What's better: salt water or chlorine pool?
October 3, 2012 12:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning to have an in-ground pool installed in my backyard. Which would be better: a chlorine system or a salt water system?

I'm just beginning the consultation process--getting quotes from various pool companies, deciding design details, etc. I want a rectangular pool without too many bells and whistles, so the biggest decision that I have to make is whether to get a chlorine pool or a salt water pool.

I have already done a significant amount of research on the internet about the pros and cons of each system. I'm aware that a salt water pool is still technically a chlorinated pool, just with a different way of producing the chlorine.

What I'm really asking for are personal experiences from current and former pool owners. Did you own a salt water or a chlorine pool? What was easy or convenient about it? What was expensive or difficult to maintain? Is it possible to have a chlorine pool without too strong of a smell, or one that isn't harsh on your skin, hair, and eyes? Any personal input would be appreciated.
posted by starkraven to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Get salt water. The daily work of maintenance is pretty low and the water feels nicer on your skin. Of people I know with pools, they either got salt water or are currently converting their pools to salt water.
posted by jeather at 12:36 PM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Salt water for sure. Everything that jeather said.
posted by oneironaut at 12:40 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's definitely possible to have a chlorine pools that doesn't wreck your hair or smell awful - but that's mostly due to the skill (or lack thereof) of your pool guy during his weekly visits. We have a chlorine pool and dont have the $$ to change it over. But if I were starting from scratch I'd definitely go salt water.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:40 PM on October 3, 2012

Best answer: We have a salt generating pool and have been very happy with it. I think the main advantage is you get the sanitizing effect of chlorine but you have much more ability to tweak and adjust it. It is very, very hard (I've certainly never done it) to boost your chlorine to an uncomfortable level. It's obviously much easier to do that if you are dumping chlorine directly into the pool. There is just a mild scent of chlorine, never anything overpowering. A benefit is that the water has a "soft" feel to it.

Maintenance wise I find it very easy. A few big bags of salt at the beginning of the season, and I rarely have to put more than one more bag in over the whole summer. If the chlorine levels are low when I test I program the generator to convert a higher percentage into chlorine.

One thing you should probably also check into are the ozone systems. My pool guys have mentioned them to me the last two years when they've opened the pool. I researched them a bit but it didn't make much sense to me to add a system when the salt generation has worked well for us. If we were just building the pool now I would have taken a much closer look at them.

Enjoy your pool!
posted by Bresciabouvier at 12:41 PM on October 3, 2012

One other piece of pool advice I'll mention for when your pool is up and running: pay attention to your pH levels. Letting the pH get too high makes it a lot harder to keep the chlorine levels stable for some reason. Once I started making sure the pH was in the right range the chlorine tweaking became much easier.
posted by Bresciabouvier at 12:46 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't think of a reason to prefer chlorine to salt water. Some relatives of mine switched to salt water, and it is much more pleasant to be in and around.
posted by BeeDo at 12:53 PM on October 3, 2012

Neither! Use Baquacil (or another PHMB type thing) instead. I'm pretty sure that is the stuff my parents used growing up. No weird taste or smell. Sparkling clean pool! I think the only issue was with algae, but you have to shock for algae with chlorine pools from time to time too, I think.

And ew, people have salt-water pools? There's a reason I'm not swimming in the ocean, thankyouverymuch!
posted by Grither at 1:00 PM on October 3, 2012

Best answer: I own a chlorine pool, and it's honestly about as difficult to maintain as a potted houseplant. Easier, actually, because there aren't conveniently color coded test strips for houseplants. Keep your pH levels where they should be, keep the chlorine at about 10% of what the manufacturers recommend (srsly the amount they tell you to put in is just insanely high unless you're running a public pool for people with poor bladder control or something) and there is no step 3. You only need to chlorine shock if you screw up and let an algae bloom happen.

This isn't to say chlorine is preferable to salt -- I can't compare having only tried the one system -- but I have not found maintenance to be burdensome. (I also don't understand why people pay a guy to come out every week -- all you need to do is dip in a test strip every once in a while, toss in a new chlorine puck if necessary, and occasionally tweak the pH after heavy rains. )
posted by ook at 1:44 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (we have no chlorine smell at all, it just smells and tastes like water, which is probably because we use so little chlorine. I dunno, maybe we've just been absurdly lucky at avoiding algae, but we've had only one bloom in ten years. I think part of the reason so many people have stinky water and dried out hair and trouble keeping the pH in balance is that they're tossing in way way more chlorine than they really need to.)
posted by ook at 1:52 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, you didn't ask this, but if you're choosing between vinyl or gunnite, go with gunnite. Our old house had vinyl, new place has gunnite -- SO MUCH BETTER
posted by ook at 1:56 PM on October 3, 2012

The unpainted gunite pools, though rougher on your skin, save a great deal on maintenance too what with not needing to be repainted. (I also think they look nicer and I don't find they are excessively rough.)
posted by jeather at 1:59 PM on October 3, 2012

Salt water and ozone are both a lot kinder to your sinuses over time.
posted by fshgrl at 2:25 PM on October 3, 2012

Do not use Baquacil, please! We've had a chlorine pool for 30 years, and we're fine with it, and know folks with salt water pools, but everyone I know with Baquacil has had nothing but problems with algae and generally disgusting water, and it's expensive.
posted by xingcat at 3:01 PM on October 3, 2012

Depends on the pool surface material and level of use. For larger crowds suggest chlorine. For close friends and family you'll love salt water.
posted by Mertonian at 3:06 PM on October 3, 2012

I may be in the minority but salt water is awful tasting and not as fun to swim/dive/play in.
posted by shew at 3:23 PM on October 3, 2012

I go regularly to a place with a large hot saltwater pool. They hype their saltwateriness, yet a friend of mine felt it smelled strongly of chlorine and the staff admitted they have to add chlorine to keep the levels in check. But that's with a LOT of people coming and going.
posted by MonsieurBon at 9:51 PM on October 3, 2012

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