As more and more people become environmentally conscious, it’s no surprise that the environmental impact of salt chorinators in saltwater pools is a growing concern. While salt chlorinators offer a number of benefits over traditional chlorine treatments, it’s worth understanding their impact on the environment comparatively speaking.
Saltwater pools are chlorine pools
First, it’s important to note that salt chorinators do produce chlorine, just like traditional chlorine treatments. However, the chlorine is generated through the salt cell and is a more natural way to treat the water.
Additionally, because the chlorine levels in a saltwater pool are typically lower and more consistent, the amount of chemicals released into the environment is significantly reduced. More on that below.
One consideration: If you have to drain pool water for a pool closing, to lower the water level after a storm or during filter backwashes, you are of course dumping salted water which brings up the question of environmental concerns. The salt level in a salt water pool is relatively low and tends to be less of a concern than say a water softener which regularly dumps highly concentrated salt water into the sewers during a cycle.
Having said that, some local areas do not allow pool owners to dump any pool water into public sewer systems so check with your town or city council ahead of time to be sure.
Lower chlorine usage
One of the main environmental benefits of salt cells is that they potentially reduce the amount of chlorine that is used in the pool. Traditional chlorine treatments require the addition of large amounts of chlorine to the pool, which can be harmful to aquatic life if the water is drained and enters nearby bodies of water.
To be 100% clear: The main benefit here is that you set your chlorinator to run at a certain level and it will produce a small but consistent amount of chlorine. Once you get it set, you can pretty much leave it as is.
With a regularly chlorinated pool, you can certainly measure the chlorine carefully but you do spike the chlorine levels by adding large amounts at once time. This increases the chance you add more chlorine than is necessary especially if you’re basically eyeballing it and dumping an amount of chlorine in each week that you think is needed.
Salt cells generate chlorine on an as-needed basis, which means that there is less chlorine in the pool and less chlorine released into the environment over time.
Fewer total chemicals needed
Another benefit of salt cells is that they reduce the amount of chemicals that need to be transported and stored. Traditional chlorine pools often require large quantities of chemicals to be transported and stored, which can be dangerous and harmful to the environment.
With salt chlorinators, the amount of chemicals needed is significantly reduced, making transportation and storage less of an issue. Saltwater pools tend to make water balancing easier with less tweaking by adding chemicals to fix out of balance levels.
An average saltwater pool owner might use 2-3 bags of salt each season. It’s pretty cheap certainly compared to chlorine. A pool owner with a regularly chlorinated pool on the other hand will use hundreds of dollars in chlorine each season which needs to be purchased regularly and stored.
Chlorinators use a small amount of electricity
It’s important to note that salt chlorinators do require a small amount of electricity to operate. This means that there is an energy cost associated with using salt cells, which can have an impact on the environment.
However, the energy required to operate a salt cell is typically minimal, and the benefits of reducing the amount of chemicals released into the environment often outweigh the energy cost.
The real issue is related to ensuring that you have an electrical source to power your chlorinator. If your pool equipment is located at the back of your yard away from your house, you might need an electrician to lay cable to provide the power, that’s all. You might need to budget that cost, is the point here.
Overall, salt chlorinators tend to be a more eco-friendly option for treating the water in a saltwater pool. They reduce the amount of chemicals released into the environment, require less transportation and storage of chemicals, and are a more natural way to treat the water. This has benefits for swimmers too since the water tends to easier on the skin and hair.
For pool owners in general though, you should also check with your local jurisdiction to see what the laws are related to dumping pool water. Some areas allow you to drain pool water into the local sewage system but some don’t. You need to know this in advance to plan for pool closings when water levels are reduced or regular filter backwashes if you have a D.E. or sand filter.