Sunday, December 31, 2006

WHY SALT STILL SUCKS

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. I have talked to a lot of people who are very knowledgeable about pools and pool water chemistry and salt systems in particular, and I have learned a lot. And I have come to a conclusion.

I was right. Salt sucks. It is an environmental hazard if used on a grand scale and it has no place in a swimming pool. To tinker with an old saying, “a man needs a salt pool like a fish needs a bicycle”.

I have had a tiny nagging worry, since I started this blog, that perhaps it was just me. Me and a handful of other pool guys I know who were just not doing something right with our pools. Maybe we were somehow not up to the task of this new salt technology. Even with all the evidence I was seeing on my pools, on other guys’s pools, on pools that I would go to that were being maintained by the owner, even with all that, maybe it was just us and something we were doing wrong.

And then I found that my worst fear was true. It was something we were doing wrong. We were putting salt into our pools.

We were pouring a known corrosive into our pools and then standing there, scratching our heads like a bunch of great, fat idiots, wondering why everything was corroding.

Duh.

Kudos this week to Pool & Spa News. There’s a great article in the latest issue titled “Questions Arise About Salt Chlorine Generators” by Rebecca Robledo. Turns out it’s not just Texas that’s having the problem. She quotes Buzz Ghiz, president of Paddock Pools in Scottsdale, Arizona. He says that over the last three to five years they’ve been having problems with damage to coping, decking, rock waterfalls and some of their equipment. After researching it, they found the common thread was salt chlorinators.

Gosh. I’m stunned. What a coincidence. That sounds exactly like what’s happening here, where the water is vastly different. Their water is hard. Ours is soft. Oh, and so much for all those guys out there who blame it on “that cheap sandstone you use in Texas”.

As much as I’m glad that Pool & Spa News is shining a light on this issue, there was one thing I didn’t like about Rebecca’s article. It was objective.

That’s the problem with journalism. You have to air both sides of the issue. And that’s what I love about blogging. I don’t have to accurately report both camp’s positions. I don’t have to be objective.

You see, it’s the built in blind spot of objectivity that helps these guys get away with this crap. Objectivity provides safe harbor to those who feign surprise or outrage when one of us points out that the Emperor Has No Clothes, and allows them to pretend to be unjustly accused and if we’ll just give them a little time, but don’t stop buying their products, they’ll “get to the bottom of things”.

The article points out that Paddock had to pay out of profit to repair the problems. Just like the Big Texas Builder I talked about a while ago. And the common thread in the path of this damage was always salt systems. And there’s a ton of references all over the place confirming the fact that when salt water seeps into stone, the water evaporates, the salt residue stays behind, begins to crystalize, exerts crystallization expansion pressure on the stone and explodes it from within. Period. That’s what the science guys say happens. They did it in labs. Over and over and over again. In studies going all the way back to the 1960's.

But when objectively reporting this phenomena, the article has to say, “Some builders theorize...”.

It’s not a theory. It’s a fact. But the idea that it’s a theory provides a gateway to the manufacturers side of the story, which I realize that Pool & Spa News has to present, no matter how thin the manufacturer’s charade is.

And, you see, that’s what journalists do. They present both sides. It’s their job, and they wouldn’t be doing a good job if they didn’t present both sides. Like I said, that’s why I love blogging.

The manufacturer’s side of all this is; Gosh, this “is just as new for us as it is for the [builders]”. That isn’t true. I’m sure Paddock Pools wasn’t holding back their findings over the last 3 to 5 years as some big trade secret. Wouldn’t you think that they might have brought it up to their salt Rep when they first began to make the connection? The simple truth is, most of the folks who have been seeing these problems have been hammering the Reps for years to explain why this stuff is happening. And they have been stonewalling.

They also say that “it’s a complex issue” with “geographical, environmental conditions, source water, certainly the salt from chlorine generators as well as other pool chemicals, then regional differences in the materials being used in coping...” Which is also a load of manure because you can’t get much different than the water in Scottsdale AZ and Dallas, TX. Not to mention that we didn’t have these issues until we added salt to our pools. It’s not at all complex. Don’t add salt to your pool and one hundred thousand year old limestone won’t dissolve in two years. They didn’t just make that limestone yesterday, you know. It isn’t some new substance we discovered about the same time we started pouring salt into pools.

They conclude by saying - and this is my personal favorite pass the buck, see no evil, hear no evil, the emperor really isn’t naked quote - “it’s way too early to start making determinations on what the issue is yet.”

Which is Sales & Marketing for “Oh, please don’t interrupt our gravy train. We’re not near done making money off this dog of a product yet, and God forbid we should say anything that might admit a shred of liability here, so let’s not all jump to the same wild-ass conclusion that all those scientists have been for the last fifty years”.

The issue is; salt damages stone and concrete and it’s been verified, common knowledge for half a century. But it’s way too early to make that determination? Well, I guess if the chance of being expected to pay for the damages was beginning to loom large, I could see where it would be way too early for them to determine much of anything.

The final piece of the smoke screen is that a group of seven salt system manufacturers are going to “spend the next few months compiling information from existing studies. They will also seek data from the pool industry in Australia”. Now this is where I really respect the objectivity of the folks at Pool & Spa News, for not being seized by uncontrollable fits of laughter and dropping the phone when the industry guy told them that. It is hilarious because one of the biggest salt system manufacturers in this country, and I’m sure must have been one of the seven, comes from Australia. They got their money to launch their system over here by selling a buttload of them over there first. So, what? Did they lose their notes?

Well, seeing as how they’re having so much trouble getting an open phone line Down Under, I decided to reach out and see what I could find.

http://www.urbanstone.com.au/technical/saltattack.cfm

That’s a link to a concrete paving company in Australia. As paving companies go, they’re no small change. They did $27.5 million (US) in 2004. So, they probably know a bit about paving. They have a whole page on their website devoted to the subject they refer to as salt attack, where they say; “When concrete is repeatedly wetted by a salt water solution, with alternate periods of drying during which pure water evaporates, some of the salts dissolved in the salt water solution are left behind in the form of crystals, (mainly sulfates) in the concrete pores and surface of the concrete unit. These crystals re-hydrate and grow upon subsequent wetting, and thereby exert an expansive force on the surrounding hardened cement paste within the concrete unit when this growth occurs. This expansive force is greatly amplified by the ability of the salt crystal to grow rapidly to many many times its original crystal dimension upon wetting. This rapid growth causes the concrete paste surrounding the crystal to "burst", exposing the aggregate in the concrete masonry unit. Such progressive surface weathering, commonly known as salt attack, occurs in particular when the ambient temperature is high and insolation is strong so that drying occurs rapidly in the pores of the concrete over some depth from the concrete paving surface. Thus, intermittently wetted surfaces are vulnerable, as are areas of paving around a salt water swimming pool particularly in the splash zone.” (Italics mine)

Sound familiar? Didn’t I just say something exactly like... ah, never mind.

The one thing that surprised me about what they have to say is that salt attack occurs in particular when the ambient temperature is high. So, we have the unique and destructive freeze/thaw characteristics of salt water in the winter, and the unique and destructive characteristics associated with rapid evaporation in the summer.

Can somebody please say something good about salt in a pool? I mean, it can’t be all bad, can it?

Oh, yeah. I forgot. You can open your eyes under water in a salt pool. Oh, well, that makes all the difference in the world. Forget everything I said. Never Mind!

I got that link to Urban Stone from David at the Pool Industry Secrets Forum. The link to his forum is in my Christmas post. We’ve been e-mailing a lot these last two weeks. He’s taught me a lot about the Australian market.

For example: He said you’d have to be daft to put a salt system on a copper plumbed pool. His exact words were, “...metallic pipe after the chlorinator is not suited. All [salt] chlorinators produce some stray currents and this stray current is most likely the issue. It can lase through the pipe in no time flat.” Lase through. Thats one of those cool Australian expressions, I bet. Like G’Day.

That Stray Currents thing, too. He calls it Stray Currents. I call it Galvanic Corrosion. I say toe-may-toe, he says toe-mah-toe.

In another conversation he said, “As for metallic pipe. Simple answer is I have never and would never ever consider fitting a salt chlorinator where any metal pipe is used. The reps are being very slack on this point and they should be canned for this.”

I explained to him that reps don’t get canned for that. They get promoted for not bringing up pesky details like this that might narrow the market. I explained to him that I work in the only industry I can think of where we don't expect any type of technical expertise from the salesmen who sell to the builders and service companies. If a high school kid at Best Buy showed half as much inability to help us with a problem with an inkjet printer as our sales reps have shown about the issues we’re having with salt systems, we'd walk out the door and over to Circuit City.

But let’s just go to the installation guidelines for EVERY SALT SYSTEM SOLD IN THE UNITED STATES and look for that warning about metal pipes. Hmmm... I don’t seem to be able to find that any where. Do you think that on that long plane ride from Australia, that sheet fell out of the salt system manufacturers installation instructions? That must be it. But I’m sure that when our very own G7 get that trunk call through to Australia, they’ll find it and put it back where it belongs. Better late than never, eh?

I found out, too that the majority of residential pools in Australia don’t have gas fired heaters. The majority use solar heat and a few use heat pumps with cupro nickel coils. Why cupro nickel? Because it’s more corrosion resistant than copper. Which kind of means that all those pools out there with copper heat exchangers are at risk. No? Don’t believe me? Would you believe it if you heard it from a major salt system manufacturer?

I have a Hayward H-Series Pool & Spa Heaters brochure that I picked up at the supplier just two weeks ago. And I quote; “Cupro nickel is a supremely resilient material that provides product durability and longevity. Cupro nickel aligns well with today’s popular salt -based systems and offers outstanding corrosion resistance.”

Oops. Did they just infer that copper wasn’t up to the job of handling the corrosion dished out by salt? Doesn’t Hayward own Goldline? Hmm... Think there’s a connection in why they used to use copper and now use cupro nickel?

Could that be why salt’s been such a smashing success in Australia? Because they don’t have too much copper to worry about?

Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention. Salt’s not allowed on commercial pools in Australia. Period.

So, the next time your salt system Rep says “It can’t be salt that’s doing the damage. If it was salt, then why is 90% of the market in Australia salt?” I swear I’ve been handed that horse... I mean baloney, when I’ve posed questions about salt’s down sides. Now, when they say that, you can point out that:

1. They use as little metal as possible on salt pools in Australia. The few metal things remaining, like the ladder, are made of Marine Grade stainless steel. That’s SS 316L, and it costs more.

2. According to Urban Stone, all coping and hardscape requires thorough and frequent sealing, and according to the article in Pool & Spa News, that’s as frequently as every three months.

3. Whatever the percentage of salt pools in Australia is, it’s only residential pools. It is not allowed in commercial applications. So, it’s just a lie to say that 90% of the market is salt pools.

4. If Australian pools aren’t heated with gas fired heaters, and all the stone and concrete are sealed, and they use marine grade metals when they have to use metals at all, then it’s not the same market. It’s not a fair comparison. Unless, of course, we as an industry want to go back to the days of kidney shaped pools with no heaters and concrete bullnose coping and concrete decks.

Number four there really is the driver. Don’t you think? Think about all the beautiful, award winning pools you’ve seen these last five years. Think of all the tropical garden oasis pools with all that rock and all those water features and waterfalls. Imagine sealing them every three months. Or worse yet, imagine them with 60's era bullnose coping and Kool Deck.

You want to speed up the research into the problems we’re having with salt pools? Stop selling salt systems until the issues are resolved. As long as these guys are making money and salt system sales are still growing exponentially, they’re only going to pay lip service to your problems. They’re going to say, “we’re looking into it, and we promise, as soon as we know something, we’ll call.”

Like Al Pacino said in Dog Day Afternoon, “Kiss, kiss. I like to get kissed when I’m getting...”, well, you know...

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHIRSTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR

I hope that everyone is home with family and friends this weekend and the only professional phone calls you get are from customers telling you where they stashed your Christmas bonus.

I'm taking the weekend off from the blog to celebrate. But I have been busy this week. I found a new forum, called the Garden Web. I posted a few comments there and the Salt System Cheerleading Squad called me names and threw sticks at me and told me my mother dresses me funny. In my usual polite and affable way, I wished them all the best with their pool degenerators.

But I did meet two very interesting folks while there. The first is a fellow from Australia named David. He has a pool forum that he's just getting off the ground. I hope everybody will take some time out and go visit his forum and take some time to post your questions and comments there. I have been chatting with him via e-mail about the differences between the US and Australian salt system markets and my next post to the blog will be a very illuminating explanation of why it works so well there and not so well here. I couldn't have done this without David's help and I hope all of you who read this blog on any kind of regular basis will return his courtesy to us and visit his forum and help him make it a success.

Find his forum at: http://poolindustrysecrets.aceboard.com/

If you don't visit it now, I know you will after you read the next blog piece about what he has to say about his market and about ours. This is a fellow you are going to want to know. Especially when the Reps start feeding you their BS about how "this is exactly the way they do it in Australia". You'll be able to call BS. Not to mention the phenomena's related to salt that he's talking to me about that we're struggling with every day and they just take for granted and work around Down Under because they've been doing it for so long.

The other fellow I met goes by the screen name Chem Geek. He's made several comments on the piece I did back in October, titled Why Salt Sucks. Read his comments and my answers by going here:

http://thepoolbiz.blogspot.com/2006/10/why-salt-sucks-so-do-i-have-your.html

He mainly posts at the Pool Forum. He has even started a thread about our little blog here. You can access it by going here:

http://www.poolforum.com/pf2/showthread.php?t=6352

Even though he's just a pool owner, and even though he had the nerve to refer to me as "just a pool cleanup guy who doesn't know science", I like him, and if I get the chance to meet him some day, I probably won't kick his ass. You know, being a knuckle dragging pool cleanup guy, that's the first thing that crossed my mind. But I'm trying to be big about it and let the Christmas spirit fill my heart with forgiveness. Besides, he's wicked smart and I think he's going to be able to answer a lot of our questions about the problems we're seeing with salt systems. And if you have any questions about just how wicked smart this guy is, I'm going to reprint his explanation of why we ought to run lower TA's on salt pools and why we see a rise in pH with salt systems instead of the pH neutral horse manure story the Reps give us. Here is his explanation in italics.

Good luck.

I just wanted to correct what you said technically because what you said was not exactly true and I don't want the main point of running with lower TA helping to reduce the pH rise get lost because of technical inaccuracies. The salt cell has the following two primary reactions:

2Cl- --> Cl2(g) + 2e-
2H+ + 2e- --> H2(g)
---------------------
2H+ + 2Cl- --> Cl2(g) + H2(g)

The chlorine gas almost immediately dissolves in the water with the following reaction to have a net reaction as shown:

Cl2(g) + H2O --> HOCl + H+ + Cl-
--------------------------------
H+ + Cl- + H2O --> HOCl + H2(g)

Because water dissociates, the above reaction is normally written with a net reaction as follows:

H2O --> H+ + OH-
----------------------------------------------
2H2O + Cl- --> HOCl + OH- + H2(g)

So the bottom line net reaction with the generation of chlorine in a salt cell (ignoring side reactions) is that water and chloride ion (from salt) combine to form hypochlorous acid (HOCl) plus hydroxyl ion (which is basic or alkaline) and hydrogen gas. Since hypochlorous acid is a weak acid, this net reaction is weakly basic (alkaline). This is where most SWG manufacturers (at least their salespeople) believe that the rise in pH comes from, but they are wrong (keep reading to find out why).

This is pretty much exactly the same thing that happens when you add chlorinating liquid or bleach to a pool as follows:

NaOCl --> Na+ + OCl-
OCl- + H+ --> HOCl
H2O --> H+ + OH-
--------------------
NaOCl --> Na+ + HOCl + OH-

except that you get some sodium ion as well (plus some extra salt, NaCl, that is in sodium hypochlorite solutions due to how they are made) and you don't get the hydrogen gas.

Now we need to look at what happens to chlorine (regardless of source) when it gets used up. Most chlorine in pools gets broken down by sunlight and even though Cyanuric Acid (CYA) combines with chlorine to form a chemical compound that slows down this process (and is not an effective disinfectant or oxidizer), it still happens as follows:

2HOCl --> O2(g) + 2H+ + 2Cl-

The next most common thing that happens to chlorine is that it combines with ammonia or related compounds such as urea from sweat as follows where I show the reaction going all the way to "breakpoint" assuming that shocking occurs (which it usually does if you have sufficient chlorine in your pool and especially when exposed to sunlight which helps the breakpoint process). I'm not going to show what happens when chlorine combines with organics, but the process is somewhat similar (carbon dioxide is produced if the organic is fully oxidized, but more typically intermediate compounds are produced that don't breakdown quickly).

2NH3 + 3HOCl --> N2(g) + 3H+ + 3Cl- + 3H2O

So, even though the generation of chlorine resulted in hydroxyl ions, the usage of chlorine results in hydrogen ions and these cancel out forming water:

OH- + H+ --> H2O

So the bottom line in an SWG pool is the following reactions:

4H2O + 2Cl- --> 2HOCl + 2OH- + 2H2(g)
2HOCl --> O2(g) + 2H+ + 2Cl-
---------------------------------
2H2O --> 2H2(g) + O2(g)

6H2O + 3Cl- --> 3HOCl + 3OH- + 3H2(g)
2NH3 + 3HOCl --> N2(g) + 3H+ + 3Cl- + 3H2O
------------------------------------------
2NH3 --> 3H2(g) + N2(g)

So the bottom, bottom line is that the net result in an SWG pool from the creation and usage of chlorine is that water is split to produce hydrogen gas and oxygen gas or that ammonia (urea) in the water is broken down (oxidized or "burned" in some sense) to produce hydrogen gas and nitrogen gas. These net, net reactions, as you can see, are neutral.

At this point, you can now talk about the source of rising pH being the outgassing of carbon dioxide from the pool. You should explain that pools are in essence intentionally over-carbonated, similar to a lovely tasty carbonated beverage! This is done when you initially added baking soda or sodium bicarbonate to your pool (it also happens when you add some pH Up products that have sodium carbonate). The purpose of having extra carbonate in your pool is to act as a pH buffer and to provide carbonate ion that, along with the calcium you added to your pool with calcium chloride, saturate the water with calcium carbonate so that this compound does not get dissolved out of plaster/gunite/concrete/grout. If too saturated, scaling would occur essentially precipitating calcium carbonate on to pool surfaces. Also, the calcium carbonate tends to form a thin film layer on metal surfaces that help reduce corrosion, though pH is a much more important factor for metal corrosion. Pool water chemical balance attempts to keep a balance between corrosion and scaling.

The downside of having a pool over-carbonated is that there is more carbon dioxide in the pool than in the air so there is a tendency for it to outgas. When this occurs, the pH rises while for technical reasons I won't get into here, the Total Alkalinity (TA) remains the same. If you then add acid to restore the pH, you lower both the pH and the TA with the net result of having TA get lowered -- which makes sense since TA is partly a measure of the amount of bicarbonate in your pool. The carbon dioxide outgassing, and therefore the rise in pH, is increased when the TA is higher, when the starting pH is lower, and when there is more aeration. So the easiest ways of reducing this rise in pH are to lower the TA, keep the pH higher, and reduce aeration (waterfalls, spillovers, etc.) including using a pool cover.

For an SWG pool there is another way, in addition to lowering TA, that can help reduce the pH rise. That is to add an additional buffering system to the pool that is also an algicide that will cut down chlorine consumption. Adding 50 ppm Borates (from Borax, the 50 ppm technically being Boron) to your pool will add additional pH buffering capability so that you can keep the carbonate part of the buffer lower. To compensate for water balance, you need to keep either your calcium level or your pH higher (or both). The algicidal properties of the borates lower the consumption of chlorine which will let you lower the output of your SWG which lowers hydrogen gas production so less aeration so less carbon dioxide outgassing and less pH rise. Whew!



I told ya. Ain't he wicked smart?

All joking aside, I really appreciate the Chem Geek's contributions to this blog and I appreciate his posts over at the Garden Web and especially the Pool Forum.

Meeting these two fellows has made me feel very optimistic that in the weeks to come, we'll be able to put out some truly pertinent and highly accurate information about these salt systems.

Stay tuned!

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

CAVEAT VENDITOR

Did you hear the one about the sales rep who sells salt systems AND limestone sealant?

It’s not a joke. Ask around.

It strikes me as so odd that a guy can take on a product like a salt system to rep. Then, for years deny his customer’s - the builders and the service guys - complaints that it’s ruining their pools. Then, turn around and start reping a limestone sealant without admitting any liability for the damage his product did all those years he was in denial.

The very fact that he now sells a product to seal limestone from the ravages of salt - a very expensive sealant, by the way, that has to be reapplied every mumble, mumble - while still reping the salt system that caused the damage in the first place just boggles my mind.

It’s like Bizarro Pool World.

It’s like selling someone on the idea of hitting themselves in the head with a hammer, then selling them a helmet to deaden the pain.

For me, the only positive thing to come out of this salt system fiasco is to try to learn lessons by observing our industry’s true colors. Like the story above. It is not a joke. I’m not making it up. There really is a nationally recognized sales group reping both salt systems and stone sealant. Maybe some of you are reading this and still saying to yourself, “Well, yeah. So? What’s wrong with that?” So, let’s take it step by step.

1. You’re happily building pools. Then, a guy comes into your office and wants you to start selling his salt system. He tells you how great it is. Tells you how much your customers will love it.

2. You buy it and resell it. Everything’s fine for about a year. Then, customers start calling you and complaining about deteriorating coping and rusting diving board stands and a whole host of problems. You look into it and everythng seems to point to the salt system.

3. You call the rep. He denies that it’s the salt system or the salt doing any of the damage. This goes on for about three more years.

4. The same rep comes to your office and wants to sell you a sealant for limestone so that you can keep buying his salt system. When you point out that this is tacit admission of liability and so would he mind cutting you a check for all the warranty damage you’ve paid for these past four years, he says he’s not responsible.

5. You keep buying stuff from this sales rep.

Like I said; Bizarro Pool World.

But these next few years ought to be great theatre. We get to see which of the manufacturers and distribution companies and sales groups and builders and service organizations step up and say, “Yes. I sold that thing that damaged your pool and I take responsibility for it and I will make it right,” and which ones don’t.

There’s a food chain kind of aspect to all of this that will play out over time. First, there’s the builders, like the Big Texas Builder I talked about a few weeks ago, who have already stepped up and done what’s right and tried to fix the pools that got screwed up by the salt systems, and then stopped selling salt.

After them, or along side of them, are other builders, who are trying to crawfish away from salt, trying to stop selling it, but at the same time trying to deny any responsibility for the pools that got screwed up because of the salt systems they sold.

Each will suffer in their own way.

The Good Guys will lose financially, but at least they’ll have a decent reputation at the end of the day. “Yes. He sold me that dogmeat salt system. But when it dissolved my coping, he sent his mason over to repair that stone.”

The Bad Guys will keep more of their money because they’ll only take care of the problems when they’re faced with a lawsuit. And if they keep enough of it, they’ll be able to do enough advertising to make up for all the dissatisfied customers they create. Because all that crap they spout about, “A happy customer tells two or three people how great you are. But an unhappy customer tells everyone you suck,” is amended by the rule that, “one twenty second ad on prime time TV puts your name and phone number in front of more people than you can piss of if you live to be one hundred and ten.”

As P. T. Barnum said, there’s one born every minute.

At the other end of the food chain are the manufacturers. They have lawyers. Lots and lots of lawyers. And these lawyers believe that everyone deserves competent representation when they’re in the docket. Even cigarette companies. So, a product that does a mere five to thirty thousand dollars of damage to something as innocuous as a pool is a walk in the park for these guys.

Now, you watch and see. Over the next couple of years, these manufacturers will start to walk away from salt systems. At first, they’ll still sell them, but they’ll be at the back of the booth at the shows. Then, they’ll be available, but not even at the show. Then, they’ll announce that, “due to a waning consumer interest in salt systems,” they’re stopping production. They’ll still provide parts support, of course. Akin to picking the bones completely clean. Then, they’ll even stop supplying parts, and the systems will slowly disappear from the back yards.

And in the middle are the Sales Reps. That’s where they thrive. In the middle. They don’t manufacture equipment. They don’t build pools. They don’t lead research efforts. They don’t create anything. They just sell stuff.

When it’s a good product, they make sure to remind you that they’re the ones who sold it to you. When it turns out to be something like a salt system, they say, “Huh? Liability? Oh, no. I didn’t build that thing. Talk to the manufacturer about that. But, hey, while we’re chatting, have I told you about this new product I’m reping?”

A B C... Always Be Closing.

If you’re one of those Sales Reps, you’re laughing right now, because you know it’s true. But come Monday morning, you’ll wipe the smile off your face and pretend proper outrage over what I’ve said.

And if you’re not a Sales Rep, but you think that what I’m saying is out of line or just not fair to your friends, the Sales Reps, then ask yourself how many builders and remodel guys you know who have been cut checks from the sales groups and the manufacturers to cover the cost of all the damages they’ve shelled out for because of salt.

You see, that’s what this blog is about. It’s about a bunch of pool guys out there who have been doing their level best to help their buddy’s, the Sales Reps, meet their sales goals, and a lot of these pool guys have been having great success and selling lots and lots of salt systems for the past three or four years. And what they have to show for their effort is a few hundred dollars profit off each sale and several thousand dollars in potential liability for each of those sales when the customer finally wakes up and realizes that the reason his pool is always dusty is because the salt has dissolved their decks and coping into the pool. It’s one thing if you’re a Big Builder who just built a sixty thousand dollar pool and you have to go back and give it up for some coping and deck work. It hurts, but not near as much as it hurts a Service & Repair Guy who just sold them a salt system, and now, two years later owes them a hundred feet of new coping because the Rep who sold him the salt system didn’t start reping that sealer, or even admit it was necessary, until just this year.

So, to you Reps out there reading this, stop being angry about the difference between Super Chlorinate and Boost, stop arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and try to see it from our side. Whether you knew you were doing it or not, you guys have screwed us to the wall and we will be years and years recovering from it. You, on the other hand, will keep getting your paycheck without missing a beat. And to top it all off, you can look at all the damage being caused by salt and then look us in the eye and tell us to put zinc balls in the pump pots and keep selling salt.

When will it stop?

The comment section of this blog is open. The only reason I have it set for Review Before Publication is to keep the spammers out. I’ll publish any dissenting points of view about salt systems or the people who have saddled us with them. In four months and twelve posts, I’ve had about eight hundred visitors and exactly one dissenting comment.

Does that mean that everything I’m saying is true?

Somebody please prove me wrong.

And Caveat Venditor? Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Caveat venditor is Latin for "let the seller beware". It is a counter to caveat emptor, and suggests that sellers too can be deceived in a market transaction. This forces the seller to take responsibility for the product, and discourages sellers from selling products of unreasonable quality.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

The Story Of One Pool

I did a startup in June of 2004. The owners decided to take care of the pool themselves. I remember the date because they were building a pool next door at the same time, and two months later I got that one on service. I haven't really paid much attention to the other pool since. It's not on my list each week, and so I didn't worry about it. A few weeks ago, the owner asked me if I'd clean his filter for him. He'd had enough of doing it himself. So, last week I went into his back yeard for the first time in two and a half years. Here's what I saw.


















From a distance, it doesn't look too bad. But get a closer look at the diving board stand. Remember. It's two and a half years old.

















Now, look back at the first photo. See in the foreground what looks like a gap in the grout between those two sections of limestone coping? Take a closer look.

















The grout is gone. It's completely worn away. You see, this family has teenage boys. They spend all summer diving into the pool, then swimming over to the steps set into the pool wall right where those sections of coping are missing their grout. They climb out, track salty water onto the coping and grout and go back and dive in again. And again. And again.

Hence, the pattern of rust on the stand and the pattern of wear on the grout.

Here's another photo of the grout failing, wearing away. This shot is of that corner not quite shown in the lower right of the first photo. Those wet salty feet step right on that grout joint, too.


















Now, the funny thing is, as much as that salty water corroded that diving board stand, and as quick as it wore that grout away, the limestone in these pictures doesn't look nearly as bad as some I've seen on other pools. And I have no explanation for that.

But here's a picture of the coping around the shallow end skimmer. It's off the same pallet of stone laid two and a half years ago.



















I don't understand what's different about the stone at one end of the pool and the other. But one thing I did notice and wanted to point out. It was cold the day I took these photos. The white efflourescense you see is really frost. And even though those stones look dry and the relative humidity was down in the teens, there was still moisture in those stones. The frost just proves that it's there. On this pool, that frost is salty, and doing damage to the stone.

On a pool without salt, it's just frost.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Salt's Greatest Hits

The tour begins with Limestone.

This stone was laid, smooth as silk, two years before this photo was taken.



This next one is one of the eight pencil jets on that spa I talked about two posts ago.




Then there's the skimmer basket from that spa.




The pictures of the ladder were sent to me. This is a pool where a salt system was added. Almost instantly, there's rusted stainless steel above the water line. The rusting is taking place where the water splashes or laps up and then evaporates, leaving the salt behind to do it's thing; corrode.



Now if people just wouldn't use that ladder, and wouldn't splash any water on it, then it never would have rusted.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Saltaholics Anonymous


I don’t have a lot of time this week. We had a little old ice storm on Thursday here in Dallas, right in the middle of cleaning up autumn leaves. Not to mention that it’s the end of the month and my time this weekend will be better spent getting my billing in the mail than researching on the internet.

Too, there’s the fact that readership is down here at the old Pool Biz blog. Seems that the new has worn off and maybe everybody’s wondering when I’m going to stop ranting about salt.

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe when the Big Three stop selling salt systems and we can get the patient stable and stop the hemorrhaging of money it’s going to take to repair all the damage that salt has done to our pools and the years it’s going to take to rebuild any positive perception the public might have had toward our industry.

Because you know that’s next, right? We are all going to be falling on our swords big time a couple of years from now when everybody’s pool looks like a rusty version of the surface of the moon.

I have stopped selling salt systems. Duh. I know you knew that.

Have you?

Are you coming here every once in a while and reading this blog and saying to yourself, “Yep. Seen that. Yep. He’s right about that, too. Uh-huh... I figured that was happening, too...” and then going back out and selling more salt systems?

So that’s my challenge to you. Yeah. You sitting there with your coffee reading this page. Left click on comments and tell me what you’re doing about the problem. I know it’s hard. Just start like this; “My name’s Bill (or Bob or George) and I’m a salt addict. I haven’t sold a salt system in three weeks and I feel so much better about myself. I realize now how my addiction was destroying people’s lives, I mean, pools...”

You get the idea. Then, when you’re finished commenting, e-mail this blog to everybody you know that’s still selling salt systems.

Now I really have to get that billing done.

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