Salt Water Pools vs. Freshwater Pools – What are the differences?

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If you are considering installing a pool, you may be wondering whether you should install a saltwater pool or a freshwater pool. Maybe you have one and want to compare it to the other to find out if it could be a better alternative. Saltwater pools and freshwater pools are different on a lot of levels. This article offers you a clear comparison between saltwater pools and freshwater pools.

What are the main differences between saltwater pools and freshwater pools?


The main difference between saltwater pools and fresh water pools is the upfront cost vs. the maintenance cost.

Saltwater pools will require the higher upfront cost of a saltwater generator, while freshwater pools have the ongoing cost of chlorine additions and chemical shock treatments. If you don’t enjoy a lot of ongoing weekly maintenance, a freshwater 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 saltwater generator, a freshwater pool can work great for you.

The other main difference between saltwater and freshwater is the overall types of concerns that come with each. Freshwater 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. Saltwater 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.


Freshwater Pool Pros and Cons


  • 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.


  • 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.



Saltwater Pool Pros and Cons


  • Nearly maintenance-free – The maintenance is straightforward, and saltwater 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.


  • Higher upfront cost – You will have to pay for a saltwater 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 saltwater generator system consistently to keep your pool sanitized. This requires an electrical cost as well as future generator fixes and replacement costs.


The Final Tally: Which Pool Costs More?


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

Pool type: Saltwater Pool Freshwater 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 monitoring Chlorine additions and chemical shock treatments
Concerns: Salt can erode pool material if it isn’t all-resin. Chlorine can cause irritation to the 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: Saltwater pools and freshwater 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 saltwater generator will cost between $500-$2000. When you compare this to the upfront cost of a freshwater pool ($20-$40 for first chlorine treatment), it would seem that a saltwater pool would cost a whole lot more.

Then you have to factor in the maintenance and ongoing costs. A saltwater pool will require the ongoing costs of electricity to run the generator and salt that you occasionally add to your pool. A freshwater 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 freshwater pool’s extra ongoing costs will catch up and surpass the initial upfront cost of the saltwater pool. At this point, you will have spent more on a freshwater pool.

However, you then have to consider that your saltwater generator isn’t going to last forever. Saltwater 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 saltwater 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 saltwater 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 freshwater 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 freshwater pool and saltwater pool will cost about the same amount of money.



Because saltwater pools and freshwater 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 saltwater generator as your substantial upfront cost, you may consider a saltwater pool. If you’d rather save the money and use it for your ongoing chemical shock treatments, you may consider a freshwater 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 saltwater 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?

Photo by Coppell Pools

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