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.