Would you like a little salt with your pool?
Gene Murr has had a taste of salt in his pool, and he’s not going back.
Murr, who lives in High Point, has enjoyed a pool at his home for 30 years. But three years ago he switched from a traditional chlorinated pool to a saltwater one. His pool water now filters through a salt chlorination system, which Murr said makes his pool easier to maintain and provides a pleasant sensation in the water.
When Murr had a traditional chlorine pool, he found it difficult to get the water quality he wanted through weekly maintenance. Ever since he converted to a saltwater pool, the water quality stays consistently clear.
“I’d never go back,” he said. “Everybody’s tickled with the clear pool.”
Saltwater pools, as they are known, are becoming a greater share of the estimated 8.8 million residential and public pools in the United States. The primary reason is cost — though saltwater pool installation still carries a higher price than traditional chlorine pools, the gap is shrinking. And once installed, saltwater pools are easier and less expensive to maintain, local pool retailers say.
Saltwater pools date back at least 20 to 25 years, but for most of that time they were expensive propositions. Saltwater pools once were limited to exclusive resorts and the homes and estates of the wealthy.
In recent years, the technology that maintains pools through saltwater has become more affordable, said Verna Harris, president of B&H Pool & Patio Shop of High Point. Among new pools ordered through her business, Harris said 90 percent of customers choose saltwater pools over the traditional chlorine variety.
Saltwater pools “over the last decade have seen a surge in use in the U.S. and other major pool markets so that they are now very commonplace,” reports the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, a trade group for the industry.
With a traditional chlorine pool, someone has to regularly check the water and add chlorine to maintain the pool’s balance through either liquid or tablet chlorine additives.
“With the salt, it’s continuously feeding as long as your pump’s running. You still have to keep your pH and alkalinity in balance. But it doesn’t fluctuate as much with salt as with chlorine. It stays more stable,” Harris said.
Saltwater pools also give people a different sensation in and coming out of the water.
“Everything feels better to your skin. It’s softer,” she said.
Traditional chlorine pools and saltwater pools have approached equivalency in price, though the upfront cost for a saltwater pools remains higher, Harris said. Where the cost evens out is over the life of the pool, as the maintenance for a saltwater pools is less than the weekly maintenance of a traditional chlorine pool.
For example, a saltwater pool system could cost $1,800 to $2,000. The equivalent cost would be $300 to $500 for a traditional chlorine pool, which covers equipment, labor and balancing the water the level initially, Harris said.
“But with the chlorine you’re spending about that every year. After you get your initial cost of the salt out of the way, the salt doesn’t cost as much to maintain yearly,” Harris said.
Another local pool retailer agrees that the wave in the industry is toward saltwater pools.
“All the new pools we are putting in, if they can afford it, are going to salt. And about half of my old customers are trying to go to salt,” said Gerald Leonard, owner of Carolina Pools of High Point.
If someone is going out of town for a week or more, the salt generator in a saltwater pool takes care of the maintenance, Leonard said.
“Whereas with chlorine, it could be wearing down unless you had someone looking after it or a chlorinated feeder,” Leonard said.
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Ready to dive in?
Deciding to install a pool at your home means summertime fun in the water, but also requires a sizable investment. Here are some topics to consider before taking the plunge:
• Costs of pools vary significantly depending on their type. The final price tag will depend on elements such as size, additional features like a hot tub, screened enclosure around the pool and the use of a heater.
• Don’t forget about the cost of additional insurance related to your home and property. Insurance specialists suggest a liability policy that would cost between $200 and $300 per year.
• Financing a pool involves a process similar to a mortgage on a home, which allows spreading out payments over time. Some pool builders offer in-store financing. If you’re building a home, consider building your pool at the same time through the same loan process.
Sources: Association of Pool & Spa Professionals; Insurance Information Institute