Saltwater: Wave of the Future

Saltwater: Wave of the Future

Basking in the sunshine, the Greeley children splash in their backyard pool kicking up an occasional wave of salt water spray without leaving their Springfield home. Instead of the gallons of chlorine, and a handful of other chemicals pools require, the Greeleys have a salt water pool.

Free from all the chemicals and PH testers the Greeleys are surfing on the new wave in swimming pools. No dry skin, no bleached hair, no chlorine smell wafting from their pool.

"I don't test for acid and PH, I have no problems with algae. Most people never notice it," said Bob Greeley.

At the Greeleys, the salt water is run through an ionizer which makes a natural chlorine.

According to Greeley, salinity in the ocean is 33,000 parts per million and his pool is 3,000 parts per million so the salinity is barely noticeable, except to Greeley's wallet.

"Opening chemicals can cost you $200, closing chemicals can cost you $200 and chemicals throughout the season are another $200," Greeley said. "I just go to Home Depot, buy some rock salt and pour it in."

Chelsea Seh at BJ's Pool and Spa in Burke is aware of the salt water pools.

"I believe two of our pools use salt," she said. "In the long run, I think it all evens out."

When Seh's customers come in with water to test, she tests it for PH and chlorine. This goes for the two salt water pool owners as well.

"If they have a salt water ionizer, I test for salt as well," She said.

George Stockdale is a representative for Atlantis Salt Pool Systems in Phoenix, Ariz. He's been converting pools to saltwater for the past 10 years.

"With regular pools, you have all the other chemicals, it just creates more problems. More and more, people have skin problems every year," Stockdale said.

STOCKDALE compares the clear water to standing on the reef in the ocean.

"You can open your eyes and it doesn't hurt. Most people tell me they spend more time in their pool because it's easier to maintain. I spend 20 minutes a week on mine," Stockdale said.

Convenience and ease are the reasons people use the salt water pools, according to Craig Sollom at American Craftsman pools in Fairfax Station.

"You don't have to mess around with the salt tablets or shock your system," Sollom said. "It saves a lot of headaches."

Initially, the electrical device that changes the salt to chlorine is about $1,500, Sollom said, and a standard pool is about $300 to $400 a year.

"People that have them, like them. The pools stay nice and clean, it's real clear," he said.

According to Doug Campbell, an environmental consultant in California, who specializes in chlorine-free pools, the toxic chemicals in standard pools are unhealthy. They specialize in electronic water disinfection using an ion system with silver and copper additives instead of chlorine.

"Make your pool safer and healthier and cut your operating cost by two-thirds in less than 30 minutes," was stated on their Web site.

Campbell was familiar with the salt systems though. Maintenance to the electrode that converts the salt to chlorine is expensive sometimes.

"There's pluses and minuses to them," Campbell said.