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If you clicked on this article, it could mean two things. First, you may have come across the term saltwater hot tubs and wish to learn more about them. Second, you could be considering purchasing a saltwater hot tub but are unsure if it is a good idea.
Well, this article contains answers to all your questions regarding saltwater hot tubs! We’ll cover not only saltwater hot tub benefits but also their cost and maintenance in comparison to the traditional chlorine hot tubs, so you can weigh all their pros and cons.
Why Opt For Saltwater Hot Tubs?
A saltwater hot tub is a type of spa or hot tub that uses a salt chlorine generator to keep the water clean and safe. Unlike traditional hot tubs that rely on chemical chlorine additives, saltwater hot tubs generate chlorine naturally from the salt dissolved in the water.
This system is considered environmentally friendly primarily because it reduces the overall use of chemicals compared to traditional chlorine-based hot tubs. However, changing the water regularly over time leads to excess salt being released into the environment.
Saltwater hot tubs are renowned for their gentle touch. Unlike traditional chlorine-based systems, they do not cause skin and eye irritation, which will be beneficial for people with sensitive skin and allergies. On top of that, the soft, odorless salt water provides a soothing and comfortable soak.
Saltwater Hot Tubs vs. Chlorine Hot Tubs
Saltwater hot tubs usually cost more upfront because some models have implemented a saltwater system by default. However, the initial cost can be lowered if you already have a hot tub and decide to convert it into a saltwater hot tub.
The table below shows a price comparison between chlorine and saltwater hot tubs. This table provides a general reference, so please note that costs can vary depending on factors such as hot tub size, usage, and local pricing.
|Cost Category||Chlorine Hot Tub||Saltwater Hot Tub|
|Initial Purchase Price||Lower upfront cost||Higher upfront cost|
|Chemical Costs||$20–$50 per month||$10–$20 per month|
|Maintenance and Cleaning||$50–$100 per year||$20–$50 per year|
|Salt Chlorinator System||Not applicable||$500–$5,000 (one-time)|
|Salt Cell Replacement||Not applicable||200–$900 (every 5–7 years)|
|Salt||Not applicable||$20–$50 (every 3–5 months)|
|Total Annual Cost (Approximate)||$360–$900||$350–$1,070|
Chlorine Hot Tub
Chlorine hot tubs tend to have a lower upfront purchase cost, making them a budget-friendly choice for many. It’s a powerful disinfectant against bacteria and algae, but it gets its power from being highly concentrated. This creates a distinct smell and could potentially cause irritation to the body.
Over time, the cost of purchasing chlorine-based chemicals and test kits can add up, and such frequent day-to-day water quality testing has a major impact on the environment.
Saltwater Hot Tub
Saltwater is better for your skin and eyes than chlorine, which can cause irritation. However, saltwater still can dry out the skin, so it is recommended to shower with fresh water after taking a saltwater bath and moisturize your skin.
They also offer an additional perk in the form of natural buoyancy. The salt content in the water enhances buoyancy, which reduces the impact on joints, making it an excellent option for those with arthritis or joint discomfort.
With salt systems, it is important to keep the optimum temperature at 60F or higher, as chlorine production is not as efficient or stops altogether at lower temperatures. For this reason, it is not recommended to build salt systems into inflatable hot tubs, as it is difficult for them to maintain a constant temperature.
To summarize, are saltwater hot tubs better? We believe that there is not much difference in comparison to chlorine hot tubs, they are still a valuable option. It all depends on your budget, preferences, and health conditions.
How To Convert Hot Tub to Saltwater?
Most hot tubs can be converted to saltwater hot tubs, but such a possibility may depend on the specific make and model of the hot tub. If you turn your hot tub into saltwater, the warranty probably won’t cover any damage that may occur. So, we advise you to be mindful and make sure your hot tub can handle saltwater systems to avoid unforeseen repair expenses.
Step 1: Check compatibility
Before you install a salt water system in your hot tub, you should make sure that it is compatible. Check the owner’s manual or reach out to the manufacturer to ensure that your hot tub can safely accommodate a saltwater system.
Salt can corrode some of the materials and parts commonly found in hot tubs. If your hot tub is not built to resist the corroding properties of saltwater, it can damage the plumbing, heating elements, and other components of the hot tub.
In the table below, you can see the lists of basic hot tub base materials and component materials that are compatible and incompatible with salt.
|Compatible Materials||Non-Compatible Materials|
|Stainless steel||Plain steel or iron|
|Plastic (acrylic or ABS)||Copper|
|Glass-Reinforced Plastic (GRP)||Cast iron|
|Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)||Galvanized steel|
You may notice that these materials include PVC, which is a component of inflatable hot tubs. So the question is — is it possible to create an inflatable saltwater hot tub? The answer is both yes and no. While it’s possible to include a salt chlorine generator in the inflatable hot tub, it will be much more difficult to maintain the optimum temperature to prevent bacterial growth.
Therefore, the salt is better suited for hard-shelled portable hot tubs, above- and in-ground types. As for the inflatable models, it’s better to stick with chlorine and bromine chemical maintenance.
Step 2: Purchase a salt chlorine generator
If your hot tub is compatible, purchase a salt chlorine generator system designed for hot tubs. These systems typically include a salt cell, a control unit, and necessary plumbing components.
Step 3: Clean the tub and install the salt cell
Drain the hot tub completely and clean it thoroughly. Remove any debris, residue, or existing chemicals from the tub. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the salt cell in the hot tub’s plumbing system. Typically, this involves connecting the cell to the existing circulation system.
Step 4: Add salt and set up the control unit
Pour the appropriate amount of salt into the hot tub based on the manufacturer’s recommendations. The salt will dissolve in the water to create a saline solution. Install and program the control unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This unit regulates the salt chlorination process and helps maintain the desired chlorine levels.
And lastly, step 5 — enjoy your saltwater hot tub!
Maintaining a Saltwater Hot Tub
While saltwater hot tubs can simplify water maintenance compared to traditional hot tubs, they are not entirely maintenance-free. Here we collected the most important things you should know about saltwater hot tub maintenance.
Generator and Filter Maintenance
This is a key component of a saltwater hot tub that converts the salt into chlorine. The hot tub has a salt chlorinator or chlorine generator, which is an electronic cell or system that uses electrolysis to break down the salt (sodium chloride) into its components: sodium and chlorine.
Occasionally inspect the salt cell for any visible signs of scaling, mineral deposits, or debris buildup. These deposits can accumulate on the cell’s plates over time and interfere with its performance.
It is important to maintain the correct pH, salinity, and other water conditions to extend the life of the salt cell and ensure efficient chlorine production. An unbalanced or corrosive environment can cause the cell to wear out quickly and may require more frequent cleaning or replacement of the cell.
For example, if the amount of salt in your saltwater hot tub is too high (), it may cause the parts to corrode and damage the hot tub’s structure over time.
The table below shows the key parameters for saltwater hot tubs:
|Total Alkalinity (TA)||80–120 ppm|
|Calcium Hardness (CH)||150–250 ppm|
|Salinity Level||2,500–3,500 ppm|
|Free Chlorine (FC)||1–3 ppm|
|Cyanuric Acid (CYA)||30–50 ppm|
|Total Dissolved Solids||Below 1,500 ppm|
If you live in a cold climate, you’ll need to understand how to winterize your saltwater hot tub to prevent damage from freezing temperatures. Test and adjust the water chemistry to ensure it’s within the recommended ranges for pH, alkalinity, and salt levels. Then drain the hot tub completely, and ensure that no water remains in the plumbing lines, jets, or any other components to prevent freezing.
Clean thoroughly all components so that there is no hint of salt, follow your hot tub storage guidelines, and you’re good to go.
Breaking 5 Myths About Saltwater Hot Tubs
#1 Saltwater Hot Tubs Don’t Use Any Chemicals
Demystified: While saltwater hot tubs use salt to generate chlorine naturally, they still require some chemicals for proper maintenance, albeit in smaller quantities than traditional hot tubs.
#2 Saltwater Hot Tubs Are Incompatible With Chlorine
Demystified: Saltwater hot tubs can actually work alongside small amounts of chlorine, maintaining water quality and safety without harsh chemical overload.
#3 Saltwater Hot Tubs Are Harsh on the Skin and Eyes
Demystified: Saltwater hot tubs are designed to be gentler on your skin and eyes compared to traditional chlorine hot tubs, but water balance is still key to ensure comfort.
#4 Saltwater Hot Tubs Taste Salty and Feel Like the Ocean
Demystified: The salt levels in hot tubs are much lower than in the ocean, so you won’t feel like you’re swimming in the sea. The water has a mild saltiness that’s barely noticeable.
#5 Saltwater Hot Tubs Are Maintenance-Free
Demystified: While they require less maintenance than chlorine hot tubs, saltwater hot tubs still need regular care, including water chemistry checks and occasional cleaning.
Saltwater hot tubs are a great alternative to chlorine or bromine hot tubs, they are easier to care for, don’t require a lot of chemicals, and generally feel more pleasant than traditional baths. But all the benefits come at a price. Is it worth the hype in the end? Of course, but with proper care.
This article compares the saltwater hot tub costs in comparison to traditional hot tubs, assesses the advantages and disadvantages of each hot tub type, and explores the possibility of conversion from a regular hot tub to a saltwater upgrade.
⚙️ Is It Hard To Maintain a Saltwater Hot Tub?
Saltwater hot tub maintenance is usually easier than with traditional ones. You’ll spend less time with chemicals, but you still need to check water levels and cleanliness.
🧂 Can Any Hot Tub Be Saltwater?
Not all hot tubs can be converted to saltwater. You need to check if your hot tub is compatible because salt can be harsh on some materials and components.
💧 How Often Should a Saltwater Hot Tub Be Drained and Refilled?
You should generally drain and refill your saltwater hot tub every 3 to 4 months. But it depends on how much you use it and your water quality.
🌎 Are Saltwater Hot Tubs Safer for the Environment?
Yes, they can be more eco-friendly. They use fewer chemicals, which is better for the environment. But you should still follow local disposal rules.
⏱️ How Long Should You Stay in a Saltwater Hot Tub?
It’s best to limit your leisure time to about 15–30 minutes. But always listen to your body, if you feel uncomfortable — then it’s time to get out and cool off.