Pool System Review, a Convential Chlorine Pool Vs a Chlorine Free Pool?

by Pool Builders on 10-18-2010 in Articles

What's the best choice for the residential pool owner, a chlorine swimming pool or a Baquacil pool system?

Lets look into the advantages and disadvantages of using a typical chlorine pool treatment system vs a Baquacil maintained pool system. Key factors to consider are; safety, convenience, enjoyment and costs. We'll review the typical chemicals used in each system and their effectiveness, water quality and possible risks.  

Lets take a look at the typical home pool, the main component in the system is chlorine, followed by stabilizer and an algaecide. When chlorine is added to water you get a reaction which forms hypochlorous acid, the active killing form of chlorine. The chlorine molecule kills microorganisms by penetrating the cell walls and destroying the inner enzymes and processes. The hypochlorous molecule continues this process until it combines with an organic compound to become chloramine at which time it becomes de-activated itself.

It is widely accepted that chlorine is a hazardous product, the chloramines which form in pool water when chlorine combines with organic matter are especially troublesome.

The following is a list of some of the documented dangers of chlorine

Irritation

# Chlorine can often cause skin irritation by destroying the body's supply of vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and can also cause generalized redness and itchiness of the eyes.

Asthma

# There is a slight increase in respiratory problems; asthma in particular shows the highest percentage increase in children who spend a lot of time in chlorinated pools.

Cancer

# Chlorine has been associated in some studies with cancer of the larynx, esophagus, breast, bowels and especially the bladder.

Heart Disease

# There is evidence that excessive chlorine levels in the body are responsible for elevated cases of heart disease.

Chlorine is still the most popular means of sanitizing swimming pool water in the US. It does an excellent job sanitizing water, but it does so at a price. Chlorine is a very caustic, corrosive chemical and it is effective because it attacks anything organic. Unfortunately, it also attacks the skin, hair, and eyes of the humans swimming in it.

Chlorine is toxic and hazardous to handle, ingest and especially breathe.

Chloramines, a by-product of chlorine and organic waste, are known carcinogens. Unfortunately with the standard chlorine pool there is no practical way of preventing chloramines from forming in chlorinated swimming pools. 

Ongoing research suggests that children who swim frequently in chlorinated pools may have increased risks of developing allergies or asthma.

A Belgian study, published in 2003, showed that an irritant released when chlorinated water reacts with urine, sweat or other organic matter from swimmers increased the risk of asthma among children who regularly swam in public pools. This irritant, trichloramine, is believed to damage the cellular barrier that protects the lungs. Blood samples showed elevated trichloramine levels even among individuals who sat at the side of pools but didn't swim.

Chlorinated water contains chemical compounds called trihalomethanes which are carcinogens resulting from the combination of chlorine with organic compounds in water. 

Pool Chlorine Stabilizer, the chemical name of pool "Stabilizer" is Cyanuric Acid and it is referred to by either title. The Stabilizer level of swimming pool water should be maintained at 30-50 ppm. The Stabilizer in swimming pool water partially surrounds the chlorine on a molecular level, to protect the chlorine and prevent it from being quickly burned off and used up by the sun. If the Stabilizer level tests lower than 30 ppm it will be difficult to maintain adequate chlorine levels, especially during the summer. If the Stabilizer level tests above 50 ppm it may start negatively impacting the chlorine level. Rather than partially surrounding the chlorine in your pool water to protect the chlorine, it will completely surround the chlorine making it inactive. Once you have too much stabilizer it is difficult to remove without partially draining the pool. 

Algaecide is a chemical that prevents algae from growing in your pool, aids in the maintenance of proper pool pH and also boosts the performance of your pool filter because if you use an algaecide there will be less waste for your pool filter to process.There are many types out there, but an algaecide containing chelated copper works just fine unless you have well water. Another great option is a phosphate eliminating algaecide, which kills algae's major food source. This works by eliminating phosphates from the pool and killing the algae by severing it from its food source. Also, when algae dies, it actually releases phosphates into the water, which could provide the nutrients for more algae to grow right after you've killed the first batch. If you're having a chronic algae problem, have your water tested for phosphates, if you have phosphates above 125 ppb this product is a must!

Now let's take a look at a chlorine free pool. The oldest and best known chlorine-free system on the market is BAQUACIL. The main package they offer goes under the marketing name of CDX.

The BAQUACIL CDX Pool Care System is a complete pool sanitizing system consisting of chlorine-free BAQUACIL SANITIZER AND ALGISTAT, BAQUACIL OXIDIZER, and BAQUACIL CDX. The product that actually kills bacteria in pool water is BAQUACIL SANITIZER AND ALGISTAT. The two other products in the system work with this product to keep your pool sparkling clear and algae free.

The active ingredient in BAQUACIL SANITIZER AND ALGISTAT is polyhexamethylene biguanide. It's very gentle and is used in some contact lens cleaning solutions. BAQUACIL SANITIZER AND ALGISTAT is very stable and is not affected by sunlight, temperature, and pH fluctuations.

The BAQUACIL Pool Care System is different from chlorine and bromine-based pool sanitizers and for that reason, many chemicals that work with one system won't work with the other.

So which is the better system? If cost is your main concern then a chlorinated pool is certainly much cheaper but you have all the drawbacks noted above regarding the dangers associated with exposure to the chemicals required. Also the pool water is just not as enjoyable to use, you have the issues with dry skin, hair, odor and the bleached out swimwear. From my own personal use I found that extended stays in the pool just didn't feel very comfortable and my skin, hair and clothes also faired poorly with extended exposure.

The Bacquacil pool system provides water that was a pleasure to use and I never noticed any chemical odors or dryness of skin or hair. It really felt good to spend time in the pool and the only drawback of extended stays in the pool was a sever case of wrinkly toes and fingers! The major drawback is cost, pools on the Baquacil system costs several times more than a chlorinated pool. I used Bacquacil in my pool for well over two years at an average cost of about $100 per month. Also Bacquacil is hard on cartridge filters and I ended up replacing my filter at twice the rate vs a chlorine system.

If you don't want to spend a lot for pool chemicals but want to have very enjoyable, beautiful pool water with minimal exposure to chlorine in general and very little exposure to chloramines in particular then the Crystalline Pool System is a very good alternative. Your total chemical bill will actually be lower than a simple chlorine pool regiment and the enjoyment level is very close to the Baquacil CDX system.

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