Salt (saline) chlorine treatment in swimming pools...












 



There are differences in HOW to "make" chlorine out of salt & minerals.  Your choice will determine your pool's performance & the effect on the pool, fittings, and equipment.  After looking at the process for over 10 years (and never feeling truly satisfied or convinced) our choice to recommend to pool owners is the BioGuard Mineral Springs program.  These are our reasons:

1. BioGuard® Mineral Springs® is a Pool Care System.  Yes, there are other electrolytic generators out on the market, however, the BioGuard® Mineral Springs® System gives you more.  More proven technology, proprietary & patented products that are not available anywhere else.  Plus you have the assurance that it's a quality BioGuard® product.  Where did the other guys get their salt from?

2. Electrolytic Generation is not the same.  BioGuard® went to great lengths in perfecting this fabulous technology.  They found the right manufacturer of the electronics.  After several years of field trials and homeowner and dealer feedback, BioGuard® specifically blended Mineral Springs® Beginnings™ and Renewal™ to provide certain functions for the overall performance of the product and for your personal satisfaction. They didn't just throw salt in the water!

3. What is electrolytic generation anyway?  Electrolytic generation is the taking of salts and/or minerals present or added to swimming pool water, passing those dissolved minerals through an electrical field and thereby transforming them, by breaking down and reforming the molecules into highly active HOCl (hypochlorous acid); the most widely used, strongest & preferred swimming pool sanitizer.

4. Then what's the difference between BioGuard® Mineral Springs® and the others?  What makes BioGuard® Mineral Springs® special?  Here are the characteristics of typical electrolytic generation:

- constant pH imbalance; pH tends to drift toward the high or scaling end causing a constant use of acid to lower the pH

- heavy scale formation on the electrical cells; due to the high pH and abundance of minerals; cells therefore have a relatively short life of 3 to 5 years

- the HOCl (hypochlorous acid) that is formed is UNSTABLE; the sun's UV light destroys the HOCl causing you to have to generate more and therefore use more minerals or salts

- the pool water becomes aggressive or corrosive causing a shortened life of ALL the pool equipment and pool surfaces, even vinyl liners

- cheap or cheaper salt (NOT BioGuard® Mineral Springs® Beginnings™) contain much higher levels of iron and potentially other metals that will result in staining of the pool surfaces, including vinyl liners

- generic salt DOES NOT CONTAIN: Stabilizers, pH buffers, Total Alkalinity buffers, boron salts (highly effective in preventing algae PLUS it makes the water feel softer), scale inhibitors (prevents scale build-up on the electrolytic cell), stain inhibitors, filter aids


Let's tell the truth about salt/chlorine generation...

Now you can practically manufacture your own chlorine in your own pool. Sounds great doesn't it? Phenomenal money saver, right? Well,... Let's look at this in a holistic or complete way, especially in light of the tremendous press that salt or saline-chlorine generation has been getting. 

The thought is, take common salt in the form of Sodium Chloride (NaCl) & break it into its elemental components. In layman's terms we have water (H2O) + salt (NaCl) passing through an electrolytic cell (sometimes called a turbo cell or ECG - electronic or electrolytic chlorine generator) which has specially coated plates and an electrical current running in them. The positively or negatively charged current breaks the molecular bonds into Hypo-chlorous acid (HCl) and sodium and oxygen (specifically NaOH). Hypochlorous acid is what we're looking for and need as our primary sanitizer. Sounds pretty simple and chemically speaking, it is. (by the way, that's a picture of a chlorine molecule)

As you can figure out, there's a "BUT" coming!


The "but" is that there's a bit more to this chemistry. That ECG is also "creating" other compounds as the water, with various dissolved minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, sulfur, passes by. Salt-chlorine generation causes 3 main issues that the pool owner needs to be aware of:

Difficult to manage pH levels, especially high pH.

Scaling of pool surfaces & equipment.

Stray electricity adding to the electrolysis corrosion & metal staining problem.

High pH is always a problem with saline pools. The method of generation continually pushes or forces the pH up. If you live in an area where the pH of the source or tap water is low or lower, such as in various parts of the Northeast US, that "problem" can actually help your overall water balance. As long as you are regularly monitoring the pH & making adjustments as necessary, you should be in good shape.

Other parts of the country are not so lucky. Areas of "hard water" such as in Arizona or Florida will constantly battle high pH. There are cities & towns where the pH out of the tap is in excess of 8.0. Acid will need to be added on an ongoing basis to maintain a "stable" pH level of 7.4 - 7.6. These areas also typically have higher contents of dissolved heavy metals such as iron, copper or manganese which can lead to staining.

The other high pH pool issue is associated with virtually any concrete, tile or aggregate finished pool. When new, these finishes will continually force the pH level high. And when the plaster finish is brand new, it's not unusual to see pH levels in excess of 10.0 or higher.  In fact, newly plastered pools should NEVER add salt to the pool until 30 days after being filled to allow the curing process to begin. Neglecting this delay will cause abnormal staining or mottling of the pool's finish & surface (which MAY not be able to be treated).











That cell is one of the most toxic places on planet earth. On one side of the cell plates, the pH is close to ZERO! On the other side, the pH is at the opposite end of the scale, about 14. Scaling is bound to happen. "But I have a self-cleaning generator," you say. Not really; although the polarity reverses, the scale will still build up. There are 3 kinds of scale that will form reducing chlorine generating efficiency: phosphate scale (almost invisible, leaves a dull patina on the cell plates, usually not noticeable), calcium scale (a heavy to heavier white scale), and sulfate scale (gray scale that's VERY difficult to remove).

Where do these scales come from? Phosphate scale is from phosphates. Phosphates come from certain pool chemicals (ironically anti-scaling & anti metal-staining chemicals) and environmental sources such as dead skin cells or "fly over" bird waste (even more concentrated with highly touted "Solar Salt"). Calcium is dissolved in water everywhere! Heck, our bones are largely calcium. If you have a plaster or gunite pool, calcium is in the plaster and grout. Sulfur? From sulfates. Certain pool pH reducing chemicals (granular ph decreaser) contain sodium bi-sulfate.

Better qualities of pool salt contain less contaminants, including heavy metals as mentioned above and more "pure" salt. Even some of the pool salt "additives" contain "high" concentrations of phosphates & sulfates to control staining, scaling & pH (such as BioGuard Mineral Springs, Capo Salt Saver, and other products).

Bottom line, don't simply trust "how good" the water looks or feels; keep a close eye on pool water & mineral balance. And take extra care with acid washing the cell; you will strip the protective coating from the cells in a very short time. With many ECG costing several hundreds of dollars, shortened life due to premature scaling needs to be avoided.


Electrolytic corrosion & staining is difficult to describe as well as prevent, but the effects are soon noticed by every pool owner over time. Think of what happens when you put salt on an icy surface in winter: the ice melts because of the lowering of the water's freezing point, but over time you notice that the surface pits & crumbles.

One of the interesting things that happens when salt is added to the pool water is that the water becomes better able to conduct electricity. It's kind of like putting a fine [aluminum anchor corroded from pool salt] "chemical wire mesh" in the water. Stray electrical currents "flow" through the water attacking metal surfaces & finishes, including stainless steel.


















Stainless steel ladders and rails loose their "shine" and get this patchy black or gray look. Aluminum ladder or slide anchor sockets corrode completely (5 year old anchors next to a salt/chlorine pool). Pitting of aluminum coping on inground vinyl pools. Concrete deck finishes pit & become grainy. Excess salt clinging to pool bio-films on the pool's surfaces will cause staining & scaling of the waterline that will be difficult to remove.

Here's a question that some don't want to answer: what about aboveground steel or aluminum pools? The industry is beginning to see significant degradation of pool parts due to corrosive electrolysis - especially in pools that are not properly grounded. It's not a warranty issue, but...

ANY and EVERY salt/chlorine system that is installed needs a good quality sacrificial anode (or multiple) of some kind within the pool operating system. Additional anodes can be used on lights, inside skimmer baskets, and on railings. These anodes will take the brunt of the electrolysis rather than the pool and equipment.


Bottom Line: As BioGuard Certified Salt Care Experts, Par Pool & Spa does NOT recommend any Salt System for use in any pool.

Stainless steel ladders and rails loose their "shine" and get this patchy black or gray look. Aluminum ladder or slide anchor sockets corrode completely (5 year old anchors next to a salt/chlorine pool). Pitting of aluminum coping on inground vinyl pools. Concrete deck finishes pit & become grainy. Excess salt clinging to pool bio-films on the pool's surfaces will cause staining & scaling of the waterline that will be difficult to remove.

Here's a question that some don't want to answer: what about aboveground steel or aluminum pools? The industry is beginning to see significant degradation of pool parts due to corrosive electrolysis - especially in pools that are not properly grounded. It's not a warranty issue, but...

ANY and EVERY salt/chlorine system that is installed needs a good quality sacrificial anode (or multiple) of some kind within the pool operating system. Additional anodes can be used on lights, inside skimmer baskets, and on railings. These anodes will take the brunt of the electrolysis rather than the pool and equipment.

Scaling is the second significant problem or issue that you need to be aware of. Scaling of pool surfaces, especially at the waterline, heater interior, filter media and most importantly, the ECG itself. Scaling of pool surfaces provides additional nooks & crannies for algae and bacteria to grow. Plus it's not easy to clean or remove.

Heater scaling dramatically reduces heater efficiency thereby driving up your pool heating costs. When a filter is scaled, it also looses efficiency and is a royal pain to clean.


More importantly, we are concerned about scaling of the chlorine generator itself.

A "natural" way to chlorinate your swimming pool.

Simply put, saline generation or salt generation or salt-chlorine generation is a pretty natural process.  Salt that has been added to a swimming pool runs through an electrolytic "cell" & the salt (as sodium chloride) is broken into Hypochlorous acid (the product that kills bacteria & algae or Free Available Chlorine), hydrochloric acid, Hydrogen gas and Sodium hydroxide (inert).  It's a marvelous and pretty efficient way to sanitize a swimming pool.  In fact, up to 80% of the pools in Australia are treated with this system.

As great a system as it may be, there are still some precautions and caveats to be aware of for optimal performance and satisfaction. 

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