This article discusses pool ionizer pros and cons.
Everyone wants less chemicals in their pool. There are several ‘alternative sanitizers’ on the market that can help you achieve that and the pool ionizer offers the best value. However, it’s not all roses and you need to be aware of the downside.
Pro: Pool Ionizers are Very Effective at Algae Control
With a backyard swimming pool, algae is your worst enemy. Algae comes in many forms and the hotter it gets, the more it grows.
Pool ionizers are extremely effective at controlling algae. The ClearBlue Ionizer in particular uses a combination of silver, copper and zinc, all known to battle different types of algae.
If you have an ionized pool, you don’t need algaecide and you need less chlorine to keep the water clear. Plus, ionizers use natural minerals with no additives, so they are a clean and healthy way to control algae.
Con: Pool Ionizers do not Oxidize Organic Material
One of the primary functions of a pool sanitizer is to oxidize organic matter. Copper and silver-copper ionizers are great at fighting bacteria and algae, but they do not break down sweat, lotions, makeup, etc. So, all pool ionizers need some form of oxidizer for a complete system. The most common one is chlorine at a reduced level.
Some pool systems use oxygen or ozone to take care of the organic matter. Ozone is a powerful oxidizer and does break down lotions 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 can take a while in a large pool. It also means you need to run your pump a lot which costs money.
Pro: Pool Ionizers are Extremely Effective at Controlling Viruses and Bacteria
Copper and silver have been known for centuries to be extremely effective at killing virus and bacteria cells. During the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis, the Smithsonian published this article about the amazing anti-viral properties of copper.
Silver is used in wound dressings, creams and natural hand sanitizer because it kills bacteria on contact.
Copper-silver ionization is used in hospital water supplies because it is proven to be the best way to combat Legionella bacteria which causes Legionnaires disease – a lethal respiratory illness. This disease has also been linked to public hot tubs.
Pro: Pool Ionizers Allow Chlorine Reduction to Drinking Water Level
Most pool ionizers recommend maintaining a residual of 0.5 – 0.6ppm of chlorine, vs. 1-3ppm with chlorine alone. This is a 40%-80% reduction of chlorine and is the same amount permitted in drinking water. With this reduction, there is no chlorine smell and the water does not dry skin or fade bathing suits. If the chlorine level is safe enough for drinking water, you can be sure it’s safe to swim in.
Besides keeping your bathing suit looking newer longer, pool ionizers also reduce the risk of getting asthma that is linked to high concentrations of chlorine in swimming pools.
Con: Pool Ionizers Have a Replaceable Cell
Pool ionizers use a mineral cell to build up minerals in the water. These cells have a lifespan that ranges from 3 months to 3 years and when it runs out, the ionizer stops working.
Replacement cells range from $70 to $200+, so you need to account for this when you are budgeting your pool maintenance. However, since the chlorine, algaecide and pH balancing chemicals are reduced, you should recover most or all of this additional cost.
Pro: Pool Ionizers Offer Great Value
There are several ‘alternative sanitizers’ that help you reduce the chlorine requirement in swimming pools. The most common ones are ionizers, UV and ozone. Each of these solutions allows you to reduce the chlorine requirement down to 0.5ppm, according to NSF, EPA and other governing bodies. While they all take a different approach, the net reduction is the same and no combination of systems will allow you to safely reduce chlorine lower than this.
The cost of pool ionizer is less than UV and ozone systems, both in terms of up front cost and long term cost. So you are spending less money to get to the same result.
Con: Pool Ionizers Have the Potential to Stain
When you are adding minerals to pool or hot tub waters, there is always the risk that they will come undissolved and collect on surfaces. Collected minerals will eventually stain if they are not cleaned off. This can be an issue when water parameters are not properly maintained and the copper level is not tested on a regular basis.
Early pool ionizers and solar ionizers developed a bad reputation for this and many pool professionals will tell you to stay away because of these bad apples. However, not all systems are created equally. The ClearBlue Ionizer, for example, is precisely controlled to keep the minerals at a consistent level that is too low for them to collect.
As an insurance from staining, you can use a chelating product like The Ionizer Stuff or Orenda SC-1000. These products keep the minerals dissolved so that they are in the water and killing micro-organisms – not collecting on the surfaces. If you have a concrete pool, white fiberglass, or other light colored pool surface, it is a good idea to use this type of product at least twice a year. If you close your pool for the winter, the best times to use it are when you open the pool and when you close it.
So there’s your pool ionizer pros and cons. Hopefully this will help you decide which alternative sanitizer is best for you!
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