Lawn & Garden

Pool Ionizer vs Salt Chlorinator – Pros and Cons, Costs and Maintenance

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26 February, 2024 • Updated 13 days ago
Salt chlorinators and pool ionizers both specialize in swimming pool water sanitization and ensure that you need to add significantly less chemicals to your pool, but which is the better investment?

Below we have compiled all the information you may need to make an informed decision for you and your household. From cost to maintenance, we’ve got you covered

This article is all you need to decrease your chlorine budget – or better yet, eliminate it.

Key Differences Between Salt Chlorinators and Salt Ionizers

Salt ChlorinatorsPool Ionizers
Requires no chlorineRequires small amounts of chlorine
Needs cell replacements every 5 yearsNeeds cell replacements every few months to 3 years
Expensive product and maintenance costsFairly inexpensive costs
Cell gets scaled up and requires cleaningCell gets scaled up but can function regardless

Pool Ionizer

Solar Swimming Pool Ionizer

A pool ionizer system, also called a mineral system, uses copper and silver ions in the product’s mineral cell to rid your pool of certain pollutants like algae. Silver ions are more effective for swimming pool bacteria while copper ions keep algae under control.

These swimming pool ionizers can be both solar-powered or electric, with the solar ionizer floating on the water and the electric device being incorporated into the swimming pool equipment.


Prevents Pool Component Wear

In contrast to a salt chlorinator, a pool ionizer system poses no risk to your pool and pool equipment due to the absence of harsh compounds during the cleaning process.

Requires Less Chlorine

Pools with ionizer systems only need a consistent chlorine level of 0.5ppm, which is an impressive reduction from the suggested 2ppm to 4ppm for a traditional chlorine pool.

Less Expensive Than Other Chlorine Reducing Systems

Most solutions to reduce your pool’s required chlorine content cost thousands. Ionizers, however, are available for around $1000 and still save considerable costs on chlorine purchases.

Easier Maintenance

While scale build-up on the mineral cell is possible, it does not tend to hinder the system functioning and the system does, thus, not require frequent cleaning.


Still Requires Chlorine

Unlike some pool sanitization systems, pool ionizers still require you to add other sanitization chemicals, just in lowered quantities. You will no longer require floating chlorine dispensers but will likely still have to add chlorine shock to your pool at least once a week.

Blue/Green Stains

If the copper level in your pool water is not properly maintained, the mineral could gather on your pool walls or vinyl and potentially cause staining.

This is not a risk with all pool ionizers as some are specifically designed to prevent this from happening, but it is still something to keep in mind when deciding on the ionizer features for you.

Slower Reaction

While most sanitization systems show results within 48 hours, pool ionizers often require over two weeks to take full effect.

Requires Cell Replacement

This type of system requires occasional investment in the form of mineral cell replacements. Fortunately, this does not have to be done very often and is relatively inexpensive.

Salt Chlorinator

EDGE40 Salt Chlorine Generator

A salt chlorinator makes use of a salt cell to convert salt into liquid chlorine. This does not mean that salt serves as the sanitizing agent, however, as this is the result of the chlorine product.

It also does not mean that your pool will now be a saltwater pool, as the salt quantity is actually quite negligible and can’t be smelled or tasted.


No Chlorine Smell

A salt chlorinator functions perfectly in the complete absence of chlorine, meaning the water does not have that chlorine smell.

Inexpensive Operation

As these sanitization systems simply require salt to operate, they are considerably more cost-effective than the chlorine alternative.

Easily Accessible

Salt is readily available just about anywhere, meaning that you’ll never have to deal with a dirty pool because your local shop is out of pool cleaning products.

Less Harsh

Chlorine has many unfortunate side-effects, such as being harsh on swimwear and leaving our skin and hair feeling dry. Water sanitized by salt chlorinators are notably kinder to you and your clothing.


Costly Setup

The initial investment and any replacement components are incredibly pricey in comparison to other pool sanitization systems.

Corrodes Pool Components

If you’ve ever lived near the beach, you likely saw this one coming.

The salt involved in the sanitization process poses the risk of damaging any steel components in your pool such as pipes, ladders etc.

Occasional Salt Cell Replacement

The salt cell responsible for the chemical reaction of turning salt into chlorine needs replacement every few years, which can run similar costs to the original product setup.

Periodically Requires Muriatic Acid

The salt cell tends to get scaled up by water that contains a high amount of total dissolved solids. This hinders the functioning of the system and thus requires muriatic acid to clean the cell.

This will likely only be necessary about twice a year, but it’s best to check every few months.


Pool Ionizer

The initial costs associated with a pool ionizer serve as a huge pro when compared to a salt chlorinator, as you can expect to only pay around $1000 for this type of system.

However, just like salt chlorinators, pool ionizers require occasional cell replacements. These cells will last about 6 months to 3 years, depending on the size of your pool and cost around $30.

Salt Chlorinator

Salt chlorinators have a high initial cost, with prices almost always reaching above $10 000 and averaging at around $20 000.

Salt cells require less frequent replacement than mineral cells, but typically cost between $500 and $1000.


Pool Ionizer

Pool ionizer systems require minimal maintenance outside of replacing the mineral cell every now and then. Depending on the size of your pool, the cell will need replacement every 6 months to 3 years. Smaller pools will require less frequent cell replacement.

The mineral cell may become scaled up over time depending on your water quality, but this is not much of a concern as the ions can typically still easily pass through the build-up to effectively clean your pool.

While the system itself does not require much maintenance, you are required to take additional steps to upkeep your pool cleanliness. Most ionizer brands suggest maintaining a chlorine capacity of 0.5 ppm, which is a significant reduction from if you were to use chlorine alone.

This extra step is necessary because, while ionizers are amazing at eliminating algae and bacteria, they fail to break down matter like sweat and sunscreen that is left behind in the water by users.

Salt Chlorinator

Pool water sanitized with a salt chlorinator also requires water testing, but not for chlorine levels as for other pools. In salt pools, the pH tends to rise, making the liquid chlorine produced by the salt cell considerably less effective. Muriatic acid or pH reducers should thus be added when pool testing shows a pH above 7.

The cell can also get scaled up if you have very hard water, which does affect the sanitization process. This is where muriatic acid comes in to save the day again, as it can be poured into the cell to clean off the build-up.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is not necessary to use an ionizer in a saltwater pool, but ionizer systems are fit for nearly any pool type. This includes salt water, fresh water, big pools, spas etc

Pool ionizers are widely considered to produce healthier pool water than salt chlorinators, as salt chlorinators convert salt to liquid chlorine in the same quantities that any other pool would require. Alternatively, pool ionizers use an alternative to chlorine so minimal chlorine has to be added to the pool.

Fill a bucket with water and add muriatic acid to the water in a ratio of one part acid to 4 parts water. Secure your chlorinator cell on its stand and fill it with the solution for ten minutes. After 10 minutes, pour your mixture into your pool water instead of down a drain or in your garden.


While salt chlorinators are the bigger initial investment, they completely eliminate the need for chlorine and don’t need frequent component replacements.

Pool ionizers, however, are much more budget-friendly, but require weekly pool shocks and more frequent cell replacements.

Overall, the best swimming pool sanitization system for you will rely on your pool size, maintenance requirements and pool product prices in your area.

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