Problems With Saltwater Systems for Pools

Saltwater pools are not without problems.
Saltwater pools are not without problems. (Image: swimming pool image by YN from

Many people have moved away from traditional freshwater pool systems and transitioned to saltwater pools because of various advantages saltwater systems provide. There is typically no need to buy chlorine for a saltwater swimming pool, the water is more skin friendly, and it doesn’t have the same harsh chemical odors. But saltwater pools are not without drawbacks. Before you make the switch from freshwater to saltwater, make sure you know the potential problems that you may encounter as a saltwater pool owner.

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Metal Deterioration

Inside your swimming pool there are likely several metal parts. They may not be obvious, but screws, flashing, poles, plates and other various components of your lighting, skimmers and ladders are made of metal. The trouble with saltwater pools is that the salt is corrosive and can wear these parts out prematurely. It’s similar to the effects of the ocean spray and salty air near a beach on a car parked nearby. There is a constant need to rinse the car to prevent rust and corrosion. The same goes with the saltwater pool, except you can’t rinse these parts effectively. So you may find yourself replacing rusty parts more often than you would in a freshwater pool.

Difficulty Maintaining Chlorine Levels

A saltwater pool uses a chlorinator to produce chlorine for the pool in lower levels than you need in a freshwater pool. The salt in the water passes through a chlorinator, which uses electrolysis to generate chlorine gas from the salt in the water. The problem is that this chlorine is more difficult to maintain. It may not be able to keep up with the demands of some pools with heavy bathing loads, lots of rain exposure or improper stabilizer levels. Also, a saltwater-pool chlorinator needs the pump to be running for it to produce the chlorine, and some people run them only for short periods during the day to filter the water.

Electricity Demand

The pool’s pump must run for the chlorinator to do its job, so it’s often necessary to run the pump for long hours during the day. It may be necessary even to keep it running all the time. This is something the freshwater pool crowd doesn’t deal with. They can run their pumps for a few hours in the morning and may not have to turn them on again all day. This need for more consistent use of the pump on a saltwater system means higher related electricity bills.

Backwashing Kills Plants

Saltwater pools still get just as dirty as any other, and the filter is going to need cleaning from time to time just like any other pool. Backwashing is the typical method used to clean the filter media. This process means reversing the flow of water through the filter and washing the water out through a drainage valve, usually into the lawn outside the pool. This is not a problem with freshwater pools, but the salt content of these pools can cause problems for grass and flowers in the area and may kill plant life near the pump.


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