Salt Water vs. Traditional Chlorine Pool: Pros and Cons

If you’re in the market for a new swimming pool, then you probably already know there are an overwhelming number of choices to choose from. Everything from your pool’s design and construction to how to maintain it will affect how your pool is run. So it isn’t easy to know what’s right for you.

As far as the general system for your pool goes, there are two options: chlorine pools and saltwater pools.

While traditional chlorine pools rely on chemicals and a pool filtration system to keep the water in tip-top shape, a saltwater pool uses a salt water generator to sanitize the water.

Both saltwater and chlorine have their benefits and drawbacks, but if you’re on the fence, here’s what you should know about each type.


Main Takeaways

  • Saltwater pools use fewer chemicals but are more expensive to install initially.
  • Chlorine pools are more time-consuming and costly to maintain.

A Quick Glimpse at Saltwater Pros and Cons

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of how these two types of pools compare, let’s look at the pros and cons you can expect from a saltwater pool:

Pros

  • There’s less chlorine in the pool, so it’s gentler on your skin and eyes
  • The chlorine shouldn’t fade or ruin your swimsuit
  • There are fewer chemicals involved in the upkeep of a saltwater pool, making it cheaper to run

Cons

  • Saltwater systems tend to be more expensive initially, so they require a more significant investment
  • Since saltwater has the potential to cause damage over time, you’ll need to purchase the right fixtures, lighting, and heaters
  • You might have to call in a licensed professional to work on the pool for any minor issues, as saltwater systems are much more complicated to fix
  • They are not as efficient in the cold weather

A Quick Glimpse at Chlorine Pros and Cons

Traditional chlorine pools leave salt out of the equation, but they still come with their pros and cons:

Pros

  • The initial investment is less than a saltwater system
  • There’s less electricity and energy involved in maintaining a chlorine pool
  • While you can choose to hire a professional to work on your chlorine pool, it is easy to do a lot of minor repairs yourself

Cons

  • Chemicals like chlorine can be harsh on your eyes and skin
  • Along with making sure the chlorine levels are in the proper range and being on the lookout for bacteria, pool owners frequently need to add balancing agents to the chlorine
  • You’ll need a particular area to store the chlorine so that it doesn’t soak up moisture until you’re ready to use it

Putting it All Together

Here is a summary of the pros and cons of each type of pool:

Saltwater Pools Chlorine Pools
Initially more expensive Initially less expensive
There’s less chlorine and chemicals to irritate your skin and eyes The chemical composition of a chlorine pool could lead to eye infections or irritated skin
All repairs require a professional You can do some of the minor repairs yourself

Keep in mind that these are just general guidelines. This comparison doesn’t cover the specific details and what factors might influence cost or maintenance. Keep reading if you want the approximate numbers related to cost, regular maintenance, and even health and safety.

Which Pool Is More Expensive?

Initial cost: Saltwater pools

Ongoing cost: Chlorine pools

It’s hard to nail down a specific answer since the cost of your pool can depend on location and construction materials. However, most homeowners will find that saltwater pools are almost always significantly more expensive to install.

This has to do with the salt chlorine generator in saltwater pools. These generators by themselves can cost up to $2,500 or more – and that’s on top of any other costs you’ll incur while building and installing the pool in your backyard.

However, when it comes to long-term numbers, this is where a saltwater pool can save you some money. Once you’ve got the salt chlorine generator, your annual operating costs for maintaining the pool should only be around $100 to $400. Salt shouldn’t run you more than a few hundred dollars, but you’ll probably see an increase in your energy bill.

Keep in mind that one expense you’ll have with a saltwater pool is replacing the cells in the generator. This can cost you anywhere from $200 to $700, but you shouldn’t need to replace cells more than every few years.

These annual costs can add up, but they seem pretty reasonable in comparison to a chlorine pool. Traditional chlorine pools don’t need any special generators, making installing them pretty cheap, but maintaining them isn’t always so cost-effective.

With a traditional chlorine pool, purchasing chlorine and other balancing agents can run you up to $1,000 a year, sometimes even more.

One cost you should always consider is the cost of repairs. Your pool probably won’t need repair work every year, but it’s probably something you’ll need to think about at some point.

With a chlorine pool, some handy homeowners might try to do it themselves. For major work, I recommend hiring a professional, but for tiny repairs, you can save a few bucks by doing it yourself.

On the other hand, the construction and makeup of a saltwater pool can be complicated, and you might need the help of a special technician, even for tiny repairs.

Which Pool is More Time-Consuming to Maintain?

Answer: Chlorine pools

Besides easygoing annual costs, one major benefit of a saltwater pool is that they don’t require tons of regular maintenance. The swimming pool can self-maintain itself for up to two weeks, but after that, adding more salt isn’t usually too time-consuming.

However, you should count on checking and even cleaning the cells in your salt chlorine generator a couple of times a year. Keeping the cell clean will help reduce how often you have to replace it.

There’s no generator that you need to maintain with a chlorine pool, but you will need to add chlorine to the pool every week. You’ll also have to keep any chlorine you buy in a separate dry area to avoid activating the chemicals until it’s time to use it.

Even once you add the chlorine, you’ll have to keep an eye on the pool’s chemical composition. Traditional chlorine pools require other balancing agents, and you don’t want to end up with water that has too much or too little chlorine in it. Homeowners usually monitor their pool’s chemical composition on a weekly or even daily basis.

Whether you have a saltwater or chlorine pool, you’ll probably still need to clean it regularly. After a windy day, you might need to fish out debris or leaves with a net skimmer. This kind of maintenance is unavoidable, but it’s also necessary to reduce the risk of mold or algae growth in your water. Algae can also infect saltwater pools, so make sure to read our guides linked here on how to get rid of it.

Which Type of Pool is Safer?

Answer: Saltwater pool

When it comes to health and safety, both saltwater and chlorine pools are safe as long as you properly maintain them, but there are a few added health benefits of a saltwater pool.

Contrary to popular misconception, saltwater pools use chlorine, but the levels tend to be much lower. This might be reason enough to go with a saltwater pool for anyone sensitive to chlorine. The chlorine level isn’t usually enough to irritate your skin or eyes.

Frequent swimmers could be at a higher risk for certain eye infections, irritated skin, and even just faded and damaged swimsuits with a chlorine pool.

Not to mention, if you don’t store your chlorine in a dry, safe area, the chemicals could begin activating early on and render the entire supply useless. On top of keeping it away from your pool before you’re ready to use it, you also want to make sure it’s far enough away that you and your family won’t be inhaling its fumes.

As a sanitizing product, chlorine isn’t something you want to expose yourself to unless you’re adding more to the pool water.

Immediate signs and symptoms that something might not be suitable with your chlorine supply include blurred vision, burning eyes, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

Which Type of Pool Requires More Equipment?

It doesn’t matter whether you end up with a saltwater or chlorine pool – you can expect to have a shopping list of supplies and equipment either way.

Saltwater Pool Equipment

With a saltwater pool, the most important piece of equipment you’ll need is a salt-chlorine generator. Without this generator to do its job, you just have a regular chlorine pool.

There are two main components in the generator: a control board and the salt cell. You shouldn’t need to tinker with the control board, but the cell typically requires a semi-annual cleaning and replacement every few years.

On top of the generator, you’ll probably need to invest in a heater that works for a saltwater pool as well as a cover. If you’re planning to convert a chlorine pool into a saltwater one, you shouldn’t assume that the equipment you had before will work with your new saltwater pool. Saltwater pools can be finicky, and they usually require that all equipment you have – from heaters and liners to pool covers – are suitable specifically for saltwater pools.

Like with any pool, you’ll also need to buy cleaning equipment. Investing in a vacuum or a net skimmer can reduce the risk of scum and get rid of debris.

Chlorine Pool Equipment

With a chlorine pool, you’ll need a pool filtration system, a heater, pool cover, and a regular supply of chlorine to maintain your swimming pool. Depending on where your pool is, you might also want to invest in caulk, pool cleaner, and a chemical feeder. These items aren’t critical, but they can make regular maintenance a little more convenient.

Cleaning equipment is also a necessity. Items like a vacuum hose, telescopic pole, pool brush, and skimmer attachment can make fishing debris and cleaning mold out of the water a lot easier.

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Is There a Better Choice?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to picking between a traditional chlorine and saltwater pool. Saltwater pools require less maintenance and don’t have as many chemicals in the water, but chlorine pools tend to be more cost-effective and convenient. Ultimately, you’ve just got to weigh the pros and cons of each and determine which is the better choice for your circumstances.

Questions? Shoot me a message, and I’ll be happy to help.

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