If you’re a first-time pool owner or upgrading your pool features, choosing a pool system is one of the most important decisions and investments you’ll make for your pool. With so many water treatment options available, it’s important to do your research and find a pool system that best fits your household’s needs.
The purpose of any pool water treatment system is to keep pool water clean, clear and safe. However, not all systems provide the same features, required maintenance, price, health benefits and water quality.
To help narrow down your pool system search, let’s dive into some of the pros and cons of the five most common pool systems available: chlorine, salt water, UV, ozone and hydroxyl-based advanced oxidation, or AOP.
Chlorinated Pool Systems
Chlorine Pool System Pros:
Traditional chlorine has been the most common form of pool sanitation for nearly a decade. Chlorine is available in three forms: tablets, liquid, gas and granular. Through a chemical reaction, chlorine oxidizes contaminants in the water. Chlorine acts as a residual sanitizer so it can effectively sanitize the pool long after it’s been added to the water. Generally the most inexpensive form of pool water treatment, chlorine is widely available and convenient to find and use.
Chlorine Pool System Cons:
While chlorine is cheap, easy and commonly used, treating your pool with only chlorine creates a high risk for chlorine-related health issues. When chlorine reacts with organic materials, like lotion, sweat, etc., it produces harmful combined chlorine, or chloramines, and other types of disinfection by-products. Disinfection byproducts can cause red eyes, asthma, allergies, dry skin, lung irritation, Lifeguard Lung and other serious health issues.
Aside from the health risks, many pool owners avoid over-chlorination because it can leave lingering pool odor, damage towels and swimsuits, requires manual handling and storing, and can be toxic to the environment.
Salt Water Pool Systems
Salt Water Pool System Pros:
Salt water systems were introduced to the pool market in the 1980s and slowly became popular among pool builders, service providers and owners. Compared to traditionally chlorinated pool systems, salt systems offer lower maintenance with less odor and irritation. Many pool owners choose salt water systems for the “softer” feel of the water.
Salt Water Pool System Cons:
Despite popular belief, salt water pools are not chlorine-free. Instead of adding chlorine manually, salt water systems produce low levels of chlorine from sodium chloride (NaCl). Since chlorine is still present in the pool, there are still disinfection by-products in salt water pools. Similar to chlorine, salt water systems require manual handling and storage.
In addition, salt water pools are corrosive to pool surfaces and equipment, like ladders, tiles, stones, lining, pumps, filters etc. Replacing equipment and putting a sealant to protect your pool surfaces can be a costly repair.
UV Pool Systems
UV Pool System Pros:
UV systems work by flowing pool water over a UV lamp that denatures bacterial DNA in the pool water passing over it. They offer additional pool water sanitation along with chlorine or other chemicals by destroying chlorine-resistant microbes and other contaminants while reducing chemical consumption.
UV Pool System Cons:
UV systems essentially sterilize bacteria in the water so that it can’t reproduce while leaving bacterial cells intact so they can potentially make their way back into the pool. Additionally, UV pool systems can only sanitize and disinfect pool water, but they don’t oxidize it. Oxidation is a process in which non-living substances such as metals and bather waste are broken down and destroyed, or chemically “burnt up.” Since UV is not an oxidizer, UV systems will not destroy contaminants in the water or improve water clarity and overall quality in the same way that an oxidizer, such as chlorine or hydroxyls would.
Ozone Pool Systems
Ozone Pool System Pros:
Ozone systems work by injecting ozone gas (O3) into the pool plumbing to oxidize pool water contaminants and chlorine-resistant microbes. They generate electrical energy that breaks down oxygen molecules (O2) to create a chemical reaction that produces ozone. Ozone pool systems allow pool owners to reduce chlorine consumption and are stronger oxidizers than chlorine. Similarly to salt water systems, ozone systems can make pool water feel “softer”.
Ozone Pool System Cons:
Ozone is a toxic gas that can accumulate in pool pump rooms and under pool covers, and therefore requires the use of degas vessels, ozone destruct chambers or other complex systems in order to function safely and properly. Ozone gas can also be corrosive to rubber gaskets, covers and other pool equipment, depreciating your pool investment.
Clear Comfort’s Hydroxyl-Based AOP Pool Systems
Hydroxyl-Based AOP Pool System Pros:
Hydroxyl-based AOP systems allow pool owners to eliminate the chemical smell and irritation, and get the best water quality for their pool with the least amount of chemicals. AOP systems work by creating hydroxyls that immediately oxidize unwanted contaminants in the pool water. These hydroxyls are highly reactive, short-lived and the most powerful oxidative compounds available for recreational water treatment.
Hydroxyl-based AOP systems can help home pools have a clean, clean and soft-feeling low-chlorine pool water with minimal disinfection by-products. This technology also effectively destroys chlorine-resistant contaminants, without corrosion to pool equipment or materials.
Hydroxyl-Based AOP Pool System Cons:
Similar to salt water, ozone and UV pool systems, hydroxyl-based AOP systems require an occasional algaecide in outdoor pool settings, and it is recommended to maintain a low level of residual chlorine – about the same amount found in common drinking water. However, chlorine at such low levels will not be noticeable to swimmers and will not cause any smell or irritation.
With any pool water treatment option you choose, all pools will require balancing the six essential elements of pool maintenance: oxidation, pH control, alkalinity, algae control, physical cleaning and circulation.
If you don’t know where to start when making a decision about purchasing a pool water treatment system, consider the features and benefits that are important to you. Whether it’s price, ease of use, health, maintenance, environmental impact or feel of the water, there’s a pool treatment system available for every pool owner.
Interested in learning more about your pool chlorine alternative options? Take a look at our blog, “The Ultimate Pool Chlorine Alternative Comparison: AOP, Saltwater, Ozone & More.”
*Originally published on June 7, 2017