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Though facilities have used it for years, saline chlorination, otherwise known as
on-site sodium hypochlorite generation or simply chlorine
generation, is a little-used technology in the U.S. commercial pool
market. However, the process has been used successfully for more
than 30 years in countries such as Australia and South
One reason for the success is the bather comfort that saline chlorination
provides. In essence, it converts the pool water into mineral spa
water, thus reducing skin, ear and eye irritation.
In the U.S. pool market, the technology has predominantly been used in
residential pools, where salt is added directly to the water and
chlorine is generated through an electrolytic cell. This form of
chlorination has become so popular that statistics show more than
70 percent of newly constructed residential pools opted for saline
chlorinators last year.
Until recently, the technology has not been widely adopted for large
commercial pools and aquatics facilities in this country. This is a
result of two primary factors: the significant investment required
for initial equipment purchase (anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000,
depending on the pool size) and the unfamiliarity of saline
chlorination in the U.S. commercial pool industry.
In addition, because commercial pools require more chlorine than a residential
pool, manufacturers, designers and builders have been limited by
how much water they could treat.
Now new technology allows the treatment of virtually any size commercial
pool — some can even chlorinate larger water bodies such as
waterparks. Also, leasing options have made the equipment much more
In an on-site saline chlorination system, regular salt is converted into sodium
hypochlorite through the process known as electrolysis, by applying
power to the electrodes of an electrolytic cell. Because chlorine
is produced within the system, handling and storage issues are
reduced. Salt can either be physically thrown in the pool or
automatically put in the water with a salt-saturated
Saline chlorination systems can produce up to 25 pounds a day. In a
three-year period, that’s the equivalent of 28,000 gallons of
10 percent bleach, or approximately 40,000 pounds of 65 percent
calcium hypochlorite. When the logistics of ordering, storage and
handling of that much product are considered, it is easy to see why
chlorine generation makes so much sense for commercial
Saline chlorination systems also produce 100 percent equivalent chlorine,
meaning no waste product, and are continuously super-chlorinating
all the water passing through the electrolytic
Most commercial pools are sanitized by bleach, calcium hypochlorite and
trichlor. Though effective, each of these chlorines has its own
assets and liabilities.
Handling of commercial chemical products often is listed as the No. 1 concern
for operators, with safety and storage concerns as the second. Both
of these concerns are minimized by using saline chlorination
because the only raw material that is handled by on-site
maintenance personnel is salt.
In addition, facilities have seen price increases in all types of chlorines over
the past three years, making budget projections and monthly costs
difficult to predict. Saline chlorination costs are much more
Salt prices are more stable because it is so widely available around the world
in a variety of forms, including ocean water. Right now it costs
about 8 cents a pound. The primary cost is the investment in
equipment. Whether you buy it outright or lease it monthly, your
costs will remain stable.
Each year facilities such as Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas, and Bridgemill and
Morehouse College, both in Atlanta, convert to salt chlorination.
Maybe they’re on to something.