Swimming Pools – Chlorine, Bromine, Salt Water or UV?

September 2014

Swimming pools are considered by many as an important amenity that helps raise the value of a condo. Others look at it as a costly expenditure. Regardless of your perspective, it is a building amenity used daily and which requires regular upkeep.

The most important decision for pool maintenance is determining how the water is to be sanitized. This decision affects the cost of maintenance and supplies so long as the pool remains in use. Four sanitization methods used by condos are chlorine, bromine, salt water and ultra violet (UV) systems. Each method offers clear benefits and drawbacks.

Chlorine is the most common way to maintain water quality at an acceptable level for swimming, comparable to that of drinking water which also contains chlorine. Chlorine is simple to use but does have drawbacks. In addition to the cost of the chemical and ongoing maintenance, chlorine has a smell which is offensive to some people. It remains on skin and in hair long after leaving the swimming pool. Some individuals who are sensitive to chlorine may have eye irritation and allergic reactions. For these reasons, condos may consider alternate methods for maintaining water quality.

Salt water pools are not chlorine-free solutions. Salt is run through a process called electrolysis to create chlorine which purifies the water. This method is more convenient in that it eliminates the need to add chlorine, is tasteless and the effects of sensitivities to added chlorine are lessened or eliminated. An important consideration, however, is the corrosive nature of salt which may cause damage to pipes and some types of stone.

Bromine is a chemical alternative to chlorine that is an equally effective sanitizer and has no smell. It is also unaffected by sunlight or heat, both of which affect the amount of chlorine required in a swimming pool. When bather load is high, a bromine pool may be the only option. Bromine pools are more complicated to maintain, and more costly, than chlorine pools.

Ultra violet (UV) pools are relatively new although this process has been used in the purification of drinking water for more than 60 years. A UV system relies on ultra violet light for the sterilization of algae, bacteria and viruses including chlorine resistant micro-organisms. It significantly reduces but does not eliminate dependence on chlorine, salt or bromine. Like bromine, there are no odours or eye and skin irritations. While a UV pool does require additional equipment, its cost may be offset by reduced maintenance and an estimated 75% reduction in use of other chemicals.

Deciding among these and other options is not easy. Each condo should consider the priorities of their residents. For some a higher maintenance cost and/or investment in equipment is justified. Other condos may determine that changes to a current system are unnecessary. One local condominium that recently sought an alternative to their chlorinated pool converted to a UV system. Their determination was that a UV system was dramatically less expensive, by a factor of 5, than a salt water pool which would require an upgrade of pipes. The condominium’s decision to convert their chlorine sanitized pool and whirlpool was due to a combination of cost savings and elimination


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