Standard chlorine pools may be the norm, but there are plenty of good alternative sanitation methods. You may have heard you can use a mineral system to sanitize your swimming pool water, which makes the water healthier and less irritating.
Depending on your skill level and how much time and energy you want to invest in its maintenance, a mineral pool system might not be the best choice. But, if you are willing to try to learn how a mineral system works and put in the work, mineral systems can be very beneficial. Let’s dive in!
- Mineral systems use various chemicals, such as copper, magnesium, and potassium, to sanitize the pool.
- While they are a good option for pool owners willing to invest, they can be pretty expensive to set up and will require a lot of upkeep.
- Mineral systems still need chlorine but much less than standard pools. Standard pools require between 1 and 3 ppm, while mineral pools only need around .5 ppm.
What Is a Pool Mineral System?
A pool mineral system is an alternative sanitizing method for swimming pools. The concept is that you can take advantage of the anti-bacterial properties of silver and copper’s natural ability to kill algae to sanitize the water in your pool. By doing so, you may avoid spending large sums of money on other sanitizing chemicals.
And one of the most significant benefits of using a mineral sanitizer is that although you will need to maintain some sanitizing chemicals in the water, you shouldn’t ever have to deal with the effects of high chlorine levels. Saying goodbye to the harsh smell of chlorine is enough for many pool owners to consider switching to a mineral system.
Pros and Cons of Pool Mineral Systems
Mineral pool systems have their ups and downs. Let’s examine the pros and cons of operating one in your swimming pool.
Mineral sanitizers have some advantages, including being natural and helping reduce the need for sanitizing chemicals.
Helps Reduce Need for Sanitizing Chemicals
Mineral systems can minimize the harsh sanitizing chemicals you need to keep your water safe for swimming. When they are operating correctly, you can expect to need only a small amount of a sanitizing chemical as a supplement.
The process of sanitizing water with silver or copper is not a new concept. In fact, the Romans used silver as a sanitizer thousands of years ago, and they didn’t know it, but their copper-lined aqueducts helped prevent algae from growing as well. Instead of large amounts of bromine or chlorine-killing organics in the water, you will use a mineral system to take advantage of a natural sanitizing process.
Sanitizing system cartridges tend to last for months. So you don’t have to worry about refilling or replacing chemicals for a long time. If you have a sanitizing dispenser that automatically injects a bit of a sanitizing chemical into the water, it’s possible to go weeks without touching anything. You will have to maintain your water’s chemistry, so you still have to test your water about every week.
There are a few downsides to mineral systems. You should know them before investing in a mineral-based sanitizer system.
Mineral systems can seem inexpensive to set up. A complete inline kit with a cartridge will probably run less than $250. But, the hidden costs of sequestrants, non-chlorine shock, and potentially needing to change your water due to excessive levels of chlorine stabilizer or metal buildup can catch you off guard.
You Still Need Chemicals
Even the best mineral sanitizers will need a supplemental chemical to help. Mineral systems take too long to effectively kill algae, so you will still need to maintain an adequate level of either bromine or chlorine.
Metal buildup usually means copper. And where there is copper, there will be oxidation, just like on the Statue of Liberty. So, you need to keep copper levels in check. Otherwise, that same green color will begin to tarnish your pool.
Are Mineral Systems Safe?
The short answer is yes. Mineral systems are safe to operate. And, it is an excellent benefit not to need as much chlorine.
Opening up a container of chlorine and working with it to sanitize your pool can be unpleasant. It has a strong odor and can burn you when you get it on your skin. It is somewhat dangerous to mess with large amounts of chlorine, and when working with it, you want to protect your eyes, skin, and clothes from exposure.
Types of Pool Mineral Systems
Pool mineral systems come in a few different configurations. Some are very simple, and others are a bit more complicated. Let’s look at the three most common setups.
A drop-in mineral system drops right into your skimmer or pump basket. Your pump’s suction will draw the pool’s water through the drop-in basket, exposing the water to the mineral cartridge stored inside the basket. Periodically, you will have to replenish the minerals. Most drop-in models are pretty easy to refill using a replacement cartridge from the manufacturer. Pool RX is a good option here.
A floating system works just as you might suspect. Like the ubiquitous blue and white chlorine dispensers we know and love, a buoyant floater contains a cartridge with your sanitizing minerals. Most floating mineral systems also have a separate compartment for a chlorine tablet to supplement the minerals.
Floating mineral pool systems are more common with smaller-sized pools or spas. They also tend to be used more often with above-ground pools. They can float freely, or you can tether them to ensure they’re always in the stream of your skimmer’s suction or the jet from your returns. However, if your floater sits in the same place for too long and is too close to your liner or other non-color fast features, it’s possible that the chlorine could stain things.
There are many options to choose from here, but FROG makes a pretty good floating dispenser.
This dispenser is really affordable and has a dual cartridge system for minerals and chlorine.
An inline mineral sanitizer is part of the plumbing of your pool. It is a bit more work to set up than a drop-in or floating system. But, a DIYer comfortable with simple PVC repairs can install one easily.
You don’t necessarily have to remove any other components, either. Since mineral systems will periodically require supplementation from chemical sanitizers, you should probably leave any sanitizing equipment in place.
Your inline system will likely have a cartridge that needs to be changed periodically. If you’re interested in these models, check out Nature2, which makes a good inline system.
How to Use and Maintain a Pool Mineral System
To use a mineral system to sanitize your pool, you will need to reduce the chlorine or bromine levels in your pool. For the minerals to work correctly, you will need your chlorine to be less than .5 parts per million (PPM). And, if you use bromine instead of chlorine, you should let it drop to a reading of 1 PPM.
Mineral pool systems introduce metal to your pool’s water by design. You have to be very careful not to create issues by letting metal levels creep up too high. Copper, in particular, is a nuisance in pool water when it reaches a certain level. It can cause severe staining if left unchecked.
Therefore, make sure to test your pool water for all dissolved metals. If any readings are too high, you must use a sequestrant to keep them in check.
One of the reasons there are so many problems with copper is that plumbing in our homes has copper pipes, and we often use our plumbing system to refill our pool. And swimming pool heaters often have copper components too. So, if they begin to break down, they will deposit copper into your pool water.
Typical pools have the following readings for optimal balance. But, you should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. And, when in doubt, I have some helpful guides, like my walkthrough on swimming pool chemistry.
- Calcium hardness: 225-275 PPM (concrete/plaster), 175-225 PPM (vinyl, fiberglass, etc.)
- pH: 7.5
- Total alkalinity: 125 PPM
Now that your water is balanced, your chlorine or bromine levels are correct, and you have ensured that there aren’t excess metals in your water, you are ready to add your minerals and start sanitizing. Once they’re in, you should either write down the date or set a reminder on your schedule to change the cartridge at the appropriate time.
The last step is adding a supplemental dose of chlorine or bromine. Just make sure to maintain the levels specified for the optimum performance of your mineral system.
How to Shock a Pool Mineral System
To shock a pool mineral system, you need to be wary of the chlorine level getting too high. To sanitize the water without disrupting the mineral system, you will probably need to use a non-chlorine product to avoid raising your chlorine level. Non-chlorine products are available in granules, just like regular chlorine.
Keep in mind that to effectively kill an algae bloom, you will need to ensure that the combination of your mineral system, your chlorine or bromine, and your non-chlorine product work together to completely sanitize the water for at least 24 hours. Otherwise, harmful bacteria or other organisms, like algae, will still be alive in the water.
Finding the right balance between the chemicals and the mineral system can be difficult.
Sometimes, it may be more effective to remove your mineral cartridge, shock the pool using chemical sanitizers, and reinstall it after your water is completely sanitized and the chlorine or bromine levels have dropped low enough for it to work.
Don’t forget to ensure that the water is balanced and that you don’t have too many dissolved metals in the water.
Bottom Line: Are Mineral Pools Worth It?
Mineral pool systems are nice in theory. But they can become a tremendous headache for a typical pool owner. It is very easy to get in way over your head, and I don’t mean swimming into the deep end.
The promises of a chlorine-free pool and a lower chemical bill rarely come true. The buildup of copper in your water from your mineral system will likely lead to you needing to eventually either change the water or add sequestrants to isolate the metal and keep it from bonding with or staining your pool. And you will definitely still have to deal with chlorine or bromine.
On the other side of the coin, a mineral sanitizing system that is maintained carefully can yield spectacular results. And when your pool is relatively stable, it might actually be easier to use minerals to sanitize the water. But, if you have a lot of activity in your pool or it is subject to a lot of biotic debris or algae blooms, it is probably less than ideal. Check out my comparisons below for further analysis.
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Whether hiring someone to maintain your pool or doing it yourself, a mineral pool system must regularly receive careful and conscientious maintenance.
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