Written by alaglaspools
November 18, 2019
Let’s talk about the exciting world of pool chemicals! Hey, we saw your eyes roll!
But before you go completely comatose, there are some important things you need to know about current trends in chemicals to keep your pool sparkling clean! Without proper sanitization pool water can quickly become unpleasant or worse … dangerous! And, NOBODY wants that!
With the plethora of brands and varieties of water-treatment products to choose from, it’s a complicated market and it’s not going to get easier anytime soon.
Adding to the confusion is you can purchase pool chemical products almost anywhere from online retailers or at the local grocery to most big-box stores.
Just know, it’s buyer beware when purchasing these products from non-professional, non-local sources.
Carefully compare the quality of lower-cost products to the quality of products purchased from your local pool professional.
Does it really save you time and money if you end up using 4 times as much of the low-cost product to achieve the same result as using 1 dose of the professional product?
The answer is no!
Your local pool pro knows your area, understands your water chemistry and will ask you how your pool is used. They will test your water and recommend products they know to be effective for your specific situation. If you run into issues, they are trained professionals and are there to help you.
You won’t get that level of expertise and attention from an online retailer or big box store!
So, let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of sanitization systems currently on the market.
Chlorine – the oldest and most widely used pool sanitization chemical.
- Pros: it is regarded as the holy trinity of keeping your water safe and clean because it sanitizes, oxidizes and deters algae. Chlorine is relatively cheap and readily available at any pool and spa retailer.
- Cons: it has a strong odor, can be volatile, irritates your eyes or can cause allergic reactions for some swimmers.
Bromine – from the same halogen chemical family as chlorine but can used as an alternative for people with adverse reactions to chlorine.
- Pros: is an effective sanitizer, remains stable at higher temps, is less irritating to swimmers than chlorine.
- Cons: doesn’t oxidize well so a 2-step process with oxygen shock needs to be used, still has an odor, can be up to twice as expensive as chlorine.
Ionizers – these systems use an algaecide (copper) and sanitizer (silver) with a positive charge to attract the algae, bacteria and germs, allowing them to be cleaned by the filtration system.
- Pros: less irritation for swimmers, can reduce the amount of chlorine needed.
- Cons: not as effective as chlorine/bromine, can stain pools or turn hair/fingernails green, water needs to stay moving which may increase your energy costs.
Polyhexamethylene Biguanide (PHMB) – penetrates and kills bacteria, causes it to sink which allows it to be vacuumed from the pool floor.
- Pros: a good substitute for chlorine, kind to swimmer’s eyes/skin/hair, works well with vinyl liners, less effort to maintain water balance.
- Cons: will need to drain pool if chlorine was used prior, use dedicated swimsuits with no trace of chlorine in them, uses hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizer along with a separate algaecide, requires frequent filter cleaning/replacement.
Salt Chlorine Generators – saltwater is passed through a cell containing electrically charged metal plates creating chlorine gas, hydrogen gas and sodium hydroxide through the process of electrolysis.
- Pros: greatly reduces need for chlorine, kind to swimmer’s eyes/skin/hair, less effort to maintain water balance.
- Cons: will still use some chlorine, initial installation more expensive, may need to replace cell and control board every 3-7 years.
Ultraviolet Systems – filtered water is passed over UV rays to destroy harmful bacteria, algae and other harmful microorganisms.
- Pros: reduces chemical usage, requires less maintenance, very effective against parasites.
- Cons: must clean/sanitize piping to/from UV chamber, UV light tubes need regular replacement, will still need to use chlorine.
Ozonators – attaches to filtering system and injects ozone gas into the pool to remove impurities. Can use UV light or corona discharge or a combination of both.
- Pros: substantially reduces chlorine use, very little energy demand for the ozone unit.
- Cons: effectively sanitizers when pump and filtration are running (24/7), performs better in drier climate.
Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOP) – combines ozone generation and UVC to create hydroxyl radicals, the most powerful oxidizers in pool sanitization.
- Pros: can reduce use of chlorine to tapwater levels, produces no toxic byproducts, extremely effective, safe for all swimmers, easy on all pool surfaces.
- Cons: requires moving water and frequent filter cleaning, initial installation more expensive.
As you can see, there are many sanitization options for you to choose from. However, the systems gaining in popularity most recently, are the Salt Chlorine Generators and AOP systems. This is due to the reduction of chemical usage and ease of maintenance. The trade-off for the advantages of these systems is higher installation and replacement costs.
While a sanitization system is crucial to maintaining clean, healthy and safe pool water, it must be used in conjunction with a quality filtration system to be effective.
Our recommendation is to have an in-depth conversation with your local pool pro. Discuss how you want to use your pool, who will be using it and the frequency of usage. Determine what your budget is for installation and maintenance. Be sure to include your time tolerance and skill level for routine water maintenance as part of that discussion. They will recommend a system to fit your needs.
Also, ask if they offer a Pool School so you can receive chemical and maintenance training. But, if the DIY option is not your thing, see if they have a weekly maintenance program you can opt into or if they recommend a ‘pool guy’ for scheduled, worry-free maintenance.
Regardless of which combination of sanitization, filtration and maintenance options you choose, be sure to choose the one that keeps you safe, fits your lifestyle and lets you enjoy your pool for years to come.
Happy (and safe) Swimming!
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