This article looks at the pros and cons of a chemical free ionizer.

Chemical free is a great idea, and many companies claim they have the answer. But there are some gaps with ionization that chemicals are well equipped to fill.

Fatal flaw with chemical free ionizers – oxidization

The first fatal flaw in the chemical free ionizer promise is that ionizers don’t oxidize organic matter. Copper and silver-copper ionizers are great at fighting bacteria and algae, but they do not break down sweat, lotions, urine, and yep I’ll go there, feces. So, if you’re using an ionizer without a residual oxidizer, you’re probably swimming in someone else’s poop.

Oxygen or ozone helps, but not enough

Some pool ionizer manufacturers claim that they use oxygen or ozone to take care of the organic matter. This is true to some extent. Ozone is a powerful oxidizer and does break down poop and other organics. However, ozone has a short life. It bubbles through the water and instantly dissipates.

The other problem with ozone is that it doesn’t build up in the water. It only works where the ozone bubbles are released. This means organic matter must pass through the bubbles to get oxidized and that might take a while in a large pool. It also means you should run your pump a lot which costs money.

Chlorine is good for you in low doses

If you’ve ever drank tap water, you’ve consumed chlorine. There are some who have an extreme sensitivity to chlorine, but for most people, there is no harm from drinking chlorinated water. Most health agencies agree that the risks of ingesting harmful bacteria in untreated drinking water far outweigh the risks of consuming a small amount of chlorine used to kill that bacteria.

We recommend maintaining a residual of 0.5 – 0.6ppm of chlorine with our pool ionizer. This is within the range of what is acceptable in drinking water in most jurisdictions.

Personally, I’d rather be confident that my kids are not swimming in nasty bacteria that can get them sick.

Government agencies do not allow pool ionizers to advertise as chemical free

The EPA, Health Canada and government agencies around the world agree – no swimming pool or hot tub is safe without chlorine or bromine. Granted, most agencies will allow for a lower chlorine content if an ionizer or similar system is used. However, there must be some. The other exception is biguanide systems, but these are only allowed in some countries.

Be safe

At the end of the day, it’s your choice whether you put chemicals in your pool or not. The EPA is not going to come knocking at your door to ask for a water sample. But it has to tell you something when they publish guidelines telling you that chemical free pools and hot tubs are not safe. If you’re going to invest your money in a system to keep your pool clean, make sure you understand the risks.