With the savage winter a memory, Lisa Busso-Raglievich last weekend finally got to test her swimming pool’s new saltwater chlorination system, and she quickly was convinced it was a good use of $2,000.
No stinging eyes. No need to store bottles of chlorine in the shed. No more trips to the pool store to test the water’s contents.
"The expense of chlorine is an expense," Busso-Raglievich, 46, of Freehold Township said, ticking off all that went into maintaining the pool.
The swimming pool season has arrived, and some Jersey Shore homeowners are converting from their traditional chlorine sanitation systems to saltwater-based systems. The new system is equally effective at killing viruses and bacteria, and it is safer to operate, one chemist said, even though it doesn’t eliminate maintenance altogether.
The trend comes just in time for the swimming pool industry that was battered during the recession. Pool companies coming out of the recession are finding work not necessarily building new pools, but converting existing ones.
"There’s still issues with home-equity and financing," said Steven Metz, an owner of Central Jersey Pools in Freehold Township. "But people who have pools have been upgrading them."
For many Central New Jersey homeowners, the backyard swimming pool is the centerpiece of summer. Busso-Raglievich has had the pool since buying the home in 1995. She lives there with her husband, Jeff, daughter, Marissa, and cockapoo, Jack. And the pool has been a gathering spot both for the family and their friends.
Like most pools, it was kept clean with the help of chlorine, a chemical that is a strong disinfectant, even though it can redden the eyes of people who swim too long, said Meg Fisher, medical director of the Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.
But it could be a hassle. Busso-Raglievich remembers spilling chlorine on her clothes, ruining them; searching for different chemicals to break up chlorine locks; striving to understand pH levels; and being overwhelmed at times from the fumes coming from the automatic chlorinator.
With the prompting of friends who told her about the saltwater chlorination systems they installed, she and her husband decided to follow suit.
"It’s like a bath of silk," said Christine Iessi, 45, of Matawan, and a friend of Busso-Raglievich’s. Her pool, built five years ago, came with a saltwater chlorination system. "There’s no issue with anybody’s hair turning green," she said. "It doesn’t burn the eyes. It feels like you’re in a bath of Evian."
With swimming pools come myths. For example, the chlorine odor that is a staple of summertime is generated not because there is too much chlorine, but because there is not enough, said Kevin Olsen, a chemist and instrumentation specialist at Montclair State University.
And saltwater chlorination doesn’t turn a swimming pool into a replica of the Dead Sea, a body of water so salty and buoyant that it is impossible to drown. Instead, the pool is sterilized through an electric reaction to salt, or sodium chloride, and water.
"You’re not really changing anything in terms of the chemistry that’s killing the bacteria and viruses and algae," Olsen said. "You’re generating the sterilizing agent in a different manner."