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Clean, Clear, Chlorine-Free: Hamptons Pool Maintenance Goes High-Tech

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A gorgeous pool can be chlorine-free. (Photo: Casual Water)

It's summer at last. Time to head to the beach, or if you're lucky, to the swimming pool in your own backyard. If you're like many homeowners you use chlorine to keep the water in the pool clean and safe for swimming. Chlorine systems are effective, no doubt about it. But they're not fun for everyone. Chlorine can cause respiratory problems in sensitive people. It can leave residues on skin and hair. It can make your eyes burn.

If you want to get away from a chlorinated pool, there are alternatives. Swimming pools in the Hamptons can be clean and clear without chlorine. And you don't have to start from scratch—your existing pool can be converted to a non-chlorine system.

Alternatives to Chlorine

One alternative is a salt water pool. Salt water is gentler to skin than chlorinated water. But salt water pool systems are not like ocean water. There are some drawbacks to salt water pools. To maintain one you need a device called a salt generator. What the generator actually does is chemically break down salt (NaCl) to separate the chloride (Cl) from the sodium (Na) and use the chloride to sanitize the pool water. In effect, you're producing your own chlorine. In addition, salt is corrosive and can over time damage equipment.

Some swimming pools in Europe are set up to function like natural ponds, with aquatic plants to keep the water clean. But swimming in a pond isn't for everybody.


Another way to have a clean, clear pool is with an ionization system. Ionization systems sanitize the water in swimming pools with ionized copper. Here's how it works. Cliff McKennett of Quogue Swimming Pool Service has been using the EcoSmarte sanitation system in his own pool and those of customers for five years. He explained that in this system the water in the pool circulates through a low-voltage chamber containing copper and titanium electrodes. A small amount of ionized copper is added to the water for a day or two to kill organic matter and algae. The rest of the time the unit is set to oxygenate the water. The titanium electrodes split apart the hydrogen and oxygen and the resulting hydroxyl (OH) ions purify and oxygenate the water.

The EcoSmarte system works with sand or diatomaceous earth pool filters. Mr. McKennett believes the best filter is a sand filter containing crushed recycled glass (that's 100% post-consumer) instead of sand. The glass has sharper edges than sand, he explained, and is able to capture finer particles of debris. He has installed the ionization system in over 30 pools which he continues to service. He has found that they require less wastewater backwashing than conventional chlorine pools, thus saving water. The copper does lower the pH of the water, he says, so he uses more calcium hardeners to buffer the lower pH.

Michael Hartman of Casual Water, based in Bridgehampton and Southampton, also uses the EcoSmarte system. He explained that it's not difficult to convert a conventional chlorine pool to an ionization system. When the system is first introduced it takes a couple of days to rid the pool of chlorine and get the copper level up where it needs to be. Then, he says, the water in the pool is so clean that it's drinkable, like mineral water.

Maintenance, he says, is similar to that for a typical chlorinated swimming pool. The pool will still need to be vacuumed and chemicals will still be needed to adjust the pH level, although in his experience generally in lower quantities. And you won't have to buy chlorine again.

 • For more information on chlorine-free pools, contact Quogue Swimming Pool Service at 631-653-4488 or Casual Water at 631-537-5700 or online at www.casualwater.com.

Anne is a writer, editor and professional gardener, and the author of 17 garden, home and nature books. She lives in Hampton Bays.

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Guest (Edward) from Florida says::
What sort of enzymes are you buying/using? We have a salt water pool, will that work? Do have a leaf issue because trees in backyard, but use a robotic pool cleaner to pick those up. We have one that is mention on this site http://www.roboticpoolcleanerscompared.com/robotic-pool-cleaner-reviews/polaris-f9450-sport-4wd-review/, for reference if it makes a difference. The enzymes won't damage a machine I hope? Will it get inside the parts/motor and do anything?
Feb 2, 2015 3:30 pm

Guest (Tom Vaughan) from Boise, ID says::
I have been using a combination of enzymes and chlorine in my pool for the past 13 years and my water is clearer and fresher than any I have seen. I keep my chlorine at levels equal to drinking water. When we have parties all of the new kids show up with goggles and in a few minutes they are laying on the deck because they can swim under water with their eyes open without irritation. Our skin feels soft and smooth and our hair does not get brittle. I would recommend enzymes to any one wanting to reduce chlorine.
Jul 16, 2014 8:42 am

Guest (Scott Bair) from Jersey Shore says::
Anne, a salt pool is a chlorine pool. A salt cell is properly called a salt water chlorine generator. Ionizers don't work well. There is no durable residual sanitizer in the pool where people are. This leads to person to person transmission. Many ionizers depend on eroding copper bars with low voltage to put copper ions in the water. This can keep algae at bay but does nothing to kill the bugs that cause diarrhea, eye infections, skin infections, fungi, or parasites. With proper testing using a drop based test kit and a FAS-DPD powder based chlorine test, a pool can be properly balanced. Chlorine pools, when properly balanced, will disinfect and sanitize a pool without any red eye or residual smells. FYI, ionizers, as a primary sanitizer are banned in Australia and have never been allowed to be used in any commercial pool in the USA. For commercial pools, Chlorine, bromine and biguinides are the only allow sanitizers. Due to cost factors, chlorine is essentially the only primary sanitizer used. The day these ionizer manufacturers produce the number of peer reviewed, independent, and government studies that chlorine has is the day I will consider them. As a pool professional, I consider them to be snake oil. Chlorine can be augmented only.The amount of free chlorine in the pool doesn't change or get reduce because of the devices available.
Jul 25, 2012 8:45 pm

Guest (judy) from philippines says::
names of dealers and pool contractors dealing with you
Jul 22, 2012 6:31 am


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