Salt Chlorine – a Good Fit for Your Family?
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hayward-aquarite-low-saltSaltwater pools originated in Australia and gained popularity in the U.S. during the 1990’s.

Eco-Friendly alternative to factory chlorine production allows you to make your own ‘locally sourced and organic’ chlorine, on-site.

Here’s how it works: The slightly salty water passes through a salt chlorine generator; a stack of electrically charged metal plates converts the salt into chlorine, using electrolysis. After the chlorine molecule does it’s work, it reverts back to the original components of just salt and water, where the process starts again.

Today’s saltwater generators use sensors to monitor chlorine levels, salt levels, water temperature and water flow, and are completely computer controlled with easy to use digital interfaces. Mount the control box, plumb in the salt cell, and pour in the pool salt!

If your family is considering making the switch from a chlorine pool to an eco-friendly saltwater pool, keep reading to learn more:

Salt Chlorine vs. Tablet Chlorine

salt-pool-systems-maintenanceMaintenance: Saltwater pools require weekly maintenance that includes monitoring salt concentration, pH and chlorine levels. The salt cell is a set of stacked metal plates that creates the chlorine.

Saltwater pool owners will not usually have to add chlorine to the pool, and saltwater generators are self-regulating, so there is often no need to shock the pool to remove chloramines. Salt pools may need to add small amounts of pool salt each year, to replace salt lost to backwashing, splash-out or winterization.

Salt cells only function when the filter pump is operating, so if you have pump or filter problems, you may need to use bleach, pool shock or tablets, until repairs are made. Salt pools may also use pool shock for spring openings, for algae treatment or stain removal. And, salt cells don’t work well in cold water – below 60°, you’ll need other forms of chlorine.

Salt cells are cleaneddirty-salt-cell-2 once a year, by filling the chamber or otherwise soaking the cell with a mild acid solution to remove calcium deposits which are attracted to the charged metal plates of the salt cell.

Both chlorine and saltwater pools require the same chemical management, and still require balanced pool water; with proper Alkalinity, pH, Calcium Hardness, and chlorine Stabilizer levels. And even though a salt chlorinator monitors salt and chlorine levels, it’s a good idea to cross-check with your own test kit. Salt levels can be tested with salt test strips.

Salt cells generally last 3-5 years before needing replacement. Salt cells last longer when they are oversized and under-worked, and cleaned regularly.

 

pool-cleanlinessCleanliness: Chlorine instantly kills harmful bacteria when it’s introduced into pool water, converting to hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ions that destroy contaminants in a matter of seconds.

The chlorine created by a salt chlorine generator is exactly the same as the chlorine released from tablets, shock or bleach. The disinfectant ability is equal as well, between salt chlorine and tablet chlorine. No difference.

algae-in-a-saltwater-poolI’ve heard it said that algae won’t grow in a salt pool, but that’s just not true, algae is a very adaptable species, and can grow in any type of pool when conditions are right. Salt pools that develop algae should begin a regular algaecide treatment, after shocking the pool appropriately.

 

health-benefits-of-saltwater-poolsHealth: Exposure to chlorine chemicals can dry out the skin and hair and can give swimmers itchy, irritable skin. Saltwater pools avoid peaks and valleys in chlorination, reducing chloramine formation, which causes red eyes, skin and at times, lung irritation.

Chlorine chemicals need to be handled with care. Transporting, storing and using chlorine products can be hazardous, on many levels. Have you ever read the Precautionary Statements on a chlorine bucket? Chlorine products can be dangerous.

woman-splashing-water-in-a-hot-swimming-poolAlthough saltwater pools are not chlorine-free, many swimmers find that the water quality of saltwater pools to be more pleasant. This is because the slightly salty water is softer, although you won’t taste it, and it won’t burn your eyes like the ocean.

 

cost-of-salt-system-vs-chlorineExpense. No matter which delivery system you choose, chlorine isn’t free. Pool saltwater systems will initially cost more up-front to buy/install, but over time – the costs of chlorinating with a salt generator vs. tablet and shock chlorine is about the same.

I’d be remiss to not mention that salt water splash-out or drag-off can potentially damage certain types of very soft flagstone or travertine stonework. Sealing a stone pool deck or coping regularly will prevent damage and chalking from evaporated salt.

Pool decks of concrete, pavers or bricks however, are more resistant to salt from pool splash out and usually stand-up well without regular sealing or rinsing of the deck, especially in areas with regular rainfall.

Salt Chlorine Generator; Good Fit for Your Family?

The cost of installing a saltwater pool is higher than a traditional chlorine pool; however many consider swimming comfort and not having to store and handle chlorine, as worth the additional expense.

Busy families will not have to worry as much about pool chlorine with a saltwater generator, which requires very little intervention.

Although I’m known to preach the benefits of In The Swim chlorine, the use of a saltwater pool system is a perfectly logical alternative for pool disinfection.

Class Dismissed!

DrPool-thumb

Dr. Pool

 

10 Do’s And Don’ts for Polar Plunges
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polar-plunge-2016-logoThe Pool May Be Covered, But Swim Season is Far From Over.

It was New Year’s Day, 2012, and Danielle Martinetti was on a New York beach… in a vintage style one-piece, lipstick and a flower-printed bathing cap. “My only thought was ‘this is gonna be cold,’” Martinetti said.

Martinetti signed up for the plunge as a thrill-seeking alternative to traditional New Year’s celebrations. Instead of buying another new dress and going out on the town, she “decided to be adventurous and head off to Coney Island.”

But she wasn’t swimming alone. Martinetti’s New Year’s adventure is part of a polar plunge wave that’s growing every year.

Each winter, long after the traditional swim season ends, hundreds of thousands of Polar Plungers dive into almost-freezing lakes, oceans, rivers, and even backyard pools. There are dozens of polar bear plunges around the US. The largest, Plungapalooza in Maryland, involves 12,000 swimmers raising funds for the Special Olympics. The Coney Island New Year’s plunge alone has been afloat since 1903 and boasts 1,000+ annual participants.

Larry Andersen, who took the plunge in Chicago’s Lake Michigan in the late 1990’s, says the harshest part of a plunge can come post-dive.

“Once you’re in the water, it’s not as bad as you’d think,” Andersen said. “It’s when you get out. The wind is blowing, and you’ve got 30 degree water on you with 30 degree air temperature.”

chicago-polar-plungeAnd for some, a quick dip isn’t enough.

YouTube adventurer and former Olympic rower, Patrick Sweeney, participated in a 200 meter polar swim in Geneva, Switzerland in 2014.

“I didn’t spend a lot of time training for it and wasn’t sure how my muscles would respond to a 200 meter swim in 40 degrees,” he said. “But I swam fast.”

You can watch the video of his 2014 plunge below. He plans to return for the 2015 swim with his wife and daughter, and another fun costume.

 

Polar Plunge Prep – 10 Do’s and Don’ts

If you’re planning to extend bathing suit season this winter, here are some cold dip tips from our panel of previous polar bears:

DO take an ice-cold shower to prep for the plunge.

Every participant interviewed recounted how the cold water “took their breath away,” a reaction caused by hyperventilation. So it’s best to be prepared for that moment before you’re in over your head.clipartsheet---cold-shower

Sweeney prepared for this part of the plunge at home.

“I took a shower and made it as cold as possible for 30 seconds, then warm for 30 seconds, to get used to it,” he said.

DO bring Vaseline and a multi-colored bathing cap.

It won’t do much in the way of keeping you warm, but you may be able to convince a cold compatriot to look silly in a cap and Vaseline, says Andersen.

DO NOT try to warm up with “Vitamin Scotch.”

Alcohol lowers your body temperature, though it may make you feel otherwise.

DO NOT stay in the water for more than a few minutes.

Cold incapacitation can begin within 5 minutes of entering the water.

However…

DO NOT chicken out for fear of hypothermia.

The friend that invited Andersen to plunge stopped just short of entering the water. “And I hold it over his head to this day,” Andersen said.

Yes, it’s cold, but hypothermia is not likely for the average adult unless they’re immersed for 30 minutes or more.

subrosa09-doing-the-polar-plunge---wade-in-the-water

DO meet random strangers for good times afterwards.

Dana Humphrey, who also do the Coney Island, N.Y. plunge in 2012, lost contact with her friend after the plunge, so she partied with a group she’d met at a pizza joint on New Year’s Eve.

“I was standing dripping wet on the boardwalk for two hours dancing,” she said. And she did eventually catch up with her friend. Humphrey also plunged two more times before the end of the day.

“I figured I was already wet, so I may as well do it again,” she added.

Dana Humphrey with her polar plunge completion certificate and a new New Year’s Eve friend. Dana Humphrey with her polar plunge certificate and a new friend.

DO consider wearing a (water proof) costume

Sure, a bathing suit in January feels like a costume in its own right, but many polar plungers go the extra mile, dressed as their favorite superheroes or cartoon characters.

DO bring a towel and arrange a meeting place with friends beforehand.

For her dive, Martinetti brought a fluffy robe, towels, thick wool socks and heavy sweaters for the ride home. She even reserved post-plunge brunch plans.

DO NOT overthink it – a polar plunge is just another adventure.

Even if you aren’t going the 200-meter distance, Sweeney maintains that plunges are a great way to do something healthy and adventurous that don’t require training and prep.

“You can literally jump right in,” he said.warm-water-is-for-wimps

And finally,

DO act like you enjoy the plunge.

Even if you have to freeze a smile in place. Remember, it’s for a good cause – you’re Freezin’ for a Reason!

Check online for Polar Plunges near you and “Freeze the Day!” on New Year’s Day.

 

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Davy Merino
InTheSwim Blog Editor

 

The Ultimate Guide to Wintertime Pool Buying
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When contemplating the ultimate holiday gift, it’s fair to say that a swimming pool is not the first thing that comes to mind for many people. But believe it or not, there is actually some pretty solid logic behind building the ultimate summer sanctuary during the time of year many of us spend as little time outside as possible.

Yule see why pool planning in the coldest months of the year can save you money, extend the time you have to use it in the spring and summer – and let’s face it, make up for all of those well-intentioned but ill-received gifts of Christmases past (like the musical reindeer neck tie).

desert-pool-pixabayChoosing a Pool that Your Family Will Go Chestnuts Over

The trick to picking the perfect pool layout is a little more involved than choosing between a rectangle and a kidney bean shape. Additionally, there are a few materials to choose from when deciding how to build your pool, as well as the decision of whether to install it in-ground or above-ground. And you thought your hardest decision this December would be where the family spent Christmas Eve! But fear not – there are several ways to help you come to a final decision on all of these items.

First things first: You’re going to need to obtain any necessary permits from your local government. These are going to vary from one community to the next, so finding out this information from your Building & Zoning dept. is going to be necessary before breaking any ground.

Before you can submit pool permits however, you want to figure out the specs of the pool. The first big question to ask yourself is whether you want your pool to be above-ground or in-ground. There are benefits to both depending on what you’re looking for (and how much you’re willing to spend!).

An above-ground pool is significantly less expensive, can be built in a weekend, and can be removed or transported to a new residence should you ever move to a new house. In-ground pools can last decades longer than above-ground versions and add value to your home. They also come with the option of a complete backyard makeover, such as adding a wood deck and any desired natural décor to complement your new pool.

If you go the in-ground route, you’ll next want to decide what kind of material to use to build it. There are three materials commonly used to build pools:

  • Concrete: This is the most popular option because of its durability, long lifespan (50 yrs!), and ability to be created into just about any shape you can dream up. Sometimes referred to as gunite or shotcrete pools, they are a good option if you live in year-round warm weather (lucky you!). Of the three options listed here, concrete pools are the most expensive, and the most durable, but usually take around 12 weeks from beginning to end of the installation process, but they also typically last the longest.
  • Vinyl: Vinyl-lined pools are installed with steel or polymer walls, usually in a modified rectangle shape. They are not as heavy-duty as concrete pools, with a softer surface and weaker walls. But vinyl pools do come with perks! For example, the installation process is much quicker (typically one to three weeks), and because of their smooth surface, they are easier to keep clean and stain-free than plaster-covered concrete pools. And, the steel or polymer walls don’t expand and contract with the seasons.
  • Fiberglass: Like the vinyl variety, fiberglass pools are installed as molded shells into excavated holes, so they typically aren’t available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They are the least durable of these three options as well as the least costly, and can be installed in a few days. Their bonus features include requiring fewer chemicals for routine maintenance because of the non-porous nature of fiberglass, and being an optimum choice for areas that are prone to earthquakes.

Now that you’ve decided what your pool should be made of, you can start thinking about the fun details you can add to your pool. Diving boards, dancing fountains, colored lights, bejeweled tanning ledges, you name it! There are seemingly endless possibilities for pool customization these days, so be sure to talk to your contractor about available options for jazzing it up.

If you have any questions or still feel overwhelmed with where to start (perhaps you’ve been hitting the eggnog a little too hard?), consult a few pool building contractors for advice. They can help you decide which options will work for your yard, budget and timeline.

paver-pool-deck-pixabaryWhy Buying a Pool in the Winter Will Make Your Family Jolly

We know what you’re thinking; why in the heck should a new pool be a part of my family’s yuletide festivities rather than our spring break plans? In fact, there are plenty of reasons why this seemingly wacky idea may actually be pretty brilliant.

For starters, not everyone has this stroke of genius. Pool builders tend to have less business in the fall and winter than in the spring and summer, even in warm climates. Not only are you likely to be able to find one who doesn’t already have a heavy workload, but due to the simple laws of supply and demand, you may even be able to score a better deal than you would if you waited until the temperature warmed up.

Building a pool during the colder months of the year is actually more practical than waiting to build in the spring or summer. That’s because depending on the material you choose to build with, you could potentially be looking at a months-long process for it to be completed. Building in January will up your chances that your swimming hole will be good to go the minute the weather becomes tolerable again. Your yard is also going to need some time to recover – remember, the space where you’re going to install the pool as well as a pretty hefty area surrounding it is going to take a beating, and will likely consist of more dirt than grass for a while. If you’re already planning your first annual summer pool bash in your head, you’re ideally going to want to have your entire yard back in tiptop shape as soon as it warms up outside. Allowing grass, flower and shrub seeds time to settle in for a few months helps guarantee a yard that will be the envy of every neighbor come spring.

If you’re concerned that winter weather inhibits the feasibility of creating a summer oasis, rest easy: Dry conditions that are typical of fall and winter can actually make excavation an easier task than the one presented by the soggy soil that results from spring and summer showers. Additionally, pool-building experts say that cold temperatures aren’t usually an issue, as long as you get past sustained freezing temperatures. 35° and clear skies? Perfect pool building weather.

Plus, many individuals receive an annual bonus at the end of the year, while others have an idea of what kind of tax refund they can look forward to at the beginning of the year. Both of these once-a-year surpluses can be helpful in buying the best Christmas gift ever, whether you plan on paying cash or financing a pool.

Finally, it can be emotionally uplifting to have something to look forward to during the long, cold winter months when warmth from the sun seems like an elusive luxury. What better way to ward off wintertime blues than by counting down the days until you’re poolside in your own backyard?

poolside-lounge-chairs-pixabayOther Quick Tips for Making a Splash with Your Christmas Gift

No matter what, surprising your family with the announcement of a pool will make this holiday one of the most memorable ones your family has ever experienced. Here are a few tips for helping to make sure everything goes off without a hitch:

  • Get creative with your presentation. Wrap up gifts your family can enjoy with their new pool, such as goggles, pool floats or even bathing suits, will mystify them before delighting them (and make you the all-time Christmas hero).
  • Decide up front whether your pool will use salt chlorine or tablet chlorine treated water. You don’t want to wait until it’s time to fill the pool to do this research – that takes valuable time away from fun in the sun.
  • Buy your pool supplies during the building process. You’ll be glad to have items like a pool skimmer net, thermometer and any necessary chemicals on hand before you desperately need them.

pool-during-winter-pixabayGifting your family with a new pool for the holidays is not only the ultimate Christmas gift – it’s also an extremely practical time of year to charge ahead with creating a summer retreat in the comfort of your own home.

With some advanced planning and a whole lot of Christmas cheer, you can make this holiday season one of your family’s most memorable ever!

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Christine Silvestri
InTheSwim Staff Blogger