Sunday, January 28, 2007


A Long Post, But Worth the Read










A few weeks ago, I opened an e-mail to find this:

Poolguy,

I have read you blog and it is very interesting to say the least. I have been in the pool industry since 1976 and have been through the Lectronator, Uniclor, Kreepy Kleer and all the other type of salt units. I have probably remove [sic] over 250 salt units in all my service years in consumers backyards. In the earlier years of salt units we saw the same issues with corrosion of hand rails, diving board stands/jigs and even hard scapes like cool deck and cantilever decks. The difference between than and now is the majority of pools are done with stone coping (which have iron in them) and stone everywhere else around the pool instead of the iron spot brick or precast coping that was so prevalent in the 70s and 80s.

Consumers are driving the current market trend unlike that of the 70's and 80's where salt was driven by the manufacturer. Del Ozone manufacturers a salt and ozone system but unlike numerous other manufacturers we have been upfront from the start and explained that SALT IS CORROSIVE! The best thing a homeowner or consumer can do is get their water hose and wash of all area of traffic that have residual salt on them, such as the caps of spas, entry areas and loveseats. As we know the corrosion issue isn't with what's in the pool body but the product that is left behind after the water evaporate which is 100% corrosive salt.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey W Jones
Del Ozone
The Complete Ozone Company
National Sales Director
Residential Pool Division
1-(800)-676-1335 Ext.291
Fax:972-529-2245
Cell:214-415-2510
jjones@delozone.com

Now, I know this guy. I’ve seen him and talked to him at trade shows and association meetings back when he was reping Letro Legends. I never bought his Letro’s, but that’s just because I’d rather see my daughter in a... uh... never mind. Suffice it to say, my dislike of Letros has nothing to do with Jeff. He was always straight up when he talked about his product. And like all salesmen, he was convinced that his product was the absolute best product of it’s kind on planet earth and you had to be stupid not to buy it. But that’s how he’s supposed to act. That’s why they call it Sales & Marketing and not Truth & Full Disclosure.

The first thing I did after I read this e-mail - after I picked myself up off the floor, that is - was to shoot back an e-mail to him, just to find out if it was really from Jeff Jones and not someone spoofing me. So, I went to Del Ozone’s website and looked up his e-mail address there, and copied and pasted that e-mail address into the Send To part of my e-mail to him, instead of just hitting Respond and sending it back to who know’s who? And this is what I wrote:

Mr. Jones,

Your e-mail is a breath of fresh air. So far, you're the only salt system manufacturer's representative that has allowed any opinion other than "salt is great" to cross their lips. Thank you for being candid. I'm writing for two reasons:

1. May I publish your e-mail in my blog? I'm not going to pitch your product. I'm not going to say that you make a better salt chlorinator. I'm going to say that there is at least one company who owns up to the fact that the system they sell uses a known corrosive; salt, just as your e-mail states. I'll do my best to withhold my usual sarcasm and doomsday tone and just present your e-mail as it is written.

2. I want to verify that the e-mail is from you. I would hate to publish it and then get a fiery response from Del Ozone that your e-mail account had been hijacked and I had been duped. Forgive me for being skeptical. I just don't get many e-mails from salt system manufacturer's rep's admitting that anything I say is right.

I have an observation. The few builders I have talked to who have given up on salt are looking for something to plug into that gap on their options list, and more than one of them is plugging in ozone. Looks like a right place, right time sort of thing for you. Good luck.

The Pool Guy

I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. I posted my e-mail at 9:50 am and had a response by 11:00 am the same day. And here it is:

Poolguy,

I don't mind you publishing my e-mail but I do sell salt because of the consumer demand. It needs to be stated that there is a way to avoid the corrosion issue. I have had salt on my pool in Dallas, Texas for the past two years and my pool doesn't have any signs of these issues. The pool is surrounded by Oklahoma flagstone but I have taken the steps to prevent corrosion. Consumers drive this market because they love the way the water feels, their hair is softer and less irritation on the eyes and skin.

Salt is great product when we inform the consumers to maintain their pools just like we do our cars. Precautions must be taken with salt just like they have to be taken with muratic acid and chlorine. I have seen a car with corrosion on it because the consumer stored the acid in the garage next to the car. We don't stop selling acid because the homeowner wasn't informed that this could have happened. We must take precautions with salt and the best way is dilution. Homeowners must be informed to wash off all areas of their coping, decks, water features and traffic areas. Just like the water in the pool isn't corrosive, these "problem areas" should be diluted to avoid any types of erosion.

There has been a major lack of education toward the consumers with some industry professionals actually telling people that you don't have to shock a pool with a salt system and the pool is maintenance free. That's when homeowners shut their blinds and the pool became "out of sight, out of mind". That is where this "salt problem" popped up. Mainly a lack of education for the consumer and a lack of knowledge from some of the industry people. This could have been avoid [sic] by just looking through the window of the past 30 years and we could have seen that this isn't a new phenomenon. We have substantially more units in circulation now than we did in the 70s and 80s, that's why we see more issues but the issues were still there if a little research would have been done.

Del Ozone has and will continue to be up front and honest about the issues of salt and ozone. The pool industry can not afford to have another black eye but salt systems can be a viable alternative to chlorine erosion feeders. When we sell a salt system, education must be added to the sale.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey W Jones
Del Ozone
The Complete Ozone Company
National Sales Director
Residential Pool Division
1-(800)-676-1335 Ext.291
Fax:972-529-2245
Cell:214-415-2510
jjones@delozone.com

I’m sitting there, reading this second e-mail and I’m trying really hard to buy into it. I’m trying really hard to take this guy at face value and believe that this is just an honest effort at - could it be? - Full Disclosure.

So, I wander over to the Del Ozone website to see how Del Ozone is taking the lead in informing consumers about the corrosive effects of salt, because “unlike numerous other manufacturers we [Del Ozone] have been upfront from the start and explained that SALT IS CORROSIVE!”

I looked and looked and looked. It’s not there. That information that salt is corrosive isn’t there.

Then, I downloaded their Owner’s Manual for their combo salt and ozone system and read it from cover to cover. The information is not there. There’s not a single word or idea about these maintenance actions that Jeff’s referring to - like hosing down all your hardscape each time after you take a swim - reflected anywhere in any Del Ozone literature that I could find on their website. Not anywhere.

So, this must be a silent campaign to inform the consumer that pssst...salt is corrosive.

I am so sorry, Jeff. I tried not to be snarky about this. But look on the bright side. You Sales & Marketing guys always say, “There’s no such thing as bad advertising”. Let’s see how well that theory holds up. Okay?

So, I wrote back:

Mr. Jones,

Thank you. I will publish both of your e-mails together. I've got two pieces in the works, so it may be a week or two before they get in the blog. I agree with much of what you're saying, that there has been a huge disconnect between the sale of, and the education for, salt systems. But let's be frank. That goes back to each of the manufacturers. Everybody at that level of investment had the data. And they had a responsibility to share that data with the builders. It was written in Australia for the last twenty years or more. But it didn't make it across the pond. All that the builders were told was that "Salt's great! Sell lots! There is no down side!"

That may not sound fair, but it is the truth.

You have made some excellent points about how to minimize the impact of salt on a pool and the surrounding environment. Not one word of that kind of advice has ever made it into anyone's Owner's Manual.

Over the years, I've done a lot of start ups, and I've done hundreds of Pool Schools, and the thing that I've seen over and over again is that people really do want and read the Owner's Manuals. They skip over the installation instructions, because it's already installed, but they read the operations and maintenance sections. That's where that information needs to be. It also ought to be addressed, as part of full disclosure, at the point of sale. And let's be honest. It never is.

That is exactly why the tone of my blog is so contentious. I am the counterweight to that lack of education. I am the natural consequence to the kind of marketing that's been done for salt systems so far. We used to be just the cranky old men at the back of the room at the monthly trade group meetings, or the guy who would loud-talk you a bit when he passed your booth at the trade show.

The internet has changed all that. It has given us a voice to tell the consumer what we see out there at their pools after the sale.

My point being, guys like me aren't going away. We will just multiply. And the unfortunate thing for any industry that is criticized by a blog or a forum, even if they make a big push to address the issues, those blog entries and forum rants sit out there in cyberspace forever, waiting for the next Google search to turn them up along with the manufacturer's website. I believe it will make a big difference in the coming years in the care given to product bugs and shortcomings before product launch.

I'll publish your information in my blog. But how about beefing it up and posting it on Del Ozone's website and including it in your Owner's Manuals? The information is going to get out there and it just makes sense that you would want it to get out there couched in more temperate language than it is in places like my blog and the pool forums. Or, you could just post a link to my blog... Just kidding.

One last thing. You say you have Oklahoma flagstone. I have lots of pools on service with salt and Oklahoma, and most of those pools are very dusty, as the salt water penetrates the stone, evaporates, leaves the salt behind, the salt crystallizes and tends to turn the top layer of the Oklahoma to a fine dust. I went to a pool a few weeks ago, maintained for a couple of years by the homeowner, with lots and lots Oklahoma and the whole back of the pool was a rock waterfall (probably a $120,000 pool) and their pool was so thick with that dust that you couldn't see the pebbles in their pebbletec in large areas. Of course, they never suction vacuum, just relying on the Polaris to clean the pool. Do you see any dust in your pool? Have you sealed your stone? If so, what sealer do you recommend?

The Pool Guy

I haven’t heard from him since. Perhaps he’s still looking up that info on the stone sealer for me. Or perhaps he’s wishing he had never thrown his hat in this ring.

Because now he’s on record. He said it. Salt is corrosive. It damages hardscape and metal. The Pool Guy’s not seeing things. Jeff Jones, representing Del Ozone, admits that he’s seen all these problems, too. Further, he admits that his product, just like everybody else’s salt system, causes these problems.

And I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m throwing the guy under the bus for being honest. He sent his first e-mail to me on 1/13/07. That was fifteen days ago. Are you telling me that in 15 days an entire corporation couldn’t add a single page to their website about how to prevent damage from salt evaporation? I’m hear to tell you, it ain’t that hard. I add a page every weekend, in my spare time.

And, too, I feel a bit like Lewis Black must have felt when he was asked by the President’s staff to be the comedian/host for the White House Press Club dinner. Lewis had been none too kind to the President over the last six years, and so asked, “What’s wrong with your boss? Hasn’t he seen my act?”

What really got me was when Jeff said, “when we sell a salt system, education must be added to the sale”.

That is such an empty statement.

Let me explain why. I’m a pool guy. I have accounts at the local distributors. I can go down there right now, today, and buy one of Jeff’s salt/ozone systems. The distributor, who sells every manufacturer’s stuff, will set it on the loading dock without a single solitary word of explanation or education. Then, I take it to your house, open the box, read the installation instructions and install your salt/ozone system. Then I hand you the Owner’s Manual, the warranty card, pick up my check and we’re done.

There’s no Del Ozone University that I have to attend before I’m authorized to install their stuff. Anybody in the pool business can buy and sell their stuff. And even in states with more licensing than the Great State of Texas, I’m betting there’s not a single question on the contractor’s exams prompting the installers to make sure they tell the folks about the corrosive nature of salt on metals and hardscape.

So, where is all this education supposed to come from? From the installer to the pool owner? Where’s the installer’s training material so he knows what to teach them? It’s not in the box that the salt/ozone system came in. From the company? It’s not on their website or on any of their printed brochures. What should we use? Osmosis?

Jeff will probably respond with some yadayada about how the info is being passed on via their factory training seminars. Great. Then let’s only let people who have attended those seminars sell and install Del Ozone equipment. No? You say that would narrow the market? Exactly.

These days, probably more than half the visitors to this blog are pool owners. The rest, pool industry folks. So I have a question for you pool owners. Did anyone tell you at the point of sale that you would need to hose down your high traffic areas and all your water features and waterfalls on a regular basis and that if you didn’t your hardscpae would disintegrate? Second question: If they had told you that, would you still have bought your salt system?

Of course they didn’t, and of course you wouldn’t have bought it if they had. So, it’s easy to say, “we must educate the consumer”. But not too much. Because then they won’t buy.

But when it rains it pours around here. A month ago you couldn’t get a salt rep to say anything except “Salt’s great!” Now, they’re falling out of the trees. It turns out Jeff’s not the only salt system manufacturer’s rep who admits there’s issues with the salt systems they sell.

Sean Assam of AutoPilot recently posted a rant to a pool forum where he just got all up in everybody’s stuff about salt getting the blame for everything, culminating with;

Staining from salt, sure I would admit to that occuring (sic) with certain salts.

Corrosion from salt, sure I would admit to high chlorine or over salting a pool causing a certain level of corrosion damage.

Electrolysis? yeah, if the pool isn't bonded properly, installed correctly, or there's an electrical grid issue, there may be stray voltage introduced into the pool due to a salt system.

Sorry for being long in my response. I think I'll take this up in the China Shop.

Sean AssamCommercial Product Sales Manager
Aqua Cal Inc. / AutoPilot Systems Inc.
www.autopilot.com
www.aquacal.com

If you want to read the whole rant, you can find it here:

http://www.poolforum.com/pf2/showthread.php?t=6383&page=2

The title of the thread is, “Do salt chlorine generators damage limestone/masonry?” and, by the way, the short answer is “yes”.

If the pool isn’t bonded properly? Do you know what that is? There’s a single bare copper wire that’s supposed to run, unbroken, all the way around the pool, be tied to the pool shell via the rebar, run to all the pool and spa lights and then run over and tie to all the pool equipment. A single unbroken bare copper wire. So, make sure you dig that thing up and verify that your whole pool is bonded properly before you install that salt system. The manufacturer just said so. Said that if you didn’t you’d suffer the ravages of electrolysis.

And electrical grid issues? Does anybody even know what he’s talking about?

It’s amazing how many problems these guys are willing to admit to when you get them out of the trade show booth, isn’t it?

Now, in fairness, I ought to go look at AutoPilot’s website, like I did Del Ozone’s, so I can say unequivocally that staining, corrosion and stray currents from the electrolysis process aren’t addressed in any AutoPilot material. But I’m just going to make a wild assumption here and say they’re probably not.

What do you think?

The main issues here that they’ve admitted to - quite a while after the sale, I might add - are as follows:

1. Corrosion does occur with salt systems. Both Del Ozone and AutoPilot have made statements quoted here that clearly support that corrosion due to salt is not a “theory that needs investigation”, but a fact, a problem that is part and parcel of using salt.

2. There are unpredictable and damaging “stray currents” associated with the electrolysis process.

3. Salt water damages Oklahoma flagstone. Like Jeff said, his “pool is surrounded by Oklahoma flagstone but” he has “taken the steps to prevent corrosion.” Ergo, he knows that if he doesn’t take preventative steps, damage to the stone will occur. My opinion is he’s just slowing the damage by washing the stone down. The salty water that penetrates during the hours that the pool is being used isn’t completely flushed out from deep inside stone by surface washing with a garden hose. But that’s an argument for another day. Suffice it to say, he admits that it occurs.

4. Del Ozone now says, via their National Sales Director, that homeowners “must be informed to wash off all areas of their coping, decks, water features and traffic areas.” They admit that this is MUST HAVE information for salt system pool owners, yet except for that statement in these two e-mail, there’s no other evidence that they are disseminating that information to the public or even to the companies that install their system. Reality Check: Jeff Jones just spent this weekend at the Texas Pool & Spa Show. Did anyone who attended that show and looked at Del Ozone’s new ozone/salt system hear Jeff or his salesmen cautioning anyone about how important it is to be “up front and honest” about the potential ravages of salt systems? Did they hand out any information about how to properly care for hardscape and metals?

5. Del Ozone, via their National Sales Director, says that there “has been a major lack of education toward the consumers with some industry professionals actually telling people that you don't have to shock a pool with a salt system and the pool is maintenance free.” yet, there isn’t a single word spent in either the brochure or Owner’s Manual for their ozone/salt system to dispel this myth or in any way talks about the need to shock the pool. It’s just not there. The tone of that remark is that the folks at the point of sale, guys like me, are the ones responsible for that kind of misinformation.

Allow me to retort:

No need to buy, transport and store expensive chlorine compounds” - Pentair Intellichlor chlorine generator marketing information.

http://www-1.pentairwater.com/jwcs/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10001&storeId=10001&productId=149651&langId=-1&parent_category_rn=17251

AquaPure™ and PureLink™ are self-contained, compact sanitizing systems that fulfill all of your pool's sanitizing needs” - Jandy chlorine generator marketing information.

http://www.jandy.com/html/products/chlorinegenerators/

You only need to check the pH and total alkalinity periodically” - Zodiac Clearwater chlorine generator marketing information.

http://www.clearwater-usa.com/

No more mixing, measuring or messing with harsh chemicals. No more hassles buying, storing, measuring chlorine” - Hayward Goldline Aqua Rite chlorine generator marketing information

http://www.goldlinecontrols.com/Products/Default.aspx

No more hassles storing or handling packaged chlorine” - Ecomatic chlorine generator marketing information.

http://www.balboainstruments.com/page218.html

No More Buying Chlorine” - AutoPilot chlorine generator marketing information.

http://www.autopilot.com/total-control-system/autopilot-total-control-system.html

So, maybe that’s where salt pool owner’s got the idea that they didn’t have to shock their pools any more. From the manufacturers.

And, finally, I want to report a story I heard from the just completed Texas Pool & Spa Show. The Jandy rep was pitching one of his new really splashy kind of water features to a crowd of pool men at his show booth. One of the pool guys asked, "what about using something like that with a salt pool?", and without batting an eye, the rep said, "It's okay because all of the water's going to fall back into the pool".

This pool guy had obviously seen deck damage due to salt water splash-out, subsequent evaporation and residue concentration (salt attack), but all the rep was interested in was not saying anything that might narrow his market for this new splashy thingy to only non-salt pools.

The photo at the top of this blog entry is of limestone coping above a standard sheer descent water feature on a salt pool. Can you see the significant deterioration just from the slight amount of aeration that occurs as that ribbon of water falls out of that sheer descent? See how the damage is localized to those first few inches at the edge of the stone, and as you go further back, away from the source of the aeration, we're back to smooth stone again? Well, this new splashy thingy of Jandy’s causes ten times that much aeration. But like I said, that’s why they call it Sales & Marketing, and not Truth & Full Disclosure.

Say it Loud, Say it Proud; These Sales Reps Are Not Your Friends.

I think, though, that the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” holds true. Be honest. How many of you had ever even heard of Del Ozone or AutoPilot before you read this blog? I’m nothing but an unwitting pawn in their word-of-mouth marketing campaign.

So, to all you Salt Reps out there. Keep them cards and letters coming. I’ll post them all. With comments, of course.

Res Ipsa Loquitur.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE
PART DEUX





People say I’m stirring things up with talk about exploding chlorinators. They say, "Chorinators don’t explode!" They say, "Cite me one instance of an exploding chlorinator!"

Okay.

The thing that got me writing about exploding chlorinators to begin with was a conversation I was having with a prominent custom pool builder in California who had first hand experience with exploding chlorinators. We had been talking via e-mail, and I mentioned my blog. He wrote back:

"I ... found your blog and ... read four or five posts. Interesting stuff, most of which I agree with. I try to steer my clients away from salt systems for some of the reasons you've mentioned. To me it's just not worth it to make a couple of hundred bucks, but have a client referral go bad because they're not happy with their $1200 system -- a system whose reality doesn't even come close to the what the local salespeople trumpet. Hey, all my business comes from referrals, so I've got to tell them all the truth. Best policy in the long term. And I had a bad experience with the one salt system I've used this year (client insisted on having one): pool one month old, plumbed in salt system, added salt, system exploded -- literally -- two days later. Big boom: pieces of 3-in. pipe (rated at like 280 psi) shot over fifty feet away. Manufacturer had engineers, sales reps, field techs, whole works out there. Tried to replicate in lab with no success. Still don't know why it happened; just glad client not in vicinity when it happened. Needless to say, I'm a little gun-shy now."

I responded:

"...what happened to you is another stellar example of why we need to stamp out salt systems. It sounds like you had a buildup of hydrogen gas in the cell or in the plumbing. That will occur if there is power to the salt cell when there's no flow. The flow sensor is supposed to shut everything down, but if it doesn't, then that can happen. They know what caused it, but they'll never admit it. ... The way that the manufacturers and the reps keep us in the dark is by sending a bunch of people over to ‘investigate the problem’, stand around and scratch their heads for awhile, swear that it's never happened before in the entire history of their corporation, and then leave. It's an isolated incident until a guy in California (that would be you) is on the internet talking to a guy in Texas (that would be me) and that's why I love the internet. And that's why I think there's hope for our industry, now that pool guys can communicate outside the sales & marketing drenched environment of trade shows and trade organizations."

He wrote back:

"Neither the manufacturer nor supplier had ever heard anything like that happening. I believe the supplier, but the manufacturer . . . No explanation was offered, though I speculated initially about the possibility of hydrogen. You know -- anode and cathode in water, water splits into H2 and O2, the ingredients of an explosion. The engineer from the factory was, or appeared to be, baffled by the chemistry. Looking back, that seems odd, since he has a degree in mechanical engineering which would probably require at least a few chemistry classes. Anyway, they took the chlorine generator back to check it in the lab. They also tried to replicate the conditions at my client's pool, but couldn't get anything to explode."

It’s like Men In Black, where the Guv Guys come in and clean up the scene, then nonchalantly slip on their Ray Bans and then hold up the little Forget Everything Thingie, and POOF, it never happened.

I wonder how many exploding chlorinators do we not hear about because, "Gosh, this has never happened anywhere in the entire history of the free world and... Sir! Step away from the computer! Don’t Google hydrogen gas buildup and chlorine generator. Look over here. See the pretty light?"

This builder has asked me to allow him to remain anonymous for pretty much the same reason that I write this blog anonymously; we both need to keep making a living. Now, some will say that I just made all that up, because it is a textbook example of what I was talking about two posts ago. But that’s because that blog piece was written during these conversations with Prominent Custom Builder, California.

And did I nail it? When I said that the "way that the manufacturers and the reps keep us in the dark is by sending a bunch of people over to ‘investigate the problem’, stand around and scratch their heads for awhile, swear that it's never happened before in the entire history of their corporation, and then leave". Even down to the mechanical engineer acting like he’d never heard of the possibility of hydrogen gas buildup.

Because you know that if that builder had installed it wrong, those engineers and sales reps and field techs would have been the first to point out to him that it was His Fault and What Was He Thinking? and Do You Know What Could Have Happened If A Child Had Been Standing There?

You know they would have. And then they would have winked and told him, "It’s okay. We’re you’re friends. We’re going to take care of you on this one. But some day, and that day may never come, but some day I may ask you to do me a favor..."

Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

But, like I said, if you think I made this up, then it’s no proof that salt chlorine generators blow up.

So, how about this?

http://www.chemaxx.com/hydrogen_explosion9.htm

It’s a page on the Chemical Accident Reconstruction Services, Inc. website, about a hydrogen explosion investigation. This accident happened at a water treatment plant that was using electrolysis to generate sodium hypochlorite from sodium chloride. Sound familiar? Sound like something going on completely unattended each day in your back yard? But don’t worry. I’m sure your salt system is much safer than the ones they have at an industrial water treatment facility. The investigation report clearly states that one "of the disadvantages of the electrolytic process is that hydrogen gas is also created as a byproduct", hence, in this case, an explosion.

Don’t take my word for it. Paste that link into your browser and go read it for yourself.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s a cute video of a fifteen year old kid on YouTube who does a science project where he puts two electrodes into a plastic bottle, fills it with salt water, hooks it up to a 12-volt battery and then within a few seconds after putting the power to it, lights the hydrogen gas on fire with a kitchen match. It’s actually more of an explosion, as it flairs and goes out. A little bit longer under pressure though, and it would have exploded all by itself. As you watch this video, notice how much that plastic bottle resembles your salt cell, and how much this experiment resembles the experiment you’re conducting each day with your salt system.

Please! If you don’t follow any other link off these pages, paste this one in your browser and go watch it. More than all my words, it illustrates the potential for fire and explosion that is part and parcel of working with hydrogen gas.

http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2006/09/electrolysis_of_water_explodin.html

This next one is from the Department of Minerals and Energy, Western Australia. It’s a summary of accident reports from 1997.

http://www.docep.wa.gov.au/ResourcesSafety/Sections/Dangerous_Goods/pdf/DG%20AccReps/DG_AccReps_1997.pdf

It says:

"The most significant incident for the year occurred at the Fremantle Leisure Centre where a hydrogen gas explosion forced the evacuation of approximately 600 people from the premises during the busy summer holiday period. The chlorination plant has been rebuilt and the design fault that caused the explosion has been corrected."

That happened on January 16th, 1997, to be exact. I found another reference to it on the web here:

http://www.doir.wa.gov.au/media_archive/16jan02.html

Notice that the name of the pdf file is also the date it was published. It was such a big deal they were still talking about it five years later on it’s anniversary date. But I guess any time you have to evacuate 600 people because of a salt chlorine generator explosion, you would talk about it for years. Here’s what they were saying in Australia, the home of salt chlorine generators, five years to the day after the explosion:

"The Department is also urging operators of swimming pools with salt-water chlorinators to ensure the hydrogen produced from their electrolysis units is safely discharged.

‘Make sure the storage treatment room is ventilated and not located near a potential ignition source, as we don’t want to see a similar incident to that which occurred at the Fremantle Leisure Centre in January 1997,’ Dr Drygala said. ‘Investigations into that incident revealed the explosion was caused by hydrogen gas igniting inside the plant room’."

There’s one more incident and I think it’s just hilarious. I mean, as hiarious as potentially life threatening explosions can be. Right now, it’s still just a story someone told me. He wasn’t there at the meeting to see it happen. I’m waiting for a couple of phone numbers so I can report it with names and dates and such like that. But in the meantime, it’s a great story, and since it may be awhile before I get back to the subject of exploding chlorinators, I might as well toss it in.

A Sales Rep was giving a product demonstration for an "in-deck" salt chlorine generator at a large pool construction company. I’ve only found one in-deck system on the internet, but until I hear from someone who was there when it happened, I’m not going to name names, just in case there’s two in-deck systems that can blow up. Now, this pool construction company's plaster consultant had told them that they ought not to buy the in-deck system because the system operated even when the pump was turned off, which meant no water flow through the unit, and therefore, there was a potential of the hydrogen vent being blocked by something as simple as a pool toy - gosh, I never see those in a pool. Do you? - and someone with a cigarette or a flame source causing a fire or explosion if the lid were to be opened for service or checkout. So, the President of this pool company asked the salt system Sales Rep if it was possible for it to happen. Of course, the Sales Rep started right in ripping into the consultant’s credibility, telling everyone there, "Aw, the guy’s a crackpot. He just hates salt. Who you gonna believe, a guy with a tech library bigger than my house? Or me, a recent graduate of the LaSalles Institute’s School of Business and Locksmithing?"

It is ever thus when you’re talking to Sales Reps. You’re either afflicted with an afternoon of tear stained pleas of, "Oh, God! Please buy my product!", or they go right for the jugular, disparaging anybody with an opposing point of view, especially if that opposing point of view is based on something as trite and meaningless as "facts" or "independent research" or "government initiated accident reports".

Anyway, the bottom line is the Rep said, "No way can this thing explode", turned on his demo unit - which must have consisted of the unit set up in a tank of water- and lit a match to prove how wrong the consultant was. There was a blinding flash as all the accumulated hydrogen gas went up in a big POOF. No one was hurt, but needless to say, the pool company didn't buy the in-deck system.

Now, I have tremendous professional respect for the person who told me that story. And I was introduced to that person by someone who I have even more respect for. I believe it happened just like that.

Of course, at this point, the folks on the Dark Side will say that, gosh, there’s plenty of other stuff that can blow up out there on your pool equipment pad. Well, that’s great logic. Let’s add one more. But to be fair, let’s look at the competition for Most Explosive Device In Your Back Yard.

Like your pool filter. It operates under pressure. Make a mistake while you’re working on it and the top could come flying off and rip off your face, at the very least, and kill you at worst. And in the past, that’s happened more often than I like to think about. When I first started in this business, back yards were full of aging stainless steel filter tanks with these minuscule little lips on the tank halves that these skinny tank bands held together with a little old 1/4" nut and bolt.

But these days, it’s a different story. Those tank halves have big old seating surfaces, and the tank bands are thick and heavy gauge, with big old bolts with tons of threads on long fasteners to make sure that a thread failure is a literal impossibility. They even have springs to show you how tight to tighten the tank band clamp so it’s not too tight, not too loose. And on the off chance that you’re from Mars and didn’t realize that you ought to turn off your pump before you start to take your filter apart, there are huge warning labels that explain in big bold letters how dangerous that filter tank can be if improperly serviced. They even have cartoon pictures of cartoon people getting hit in the head with cartoon tank lids just in case the person trying to take it apart can’t read.

You know, people had to die to get those improvements in filter tanks and to get those big old warning labels. When it became cheaper to build a better and safer filter than it did to keep paying off on all those wrongful death suits, they started building better filter tanks.

So, where’s all the warning labels on the salt systems? We already know they can blow up. How come these guys don’t have to put any labels on them? I mean, we know now that electrolysis is a dangerous process. So what’s up?

I guess the cost isn’t high enough yet.

Then, too, you have a heater out there, and it doesn’t have near as many warning labels on it as your filter does. And it’s got a gas line going into it. Gas is flammable AND explosive. But then, is there anybody left on planet earth who doesn’t know that gas is explosive? I bet not.

On the other hand, did anyone along the way, in the process of your salt system going from an idea in your head to an appliance in your back yard point out to you that there was an explosion risk with your salt chlorine generator? I bet not.
The other day I was talking to a pool guy who works for a service and repair company that fills in the slack times by signing up to do warranty work for as many of the equipment manufacturers as they can. In our conversation we got around to talking about salt.

He said, "When I was in the Navy, I used to ride submarines, and we used to practice responding to different disasters. Like a fire, or flooding, stuff like that. And one of the most common drills we used to run was fire in the Machinery space and it was always the O2 generator that they were pretending was on fire. And if we didn’t pretend to get the fire under control fast enough, then we’d pretend it exploded, and then we all pretended we died."

Submarine O2 generators make oxygen out of seawater through the process of electrolysis.

But I’m sure the United States Navy Nuclear Submarine Force is exaggerating the potential risk. I’m sure your salt system is 100% safe and can never explode. I’m sure it’s built to the same exacting specifications as those SUBSAFE Oxygen Generators.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SUBSAFE

And if you have any doubts about that, just ask your Salt Sales Rep. He wouldn’t lie to you. He’s your friend.

One last thing to contemplate. All the references I've cited are either conversations I've had with people it happened to or heard of it happening, and the rest are from government reports or stories about government agencies where these kinds of things are routinely reported and publicized. Ask yourself this; If a chlorine generator blew up two streets over from your house, what mechanism is there for it to be reported?

The only one I can think of would be the manufacturer's internal reporting. Follow me here. Your chlorinator blows up. You call your pool guy who sold it to you. He calls the manufacturer. The manufacturer comes out with a bunch of people to "investigate the problem". They stand around and scratch their heads for awhile, swear that it's never happened before in the entire history of their corporation, clean up the mess, give you a brand new chlorine generator and then leave.

That's it. And based on that kind of incident reporting, I'd have to agree that chlorine generators never blow up. Wouldn't you?

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Anatomy of Research



I have an admission to make. I’m not proud of it. I hope you don’t think less of me when I say it. Then again, if you’re a Salt Rep, I probably don’t have to worry about you thinking less of me. Do I, Bob? Tom? Anyway... back to the admission. It’s really not my fault. My wife made me do it.

Let me explain. You see, I love that HBO series, Rome. It is kick ass with enough blood and gore to sate any man’s testosterone demand. Plus, it’s produced in conjunction with the BBC, so you can pretend that it’s a bit highbrow, that you’re not just watching another TV For Dummies kinda show. But my wife, being a girl and all, hates blood, which means she pretty much hates Rome. But she watches it with me. And here’s why:

Last season, Rome was followed by Grey’s Anatomy. And that’s the deal. She watches Rome with me, and then I watch Grey’s with her. Now, there’s nothing on TV today more estrogen drenched than Grey’s Anatomy. I can feel my breasts enlarging every time I sit through an episode. Let’s face it, Real Men don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy. I mean, who cares about McDreamy and McSteamy?

And that’s my horrible secret; I do. I’m hooked. I’m in. They had me at Guys & Girls Changing in the Same Locker Room. We Tivo it, for God’s sakes. We follow it all over the scheduling map, from night to night. We even watch the reruns. I’m a 38 double D these days.

So, anyway, this week Izzy, which rhymes with Dizzy Blonde with Big... uh... you know (another secret; she’s half the reason I watch it. The other half being Sandra Oh...Oh... Oh... Don’t tell my wife.) Izzy finally deposited the check for 8.7 million dollars she got from the insurance company when her boyfriend Denny died, which made my wife thoughtfully ask, “Tell me again. How much insurance do we have on you?” Now, the reason she didn’t want to cash the check was because it would be the final admission that Denny was gone, really dead, not coming back, ever. Which I thought was really stupid. In Rome, they would have cashed it day one, rented the entire Coliseum and had drunken orgies until the money ran out. Not that I would have done that. I’m just saying, in those days before good old fashioned Judeo Christian guilt, well... never mind.

And there’s this new patient, a 17 year old girl with scoliosis so bad she is bent double at the waist. And there’s a new procedure that McDreamy can do, literally remove half her spine and replace it with a wire mesh contraption. But she’s got crappy insurance - See? It really is like real life - and the procedure is too new and they won’t spring for the cost.

Can you see it coming? I don’t mean to be a spoiler here, but don’t you see? Next week Izzy is going to offer to pay for the surgery with a few hundred thou off the fortune that Denny left her. It’s so obvious.

It was also in the previews for next week’s episode. But I knew it before the previews aired. It’s just so... Izzy...

God, that is so Gay. I’m going to watch Soprano reruns all weekend to try to make amends.

But that whole suddenly rich, doing good deeds with your money thing got me to thinking. What would I do if my boyfriend died and... wait. Starting over. What would I do if I had that kind of windfall. What good deed would I do?

I’d call about ten of my most salt ravaged customers and ask them if I could replace their coping and decks after I core the old ones for samples, and I’d analyze those samples for sodium chloride expansion pressure damage. And I’d ask them if I could replace their gas heater heat exchangers and analyze the old ones for evidence of impingement corrosion. And I’d ask them if I could rip out and replace their brass water features so I could have a metallurgist do a corrosion analysis to determine what caused the corrosion. And I’d ask them if they would mind turning their pools over to me for a little while so I could have a team of corrosion and electrical experts look for the ground loops I suspect exist that are creating the galvanic corrosion effects. And I’d ask if I could dig up their flower beds and analyze the soil to see if it has a higher salt content than their neighbors yards. And I’d fund a study to extrapolate the long term effects on our waste water - which we are going to end up drinking more and more as the population continues to grow - if every pool was a salt pool and every home had a salt based water softener.

And then, when I die, they could put, “He Saved Rich People From Salt Pools” on my tombstone. I know. It’s not really Mother Theresa kind of stuff. But at least it would counter this kind of “research”:

http://richardfalk.home.comcast.net/pool/Corrosion_and_Swimming_Pools.pdf

This is a marketing brochure for a salt chlorine generator. It doesn’t look like one, I know. It looks like a corrosion study that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that high chlorine levels, coupled with low stabilizer levels, are wholly responsible for the corrosion seen on metals in and around swimming pools, especially stainless steel.

It looks that way until you look back in time to the date on the cover letter; 1993. It was a time when Lectranator was one of a very few companies in the salt chlorine generator business. What was going on back then? Rapid failures of stainless steel filter tanks were what was going on back then. But pretty much only on salt pools. A lot more of the market was stainless steel tanks then than it is now. A lot more.

So, Lectranator dug up a bunch of old “research” that one of the numerous past owners of Lectranator, Diamond Shamrock, had done through an affiliate named ELTECH. ELTECH was either another past owner or somehow part of Diamond Shamrock back in the day. Olin owned it for awhile, too, and sold it to the folks who dug all this up and put it out there in 1993. Confusing? Yes, it is. This thing’s been passed around more than Paris Hilton.

This “research” supposedly proves that at “levels below 3000 ppm (mg/l), chlorides in the water had an ‘INSIGNIFICANT EFFECT’ on TYPE 304 Stainless Steel”, even though there had been a rash of rust-throughs on filter tanks within a year or so of adding the salt to the water. You know, about three months ago, I was talking to a metallurgist and I mentioned that the salt system manufacturers, for the most part, were telling us that salt wasn’t corrosive in levels under 6,000 ppm. He arched his eyebrows and said, “I’ve seen salt be corrosive at levels as low as 10 parts per million”. But then, he was just telling the truth as he had seen it. No one was paying him for a report that they could twist around to say what they wanted. The “research” further claimed that stainless steel was, however, “extremely susceptible to rapid corrosion at high free chlorine levels (20 ppm), regardless of the Source of chlorine”, and that it was really just those dumb old pool owner’s fault for allowing their pools to “unknowingly be... operated at very high chlorine levels. Most common test kits lose their accuracy over 4.0 to 5.0 ppm free chlorine. Pool Owners did not realize their pools carried excessively high chlorine levels,” and if only they had known that moderate “levels of Cyanuric Acid effectively inhibit corrosion caused by high chlorine levels”, then there would have been peace in the Middle East.

So, you see, all we really needed was an “awareness of the effect of high chlorine levels on metals...” so that, “ ...the limitations of test kit ranges will eliminate the corrosion issue, allowing the pool owner the substantial advantages of automation of the water sanitizing process.”

Let me decode this. What they’re saying is, “We know when you put our system on your pool, your filter disintegrated inside of a year. But it’s not salt’s fault. It’s because our system produces more chlorine than you expected and when it does that, it gets outside the range of your test kit and it gets so high that it eats right through anything. Like that green blood in Alien. And it’s your fault for not turning down our wonderful chlorinator’s output.”

Now, the thing that most people say they love about their salt system is that they don’t have to have so much chlorine in the water, so what are they shoveling here? Don’t you think you might notice 20 or 30 ppm chlorine when 1.5 ppm is normal?

You see, this is just a great big, fat hearsay document. Go to page two and break it down. They claim that there’s this guy, Professor Hehemann, who did some corrosion analysis for ELTECH in 1982, but for some reason the company was “reluctant to publish his findings”. Which is a lot like saying, “we don’t trust them”.

Then, they talk about doing long term testing where they proved over and over again that stainless steel subjected to 20 and 30 ppm chlorine corroded. Duh. Once again, don’t you think you might notice 30 ppm chlorine in your pool? “Oh honey! The kids are screaming in agony in the pool. Should I tell them to get out?”

Then, it really departs from reality. Field studies, and an “independent survey” - read “somebody told us” - culminating in “a similar survey in Texas” - somebody else told us - convinced them they were right. A survey is asking lay people questions. Not real scientific stuff.

You see, they want you to think that what they saw in their lab is exactly what they saw in the field when they started looking. But they’re having it both ways here. If it’s the lack of Cyanuric Acid in the water that makes the free chlorine more corrosive, then all the field work has to be bogus, because it had to have been done on pools with at least normal levels of Cyanuric Acid, - i. e. tab pools. So, if they claim that they saw high free chlorine levels in the field, they have to also admit that they didn’t see any corrosion, because the Cyanuric Acid would have arrested it.

I posed my reservations to the fellow hosting this “research” on his web site, Richard, AKA The Chem Geek, and even Richard had to admit that “I have problems with a summary of a study since there are many tricks that can be played to draw conclusions. I already noted one of those in my post on The Pool Forum in that the study in the lab looked at high chlorine without CYA AND without salt while separately looking at salt without chlorine. Obviously, a real pool has both and since both factors influence corrosion you really need to test with both at the same time.”

Richard freely admitted he was given this report by people who make money selling salt. I believe he is honestly pursuing solutions to problems here and trying to conduct an objective analysis and look at all the published information. But it’s like I said a few posts back about objectivity; it’s the built in blind spot of objectivity that lets the folks with the agenda of the Almighty Dollar sneak in and shovel their manure and call it research.

It isn’t even research, for God’s sakes. It’s a summary from a company about the research they claim they and other’s have done. There’s no proof anywhere on any of those three pages. It’s just a white paper that somebody sat down and wrote. It’s that person’s version of what a box full of documents says to them. And it was written by a person who had a monetary gain if what they wrote got traction and was believed.

Let me summarize what others have said about their own research:

“There is no direct link between cigarettes and lung cancer” - Every major tobacco company, until Russell Crowe outed then in The Insider.

“Global warming is a Myth” - Every major oil company, to this day.

“My research proves beyond any reasonable doubt that you can make research prove anything you want to, especially if you’re the one paying for the research.” - The Pool Guy

So, what’s the answer? The answer is truly independent research. The problem is the only people with the money to do the research aren’t independent. They’re the manufacturers, and they’ve already lied to us about so many of the problems with salt, it’s hard to imagine they’re going to have a rebirth of conscience. So, we’re back to waiting for Denny to die to get that check for 8.7 million.

And one last question. Why is this paper being thrown out there now, thirteen years after it was written? Because that’s just about enough time for everybody to lose historic perspective of why it was written; in a vain attempt to shift the blame for the corrosion of stainless steel filter tanks from the salt that caused it to the homeowner’s negligence - the old “it’s either God’s Will or Somebody Else’s Fault” defense - and to the chlorine, that’s always been there, even before the corrosion showed up.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE

I was wrong about something last week. I said that in Australia, salt systems weren’t allowed on commercial pools. Period. I had that information from the fellow at poolindustrysecrets.com, and being as how he’s from Australia, I took it for Gospel.

Then I found this in the Department of Health and Community Services Draft Public Health Guidelines for Aquatic Facilities, Norther Territory, Australia:

"4.5 Special Requirements for Electrolytic Salt Chlorinators

As a byproduct of this process is the production of hydrogen gas (which could accumulate in a pressure filter) Electrolytic Salt Chlorinators shall only be installed downstream of pressure filters. Electrolytic Salt Chlorinators shall be electrically linked to the main circulating pump to prevent the chlorinator operating when the main circulating pump is switched off. Where the electrolytic salt cells are not designed to be located above the filter vessel gas detectors shall be fitted that will terminate the operation of the chlorinator in the event of hydrogen gas build up.

As an Electrolytic Salt Chlorinator cannot respond to instantaneous chlorine demand a backup chlorine system shall be installed, using gas, liquid or granular chlorine."

http://www.nt.gov.au/health/docs/cdc_envhealth_AFG%20Draft%20final.pdf

Perhaps David was just talking about his territory when he said that salt systems weren’t authorized on commercial pools. Or perhaps he’s right. This is a Draft plan, so maybe they’re not yet authorized in the Northern Territory. But they must be at least planning to approve them. Otherwise they wouldn’t be going to all the trouble of spelling out how to properly install those salt systems and about using back up gas detectors so they won’t blow up.

You knew that they could blow up, right? I mean, I’m sure your Sales Rep told you that if your salt cell wasn’t properly installed, or if your flow sensor failed to operate correctly and your pump motor went out, or you closed the wrong valve, or your system lost prime, that the cell could keep generating chlorine without water flow, and that after a little while, one of the byproducts of the process, hydrogen gas, could build up in the cell and in the plumbing and reach an explosive level and, well... explode. You know, like BOOM and flying shards of PVC and plastic shrapnel kind of explode. Oh, yeah, and flying titanium plates, too. I forgot about those.

I know. I know. I’m being terribly alarmist. Or am I?

Here’s an inventor named Ben Bremauer who has applied for a patent for his version of a chlorine generator - he calls it an electrolytic sanitiser generator. Ben talks about the shortcomings of the safety devices currently in use to avoid hydrogen gas build up.

Ben says:

"Although an adverse byproduct of this process is the production of hydrogen gas H.sub.2(g), under normal operating conditions the H.sub.2(g) flows with the feed water into the body of water and escapes safely into the atmosphere. However, in some circumstances the water flow conditions may not be normal and it is at these times that safety issues arise with respect to H.sub.2(g) containment. For example, a blocked suction line, closed valve(s), incorrect installation or a seized pump can effect a loss of water flow. It may also cause present safety devices to become ineffective, inoperable and/or redundant. In such circumstances, the cell may continue to produce H.sub.2(g) such that the volume of H.sub.2(g) contained in the system may reach dangerously explosive levels. The H.sub.2(g) may continue to be produced and fill not only the cell chamber but all the filtration system plumbing and receptacles. A large H.sub.2(g) reservoir may result leading to a potentially explosive situation.

[0005] Electrolytic cells have been disclosed in which the electrodes are positioned in between inlet and discharge ports of the cell with no provision to trap and contain hydrogen gas in the event of a water flow stoppage. These cells are plumbed horizontally or vertically and may use flow switches plumbed in series with the cell to detect a water flow fault condition. In such an arrangement, the flow switch may be designed to suspend power to the cell to minimise the potential a H.sub.2(g) build up.

[0006] The use of a flow switch may be considered a good primary safeguard against a loss of water flow. However, the use of a flow switch alone as a single safe guard against hydrogen gas build up has been found, in the inventor's experience, to be insufficient. A flow switch is a mechanical device and therefore has a potential for failure. In the event of a water flow stoppage, a flow switch failure could cause a massive hydrogen gas volume to accumulate in the plumbing and filtration equipment and therefore become hazardous. To the inventor's knowledge and belief, this one safety device, which the inventor believes should only be used as a primary measure, is the only safety feature relied upon by electrolytic chlorinators currently on the market." (Emphasis mine)

http://www.freshpatents.com/Electrolytic-sanitiser-generator-dt20061109ptan20060249400.php

Now, full disclosure here requires me to tell you that installation guidelines for salt systems has the installer using the load side of your filter pump timer, so that when power to your pump is interrupted, power to your salt system is interrupted as well. But it doesn’t take into account, nor can it, the failure of your salt system’s only safety feature, the flow switch, and then a misalignment of your valves (Gee, no one ever does that!), or a failure of your filter pump motor, or a blockage of your system that causes it to lose prime (like a low water level at your skimmer). Any of these things combined with a faulty flow switch could allow your salt cell to keep running and through the process of electrolysis, continue to produce chlorine and all of it’s byproducts, one of which is highly explosive hydrogen gas.

You know. Hydrogen gas. Of Hindenberg fame? "Oh, the humanity!" You remember, right?

Ben goes on to point out the two types of flow switches that are currently in use:

"[0007] Cells have been disclosed having separate flow switches or integral flow switches which operate at 90 degrees to the direction of flow. A cell may be installed without plumbing the cell in a gas loop and where the cell is at the uppermost portion of the loop. In such an installation, an integral flow switch or a separate flow switch may be installed but a failure of the flow switch to detect a water flow failure could lead to a hydrogen gas build up.

[0008] Other manufacturers have used a non mechanical conductive electrode arrangement positioned at the top of a horizontal cell chamber. However, such methods detect only the presence of water and not the flow of water. It may therefore fail to detect a lack of flow of water if the cell is not installed in the horizontal position as generally specified in installation instructions. Moreover, incorrect installation may find the sensor positioned at the lower portion of the cell rendering it effectively redundant. Incorrect orientation of the cell chamber may cause the inherent physical gas loop to no longer contain hydrogen gas in the event of a flow fault. If both return and suction line valves are closed, the chlorinator cell will continue to operate. The inability of the hydrogen gas to displace the water in the cell may lead to a pressure increase in the plumbing system and eventually damage the plumbing and potentially cause injury."

Now, I’ve had experience with that second type of flow switch. A couple of years ago, I took over a pool and found a salt system installed funny. So, I called the 1-800 tech and ran the installation past him. It was plumbed with the cell on the pool return and wired to go on and off with the main pump. But it was a pool/spa combo, so when you put the valves in the spa mode, you still had power to the salt cell, even though there was no water flowing down the pool return. The 1-800 guy said, "no problem, when you don't have pressure on the pool side, the cell will drain down and sense the loss of water and shut off. That's our way of sensing flow." I told him that when I rotated the valves, that for whatever reason the cell didn't drain down, and he said, "Ooh, that's not good. The thing could build up hydrogen gas and blow up if they run it long enough like that", which I thought was good to know. He recommended that I replumb the system so that the cell was in the common line for both the pool and the spa. But when I told the folks who owned the pool why I wanted to replumb it, that if I didn’t, it might explode, they looked at each other, frowned and then told me to "take the damn thing off" their pool.

This isn’t the first time around for exploding chlorine generators, either. There’s an old system out there, maybe still being used in a few back yards, that uses a brine tank and two chambers to create chorine gas out of salt. In the old systems, when they didn’t get proper attention, sometimes the hydrogen gas vent in the cathode chamber would get clogged. Then, the hydrogen gas would build up and eventually go BOOM. The extra down side of that type system was that it collected the caustic sodium hydroxide in the cathode chamber, as well. So, if it blew up, it spewed caustic liquid all over the place in addition to blowing plastic shrapnel all over everywhere.

But like I said, I’m sure I’m being an alarmist. If there was any real risk that your salt system might blow up, I’m sure there would be huge caution labels all over the unit and in the owner’s manual.

And there are quite a few in the Owner’s Manual, under Installation Instructions. Well, sort of. Some of the manufacturers are better at owning up to it than others. Like Jandy and Pentair do a pretty god job, with big bold Warnings in the Warnings section and throughout the manual’s installation instructions. The next closest is Zodiac, who talks briefly about the possibility of "having a gas build up" and about "possible cell damage". They never use the term flammable gas. Not even once. Which is odd, because they now own Jandy. Makes you wonder, with this new marriage of companies, will Jandy’s tech department rub off on Zodiac and get them to address the issue more forthrightly? Or will Zodiac’s marketing team get Jandy to throttle back on those sales-killing terms like WARNING and FLAMMABLE GAS.

Goldline is the least specific in their installation instructions. The closest they get is:

"Wire the Aqua Rite to the LOAD SIDE of the filter pump timer. It is very important that the Aqua Rite is powered only when the pump is running."

I searched their document for hydrogen, gas, buildup (which returned an excerpt about calcium buildup), and flammable. They’re not there. Look for yourself:

http://www.goldlinecontrols.com/Support/manuals/092009i.pdf

Now, ask yourself this; how many pool owners read the Installation Instructions? If that’s the only place it’s talked about, then it’s not talked about enough. Well, until now, that is.

There are some other references you may want to look at to assure yourself that I’m not just making this issue up. Here are some links to some salt industry pages, geared more for the tech geeks, that talk about the possibility and likelihood of hydrogen gas buildup in salt systems:

http://www.watermaid.co.za/howitworks.htm Read the power supply description.

http://www.salchlor.com/process/process_04.htm This one gives the ratios at which hydrogen gas is safe, flammable, or explosive.

I already know that some sharp Sales Rep out there is preparing his comeback for you on the off chance that you’ve read this and you pose the question "what about the hydrogen gas?". He’ll most likely explain that, hey it’s no different than the people you hear about who mix Cal Hypo with Tri Chlor tabs and get an explosion.

And while that’s true, the difference is, with the Cal Hypo and Tri Chlor, you have to be stupid enough to stand there and mix them and watch them begin to bubble and stick around to see what happens next. With hydrogen gas buildup in a salt system, all you have to do is own a salt system and be the unlucky one that it happens to.

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