If you are a first time pool and spa owner, you’ve definitely thought about a chemical system. At the end of the day, all you really want is clear water and an easy-to-use system. But there are many options for pool water treatment. Each of them have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a recap of the most popular systems with pros and cons.
Pool and Spa Chemical Systems
Overall, bigger pools use more chemicals and require more maintenance. Swim spas cost less to maintain and use fewer chemicals compared to full-sized swimming pools. Lap pools (particularly fiberglass lap pools) hold less water, are easier to maintain, yet still provide the function you’d get in a large pool.
The most commonly used pool sanitizer, chlorine is a chemical found in bleach. It is very easy to find. It comes in several forms: tablets, liquid, and granular.
Chlorine acts as a residual sanitizer, which means it can remain in the pool long after it is applied.
Chlorine can also be stored for long periods of time.
Chlorine requires more maintenance than other systems.
If not maintained properly, chlorine can cause red eyes, dry skin and lung irritation.
The disinfection by-product (DBP) in chlorine causes the typical “pool odor” you smell in many pools. Chlorine levels above recommended limits can intensify this odor.
At normal levels, chlorine will not destroy some common contaminants that cause illness, such as Cryptosporidium parvum.
Ultra Violet Light (UV)
UV purification systems take water purification to the next level. There are no chemicals involved. Instead, water is passed through ultraviolet light to kill harmful organisms.
UV destroys bacteria and other harmful particles with no chemical side effects. It is a safe solution that removes all if not most of the dangerous microorganisms from your water.
UV is an environmentally friendly. It emits no by-products and uses less energy.
There is no need to handle chemicals.
There are no dirty filters to dispose.
UV requires little maintenance. Most UV systems require only an annual bulb change and occasional filter change to protect the lamp.
There is no chemical smell or taste.
To be effective, pool water must be relatively clear to start. If the water is cloudy, it will hinder the ability of the UV radiation to penetrate the water and destroy microorganisms. Water filtration may be required prior to UV purification which adds a small expense to start-up costs.
Any microorganisms the UV treatment misses remain in the water. A chlorine compound such as chloramine may need to be added.
Ozone is oxygen (O2) with an extra oxygen atom attached (O3). The third oxygen atom oxidizes and destroys microorganisms in your pool, including bacteria, viruses and molds. Ozone further breaks down and destroys contaminants such as cosmetics, body oil, perspiration and urine found in the water.
Much like UV light, ozone produces fewer byproducts than chlorine or bromine.
No chemicals are used with this system.
An ozone generator uses electricity.
Ozone does not cause the treated water to have an unpleasant, chemically taste.
Ozone destroys microorganisms in your pool, including bacteria, viruses and molds.
Easy to install, simple to maintain.
Ozone is more expensive upfront and it can sometimes be difficult to find a technician for service.
Bromine does a great job at keeping bacteria, germs, viruses, algae, and other impurities away for a longer time than chlorine.
It has a lower ph level, so you won’t run into as many balance issues.
There is no strong smell and less skin and eye irritation.
Bromine is better than chlorine for spas. It is more stable that chlorine at high water temperatures.
Bromine is generally a more expensive chemical to buy than chlorine.
Bromine takes a bit longer to activate.
While it is easier on skin, it still has potential to irritate.
It may not leave your water as clear as chlorine. At times it can leave a yellowish hue in the water even when clean.
Bromine requires more product for each application to get results.
Salt replenishment is required less than chlorine or bromine.
Salt offers fewer health disadvantages than traditional chlorine. Salt is odorless and comes with fewer risks for allergies, eye and skin irritation.
Electricity turns salt in hydrochloric acid which is actually chlorine. It happens at a slower rate so there is less maintenance and it is better on your skin, eyes and swimsuit.
Salt systems tends to make the water “feel softer.”
Salt is more expensive than chlorine because it’s necessary to buy a generator to convert the salt.
Salt water pools can have high pH levels, therefore the levels must be carefully watched. Adjustments must be made when the levels rise or a pH regulator must be used.
Salt is corrosive, meaning the salt in pools can corrode and damage the system mechanics prematurely if it’s not washed frequently or if it’s not self-cleaning. It is also extremely corrosive which will affect wood decking, certain pavers, certain heaters, underwater lights, fixtures, some forms of masonry or liners.
The initial cost of installation for saltwater pools is typically higher than the chlorine or bromine. It is also more complex and will require additional maintenance.
Salt may be harmful to certain environmental areas such as watersheds and groundwater well sites.
Ultimately the right choice for you is a personal one depending on your budget, the time you want to spend on maintenance and your pool is choice. We recommend ozone or UV systems. Both of these sanitation methods require very little maintenance.
Check out this ultimate swim spa pool guide with tips and advice to help you decide the right model, brand, and features for your lifestyle!