Introducing Salt Chlorinators
Salt chlorination is the most popular form of pool sanitation today. When you install a salt water pool, you are getting a chlorinated pool without the hassle of having to lug home drums of chlorine or using commercial chlorine which contains other products which can cause problems. A salt water pool makes owning a clean pool easy. When the system is also automated, you can be sure the chlorine needs are matched to the pool needs and that the pH levels are kept in balance as well. To find out more, phone us at Compass Pools on 1300 667 445.
Anthony Cross: I’d like to introduce Gary Walters. Garry works as a contractor for Compass Pools retail business in New South Wales. Gary is a specialist pool technician. His specialty is water chemistry. Gary also has a job with a WA based equipment company called Pool Controls. Pool Controls specializes in providing a form of sanitising system that is very popular around the country servicing pool builders and the pool industry in general. Gary is here to talk to us today about his favourite subject. That is right, isn’t it?
Gary Walters: That’s right.
Anthony Cross: So on the subject of chlorination or pool sanitation, it’s my understanding that the majority of pools built today and sold today are set up as salt water pools. Would you agree with that?
Gary Walters: Yes, that’s right, probably around the 80% to 90% mark I suppose would be using salt chlorination.
Anthony Cross: Sure, that’s obviously very effective, a tried and tested system. What would you say that the main benefits of the salt water system are compared to other forms of sanitation?
Gary Walters: It’s probably ease of use. You’re not lugging big drums of chemicals home. It’s fairly easy to look after. As you said, the system has been around a long while and is tried and proven.
Anthony Cross: I actually think it’s an Australian invention, the salt water chlorinator, isn’t it?
Gary Walters: I’m not sure on that. You’ve got me on that one.
Traditional Pool Chlorinators
Anthony Cross: Yes it is. It was commercialised by a company called Monarch in Perth quite a few years ago. It’s taken over the world. An interesting part of the story with salt water chlorination is that not ever customer realises what they’re getting when they ask for a salt water pool. What are they getting?
Gary Walters: Basically, you’re getting a chlorinated pool. It’s just an easier system of producing the chlorine without having to lug home drums of chlorine or a lot of commercial chlorine or dry chlorine products which contain other components which can cause a problem. This can be a problem with an increase of hardness or high stabiliser levels. With a salt chlorinated system you don’t have those issues.
Anthony Cross: Effectively the salt water which is what you’re aware of when you’re swimming in the pool, the salt is there to allow a chemical reaction to occur inside the saltwater chlorinator itself, if I understand it correctly. That is making chlorine. So that is making the sanitizing agent that is responsible for keeping your pool water clean.
Gary Walters: That is correct. You have a very low salt water residual in the pool. It’s a very low level, nothing like seawater. The salt is used in a process of electrolysis to produce the chlorine from the chlorinator cell. It’s a regenerative process so the salt doesn’t get used up in the process. It’s returned to the pool at the end of the process.
Chlorination of Public Pools
Anthony Cross: I guess one of the reasons some customers, pool owners, future pool owners are worried about having a chlorine pool and therefore they ask for a salt pool, is they have experiences at the local public pool. There can often be a strong chlorine smell; it’s quite obvious what product is being used in those commercial environments. What would you say is essentially the difference between that situation in the commercial pool versus how a salt water chlorinator works in a residential pool?
Gary Walters: There’s probably not a lot of difference in the end product going into the pool. A lot of the time the problem with the smell you get in a lot of those pools is due to incorrect chlorination, or insufficient chlorination. It’s not necessarily caused by the chlorine, it’s caused by chloramines or the by products of the process.
Anthony Cross: So we’re not necessarily smelling chlorine. We might think we’re smelling chlorine but we’re smelling a by-product.
Gary Walters: That’s right. You’re smelling the gases or the by-products that come off the pool via the chlorination process. A correctly chlorinated pool will have very little odour. You shouldn’t be able to smell much chlorine at all or a very low level. It’s a bit like chlorine that is in your tap water. If you taste it, it’s probably at an incorrect level. So it brings you down to controlling the correct amount or adding the correct amount of chlorine to the pool.
Anthony Cross: Gary, I said earlier that you work for company called Pool Controls in WA which make a range of pool equipment. One of that company’s main items is a saltwater chlorinator. But it is not your everyday saltwater chlorinator, is it? What can you say about it?
Gary Walters: Pool Controls’ background is more in automated pool control equipment. Initially it started with chemical control, automated systems that dose the pool according to the chlorine demand. We’ve taken that one step further and incorporated it with a saltwater chlorination system.
The problem with a lot of conventional saltwater systems is you turn the dial and you put a set amount of chlorine in the pool everyday. The pool’s chlorine demand will change from day to day depending on whether it is a hot day, a rainy day or whether you’ve got ten people swimming in the pool or no one swimming in the pool.
The problem with a conventional saltwater chlorinator is you set the output and it will dose the same every day, regardless of the usage in the pool.
Anthony Cross: That is what is commonly called an unregulated system.
Gary Walters: It’s not an automated system. It’s regulated but it’s regulated by you adjusting the output on the system. It’s not regulated by the demand on the pool.
Anthony Cross: So it’s manual versus automatic.
Gary Walters: That’s right. We’ve taken that one step further and incorporated it into a fully automated system. The system while it’s running tests the pool continuously and doses chlorine according to the demand on the pool. So on a hot day with heavy use, you’ll need more chlorine and the system will produce that via the salt chlorinator. On a cloudy day or in the middle of winter, your chlorine demand will be greatly reduced and the system will adjust to cope with that.
Anthony Cross: I guess that makes the whole job of the pool owner a lot easier. At the end of the day, the water is always at that right level.
Gary Waters: That’s right, it is easier and a lot more accurate. So you’ve got better control of the water chemistry. It’s safer for the pool users because you do have the correct amount of sanitizer in there to keep the water healthy. It also protects and extends the life of your pool shell and your pool equipment.
Anthony Cross: So there are a lot of advantages in having and maintaining that correct chlorine level which I think is referred to as a residual.
Gary Walters: That’s right definitely. It extends the life of the equipment and also saves money. The better you can maintain your pool, the fewer chemicals, the cheaper or the less expensive it is to run in the long term.
Anthony Cross: Sure, so over the years the saltwater chlorinator has become a dominant force in swimming pool sanitation. Then I guess in more recent years, companies like Pool Controls have come along and worked out ways to automate the system so that you’re matching the chlorine needs to the pool needs.
Gary Walters: That’s correct.
Factors Affecting Chlorine Demand
Anthony Cross: It is affected by more factors, isn’t it?
Gary Walters: There are a lot of factors that affect the chlorine demand on the pool. As I said, it will change greatly from day to day. It’s not really something where you can set a dial and hope for the best. The trouble with the conventional system is most of the time you’re guessing how much chlorine you need for the pool and probably eighty percent of the time you’re guessing wrong. You’re either over chlorinating or under chlorinating. The automated system that we’re using takes the guesswork out of that and the system does all that work for you.
Anthony Cross: Some of the other recent trends are things like energy efficient pumps. These days, for the last few years at least, there has been a big push for pools to be set up with energy efficient filter pumps and so forth. Obviously that’s about saving money, running the pump at a lower speed.
That can cause problems though, can’t it? At the end of the day, if you’re running a lower speed pump and you’re running it potentially for more hours of the day, if you don’t have an automatic type controller type system, you’re having to manually adjust the output of the controller.
Gary Walters: That’s right. If you’re extending the run times, your conventional chlorinator is adding so much per hour regardless of where you’re running the pool.
Anthony Cross: So the pump might be slower with these energy efficient pumps but the chlorine generator, saltwater generator is still making the same amount of chlorine per hour.
Gary Walters: That’s right, unless you physically turn the output down, it’s still putting out the same amount of chlorine. So you can end up with issues of over-chlorination in the pool, bleaching of pool shell equipment, toys, clothing, all those sorts of things.
Anthony Cross: The other factor I guess is an increased use of pool covers or pool blankets particularly during winter. A pool is generally not used in Australia in winter, so in a lot of cases a pool blanket is used to cover that over. Saltwater chlorinators will continue to make chlorine if they’re not an automatic system.
Gary Walters: That’s right. You’ll see a lot of covers will start to bleach fairly quickly, go white, separate, flake away. That is usually a sign on over -chlorination. Again, with the automated system that we’re using, it will take account of that and automatically reduce the chlorine output so you don’t end up with over –chlorination in a pool where you’ve put a cover on for winter.
Anthony Cross: So it really is about making the job of the home owner a lot easier, protecting the equipment and reducing your overall costs.
Gary Cross: That’s right. As you said, it prolongs the life of the pool. A pool is a fairly long term investment, so you want to maximise its life and get the best value out of it. By having an automated controller, that is going to greatly help.
Anthony Cross: There is a second half to the automated controller that Pool Controls provide and that Compass Pools are a principal user of. I know that we use your product on all of our pools in Newcastle and I know a lot of our other dealers around the country also find it’s a great product to include with our pools. The other side is the pH control side, isn’t it?
Gary Walters: That’s right. pH control is very important to optimise the effectiveness of the chlorine. As your pH changes, the effectiveness of the chlorine will either be reduced or enhanced. Most times it will be reduced because as you add chlorine you get a gradual pH rise. So unless you’re controlling that pH in the pool, you can get to the point where you can have quite a high chlorine level, but if your pH is also high, that chlorine isn’t doing anything for you. So again, automating the pH control to keep the pH neutral in the pool maximises the efficiency of the chlorine. Again it comes back to cost savings, effective use of the pool and effective use of the chemicals.
Anthony Cross: As you said, the pH control requires the addition of acid. Acid is a regularly used part of the chemical treatment of a swimming pool. This is really just taking one more thing away from the management of the home owner, the pool owner or the service technician.
Gary Walters: That’s right. It’s correctly dosing a bit more regularly. Your typical owner would probably only get their water checked maybe once a month. If they’re lucky, they might look at the pool once a week and add a bit of acid. But with an automated system it’s adding the acid as required. So if you need it every second day, third day, fourth day, the system will automatically dose that.
Anthony Cross: That’s all going to again, just like the chlorine demand, depend on the environmental conditions. If it’s been raining, if there is a lot of sun, if there has been a lot of use of the pool, a high bather load, all those factors will affect both the chlorine and the pH, won’t they?
Gary Walters: Yes. Rain can have a big effect on the pH of pool water. The chlorinator is probably the main thing that causes the pH change, chlorine naturally being a fairly high pH. So in summer when you’re adding a lot of chlorine, you’re getting more pH, or more potential for pH rise. So you need to add acid a bit more regularly than you would in winter. So again the automated system takes care of that. A manual addition of acid isn’t a very accurate way to control the pool.
Less Chemicals in Your Swimming Pool
Anthony Cross: I understand that the automated system that we’re talking about here will actually result in less chemical usage, including less acid, by these regular daily adjustments
Gary Walters: That’s right. You’re keeping a more constant controlled level in the pool, both of your chlorine and your pH. So water chemistry being all linked together, the more stable your pH can be, the fewer additional chemicals you need. If you’re getting massive rises and troughs in the chlorine and pH, you’ll have more trouble maintaining the pool and there will be more additional chemicals needed to control it.
Anthony Cross: So it really looks after the two main factors in having a good quality healthy water environment, looking after the sanitiser,chlorine, and it’s looking after the acid side of things which controls pH.
Gary Walters: That’s right. They’re the two things that rapidly change in the pool from day to day or even hour to hour. So an automated system is the best way to control those. A manual test once a week really isn’t sufficient to try and control the pool and adjust chlorine and pH levels with a conventional system.
Anthony Cross: There is still a little bit of input required from either the pool owner or the pool service technician.
Gary Walters: Yes, there are a couple of other factors that will change gradually over time, like the salt levels and stabiliser levels and so on. These are mainly affected by dilution of pool water through rain and they’re a long- term change. They’re not a day-to-day change. So if the pool owner keeps an eye on these once a week or they have a pool service guy come once a month, they can certainly keep an eye on those other factors. But pH and chlorine are the two main factors that we’re interested in controlling automatically.
Anthony Cross: So obviously it is still a requirement to get the water tested at the local pool shop every month or so?
Gary Walters: Yes, definitely. A month is probably a good time.
Anthony Cross: Particularly in summer.
Gary Walters: Yes, definitely in summer. Keep an eye on any other issues that may occur. It’s a bit like checking the oil in your car. Just keep an eye on it, don’t wait for any red lights to come on and you’ll have a lot fewer problems.
Anthony Cross: Saltwater chlorinators are a massive factor in today’s management of swimming pools. You would obviously highly recommend that the automated version of those systems with the pH control is the way for all customers to go.
Gary Walters: The reliability of saltwater chlorinators these days is far above what it would have been say ten or twenty years ago. They’re very energy efficient, have very long life spans, are very effective with digital control in most of them now, so they’re a very effective system, combined with the automation in controlling pool sanitation. They are a great solution for salt water pools.
Anthony Cross: If I can just throw this little bit in at the end, Compass Pools has worked closely with Pool Controls. I think it is fair to say there is a system that we make available to our dealer network and our customers which we call the Gemini Twin System. There is a degree of exclusivity in that arrangement, isn’t there?
Gary Walters: That’s right and it’s exclusively set up for Compass with the correct parameters for running Compass Pools.
Anthony Cross: We’ve had those systems now running on hundreds of customers’ pools for a number of years. We tend to run those systems obviously in all of our display pools, so it’s been put through the ropes.
Gary Walters: Definitely. We’ve made a couple of little modifications here or there to suit the requirements of Compass, so it is really the perfect system to add on to a Compass pool.
Anthony Cross: We appreciate all your efforts. I know you’ve got a day job and you work with us on the side. It’s been a good collaboration so I thank you for that. Thanks for having a chat with me today. Give one of the team a call today on 1300 667 445.