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Saltwater pools

Sabrina Galmes used to have a chlorinated pool but made the switch to saltwater -- and is seeing the benefits both financially and otherwise.

"Even if we had to change the motor a few years ago…now it costs less during the season," said Galmes, who lives in Montpellier, France. "Salt is cheap compared to chlorine."

Aside from the financial benefits, the saltwater pool is also nicer to swim in: she says she can now open her eyes underwater without feeling a burning sensation afterwards and there is no overwhelming smell of chlorine.

Saltwater pools can also save unnecessary embarrassment. Galmes says that once when guests took a dip in her chlorinated pool, their hair changed colour following the swim. "Blond hair turning green or orange is not nice when it happens in your pool," she says.

Saltwater pool owner Monica Chiarenza in Woodbridge, Ont. agrees, but says her number one reason for opting for a saltwater pool is the way her skin and hair feel after a swim: "Even after air drying in the sun, my skin is soft and not sticky."

What's more, saltwater is the more ecological choice, says Galmes. When it comes time to empty the pool, she usually lets the water run into the garden: "It's less aggressive for the garden to receive salted water than water with chlorine."

First introduced in Australia in the 1960s, saltwater pools have become a popular choice among consumers today. But keep in mind that the salt levels used in saltwater pools are a lot less than seawater: Ocean water is around 35,000 parts per million salt, while salt levels in saltwater pools are between 3,000 and 6,000 parts per million, depending on the brand that you choose.

If you're thinking about installing or converting to a saltwater pool, here's a quick primer on what you need to know -- from what it's going to cost you to whether it's a sound investment.

The costs
In general, the unit for a saltwater pool will usually cost between $1,500 and $3,000 to install, including salt to condition the water, says Jennifer Gannon, proprietor of BonaVista LeisureScapes in Toronto. "The cost of a saltwater generator is about $2,000 more than a chlorine pool but the maintenance costs are about $500 less each summer as salt costs less than chlorine," she says. Gannon estimates this translates in considerable savings after four years of having a saltwater pool.

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-- Posted June 15, 2011
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