Ask the Agents #16: Saltwater Pools

Question: What is the difference between a saltwater pool and a regular pool?

Answer: A sparkling clean backyard pool makes a sultry Houston summer worth it, right? And no doubt, given our current COVID situation, people who have a swimming pool will be staying home and using it more than ever this year.

As real estate agents, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of listings that specifically mention “saltwater pool.” Why the evolution?

You might be surprised to know that the water in a saltwater pool is not nearly as salty as seawater. In fact, it’s only about one-tenth as salty. And a saltwater pool does still have chlorine – just not so much as a traditional chlorine pool.

One of the big differences is that a saltwater pool has a generator that uses salt (either evaporated sea salt or mined salt) to produce hypochlorous acid for sanitation via electrolysis, which is the breakdown of salt by passing electricity through the saltwater solution. A chlorine pool uses chlorine in either liquid, stick or tablet form and it’s frequently added all at once, as when a pool is “shocked.”

The lower chlorine concentration in a saltwater pool results in less fading of swimsuits and pool toys. It’s also much gentler to the skin, eyes and respiratory system. Saltwater pools require less regular maintenance. Also, the storage of salt does not require any special consideration, whereas handling chlorine can be hazardous.

There are drawbacks to saltwater pools. The first is the upfront cost of the saltwater generator. The generators also tend to have a shorter lifespan than chlorine pool equipment, so they have to be replaced every few years. Because the generators are complex, even small problems usually have to be handled by a technician, rather than the homeowner. (Expensive house call alert!) And saltwater pools use more electricity than chlorine pools.

On the plus side, pool salt is relatively inexpensive – perhaps $100 a year, depending on the size of your pool and maintenance schedule – and there are no health risks to storing salt in your garage. Chemicals for a chlorine pool can cost between a couple hundred and $1,000 a year.

You should also know that landscaping around a saltwater pool can be damaged by the saltwater. It can also break down existing wiring, concrete surfaces and underwater light lenses. So, if you’re thinking of converting your traditional pool to a saltwater pool, get solid professional advice.

If you want to know more, click here for a basic overview.