Sunday, February 25, 2007

Comments Lost in the Shuffle

I have posted twenty-one pieces to this blog. That’s a total of about 46,000 words. As a point of reference, a good novel weighs in at about 125,000. There have been about 25 comments made to various pieces. You can access them by clicking on the tiny little icon at that bottom of the blog piece that says, // posted by The Pool Guy @ 10:33 AM 1 comments. You click where it says 1 comments and it’ll take you to the page where the comments for that piece are listed.

I don’t think many people do, and I think that folk’s comments, their opinions about what I write here, get lost in the shuffle and go unheard. Which is fine with me. If I really wanted to debate this stuff, I’d be posting at a forum. I don’t want to debate it because I think that at this point in the evolution of salt systems, the only people left on the other side of this issue are fast buck artists - and arguing with them is like arguing with a cash register - and those members of our industry who have been so thoroughly snowed by the fast buck artists that they still believe the salesmen’s hype while Rome burns around them.

Every day I hear of yet another builder who has stopped selling salt systems, or yet another tile and coping sub who tells his builder’s that he’s only warrantying his work on decks and coping where there’s no salt system installed.

Every day I talk to another pool serviceman or repairman who nods knowingly when the subject of salt and damage come up.

Even our biggest internet seller, The Pool Plaza, run by Tim Mott here in Dallas, Texas, has posted a warning on his website on the page titled: How to Choose a Salt system:

"Make sure your pool equipment is compatible with a salt system.

Most pool equipment is compatible with salt, but there are a few pieces that are not. If in doubt, check with the manufacturer of the equipment to see if your pump, filter and heater are compatible. Some warranties may be voided by the installation of a salt system. In particular some heaters and newer stainless steel filters are not designed for use with a salt system. The older stainless steel filters like Swimquip DES series filters handle salt just fine, but the newer Pentair NS stainless steel filters can develop corrosion issues quickly and the manufacturer will not warranty it."

I wrote and asked him about the distinction he draws between older DES filter tanks and the newer NS tanks, and he responded:

"As I recall, originally Sta-Rite's warranty contained a disclaimer, however I'm sure that they have changed that since they are a part of Pentair and a salt proponent now.

Our experience with NS and DES tanks is very similar. Of course, I cannot guarantee that someone with one such tank will not experienced a greater level of corrosion, but typically it does not significantly shorten the life expectancy of the filter.

I think that the difference in the old stainless and the new stainless is the quality of the stainless steel and the quality of the welds. I do not recall if the older tanks have any welds. I don't remember any offhand. On the newer tanks, it is the welds that will go. I had one go out in about amonth on a Nautilus Plus. I had tried to get the guy to go FNS plus, but he would not listen."

Now, Tim Mott is no small change. He doesn’t just run an internet store. He also runs a pool service and repair company called Tropix, and except for the fact that he still sells salt systems - a position I wish he would reconsider - I would be prone to listen to what he has to say about what goes on out there on his pool routes. And you heard it here first; salt blew through a brand new stainless steel filter tank in one month.

Salt will also eat through that thin metal band on the FNS Plus that was added to that DE filter a few years ago. It's located right at that crucial point where the tank halves come together. When that band fails, does that make that tank any less stable under pressure? That sure would be good to know. The only other thing inside the FNS Plus tank that’s metal are the stainless steel rods and the plated brass nut/fasteners, which, we all now know, are susceptible to galvanic corrosion. Read about galvanic corrosion here:

But I’m wandering off my point about the comments being lost in the shuffle. Let me make one more side point here and then I’ll get to that. Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows that I’m not adverse to throwing someone under the bus. And for the most part, no more thought goes into it than, "Well, the bus is coming , and he’s standing right there. Ah, what the hell..." And I guess the reason I’m so cavalier about it is, I only throw people under that bus if they’re engaged in selling salt systems to unsuspecting homeowners. In my mind, it’s kind of like disposing of a guy who runs a payday loan business, where they actually make people write postdated checks and charge them anywhere from 300 to 1,000% interest for a short term loan. And while you may think I’m being unkind to salt peddlers, they sell you a system for about $1,200 and if you’re lucky you’ll get off with $10,000 damage to coping, equipment and decks. That’s nearly 1,000% interest you’re being charged.

But anyway! Getting back to the comments lost in the shuffle thing. A Salt Peddler took exception to me throwing him under the bus, twice. You see, it’s Harry Clay, of Castaic Pools. In my first blog piece, I wrote about his opposition to the Santa Clarita Sanitation district’s salt pool ban, and then when I republished that piece last week, of course, he was mentioned again. So he posted a comment. It is published with last week’s piece and you can read it there by clicking on the little 1 comments thing, or read it here. Here, I’ve added comments - rebuttals, as it were - in italics:

You wrote an interesting article; I don't agree with many of your opinions. Harry, they’re hardly opinions. They are backed up by facts. Facts that are cited and made available as Hyperlinks in the body of every piece I write.

I do take exception to your inference that my only concern is profiting from the destruction of the environment. Then quit encouraging people in your part of the country to circumvent the spirit of a local ordinance intended to protect our environment by pointing out that, by the letter of the law, it’s okay to spew their backwash waste onto the ground or into a storm drain. Where do you think storm drains go, Harry? Have you ever heard about the phenomenon experienced in some northern parts of our country and in Canada where their ground water chloride levels are elevated due to winter road salt percolating down to the the aquifers? Wake up. Everything has a cumulative effect. There were about 8,000 cars in the US in 1900. 107 years later, we melt the polar ice cap with their emmisions.

I build projects utilizing the best evidence & techniques available, with the intention of constructing a long lasting structure that will give the homeowner the most pleasent [sic] experience, with the least likely chance of failure, & greatest longevity. Then why, oh, why on earth would you sell them a salt system? I know it bugged you when you saw that I had quoted you and had posted a link to your website, but if you’d just get over it and read the rest of my posts about salt, and then read the references I’ve cited, many of which are studies and texts that builders who are going to use salt owe it to themselves and their customers to read before they embark on the use of salt just because some Sales Rep said, "it’ll be okay", I think you’ll come away with a lot of questions about the wisdom of selling salt.

I believe the vast majority of saline pool owners will attest to the fact that saline sanitation systems provide a much more pleasant, cleaner, clearer, attractive, & healthy environment for their families to enjoy. Harry, I know that most everybody was fooled when salt systems came back this time. We all said, "Well, so much more of our equipment is plastic. Maybe it’ll work this time." But then the deck and coping issues showed up, and the galvanic corrosion issues on the remaining metal showed up. You want to make me a bet on how long the stainless light niche to copper conduit galvanic mismatch is going to hold up before the leak detect guys start making a land office business in fixing those, too? I understand that your customers like it now. But they will be cussing you when the problems start.

As in any form of sanitation, care must be taken to carefully balance the water; but if manufacturer's guidelines are carefully followed, I believe that saline pools provide the most satisfying experience for the pool owner. I’ve pointed out time and again in this blog how people like you always resort to this excuse about how careful monitoring and balancing the water is the real issue, and how that automatically makes it the homeowner’s fault when everything goes south. Yet every brochure from every manufacturer pitches these systems on the falsehood that they are trouble-free. "No more mixing, measuring or messing with harsh chemicals. No more hassles buying, storing, measuring chlorine." "You only need to check the pH and total alkalinity periodically". That first quote was from Hayward Goldline. The second from Zodiac, who now owns Jandy. That probably represents 80% of the salt systems out there.

I'd like to think that it's possible to have an honest difference of opinion, without engaging in ridicule, & personal attacks regarding motives of people you don't even know. Ah... finally, the meat of the matter. I hurt your feelings. Just one question? How is it okay for you to ridicule the folks who wrote the Santa Clarita Sanitation District's salt pool ban, but it’s not okay for me to ridicule you for your position on this issue? I have read quite a bit about the situation there, and there are real issues with high chloride levels in the upper Santa Clarita River resulting in decreased crop yields and leaf burn, the leaf burn making the agricultural product less attractive and so less valuable. The limit of 100 milligrams per liter for the upper Santa Clarita River weren’t established by some local town council bent on picking on your pool business. It was set by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for the Los Angeles region in 1978. And the ordinance never even said you couldn’t sell salt systems. It said you couldn’t install a salt system on a pool where the backwash line was plumbed to the sewer.

So, why did you dedicate a whole page of your website to a rant about "ill advised legislation" when after you took a minute to read it, even you had to admit that it wasn’t a salt system ban, but a prohibition of installing salt systems where the backwash goes to the sewer? If I remember correctly, in the tone of your rant you took great delight in pointing out that, nanner-nanner-haha, pools aren’t plumbed to the sewer, so it's okay to spew our backwash right into the dirt or down the storm drain.

Now, I see that you’ve dropped that page from your website. I see that you no longer want to own those sentiments. And good for you. It couldn’t have helped your local image to be seen by some as a callous poolman more interested in the bottom line that in the local environment or the local economy so dependent on the health of the Santa Clarita River for irrigation.

But try this; Google "Santa Clarita Salt Ban" and go to page two of the returns and this is what you’ll find:

Salt Water Pool Update

On November 9th of 2005, the Board Members of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation ... picked up the story, with headlines stating "Ban On Salt Water Pools"

Look familiar? You still own those comments, Harry. Good luck with that.

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