Salt Water Hot Tubs VS Chlorine: Which Is Right For Your Family?

Salt Water Hot Tubs Vs. Chlorine Hot Tubs

So, you’ve decided to buy a hot tub—congratulations! You’re about to enter a whole new world of enjoyment with health benefits. Daily relaxation and rejuvenation, improved relationship connections, and a keener, more focused mind are just a few of the things you can look forward to. But knowing you want a new hot tub is still a few short steps from knowing which hot tub model is perfect for you. Is it a Salt Water hot tub? Is it a Chlorine hot tub? You have decisions to make, including choosing a water care system. If you need more assistance in your search for your perfect hot tub, download our 2018 Complete Hot Tub Buyers Guide

Spa water purification plays a vital role in your relationship with your new home spa, because whether you choose a salt water hot tub system or a chlorine system it’s an ongoing process that you sustain. To help you decide which system is best for you, here’s an overview of the top two purification choices: salt water hot tubs vs chlorine hot tubs–the traditional purification system.

Enjoying an evening with friends in the Limelight Pulse®


When you think of pure spa water, you probably think of chlorination. Hot tub owners and pool owners have been using chlorine to keep their water clean for decades. Chlorine, which is even added in small amounts to our drinking water, is a proven method of eliminating harmful (or simply gross) bacteria and other contaminants from spa water.

How Chlorine Eliminates Harmful Bacteria

Typically, chlorine is added to spa water in liquid or dissolvable solid forms. An element that is naturally gaseous at room temperature, chlorine combines with oxygen and hydrogen in water to form hypochlorous acid. This compound is highly effective at killing bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella, as well as the influenza virus. As common sense would indicate, the best way to prevent the spread of bacteria is to keep anyone infected out of the hot tub until the infection has passed.

Side Effects of Chlorination

When hypochlorous acid attacks contaminants in water, it creates byproducts called chloramines. These byproducts are, frankly, smelly. If you’ve been to a public pool, you’re probably familiar with the odor. While hypochlorous acid is a weak acid, it is an acid nonetheless. It’s entirely safe—you have more powerful acids in your own stomach—but it can irritate sensitive areas, such as the eyes and skin. Hypochlorous acid is why your eyes hurt more when you swim without goggles in a chlorinated pool than when you swim in a pristine mountain lake.

Chlorination keeps your water pure

Proper Chlorine System Maintenance

To keep your spa water clean using chlorine, you’ll need to maintain a few conditions, including the proper concentration of chlorine in your water. Typically, the concentration level is tested using strips of treated paper. If the level is too low, add more chlorine; if it’s too high, dilute the water by draining some chlorinated water from the spa and then adding untreated water. The exact amount of chlorine you’ll need to add, or water you’ll need to remove, depends on the size of your hot tub and the level of concentration you need to achieve. Don’t worry—the chlorine packaging should include instructions to guide you through the process. Test your chlorine level at least once a week—more if you use your hot tub frequently.

In addition to chlorine testing, you’ll also have to test the pH level of your spa water. Hypochlorous acid functions most effectively when your spa water has a pH range of 7.2-7.8, which is slightly above the neutral value of 7. If your spa water has a pH value outside of this range, hypochlorous acid will not form as readily. To keep your water in the appropriate range, test the pH each time you test your chlorine concentration. Your local hot tub dealer sells pH test strips and the chemicals used to adjust the acidity or alkalinity of your water. Most new hot tubs come with a water care starter kit to help you get your hot tub ready as soon as it’s delivered.

It takes a little time and effort to use chlorine to keep your spa water levels where they ought to be, but the method is effective. If, however, you want to maintain your spa water with less effort, new and improved systems, including the ACE® Salt Water System, make maintenance even easier and include the benefit of fewer side effects.

Enjoying an afternoon in the Limelight Flair®


If you’re like most people, when you think of a salt water hot tub system, you probably assume that the process will make your spa water as salty as seawater. But that’s not the case. There is much less salt in a hot tub with a salt water system than there is in seawater. Seawater has a salt concentration of around 35,000 parts per million (ppm). A salt water hot tub has a concentration of just 1,750 ppm. To put this in perspective, it’s estimated that humans taste salt in water at concentrations of 3,000-4,000 ppm.

Active Oxygen Eliminates Contaminants

The ACE® Salt Water System from Hot Spring® uses a patented diamond electrode to separate water molecules to create what’s known as “active oxygen.” Water, as you probably know, is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O). One of the hydrogen atoms carries a positive charge, while the other one carries a negative charge. Active oxygen, OH- is made of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom, and carries only a negative charge. Only diamond electrode technology is capable of producing active oxygen.

What does that mean? OH- is a powerful oxidizing agent that is fantastic at killing harmful bacteria and other impurities while leaving behind only water and carbon dioxide. Because it doesn’t create chloramines when eliminating bacteria, it doesn’t have an odor.

Once the active oxygen destroys all the bacteria currently in the water, then it changes gears to prevent any new bacteria from taking root. This is where the salt comes in. The small amount of sodium chloride—salt—that you’ll add when you fill your tub bonds with the active oxygen produced by the ACE system. Any active oxygen that isn’t used on bacteria bonds will bond with your salt. This process creates chlorine in your hot tub’s water, which works to keep it clear of bacteria.

Salt water hot tubs are gentle on the eyes and skin

Chlorine and Salt Water Systems Time and Cost Comparison

With the ACE system, you can keep your water clean by replacing the ACE cell, which contains the diamond electrode, once every 2-3 years, instead of adding chlorine daily or weekly. Also, the complete breakdown of bacteria and contaminants with the ACE salt water system means you only need to drain and refill your hot tub once a year, instead of once every 3-4 months with traditional chlorine. Finally, no hypochlorous acid is created when using the ACE system, so eye or skin irritation isn’t a concern.

While the ACE system does cost more than a water system that relies only on chlorine additives, it’s an up-front expense—there’s no need to purchase bottles or canisters of chlorine over years of usage. Plus, if you choose to finance your new hot tub, the cost of the ACE system will be included in the plan and spread over many months. Contact us and we will answer any questions you have about water system options and pricing.

Whether you choose a chlorine or salt water system for your new hot tub, as long as you maintain your spa properly, you’ll always enjoy clean and beneficial soaks whenever the mood hits. That’s a win-win.

At Continental Pool & Spa, we take pride in the power and benefits of our ACE salt water purification system from Hot Spring Spas®. It’s simple to use, highly effective, and eliminates the side effects incumbent with other purification methods. To learn more about our hot tubs and water care products, contact us.

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