Salt Water vs. Traditional Chlorine Pool: Pros and Cons

If you’re in the market for a swimming pool, then you probably already know that all the choices can feel intimidating – from your pool’s design and construction to figuring out how to maintain it, it’s difficult to know what’s right for you. As far as pool maintenance goes, most homeowners pick between using saltwater or chlorine systems in their 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 combination of salt and a little bit of chlorine.

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:

A Quick Glimpse at Saltwater Pros and Cons

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of how these two types compare, let’s look at a simple breakdown of 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

Cons

  • Saltwater pools tend to be more expensive initially, and require a larger investment
  • Since saltwater has the potential to cause damage over time, you’ll need to worry about purchasing the right fixtures, lighting, and heaters
  • If anything goes wrong (even if it’s minor), you might have to call in a licensed professional to work on the pool

A Quick Glimpse at Chlorine Pros and Cons

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

Pros

  • The initial investment that you have to put down is usually a lot less expensive
  • There’s less electricity and energy involved in maintaining a chlorine pool
  • While you can hire a professional to work on your chlorine pool, you can also do a lot of minor repairs yourself

Cons

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

Putting it All Together

If you want to combine the pros and cons of each type, here’s how saltwater and chlorine match up:

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 as well as what factors might influence cost or maintenance. If you want the detailed numbers as they relate to cost, regular maintenance, and even health and safety, keep reading.

Which Pool is More Expensive?

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 only on top of any other costs you’ll incur while building and installing the pool in your backyard.

Regardless of how you try and cut it, the initial investment of a saltwater pool is almost always going to be more than you’d spend with a traditional chlorine pool.

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.

Salt chlorine generators run on electricity, and depending on how much you use it, your energy bill could increase at certain times of the year (like the summer).

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 in comparison to a chlorine pool, they seem pretty reasonable. Traditional chlorine pools don’t need any special generators, which can make 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, but sometimes even more.

One cost you should always consider with any type of pool you have is repair costs. 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. You might still need to hire a professional with major repair work, but for tiny repairs, you can save a few bucks by doing it yourself.

Unfortunately, it’s not a good idea to do this with a saltwater pool. 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?

Besides easygoing annual costs, one major benefit of a saltwater pool is that they don’t require tons of regular maintenance. The 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. This can require a delicate touch, but keeping those cells clean can help reduce how often you have to replace them.

With a chlorine pool, there’s no generator that you need to maintain, but you will need to add chlorine to the pool on a weekly basis. 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 do 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 basis, but sometimes even more than that.

Whether you have a saltwater or chlorine pool, you’ll probably need to still clean it on a regular basis. 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.

Which Type of Pool is Safer?

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. Although it’s a misconception that saltwater pools don’t use chlorine (they do), the levels tend to be much lower. For anyone that’s sensitive to chlorine, this might be reason enough to go with a saltwater pool. The chlorine level isn’t usually enough to irritate your skin or eyes.

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

Not to mention, you’ll have to make sure the storage of your chlorine won’t cause problems later on. 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 breathing it in.

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 right with your chlorine supply include blurred vision, burning eyes, coughing, and even 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 cells. You shouldn’t need to tinker with the control board, but the cells typically require semi-annual cleanings and replacements 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 think about 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 definitely need a pool filtration system, a heater, pool cover, and a regular supply of chlorine to maintain your pool. Depending on where your pool is at, 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.

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 us a message and we’ll be happy to help.

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