Salt Water Pools vs. Chlorine Pools – Everything You Need To Know

Last Updated on July 20, 2020

If you are considering installing a pool, you may be wondering whether you should install a salt water pool or a freshwater pool.

Technically speaking salt water and freshwater pools both use chlorine. Salt water pools use salt water generators to convert salt into chlorine.

Meanwhile freshwater pool use pool chemicals with chlorine to keep the pool water clean and clear.

For this comparison guide, we will refer to freshwater pools as chlorine pools.

Now, salt water pools and chlorine pools are different on a lot of levels. This article offers you a clear comparison between salt water pools and chlorine pools.

swimming on saltwater pool

What are the main differences between salt water pools and chlorine pools?

The main difference between salt water pools and chlorine pools is the upfront cost vs. the maintenance cost.

Salt water pools will require the higher upfront cost of a salt water generator, while chlorine pools have the ongoing cost of chlorine additions and chemical shock treatments.

If you don’t enjoy a lot of ongoing weekly maintenance, a chlorine pool might not be your first choice.

On the other hand, if you are okay with the ongoing cost of shock treatments and don’t want to spend a lump sum on a salt water generator, a chlorine pool can work great for you.

The other main difference between salt water and chlorine pools is the overall types of concerns that come with each.

Chlorine pools cause concern about the amount of chlorine that is in the pool at any given time. Chlorine is already irritating to the eyes and skin and can become even more irritating and possibly dangerous if the chlorine levels get too high.

Salt water pools cause concern about the erosion of your pool walls and floor that could occur. If you don’t have an all-resin pool, your pool walls and floors could begin to deteriorate quicker than you think.

Chlorine Pool Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Chlorine is an effective sanitizer – Using chlorine as a sanitizer is effective. A chlorine shock treatment will kill all of the bacteria and algae in your pool.
  • Widely used – Because most people have freshwater chlorine pools, you will find a lot more products for chlorine pools and receive more guidance when you need it.
  • No electrical equipment needed – You don’t need any generators or electrical equipment, which makes a chlorine pool system a lower upfront cost.

Cons:

  • More regular maintenance – Chlorine pools require more maintenance time with the addition of chlorine pool shock treatments that make you wait before using your pool again.
  • Chlorine irritating to eyes and skin – Chlorine is already more irritating than salt, and it only becomes more irritating when you have too much chlorine in your pool.
  • More expensive to maintain – With a chlorine pool, you will have to put in more money to maintain your pool with chlorine shock treatments and chemicals.

Salt Water Pool Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Nearly maintenance-free – The maintenance is straightforward, and salt water pools have far less maintenance than chlorine pools. Adding salt to the water and occasionally checking on the salt generator is just about all you need to do.
  • Salt is incredibly affordable – Taking the day-to-day and week-to-week maintenance and addition of chemicals into consideration, salt is going to be a lot more affordable than chlorine additives.
  • Exceptionally low chlorine content – With the small amounts of chlorine that is generated from the salt generator, you get a more enjoyable swimming experience with less irritation.

Cons:

  • Higher upfront cost – You will have to pay for a salt water generator system that could cost anywhere between $500 and $2000.
  • Requires an all-resin pool – Salt will cause deterioration of materials, especially metal. It is advised to have an all-resin pool to avoid future problems and fixes.
  • Requires external system – You must use your salt water generator system consistently to keep your pool sanitized. This requires an electrical cost as well as future generator fixes and replacement costs.

In-Depth Comparison of Salt Water and Chlorine Pools

Before getting into the final tally, take a look at the table below to give yourself a side-by-side comparison of salt water and chlorine pool systems.

Pool type:Salt water PoolChlorine Pool
Initial investment:$500-$2000 for generator$20-$40 for first chlorine
Yearly upkeep cost:$20-$100 for salt$200-$400 for chemical shock treatments
Maintenance needs:Salt additions and weekly generator monitoringChlorine additions and chemical shock treatments
Concerns:Salt can erode pool material if it isn’t all-resin.Chlorine can irritate your skin and eyes.

You know what each pool system contains, you’ve looked over the pros and cons, and you understand the differences between the two pool systems. However, the big question is: Which pool costs more?

The short answer: Salt water pools and chlorine pools, in the long run, will cost about the same on average.

When you add up the numbers and consider all the points, the costs of each pool are in the same price range. Let’s take a closer look at how this conclusion was made.

A salt water generator will cost between $500-$2000. When you compare this to the upfront cost of a chlorine pool ($20-$40 for first chlorine treatment), it would seem that a salt water pool would cost a whole lot more.

If you have an large above ground pool, then this salt water filter system can help you save money on maintenance cost.

Price: --
(57 customer reviews)
  • Designed for use with above ground pools from 4, 800 to 15, 000 gallon capacity
  • 110-120V with GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter)
  • 16-inch Tank diameter; 0. 75 hp motor
  • Pump flow rate 2650 gph. System flow rate 2150 gph
  • Chlorine output: 11 g/hr.
  • 2-Year

Then you have to factor in the maintenance and ongoing costs. A salt water pool will require the ongoing costs of electricity to run the generator and salt that you occasionally add to your pool.

A chlorine pool will require the ongoing expenses of chlorine additions and chemical shock treatments.

You may have to shock treat your pool as much as once every couple of days to as little as once every couple of weeks. This depends on how frequently you use the pool, how many people use it, and what other contaminants get into your pool.

By the end of the first or second year, the chlorine pool’s extra ongoing costs will catch up and surpass the initial upfront cost of the salt water pool. At this point, you will have spent more on a chlorine pool.

However, you then have to consider that your salt water generator isn’t going to last forever. Salt water generators will commonly last for about three to seven years, depending on how good of a system you have. You will be required to either get your system fixed or purchase a new salt water generator.

At this point, it’s difficult to tally the exact cost associations between each type of pool. You could get lucky and have a salt water generator that lasts you ten years. Or, it could last you two years.

You could get lucky and not have to add as much chemical treatment to your chlorine pool and save a lot of money in maintenance and ongoing treatment costs. Or, you could have to add treatment more frequently in larger quantities.

With a long-term outlook, a chlorine pool and salt water pool will cost about the same amount of money.

Final Thoughts on Salt Water vs Chlorine Pools

Because salt water pools and chlorine pools will cost about the same amount of money in the long run, your decision will be based solely on taste and upfront vs. ongoing costs.

If you have enough money to invest in a salt water generator as your substantial upfront cost, you may consider a salt water pool.

If you’d rather save the money and use it for your ongoing chemical shock treatments, you may consider a chlorine pool.

If too much chlorine makes you irritated, that’s also something to consider when making your decision.

If you don’t have an all-resin pool that could erode from a salt water system, that will be a determining factor in what you choose.

The best thing you can do is ask yourself – Using the information from this article, which pool sounds more enticing to me?

Frequently Asked Questions About Salt Water and Chlorine Pools

Which is easier to maintain salt water pool or chlorine?

When it comes to maintenance, the edge goes to salt water pools. They are easier to maintain and will not require weekly cleaning. Since the chlorine generated by the saltwater generator is sufficient to prevent algae build-up in your pool.

You can also check out our guide on how to clean saltwater above ground pools to have an idea on how to maintain this type of pool system.

What’s cheaper salt or chlorine?

Salt is more affordable than chlorine. If we’re going to compare the yearly cost for each. Salt water pools will need $100 worth of salt for the whole year. It could be less. While chlorine pools may need $300 to $1000 worth of chlorine products to maintain your pool for a single year.

Do salt water pools taste like the ocean?

If you were expecting an ocean type of water on your salt water pool, then you would need to spend on a truckload of salt first.

The salt in your salt water pool is almost undetectable. It will not taste too salty since the salt level in your pool is not near the salinity level in the ocean which is more or less 36,000 ppm. That’s equivalent to 36 grams of salt per one liter of water.

Photo by Coppell Pools




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