Salt Water Systems:
We field questions about water care for hot tubs on a daily basis. Recently a consumer left a review on yelp outlining our position on salt systems for hot tubs. We have posted this article in the past and feel it really answers all of the questions about Salt Water Systems. We have decided to post this again, so people do not misunderstand our position, the position of the manufacturer and what we are saying regarding salt.
When hot tub owners empty their hot tubs, they hook up a hose and let the tub drain or use a sump pump and let the tub drain in a specific area. The chemicals used in proper hot tub maintenance do not harm vegetation. Salt however kills vegetation. So, in a rural area like La Plata County no one wants to kill the vegetation or landscaping. In cities people who use salt in anything drain down concrete and into a sewer system.
Here is a brief history and why we do not recommend salt systems or sell them.
Saltwater systems have flooded the marketplace as an alternative or natural way to sanitize your hot tub. However, is it really better? Let’s take a closer look at salt systems so you can make the best decision for your hot tub lifestyle.
Salt water pool systems were developed around 1980. Originating in New Zealand, the use of electrolysis to convert salt (sodium chloride or sodium bromide) to chlorine or bromine requires electrostatically charged plates or electrodes to convert the sodium to a sanitizer. Stated another way, a salt generating system is creating a chemical to sanitize the water. Sanitizing generators for the swimming pool environment are a solution for homeowners who struggle with managing granular chlorine dosing and other chemical additives. While salt generation systems may work for pools there are a few reasons sanitizing generators, either chlorine or bromine, may not be as good a fit for hot tubs.
Factor in the following differences for a hot tub from a large, cool body of water such as a backyard pool:
1. Hot tubs are much smaller than a pool, typically 400 gallons.
2. Hot tubs have very warm water, up to 104⁰F.
3. A hot tub is covered, it does not allow chemicals to vent, no UV from sunlight.
4. A hot tub has metal components such as heaters, heater elements and jet face escutcheons which will corrode.
5. A hot tub has more people and less water; which means faster consumption of sanitizer.
6. A hot tub cannot tolerate calcium build-up which can be a by-product of sodium.
All these differences matter. A smaller amount of water does require less amounts of any sanitizer. So, pool and hot tub water maintenance is not the same challenge. Most hot tubs today are equipped with ozone generators, which can mean even less chlorine or bromine usage to properly sanitize. When you add a mineral cartridge to soften water, you have a perfect combination creating soft, heated, sanitized water. However, if instead, you use a salt system in this higher temperature environment and add bathers, it is quite possible these types of generators may not produce enough chemicals to sanitize properly. Some salt system manufacturers even admit you may have to add additional sanitizer to maintain the water properly. At the same time, should the generator continue to run and sanitize without bathers (who ‘consume’ sanitizer) for a period of time, it may over-produce sanitizer. Over chlorination may lead to chemical gasses trapped under the cover, corroding exposed metals. Close extra attention must be paid to balancing water with salt systems.
When metal components such as heaters, heater elements, jet escutcheons (the metal rings around the jets) are exposed to high sodium doses (either sodium bromide or sodium chloride) corrosion may also occur. Just ask anyone living near the ocean about rust issues with metals, or areas in which highways are “salted”. Salt will attack and break down metals, causing rust and corrosion if exposed to metal. In addition, calcium build-up is a by-product of salt generating systems. Calcium results in hard water spots and build-up on internal spa components.
Warranty or Chemical Abuse?
Although there are many “aftermarket” and manufacturer installed sanitizing generators, it’s best to check with the manufacturers what will and will not be covered under warranty. Some manufacturers will decline warranty over an aftermarket addition of a non-manufacturer installed salt sanitizing unit. Often any corroded heaters or elements are not covered, and the damage is attributed to “chemical abuse” due to over chlorination and calcium build-up. This can result in costly repair bills. When salt is added to the water, it is not immediately converted or electrolyzed to chlorine, it resides in the water. While many salt system manufacturers claim the amount of salt is at a minimal level, about 1500 parts per million of salt is required for these systems to work, which can be triple the amount of salt in tap water.
The bottom line: Sadly, salt water sanitization systems for hot tubs are over ”hyped”, making consumers confused. They are in fact, complicated to operate properly, expensive to purchase and maintain, create harsh oxidizers and have no special environmental advantages. Salt water systems are being studied and improved to minimize damage to hot tub parts. When we feel they are safe and will not invalidate warranties we will look at the systems again.
We thank Marquise Spas, Fireside Hot Tubs, Nordic Hot Tubs, Wikipedia, and the Aqua Palace Pools and Spas and others for posting articles on salt water systems.
@ease automatic hot tub water care system by Spa Frog. In stock now
Try this new system Self-regulating. Shock just once a month. By Spa Frog
Introducing the innovation of SmartChlor® Technology – the self-regulating chlorine that works together with FROG minerals in the easy to use @ease Floating System. Enjoy the benefits of Fresh Mineral Water® that’s cleaner, clearer, softer and easier to take care of with the unique properties of SmartChlor®Technology that uses up to 75% less chlorine* and greatly reduces hot tub maintenance like shocking.
· Kills bacteria with up to 75% less chlorine* than ordinary systems.
· Shock just once a month.
· SmartChlor cartridge lasts up to 4 weeks depending on hot tub usage. Recyclable when empty.
· The Mineral Cartridge lasts 4 months or whenever you drain your hot tub.
· No faded swimwear. No chlorine smell.
· No Mess. No Guess. No Stress. No daily or weekly maintenance. Creates Fresh Mineral Water® for hot tubs up to 600 gallons.
· The SmartChlor cartridge flips when it's time to change.
The @ease System combines the proven FROG mineral formula for killing bacteria with SmartChlor® Technology that maintains a consistently low chlorine level for weeks. Unlike normal chlorine that is used up when you get in, SmartChlor®continues to maintain the same level which is up to 75% less than hot tubs using Dichlor (standard hot tub chlorine). That’s why we call it self-regulating. It goes to work when the hot tub needs sanitizing so there is no frustrating yo-yo chlorine levels. This time-released method is also why less shock is needed to maintain the hot tub. When the SmartChlor®Cartridge is depleted the system will flip over as a visual reminder to replace the empty cartridge with a new one.