Building an in-ground pool or purchasing an above ground option isn’t a decision homeowners should take lightly. Besides the initial cost (an average size in-ground pool will likely run you $40,000-plus) there are also safety issues, increased energy costs and maintenance that must be taken into consideration.

If you have decided to ‘take the plunge’, you might now be wondering what type of pool is best – chlorine or salt water? Traditionally, chlorine pools are the norm but in the past 10 years salt water pools are giving them a run for their money. It’s estimated that 30 percent of pools are now salt water. And yes, in case you’re wondering, you can convert a chlorine pool to salt water.

Perhaps the biggest misconception surrounding salt water pools is that they do indeed contain chlorine, the magic ingredient that keeps water clear and free of bacteria that is hazardous to humans. The difference is that instead of adding chlorine, the chlorine is produced naturally by the salt itself, created by a salt water chlorinator or ‘electrolytic chlorine generator’ (ECG).

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each type of pool.

CHLORINE POOLS:

Pros:

– Less expensive up front

– Chlorinated pool are less harsh on your deck/pool surround and any metal parts i.e. ladder, diving board

– Chlorine is highly effective at keeping bacteria at bay

Cons:

– Maintenance (checking levels) can be burdensome

– Chlorine is a harsh chemical and can irritate some people’s skin, hair and eyes

– Monthly costs for chlorine tablets is around $50-$60

SALT WATER POOLS:

Pros:

– Low maintenance. Owners add about 300 pounds of salt at the beginning of the season and the generator does the work from there

– Annual operating costs are less than chlorine pools

– Easy on your body. Owners say salt water feels silky on their skin, won’t irritate eyes and also has no harsh odour

Cons:

– Higher initial cost. An ECG will cost between $600-$1,400. You will also need to replace the “salt cells” in the ECG periodically. They cost around $350.

– Salt is corrosive and will break down the pool liner, ladder and lighting systems over time

– More complex. If any problems with sanitation arise, you may have to hire a professional for assistance

The bottom line? It’s really a matter of preference. If you dislike the smell of chlorine, as well as the idea of handling harsh chemicals all summer long and don’t mind shelling out a bit more up front, salt water may be the better option for your family!