Chlorine, as a purification agent, has been used for water treatment and swimming pools since the early 1900s. However, there are increasing concerns of this chemicals widespread and the long-term exposure to human health. It is well documented that chlorine, when combined with organic matter, can produce toxic byproducts such as trihalomethanes (THMs). The health risk of THMs to swimmers is increased as chlorine levels are higher and the organic load is heavier (leaves, algae, dead skin, hair, cosmetics, and urine for example). Chlorine, even at proper levels, can cause rashes and allergies in some people. Chloramines (another byproduct of chlorination) is known to irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Those suffering from asthma and bronchitis are at a higher risk.
Many consumers lack the knowledge and understanding to properly maintain the chemistry of their pool. Confusion on terms such as total chlorine, combined chlorine, and free and available chlorine is common. Understanding the need and timing to sock a pool relates to the previous sentence. Since chlorine cannot stabilize in the water on its own, a dry stabilizer (cyanuric acid) is added to the water to make it resistant to sunlight. Many end users are not using the correct levels of the stabilizer which increases chlorine consumption or could be damaging to the surface of their pool.
Salt water pools are becoming more prevalent as people believe it is a chlorine alternative and less maintenance. These saltwater pools, which convert sodium chloride into chlorine, still require proper balancing of the water chemistry. Not doing so will drastically increase maintenance costs and the electrical cost can soar. Salt damage is prevalent it can corrode the coping, decking, walls, and the floor of the pool.
Despite these drawbacks, chlorine is the most commonly used pool sanitizer in the world today. It is effective as it curbs the growth of algae and bacteria, oxidizes particulates to make the water clear, and it sanitizes the water. However, more than ever, consumers are seeking an effective alternative. So, if you are looking for a healthier alternative, the post below discusses nine healthier and environmentally-friendly options to chlorine for swimming pools.
Alternatives to Chlorine You Could Consider
Chlorine, nowadays, does have several alternatives that fulfill at least the basic criteria of safety. There are tried and tested alternatives to chlorine and research is still being continued to this day. Other aspects one needs to consider are cost, maintenance, and suitability to your requirements. Here are nine alternatives you may want to consider:
Bromine is used as an alternative to chlorine. However, it has similar properties to that of chlorine and is a halogenic compounds. Also, bromine is more expensive than chlorine. So, while it fulfills the aspects chlorine does, it is not a very preferred option. Bromine, just like chlorine, needs to be used in conjunction with other chemicals and additives. It is very difficult to stabilize and does not work well in outdoor pools.
You can easily install an ozone generator. It does help reduce the amount of chlorine you use in the pool. Also, it helps degrade organic contaminants. It is not an independent alternative must be used in conjunction with chlorine or another sanitizer. This is because ozone does not have sufficient residual capabilities as the gas is short lived. Also, it is expensive as for the initial investment.
Reduction in Water Temperature:
Reducing your water temperature to colder than normal will help slow bacterial and algal growth. Most of these microorganisms thrive and proliferate in warm to hot environments. Also, it reduces the speed of chemicals reacting with each other or human skin. So, while reducing temperature is not an independent solution, it can definitely reduce the quantity of chlorine you would have to use otherwise. The drawback here is that it is difficult for some people to swim comfortably in cold water. The method you adopt to reduce the water temperature would largely depend on the outside weather. If the climate is warm and pleasant, you can go for a pool chiller. If the outside weather is cold, you can opt for aeration or oxygenation through fountains. If you have a water heater installed, lower the thermostat level. Heaters and chillers are very expensive in comparison to other pool equipment options. Chlorine, or other sanitation systems, still must be used. However, the amount required is reduced. Probably not enough to justify the expense.
Polyhexamethylenebiguanide or PHMB is developed by certain brands such as Baquacil and Softswim as an effective alternative solution to chlorination. This is a more stable ingredient than chlorine and is not affected by sunlight. Hence, it does not require a stabilizer. Also, it does not irritate the eyes or skin nor does it corrode the walls and floor of the pool. However, it is more expensive than chlorine and so is the maintenance cost of such pools. Another flip side is that you may require hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizer and clean your pool filters once in a month. Also, if converting to PHMB, it is recommended to drain out the water, which probably contain traces of chlorine. Also, when swimming, your skin or swimming suit should not have any traces of chlorine, else it may react with PHMB.
You can use UV light and chlorine in combination with each other. UV light works as a sanitizer and destroys most germs in the pool, while chlorine maintains the residual effect. Installing a UV light system in your pool can reduce the quantity of chlorine you would have to use and it is effective at reducing chloramines. To get the right size of UV light, you would have to calculate the flow rate of your pool. If properly sized, the UV light can destroy bacteria and viruses. UV does not provide any sanitation residual and many microorganisms can reproduce at a faster rate than water can be recirculated through the pool and the device.
The ultrafiltration method comprises the use of a fine sieve to remove extremely small microbes, human skin fragments, hair and so on once the basic filtering is done. Barring the required minimal amount of chlorine in the pool, all the other suspended particles, organic matters, and bacteria are picked and thrown out by this filter. This system comprises filter tubes with very thin membranes to which water is flown in a circulation loop at low pressure. These membranes have very thin semi-permeable pores through which essential disinfectants and certain salts get permeated into the pool again. So, water is purified without the use of chemicals. This technology is extremely expensive for most applications. Over time, advance and increase production will drive down the cost of these systems.
Mineral Water Pool Systems:
These cartridge-based systems consist of minerals/alloys that deactivate algae and other microorganisms as water flows through its chamber. Two common brands are Pool FROG and Nature 2 and can reduce the need for chlorine up to 50%. They are easy to use and low on maintenance as you can refill the mineral cartridges. This system can be simply attached to the PVC pipes of pool systems. The drawback is that chlorine must be used and the replacement cartridges can be expensive and have to be replaced often on larger pools.
This is a proprietary technology developed by Earth Science Laboratories. Its main ingredient comprises copper sulfate pentahydrate which constitutes up to 19.8% of its active ingredients. This technology uses the positively charged copper ions to destroy all the negatively charged bacteria and other germs in the pool. It is very effective; however, it is the most costly option to maintain a swimming pool.
This is the best available alternative so far. Copper ionization is an effective option for a chlorine-free pool. There are no residual chemicals which can cause irritation to eyes and skin. It is more cost effective and produces healthy pool water. The copper ionization system comes with an electronic control unit, test kits, and a copper electrode. The ionization process releases metallic ions that are introduced into the water by using a low voltage current. These positively-charged, copper ions are attracted to the negatively-charged bacteria and algae and penetrate their cell membranes. As the water is recirculated, more such ions are produced. Copper ions are not affected by sunlight and hence do not require a stabilizer. Unlike chlorine and salt systems, ionizers are pH neutral so pH maintenance is easier. These systems are easy to install and maintain and can be retrofitted to your existing chlorinated pool.
Do you have a private swimming pool in your home, and looking for better options to chlorination? Are you looking to improve the swimming pool in your residential complex? If yes, discuss the ionization technology with a reliable water treatment professional. Intec America provides water treatment solutions for swimming pools, private wells, and surface waters. They understand your requirements and will offer you the best possible solution. Intec America was the first company in the US to popularize the copper ionization technology developed by NASA. Since then, copper ionizers have been largely used in swimming pools for water treatment. Over the years, they have emerged as a healthy alternative to chlorine.