your pool free from algae, viruses, and other unwanted debris. They’re incredibly clean.
Chemical-free pools have a system (commonly known as pool ionizers) that creates copper ionization and liquid oxidation, two sanitizing agents. It works with freshwater and requires no chlorine.
A Closer Look at How a Chemical-Free Pool Works
As the pump in your pool runs, the chemical-free system creates oxygen electrodes. As water passes through the pressure line, the oxygen electrodes deliver a non-chemical shock to the water. That’s how the pool is kept clean on a daily basis.
Once a week, you perform additional maintenance. After testing the water’s pH and copper levels, you turn on the Electronic Control Unit. It ionizes the pool water for four to eight hours. During the ionization process, copper is dispersed throughout your pool. The cooper destroys viruses and removes algae.
How to Maintain a Chemical-Free Pool
The process involves chemical reactions related to oxygen and copper. It’s not terribly complicated, but the good news is you don’t need to know exactly how it works to enjoy the benefits.
When you own a chemical-free pool, regular maintenance involves two steps:
Most of the time, you don’t have to do anything. The oxygen electrodes automatically shock your water to help keep it clean.
Adding copper to the week should be done once a week. It requires a simple press of a button to activate. You have to stay out of the pool for four to eight hours, but otherwise, you don’t have to do anything.
A chemical-free pool is easy to maintain, but that’s not the main benefit.
Chemical-Free Pools: Are They Safe?
They’re incredibly safe. Their complete lack of harsh and dangerous chemicals, such as chlorine, is one of their main benefits.
The water in a chemical-free pool is set to EPA national standards for safe drinking water. It’s the only type of pool where you can safely drink the water. However, we wouldn’t recommend it since you have a lot of people going in and out of the pool.
The copper introduced to the water is minimal and poses no health risk. Approximately two gallons of water contains about the same amount of copper found in a standard multi-vitamin. While you’ll swallow some water when swimming in a pool, most people don’t swallow anywhere near two gallons (and even if you did, it wouldn’t cause any harm).
How Do Chemical-Free Pools Compare to Traditional and Salt Water Pools?
Chemical-free pools have a lot to like. They’re easy and inexpensive to maintain. Plus, the water is clean and pleasant. It’s similar in taste and texture to bottled water.
They’re especially ideal for indoor pools. As discussed above, chlorinated indoor pools pose a substantial risk to lung health. For people with asthma, seniors, or anyone with a compromised immune system, a chemical-free indoor pool is a far safer option compared to a traditional pool.
The Costs of Maintaining a Chemical-Free Pool
Chemical-free pools are often the more economical option over the long-term. You’ll likely save in a few ways, such as:
- You no longer need to purchase chemicals to sanitize or kill algae
- You don’t have to run your pump as often, which helps lower your power consumption
- You only need to replace the water (backwash) your pool twice a month
Actual savings will vary due to pool size, frequency of use, and other factors. However, most people end up saving money overall.
Not many people have heard of chemical pools, but some of the major brands such as EcoSmarte have been around for over 20 years. You don’t have to deal with the hassle of chlorine, or subject yourself to its potential health risks. Chemical-free pools are an economical, effective, and safe alternative.
Questions about chemical-free pools? Shoot us a message and we’ll be happy to help.