Clean & Clear – Pool Sanitisation
The continual monitoring of conditions and sanitisation processes can be the bane of any pool owner's existence. Particularly true in hot climates, where pools see frequent use and bacteria multiply fast, there is no escaping the need to eliminate contaminants and prevent algae growth.
Words by Natasha Were
In addition to the filter, chlorine has traditionally been considered the most convenient and effective means of keeping pools clean and clear. Although powerful and fast-acting, however, chlorine has its drawbacks – when levels are off it can cause red eyes, dry skin, faded swimwear and, in some, an allergic reaction.
There are other ways to treat pools though, which greatly reduce the need for harsh chemicals, yet still result in sparkling, crystal clear water. The following breakdown outlines the alternatives, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Bromine, a chemical belonging to the same halogen group as chlorine, has the same disinfecting abilities, but does not have the odour or cause the allergic reactions that chlorine can.
Because it is more stable than chlorine in warm water, it is commonly used in hot tubs, but the same quality can make it a good option in a Caribbean climate. It is however, still a chemical and also degrades in sunlight, requiring the addition of greater quantities to be effective in pools.
Often referred to as saltwater pools, saltwater chlorination is not quite as natural as it sounds. The system works by first making the pool saline, by simply adding salt, and then installing a chlorine generator. As water passes through the generator, it converts the chloride part of the salt (aka sodium chloride) into chlorine.
The result is a softer, gentler form of chlorine that is odourless and does not irritate skin and eyes. For pool owners it eliminates the need to purchase, store and handle strong chemicals and, because the pH of the water remains neutral with salt chlorine generators, there is little need for other chemicals to be added.
The main disadvantage of this system is cost: the generators themselves are not cheap and the salt cells will need to be replaced every few years. This may, however, be offset by the reduced running costs in the long term.
Mineral ionisers are an environmentally friendly way to control bacteria, algae and viruses in pool water. Ionisers use electricity to positively charge copper and silver ions and disperse them in the pool’s water. Negatively charged bacteria and other microorganisms are drawn to the positively charged ions and destroyed or neutralised.
Although simple and inexpensive devices to purchase and maintain, ionisers are not a stand-alone solution. They will certainly reduce the need for chemicals but periodic chlorine shock treatments or continuous use of a very low level of chlorine is required to keep pools completely sanitised. Owners also run the risk of possible staining if the copper levels get too high and too much sanitiser is added. Ionizers depend on moving water to disperse the ions, so pool pumps need to be run frequently, if not continuously, which can add significantly to pool maintenance costs.
Ozone is a powerful naturally-occurring purifier that destroys mould, mildew, fungi and bacteria. In pool sanitation systems, ozone is synthesised by a small machine that attaches to the filtration plumbing line and injects it into the water where it reacts with pathogens.
Ozone acts very fast – much faster than chlorine – and uses minimal electricity. Although it tackles the bulk of the purifying, it is best used in conjunction with chlorine or bromine. The quantity of chlorine or bromine that is required is only 10% of what would be required without an ozonator, however, and is unlikely to smell or cause dry skin and sore eyes. The initial cost of ozonators is significant, but thereafter maintenance and chemicals costs are minimal.
Although 100% chemical free pools are not yet a reality, installing one of these devices can reduce the amount of chlorine or bromine required to levels that are undetectable to swimmers.
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