“Salt Water hot tubs and swim spas”…it has a nice ring to it. The idea that you could be bathing in buoyant, soft, and low maintenance water in your hot tub or swim spa is appealing to anyone. The question becomes, “Does a salt water based sanitation system actually work in a hot tub or swim spa application?” Well the real answer to this question is that it boils down to pros and cons.
Here are some of benefits of salt water hot tubs:
• Increased Buoyancy – simply put you feel lighter and more weightless in salt water which makes for a more relaxing bathing experience.
• Bromine Salt Generators – Sodium bromide salt generators are typically better in hot tubs than sodium chloride salt generators (chlorine) and that is because bromine is more stable at higher temperatures
• Less Harsh Chemicals – salt systems are chlorine or bromine generators and produce a very natural, irritant free sanitizer to keep your water clean and clear. Bottled chlorine or bromine has many stabilizers, binders, and additives in it and these can be irritating to the skin, nose, and eyes when dissolved in the hot tub once they react with bacteria in the water. Reactions between bottled chlorine/bromine in the water with bacteria are called bromamines or chloromines which have a strong odor and cause irritation. You don’t get these in a salt water system because once the chlorine or bromine is used it reverts back to sodium chloride or sodium bromide.
• Less Draining and Refilling – hot tubs and swim spas using conventional chemicals require quarterly draining and refilling as the water becomes saturated and needs to be replaced. Salt systems can maintain water quality and last for up to one year which makes them easier to maintain
Here are some of the cons or negatives associated with salt water hot tubs:
• Expensive – carve the cost and dealer markup out of a salt water system and you will find that they are the most expensive water management system available on hot tubs today. Many consumers find the upfront cost of adding this system which can range between $600-$1200 (installed) to be cost prohibitive
• Corrosive – salt water is a very good conductor and there are many electrolysis reactions that accelerate corrosion in salt water hot tubs. Salt water can be especially corrosive to metal (jets) and rubber (pump and shaft seals) and although plastics (plumbing) are corrosion resistant they can still wear out prematurely in a salt water environment.
• Electrode Cell Replacement – depending on your water chemistry and/or time it will be necessary to remove the electrode cell in the salt generator and replace it with a new one. That’s because the cell coating will develop build up over time causing it to stop producing chlorine or bromine and eventually stop working. Most electrolytic cells last 1-3 years before needing to be replaced.
In reading these pros and cons you will have to determine for yourself if a salt water sanitation systems for you. There was a big push towards salt from 2007-2016 and it seems that the enthusiasm is slowing dwindling for better or for worse. There seems to be more lower maintenance and more cost effective systems like UVC generators, mineral purification, and enzymatic sanitizers that are becoming increasingly more popular. For more information on water management systems and hot tubs then refer to our buyer’s guide pages.