Building a salt water pool or converting an existing pool to one with a salt chlorinator system is a costly but fun endeavor especially if you see the advantages of having a pool in your backyard. These days with all that is going on in the world, it’s much safer to be in your own pool than a packed public one.
While salt water pools offer a number of advantages for pool owners over more traditional chlorine or bromine pools, there are several disadvantages of salt water pool installation that people should be aware of.
5 Disadvantages Of Salt Water Pool Installation
Higher up front cost
A decent chlorinator system may cost about $1,200 installed. If you need it hardwired, there may be additional costs for that. When we got our chlorinator upgraded to a Hayward AquaRite system, we needed an electrician to not only hardwire it but also to run a cable from the house all the way to the pool equipment at the end of the backyard. It added several hundred dollars to the cost.
A replacement salt chlorinator cell costs $300 and up. They tend to be replaced every 3-5 years in my experience. And if and when you eventually replace your chlorinator or need to repair it, that could be another $1,200 if the whole thing needs replacing.
You system may have at least one sensor which monitors water flow and if it malfunctions which it can, it may shut off chlorine production and will need to be fixed or replaced.
And in the meantime, you need to then use chemical chlorine in the pool to keep the pool clean while waiting for the chlorinator to be fixed/replaced.
Less maintenance but more responsibility
In general, there is less maintenance work with a salt water pool in that it’s usually easier to keep the water chemistry correct with less overall work than a chlorine pool. With a chlorine pool you are regularly adding chlorine and measuring water chemistry. The salt chlorination system on the other hand automates much of the water chemistry work for you.
The chlorinator system is expensive though and does need to be taken care of. Running chlorine too high or having too much salt in the system can damage various parts. And since a salt water pool does require the addition of chemical chlorine from time time – during pool openings and closings, to shock the system) it needs to be done carefully to avoid damaging the chlorine cell.
During winter pool closing, you should also remove the salt cell and take it indoors if you live in an area with freezing winter temperatures as the cell can be ruined with sub zero cold.
With a salt water pool with an automated chlorinator system, much of the work is automated and the system can be set up to monitor salt and chlorine levels and the chlorinator can be set to run 0-100% of the time to produce the chlorine you need.
But you also have more “stuff” to take care of. The chlorinator system is a computer and they sometimes malfunction, fuses blow and sensors don’t work properly. Can you troubleshoot and figure out what is wrong and fix it yourself?
The panel and settings of a system like our Hayward Aqua-Rite system did take a bit of getting used to and if you need to troubleshoot, you might need to make a phone call to your pool company or the system manufacturer if you can’t figure out why a warning light is on or why chlorine is no longer being produced.
Potentially more damaging
Even though the salt in a salt water pool is normally kept at a range of 2,700- 3,400 parts per million (PPM) – making it much less salty than the ocean which is about 35,000 PPM – it still does contain salt. Salt has a corrosive effect and if you happen to run a higher salt level at say 4,000 PPM the damage can be even worse. Specifically, salt water can corrode, pit and stain:
- a metal pool ladder
- a diving board
- metal in the pool frame
- grass and plants near the pool
- concrete and decking
Some concrete pool manufacturers may not install a salt system in a concrete pool. While salt systems are fine for vinyl liner and fiberglass pools – with the above provisos – a salt system in a concrete pool requires more frequent and costly maintenance. It tends to shorten the lifespan of the concrete finish faster.
- Salt water pools do offer a number of benefits – no chlorine smell, softer water on the eyes – but there are a number of disadvantages as well most notably the high upfront cost.
- Replacement parts can be expensive and with the chlorination control panel, water flow sensor and other parts, they may break or malfunction.
- Salt chlorination systems do also require some knowledge to find your way around the system ie. setting timers, setting chlorination levels, troubleshooting. It’s a more complex system than a chlorine pool.
- Check out my page that compares Vinyl vs Fiberglass vs Concrete pools to learn more about each option.