Pros & Cons of Salt Water in a Hot Tub

Salt Water Hot Tubs


Salt water systems are becoming more and more common in the hot tub marketplace.  Salt water sanitization systems offer many advantages over chlorine or any other chemical sterilization program.  Salt water hot tubs are always going to be gentler on the skin and eyes, lower maintenance, and cut way back on the amount of water care products you’re going to need to have ready to maintain the water, as well as other advantages.  In the vast majority of situations salt water is always a better pick.  In this blog, we will be going over the pro and cons of a salt water hot tub.


Advantages of Salt Water Hot Tubs


The biggest advantage of a salt water hot tub is the lower maintenance.  Once the salt system fully comes online, you’ll only need to be adding salt to the hot tub a couple of times a month or less.  Higher-quality salt hot tubs like Caldera Spa’s even have built-in salt readers, so the system will tell you when you need to add salt.  You’ll only need to test the water monthly to make sure your acidity and hardness are within range.  Compare that to having to check your chlorine levels weekly, and you often won’t even know there is a problem in the chlorine hot tub until the water goes bad.  You also have the advantage of being able to not stress out about your hot tub if you go on vacation for more than a week.  Caldera’s Freshwater Salt System has a vacation mode.  Simply load up the hot tub with salt, drop the temperature to 95 degrees, and you may be able to get up to 8 weeks without having to worry about adding more salt to the system in most cases.


Another advantage is how much easier the system is on your skin and eyes.  With traditional water care, you often end up in a situation where about half the time your hot tub is either over-chlorinated or under-chlorinated.  Adding a weekly dose of granular chlorine will result in heavily chlorinated water.  It will be at the correct level for about 2 days later for a couple of days, then it will be a little too low the rest of the week.  This yoyo can put you in the position of either not wanting to get in because the smell is too strong, or not feeling confident your water is sanitized.  The Salt System slowly generates sanitizer at a rate you can choose based on how you’re using the tub.  Once you find the right number, there will always be the perfect amount of sanitizer in the system.


You also need far fewer chemicals in your arsenal.  With chlorine or bromine, to get really crisp water you’ll need shock, boosters, clarifiers, and potentially more.  Not having to deal with shock is by far the best chemical to get away from.  The free salt in the system fills the role of shock.  Shock is the most common cause of chemical burns on people they often assume is a chlorine allergy.   Every bottle of shock tells you to put in quite a bit every week.  Often times if you listen to the bottle, and you have sensitive skin, you’ll end up with a chemical burn that can look like a rash.  Shock is a good chemical when used properly in a chlorine hot tub, but not having to mess with it is awesome.


Disadvantages of Salt Water Hot Tub systems


There aren’t too many disadvantages to a salt water hot tub.  The only situation where it consistently isn’t a good option over a traditional hot tub is if the hot tub is going in a short-term rental.   The reason why this type of hot tub isn’t a good option in a short-term rental is that it does take longer to start a salt system.  For a salt system to come online the water hardness has to be very low, and the salt has to be perfectly mixed.  This process can take 24 hours in most cases.  It’s not difficult to do, but in a short-term rental, you often have to drain and fill your hot tub between guests, and the tub being down for 24 hours usually is going to cause a complaint.  When a hot tub is in your home, having perfect water is easy.  In rentals, people will often go into a hot tub without showering and being covered in lotions.  This can result in really cloudy and oily water.  It’s much faster to just drain, fill and rinse the filter than wait a week for the water clear out. That 24-hour down time isn’t a big deal in your home because you’ll only be draining and filling once a year.


The other disadvantage is only going to be discount hot tubs or after-market systems.  Not premium built-in systems like Calderas Freshwater system.  If you do not have quality heaters, and pumps that are optimized to be in a salty environment, those parts can fail quickly in a salt water hot tub.  The best way to check if the hot tub is optimized for salt is to check the warranty.  If the factory salt system cuts the operational warranty of the hot tub from 3-5 years, down to 1-2 years, that’s a good indicator that your hot tub isn’t using quality parts that can handle the salt.


The last disadvantage is having to replace the salt core.  These cores run about $100 per cell.  They say they need to be replaced every three months.  After about three months the Caldera Freshwater system will start throwing an error suggesting you replace the salt cell.  You do not need to replace it per se, it can be cleaned with muriatic acid once clean the error will be bypassed.  Cleaning the core can extend its life to over a year easily.  This isn’t a huge disadvantage if you are comfortable cleaning the cell, it only takes a few minutes 4 times a year, but if you’re buying them instead of cleaning the cell, it does make the system more expensive to maintain than a traditional hot tub water care program.


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