Cannonball! Jumping into a swimming pool is a classic way to beat the heat on a hot summer day. But clean pool water requires a combination of filtration, circulation, and sanitization. Chlorine has long been the most common tool for keeping pools free of bacteria and algae – but it has its drawbacks, and there are alternatives.
An efficient alternative pool sanitizing system can minimize the expense, time, and effort of chlorination, as well as its nasty side effects. You can make your pool healthier, you can reduce your environmental footprint (both from spillage of chlorinated water and using unnecessary amounts of chemical additives), you can save money, and you can help preserve your pool liner and pump system with some of the following pool sanitizing systems.
Why Not Chlorine?
Chlorine is actually a very effective sanitizer for applications like pools. But many swimmers don’t like the smell and feel of chlorine, or its bleaching effect on hair and clothing. Over time, it can also cause corrosion and damage to pool liners and equipment like pumps, resulting in expensive repairs. Pool owners must constantly add quantities of chemicals to the water, and the expense adds up.
Possible health effects of concentrated chlorine are another drawback. When chlorine combines with organic material (like sweat, hair, and all the other things that swimmers can introduce into pool water) it produces compounds like chloramines and nitrogen trichloride – which have been linked to a host of health problems, including lung disorders like asthma.
It’s worth noting that most alternatives for maintaining pool water still require a small amount of chlorine for residual sanitizing. A system that pumps water through a purifier for its primary cleaning must still be able to quickly eliminate any pathogens introduced into the main body of pool water, and areas like pool walls need to be kept free of algae. But the required amount and concentration of chlorine can be drastically reduced.
There isn’t a single “best” system for every pool, but here is a look at some alternatives to traditional chlorine systems for keeping swimming pools clean and clear.
Ozone Pool Systems
Ozone is a powerful oxidizer, which means it can be a very effective water sanitizer when circulated through a pool. Most pool systems utilize either an ultraviolet light source or a corona discharge tube to convert ambient oxygen in the air (O-2) to ozone (O-3), which is then injected into the jet system of the pool.
Ozone dissolved in a pool’s water oxidizes impurities, and it also helps encourage oils and particulates in the water to clump together so they can be filtered more easily (be sure to step up your filter maintenance accordingly to avoid clogs). Ozone won’t directly alter the acidity of pool water, so users may find it easier to balance the pH levels. And ozone systems can easily be retrofitted to treat the water in existing pools.
Water circulation is important in this type of system to ensure distribution of the ozonated water. Ozonated water must still be treated with a “backup” sanitizer like chlorine to quickly neutralize any pathogens introduced by swimmers, but only about 20% as much chlorine is needed compared to a traditional pool. Also, water typically remains clearer for a longer period of time with ozonation than with chlorine systems.
Ultraviolet Light (UV) Pool Systems
A UV pool treatment system uses an ultraviolet light source to kill pathogens as the water circulates through the sanitizer unit (which shouldn’t be confused with the UV lights that can be used to produce ozone).
Ultraviolet light does a good job of eliminating pathogens in the water that flows through the disinfection point, but since there is no residual sanitization throughout the rest of the pool, and since these systems won’t maintain water clarity on their own, a supplemental treatment like chlorine must be used. But similar to ozone systems, UV systems let users substantially cut the amount of chlorine required, reducing usage by up to 70%.
Another advantage: in addition to killing bacteria and viruses, ultraviolet light can also be very effective for eliminating protozoa such as cryptosporidium, which chlorine alone can be very slow to eliminate.
Metal Ion Pool Systems
A number of “metal ion” systems have emerged on the market in the last few years that utilize metallic bars (such as silver and copper) for ionization to treat pool water. While this approach can help prevent the growth of algae and reduce bacteria, these systems alone are generally not able to kill pathogens quickly or thoroughly enough to be used without supplemental chemicals like chlorine – even though some are marketed as “chemical-free” systems. In addition, these systems may require water pH to be maintained at very low levels, which can void warranties on equipment like pool heaters.
The Australian government recently spoke out about the importance of swimming pool sanitizing systems, and voiced concerns about silver- and copper-based ion systems being used without supplemental chemicals. You can read the article here to learn more about this issue, and the general need for proper pool water treatment.
Natural Aquatic Plant Pools
“Natural” swimming pools have gained popularity in Europe, and homeowners in the US are starting to take notice. These pools essentially recreate the ecology of a pond in a controlled setting, where plants, beneficial bacteria in the water, and sometimes even fish provide all the necessary filtration and cleaning. A properly designed system will offer crystal-clear water that’s free of chemicals like chlorine
Natural pools are usually purpose-built, since converting an existing pool is a complicated process. And they’re not cheap (typically 10-20% more expensive than traditional custom in-ground pools). But these pools can be visually stunning, and blend beautifully into the surrounding property.
Proponents of natural pools contend that they are the “greenest” option available. They point out that natural pools require no toxic chemicals, add vegetation to the landscape, and can even help support local wildlife.
Woodhouse Natural Pools is a UK-based firm that specializes in natural pool design and construction. Learn more at the Woodhouse website.
So where does this leave you, the pool owner? If you want to move away from a traditional chlorine-only system in your pool:
Do your research. No one system is the “best” for every user. And remember that sometimes the “experts” have their own interests in mind. A salesman might neglect to mention the drawbacks of one system, or unfairly discourage users from another system simply because it’s unfamiliar.
Don’t change just for the sake of change. Maintaining a safe and healthy pool is your first priority. An alternative system that seems innovative or user-friendly is useless if you aren’t sure it also properly treats the water you’re swimming in.
Know your needs. Do you occasionally swim solo in a small lap pool, or do you frequently host huge pool parties in a mini-ocean? Also, be realistic about how much work you’re willing to do. Some owners love to learn about the equipment and tinker with the setup, while others want a self-contained system that they never need to think about.
Consider your existing setup. If you’re outfitting a new pool, you can start (literally) from the ground up. If you’re retrofitting an existing system, make sure any new system is compatible with existing equipment like pumps and filters, and find out if performance or warranties will be affected.
Have you tried any of these alternative pool treatment systems? Leave a comment below and let us know!
11 thoughts on “Chlorine Alternatives For Efficient Swimming Pools”
Dear Swim lovers
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Here is what Aquakristal-b will do for you :
CHLORINE FREE, METAL FREE and BIGUANIDE FREE
Yet, is compatible with chlorine, metals and biguanides.
Finally, a single dose, one step pool sanitizer that lasts up to 3 months**
Aquakristal-b remains effective to as low as 20% of its full strength dosage, but a top up dose is recommended every 1-2 months for best results
So harmless, it’s like swimming in drinking water **
** when Aquakristalb is used in accordance with the instructions, the water quality has been tested to meet World Health Organization standards for drinking water. However, this product is NOT intended nor approved for drinking water sanitation.
Active ingredient present as polymeric quaternary ammonium chloride 20%, enhanced with our secret Aqua Crystal B. Formula
It really is pool magic
Aquakristal-b is an exciting advancement in the sanitation of swimming pool water. It is a long term disinfectant effective at killing bacteria, viruses and algae.
Aquakristal-b has no smell, is not volatile and is not affected by sunlight. And it is harmless to humans.**
This chlorine-free, metal-free and biguanide-free pool sanitizer lasts up to 3 months in a single dose and is effective when dosage falls as low as 20% of its full strength. It is recommended that the level is checked every 1-2 months using the Aquakristal-b test kit and a top up dosage applied.
This amazing product is also compatible with chlorine, metals like copper, zinc and silver and even biguanide chemicals.
It is truly a one step—one dose sanitizing system.
There is no need to shock the pool under normal use. But, should a shock be necessary, simply add a chlorine shock dose to the pool.
Instructions for use
Balance the pool water, as usual : – maintain pH at 7.0-7.2 (pH above 7.2 shortens life span of Aquakristal-b and should be avoided) – maintain alkalinity at 80-120ppm *** – maintain hardness at 200-250ppm ***
*** or as recommended by your pool builder.2. Before using Aquakristal-b for the first time, backwash the filter and shock dose the pool with chlorine. Run filter for at least 2 hours.Add Aquakristal-b as follows : Add 500mls per 10,000L of pool water. For a 50,000L pool, the dosage will be 2.5L.Every 1-2 months, test the level of Aquakristalb using the Aquakristal-b test kit and top up the dosage as follows :
Add Aquakristalb per 10,000L of water
Dosage for a 50,000L pool
Aside from maintaining correct water balance, Aquakristal-b is the only sanitizer required for your pool
SINGLE DOSE. SINGLE STEP. EASY !
There is no need to shock the pool routinely. However, in the unlikely event that the pool is losing water clarity ,or losing water quality, a shock dose of chlorine is the most economical remedy. Aquakristal-b is compatible with chlorine.
EUROPEAN UNION APPROVAL
Aquakristal-b is approved by the European Union as a biocide suitable for swimming pool use.
Aquakristal-b has a shelf life of up to 2 years. Store in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
EXPECTED APPLICATION RATE
In summer, Aquakristal-b is consumed at the rate of 2.5L per 50,000L over a 3 month period.In winter, Aquakristal-b is consumed at the rate of 2.5L per 50,000L over a 6 month period. (However, this is reduced to the extent of water dilution from rain)
Note : pH above 7.2 shortens the life span of Aquakristal-b and should be avoided
WHO SHOULD USE IT ?
Well anyone with a pool… It is ideally suited to smaller pools, but will work on any size pool. It is ideal for people who want a simple maintenance regime with little effort – people with holiday homes, or people who travel a lot and want a sanitizer that will last more than just a few days. It is suited to all people who want to swim in pure water, free of harmful chemicals…
As it is a single dose, single step system, it does not change water chemistry as much as chlorine. You shouldn’t need to shock, your balance chemicals will last longer, it is unaffected by sunlight.
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Aloha to all reading this article. Yes some of the alternatives here are a good way to complement a chlorine\bromine only pool system, but as the article notes, not all are chlorine free, and the Natural plant system that does requires a major overhaul expense, plus it takes years for it to be swimmable again.
In my opinion, you have to be using your pool quite a bit to benefit from switching to an alternative to chlorine, and some deep pockets to run these alternatives.
Ozone and Ultraviolet are a good complement a chlorine or bromine system, but what they dont tell you is that they only work when the pool pump is running. So the hours the pool pump is off there is no benefit from these expensive equipment additions. And if you are trying to save money by running your pool pump less to save in the utility bill costs, then this is not for you.
The pool only sanitzes and cleans itself while it’s running. The less you run it the less it cleans. Which means if you are thinking you are saving $$ by running it less and it turns green, it’s going to cost you more to clear it through additives, and running it longer hours, usually overnight, to clear it! I am sure your pool service person won’t mind as they’ll be the ones’s having steak and lobster that night instead of you.
Also, yes you do have to clean out your filter more frequent as to keep up the addional contaminates it collects, so if you’re too busy to do it yourself then you will need to hire out this crucial task, or make it one or your offsprings chores.
As for the Metal Ion system, I personally have not used this method, but as this article states it still requires some chlorine too. A lower pH is not good on the equipment, as acid is corrosive, and it makes the water more corrosive. If you have a copper core heater then expect to replace the copper coil sooner, which is basically 2\3 the cost of a new heater after it’s installed, plus it dries out the rubber seals and gaskets much quicker. No heater you say, you’ve got solar, good for you, but a low pH is still bad on your body, your plaster or grout of the tile.
Remember your swimming pool is full of chemicals, it’s just a chemical bath, water is life and it wants to live, and chemicals are the gas chamber to water’s life. The trick to proper balance is constant attention to the adjustment of the chemicals, think of your pool as a spoiled rotten brat that is never satisfied with all the attention it receives, you can never sate its desire to be attended to.
So in conclusion, Chlorine may cause asthma at high exposures, but if you are in the pool that long to aquire it, you might want to rethink your time usage of the pool. I think the host of drawbacks to using chlorine should be directed at the handling of the chemical, not the dilution of it in the pool. Too much chlorine in the pool is bad for the plaster, and too little leads to costly additives, but red eyes, hair and clothing discoloration, and skin irriatation is only due to unbalanced chemicals. Search online for the info about how to balance a pool properly or hire a professional.
Aloha and Mahalo to all, remember teach the people how to get along with one another, becasue we already know how not to!
Won’t frogs be killed if they fall into salt water?
Can anyone help me find a nonchlorine pool in the five boroughs (New York). Your help is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
You can find a short list of chlorine-free pools in the U.S. here: http://piscinasana.wikidot.com/united-states
Here’s the home page of Healthier Swimming: http://piscinasana.wikidot.com/
I was disappointed to see no mention of a salt-water system. We are currently setting up our pool as a salt-water pool. This system creates it’s own chlorine in much lower levels. No need to store or add chlorine. It can be retro-fitted to any existing pool.
this site is good site for all user. Chlorine is an excellent disinfectant but why would we want to live with all of it’s long term effects especially possible health issues. you should visit here it’s help full for you
I think this posting makes an excellent point. Chlorine is an excellent disinfectant but why would we want to live with all of it’s long term effects especially possible health issues. I think that seeking out alternatives to using chlorine is a great way for people to lessen their impact on the environment and the chemical impact on themselves!
I think it’s great that people are really starting to think and discuss these issues. The reason why the Green and Sustainable community is thriving so vigorously is the open exchange of ideas and information. I came across a similar posting the other day at http://www.greeneutopia.com . I ran across the site the other day while I was blog surfing and was amazed at the quality of the information they had to offer on current green issues and trends. I haven’t tried it yet but they had a nice online shop as well that appears to only sell Green and Sustainable home products. I thought this might be a resource that other people may enjoy so I hope it helps you!
Any talk of non-chlorine alternatives should include salt. Salt is used to create chlorine (using an electrochemical process), in very low amounts. The biggest environmental problem with chlorine is that large scale production and distribution is dangerous and produces significant waste. Making chlorine in the pool, using salt and electricity, is a great way to get the benefits without supporting the non-stop chlorine industry. It can also create more comfortable pool water as the osmotic pressure of the salinated water reduces wrinkling.
Great advice! I am thinking of changing my pool from chlorine.
I wanted to introduce myself, my name is Archie Beaton- Executive Director of the Chlorine Free Products Association (CFPA). The CFPA is an internationally recognized standards and accreditation association founded in 1994 as a not-for-profit headquartered in Algonquin in the State of Illinois, USA
The CFPA works with international experts involved in water, energy, carbon gas, and forestry conservation; raw material management; pollution prevention; government; environmentally preferred purchasers; academia; and corporate social responsibility. Our standards are dedicated to sustainable manufacturing and environmental practices improving industrial performance. All products are screened under the SMI (Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative) TCF (Totally Chlorine Free) – PCF (Processed Chlorine Free) using a Sustainability Index = Environmental Policy + Environmental Management + Mill Process + Forestry Certification + Environmental Risk Management + Product Stewardship + Public Information + Environmental Compliance + Employee Recognition
CFPA is a leader in acknowledging the need for third party chain of custody for raw materials, audits of processes and working toward promoting certified sustainable manufacturing process and products. The Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative (SMI TCF-PCF) guidelines provide real environmental value to the market. CFPA has no financial interest in the products it certifies, in any manufacturer, or company. http://www.chlorinefreeproducts.org
Our office is open M-F from 8-5pm CST, and I would greatly appreciate it if you could email our program coordinator email@example.com or call our office at 847-658-6104 to schedule a conference call at your earliest convenience.