Saltwater vs Freshwater Pools: A Quick Comparison

Robert Wimberly

saltwater vs freshwater pools

Imagine plunging into a refreshing pool on a hot summer day — sounds exciting, right? Having a backyard pool offers a channel for a convenient and healthy pastime. However, before you make the splash, consider the ideal pool type for your needs.

Not all pools are created equal. In the debate between saltwater vs freshwater pools, weighing your options is crucial. Hence, this post will provide an insightful comparison to help steer your pool selection process in the right direction!

Before we get into details, here’s a quick summary of the differences between these two types of pool water.

Saltwater Freshwater
Upfront investment $500 – $2,500 including installation fee Less than $100 or zero
Water quality Constant cleaning and disinfection Best after chlorination
Unwanted odor Natural smell Chlorine smell
Water impact on users Harsh on skin, eyes, and swimwear Softer on the skin, hair, and swimwear
Annual sanitary cost $100 – $400 $300 – $1,000
Equipment maintenance Reasonable $200 – $400 every few years

Understanding Saltwater Pools


A saltwater swimming pool uses salt cell generators for chlorination. First, the generators convert pool-grade salt into chlorine. This chlorine is then returned to the pool to sanitize the water.

As opposed to freshwater pools, saltwater can maintain its sanitation system through electrolysis. Hence, you don’t have to add chlorine constantly. With this process, the pH remains stable all year round, saving you money on chemicals.

Understanding Freshwater Pools


On the other hand, a freshwater pool system is the traditional chlorine-based approach used in most homes. Unlike its saltwater counterpart, it doesn’t involve using a salt cell generator. Instead, you directly add store-bought chlorine to sanitize the water.

When poured into pool water, the chlorine will start killing bacteria, algae, and other harmful organisms. Without it, water would be unsafe for swimming. As such, this system calls for constant monitoring of chemical balance and frequent addition of chlorine.

Saltwater Pool vs. Freshwater Pools — The Differences

Despite serving the same purpose of providing a leisurely, refreshing experience, these two types of pools differ vastly in terms of:

1. Chlorine levels


Many people have the misconception that saltwater pools contain no chlorine. However, saltwater has chlorine contents, too. The big difference between them is the concentration levels and chlorine delivery.

Saltwater pools have significantly reduced levels of chlorine. Thus, you won’t experience the pungy chlorine smell and some other undesirable side effects. Freshwater is the opposite since it contains a higher amount of chlorine.

2. Maintenance frequency


Saltwater pools typically demand occasional maintenance tasks. The continual chlorine release via the salt generator keeps the pool water sanitized and healthy night and day. Instead of buying and handling chemicals, seasonal cleaning of generator cells is needed for saltwater pools.

Meanwhile, a freshwater pool needs more care and attention. It requires periodic testing of chemical balance and frequent addition of chemicals. You should replenish chlorine once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions and current water chemistry.

3. Initial and long-term cost


Upfront, saltwater pool systems are more expensive due to the price of the chlorine generator and installation. However, they could cost less in the long run because they only require occasional maintenance.

While freshwater pools require a smaller initial investment, the cost of chlorine replenishment may add up quickly over time. Not to mention other chemicals are also needed to maintain the pool.

4. Swimming experience


Despite its name, a saltwater pool is unlike the ocean. The salinity level of a saltwater pool is much lower, approximately 3,200 ppm, making it more akin to human tears. Seawater has a salt content of 35,000 ppm.

As we noted, saltwater provides a much better swimming experience, as freshwater pools deliver a more chlorinated feel. It may even cause irritated eyes, itchy skin, and damaged swimwear.

Pros and Cons of Each Pool Type

As you have learned, saltwater and freshwater pools both have their unique sets of strengths and disadvantages. Knowing them can also help you decide the ideal option for your swimming pool! Here’s a summary:

1. Freshwater pool

  • Cheaper upfront cost
  • Less corrosive
  • Limited energy consumption
  • Easier to maintain and operate
  • Harsh on skin and eyes
  • A constant need for chlorine
  • Requires frequent pool shock
  • High concentration of chlorine

2. Saltwater pool

  • Reduced chlorine level
  • Less abrasive on eyes and skin
  • Consistent chlorination
  • Silkier water
  • Less use of chemicals
  • Costly initial cost
  • Can corrode pool fixtures
  • Complex mechanism
  • Higher energy bill

Which Type of Pool is Right for You?

If you plan to install a pool in your backyard, should it be filled with fresh or saltwater? The answer depends on your situation and preferences. Asking yourself these questions can help you make an informed choice:

1. Water quality preference


As discussed, saltwater offers a smoother and softer water feel. Moreover, it’s more comfortable for the skin and eyes. This makes them an excellent choice if you value a better swimming experience and are sensitive to chlorine.

2. Maintenance commitment


Your choice could also depend on the available time you have for maintenance. If you have sufficient time and skills to nurture your swimming haven, a pool of fresh water might be the way to go. Otherwise, a saltwater pool could be a more accurate fit.

3. Budget


When it comes to cost, freshwater pools are a great choice if you want to save money upfront and avoid corrosion of your pool. However, the ongoing costs for chemicals and other maintenance issues can even increase expenditures over time.

If you don’t mind the initial upfront cost and prefer long-term convenience, a saltwater pool is an excellent choice. You’ll save on maintenance expenses while enjoying healthy and gentler pool water.


In the debate between saltwater vs freshwater pools, each has their strengths and weaknesses. The best pool for you depends on your individual needs and circumstances. Ask yourself, What matters more to me, convenience or affordability?

In answering this question, it would be very easy to come to a perfect decision. Nevertheless, carefully balance the pros and cons of each option. This way, you’ll ensure a fulfilling swimming experience that perfectly complements your lifestyle and resources!

5/5 - (2 votes)