There are more options than ever for customers looking to sanitize their pools and spas.

The problem is there also are plenty of opportunities for homeowners to become severely misinformed. That’s why good retailers must come to the rescue.

“They’ve visited the forums and the other sites out there, and they’re confused,” says Ron Parrs, owner of Par Pool & Spa in Stratford, Conn. “They find us because we’re willing to say, ‘OK, this doesn’t work and these are the reasons why,’ or, ‘This will work but you should be aware that it’s not the be-all, end-all.’”

When dealing with these consumers, ask some questions to find out about their needs before taking their word that the requested method makes the most sense. Why are they unhappy with the current regimen? How often do they use their pool or spa? Do they have allergies or other conditions that make them physically averse to chlorine? Then, armed with that information, walk the clients through these non-traditional options, providing the following explanations.


Biggest misconceptions: Many people believe that a salt pool doesn’t involve chlorine. Worse, they think all they have to do is turn the unit on, pour a little salt in the pool and go.

“A lot of people tend to think they put in a salt system and all they do is swim in a beautiful pool,” said Matt Gohlke, president of Gohlke Custom Pools in Denton, Texas. “They thinks it’s a different type of pool.”

Setting the record straight: Consumers need to be told that in fact, salt chlorine generators do just what the name implies — generate chlorine.

In addition, it’s important to warn customers about the costs involved. They may be prepared for the initial price of the generator, but don’t always realize how much salt needs to be added during start-up. In the average pool, Parrs says, a customer will need to begin with 15 to 20 bags at 25 to 40 pounds each. And many professionals believe a sacrificial anode is a must in these pools to protect against corrosion of metallic elements of the pool. A sacrificial anode does this by providing a metal object that can divert the effects of electrolysis onto itself, thereby leaving ladders and other needed elements safe.

Customers also need to be told that the electrolytic cell will need to be replaced every three to five years, depending on local conditions and pool usage.  This will cost roughly $400 to $600.

There is additional upkeep involved. Aside from adding new salt to make up for freshly added water, consumers or a professional should regularly monitor the pH and alkalinity levels. This is one of the most sorely neglected areas of pool care for homeowners with salt chlorine generators.

“On all these systems, the easier we make the sanitation side of the water chemical wheel, the more customers tend to forget about the other side — the corrosion versus scaling side,” says Lew Akins, president of Ocean Quest Pools by Lew Akins, a builder/retailer based in Belton, Texas.

Incorrect pH and alkalinity levels have been largely held responsible for the corrosion and rock deterioration reported in the field. During the off-season, when pool use is reduced, customers should crank down the unit so it’s producing less chlorine.


Biggest misconceptions: It kills bacteria in a chlorine-free environment.

Setting the record straight: Ultraviolet light doesn’t actually kill bacteria. Instead, it scrambles DNA so it can’t grow or reproduce.

It does, however, disable any single-celled organism in the pool. And, though relatively new to the pool industry, it has a long history. “Ultraviolet light has been used for years in the food-preparation business, and it’s been used by dermatologists for years on rashes and other things,” Akins says.

UV pools do need a slight chlorine residual — 1 to 2 parts per million. “You can keep it at 1, but if it slips down to 0, you’re liable to have some problems,” Akins says.

There is some maintenance involved with these systems. As in a salt pool, water being sanitized by UV light is only clean when the unit’s working. This requires the pump to remain on for as long as it takes to clean the water. 

Every so often, the quartz tube holding the UV light must be cleaned. As it becomes occluded, it hampers the light’s effectiveness. Professionals recommend cleaning them every one to 6 months so they can work at their best.

Additionally, UV systems only disable organisms that actually pass through the unit. Any algae that clings to the walls will be left unharmed. To remove this, users or a service technician should brush the walls to release the algae into the water. This way it will pass through the UV unit.

Finally, clients should know that UV systems are some of the most expensive options available.


Biggest misconceptions: This will work for any pool, and anyone can use it.

Setting the record straight: Biguanide pools are completely free of chlorine. However, the chemistry is finicky and requires a careful, committed user.

Instructions must be followed to the letter. For example, as part of the maintenance routine, pool owners add peroxide shock once a month. If there have been any problems with the water, recent rains or other abnormalities, the instructions will say to add more peroxide shock. Often, however, customers will see that the water is clear and think it doesn’t need treatment, so they put it off a couple weeks.

“So now at six weeks, the pool has become cloudy, and they go and put their [regular dose of] shock in,” Parrs says. “But that [amount] wasn’t enough. They were supposed to put it in two weeks earlier and now you’ve got to play catch up — they’ve got to get rid of whatever’s in there and have enough to leave a residual behind to do the necessary work.”

But playing catch-up with a biguanide pool isn’t easy or even always possible, these professionals say. So clients need to understand that they must religiously follow the regimen and can’t allow their commitment to wax and wane with the season. There are some automation options that work for biguanide systems, so customers can consider that investment as well.

You may also want to suggest they address sand filters more often than normal on a biguanide pool. “We recommend replacing the sand, if not every year, then every other year,” says Blair Lynch, director of operations for Mermaid Pool, Spa & Patio in Anderson, Ind.

In addition, before helping a customer switch to biguanides, be sure to learn about the pool itself. “Biguanides work really well on certain kinds of pools, but not all pools,” says John Antilla, vice president of sales for Aqua Quip, a Seattle-based retailer.

For instance, he advises consumers to stay away from biguanides if they have an older, plaster-finished pool. “If it has existing stains, it may change the color of them,” Antilla says.

Vinyl pools, however, don’t have embedded metal stains and won’t be altered from the use of biguanides.


Biggest misconception: That no chlorine is needed.

Setting the record straight: Ozone never leaves a residual, so once the device is turned off, the substance dissipates and the water is no longer being treated. For this reason, all ozone pools and spas, whether they use the corona discharge or Ultraviolet methods, will need a chlorine residual of approximately 1 part per million — more if the pool is heavily used.

Ozone generators will need to be on most of the time, ideally with a multiple-speed pump running on low speed and pushing the substance through a mazzei injector, or a small air pump dedicated to moving the ozone through return inlets specifically added for ozone.


Biggest misconception: That little care is needed.

Setting the record straight: Water treated with an ionization system doesn’t need a residual, and some professionals love the quality. “I don’t think there’s any question that that system gives you the best water,” Akins says of the ionization system he offers. “There’s no chlorine in the pool — you can drink it.”

However, Akins also says an ionized pool or spa is one of the most laborious for the homeowner. If the pH goes higher than 7.2, the copper that’s in solution for the ionization system will come out of solution and cling to everything. For this reason, users need to keep pH at 7.0 and monitor closely, checking it at least every other day. Consumers also can invest in automated systems to inject acid or CO2 to help maintain the pH.

If the pH tops 7.2 and copper becomes visible, homeowners need to know they should not add chlorine. Doing so can cause the copper to permanently plate on the surface and cause a stain. Rather, they need to bring the pH back down and the copper will come off the surfaces and go back into solution.

Users also should monitor alkalinity. “There’s nothing wrong with running [the pH] at 7.0,” Akins says. “However, keeping it at that range — 6.8 to 7.0 — will slowly lower your total alkalinity, and we’ve discovered the hard way that that is not good on concrete pools with stone. So we are constantly raising our total alkalinity on pools [with ionizers].”