Thursday, December 27, 2007
Yeah, I know. I said I was gonna talk about stone next. But this is a blog, right? Short for weblog and defined as a person’s inner dialogue splashed across the internet for all to see.
Something about a blog that most folks who visit them don’t realize is that, just as it paints a portrait of who I am for you, it can, in some instances, give me a snapshot of who my visitors are. Or more accurately, what it was they were looking for when they showed up on my doorstep, and ultimately, what information, and hence what impressions, they left here with.
Now, whether they left here thinking about salt and salt systems a bit more critically, I can’t tell. But I can tell by what they read and by the links they click on what I’ve exposed them to. And when it comes to salt systems, this is The Only Place On Planet Earth that they’re going to be exposed to that information. Period.
Kinda sad, huh? I mean, think about it. Of all the hype out there talking up how great salt is, there’s only one place in the whole world that serves as a repository for the Other Side Of The Story, which turns out to be very well documented and TRUE.
Case In Point:
I had a visitor yesterday who got here from a Google search.
They Googled black stain, salt cell. Gee, I wonder why anybody would be Googling for that? Try it and see what you get.
The first hit is The Pool Biz and the excerpt reads like this: “Now, think about your salt cell. What we’re doing is literally jumping .... Black Stains Around the Pool Light The in-line zinc anode is attached to the ...”
The next hit is “Histology learning systems Appendix A”. A couple hits down from that is “Nitric Oxide: NO-dependent photo-toxicity...” Then after that; “The human endothelial cell in tissue culture”.
Gosh... I wonder which reference they clicked on first?
Coming into the blog from that Google search brought them into this piece:
That piece starts out with “I finally see how the manufacturers get away with selling you something that does so much damage to your pool while their sales continue to increase and no one comes along and shuts them down.”
Pretty much sets the right tone, wouldn’t you say?
They read down until they got to these links and explored them both:
These are the links that take you out to The Pool Tool Company’s online catalog and describe some Hot Items that are just flying off the shelves these days; Sacrificial Anodes for your skimmer baskets, in-line plumbing, and to bolt on to your metal ladders and rails. Now, this is a Swimming Pool Tool manufacturing company that sells these items to protect your plaster from staining due to electrolysis. In theory, electrolysis itself isn’t a problem. If you have 100% conduction from cell plate to cell plate, and no stray currents, then you can’t get any black staining. You know, like the black stains this person is trying to find out about that they suspect is caused by their salt cell. But, obviously, there ARE stray currents with most, if not all, of these salt system installations, resulting in a phenomena known as Stray Current Corrosion, and metal stains appearing on plaster is just the tip of the iceberg. As PoolToolCo says:
A Must For Salt Pools
Black Stains Around The Pool Light
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Salt Pools Black Stains... Very close to the original search term, no?
So, anyway, here’s a company that every Pool Guy knows about, and probably owns one or two of their specialty tools - because they’re the only ones who know and make the tools we really need for those special applications - and they say point blank; salt systems damage the heck out of pools. So much so that you better be doing something proactive to protect your plaster, your heater, your other metals - like ladders, handrails, light rings and the metal niches they bolt to - from discoloration, erosion, general damage and staining.
Gosh, I’ve read every salt system owner’s manual in existence, even the ones from Canada and France - believe it, I have - and oddly, they don’t mention any of these phenomena. I wonder why?
Getting back to My Guest; after they read those pages, they watched the video linked as WFAA Report On How Much Salt Sucks - pssst... the link’s on the right side top of this page, under the heading Why Salt Is Eating Up Your Pool.
Then they read the link right under that; The Science Behind Why Salt is Eating Up Your Pool’s Hardscape, which explains how crystallization expansion pressure damages your stone from within through a little thing called sub-florescence. Then they went and read up on the Santa Clarita, California Salt Pool Ban, and then finished up by clicking on the Current Posts icon and spending another 28 minutes reading, probably to the bottom of this page. That exposed them to the warnings from the manufacturers not to use Potassium Chloride in place of Sodium Chloride, about SR Smith’s efforts to create a hardier equipment line to stand up better to the ravages of chloride corrosion, AND the fact that every once in a while, salt cells go BOOM.
Total Elapsed Time spent finding out WAY MORE than why they’re getting black stains in their pool; 50 minutes, 7 seconds. I hope I was of some help.
Now, that visitor was from Florida. Which is funny, because there was a comment left a few posts back saying that all the corrosion I gripe about is just a Texas phenomenon. Seems we don’t know how to bond a pool here in Texas. Here’s an excerpt from those comments:
“Your corrosion issues that you describe are also few and far between here [Florida] probably because we are one of the toughest states with California and Maryland (of all places) to build a pool from the standpoint of inspections and enforcement of proper building practices. Metal connections corrode when current flows over them. Current can't flow over them if the electrical potential is the same between them. There has to a difference in potential for current to flow. How do you know that of all the corrosion issues you have seen, all of them had intact bonding grids with properly made connections to the steel, in the light niches, to the handrails, etc. Salt doesn't create stray current in a pool, it magnifies the problem which is that you have stray current in the pool. As you may know, it provides a more conductive solution for it to move around in. But, in a pool that is PROPERLY bonded, and according to the principle of the Farraday cage, that current won't flow in the cage[,] only out to the ground.”
And while those may sound like very well founded points grounded in firm logic and science, I'd like to contrast it with excerpts from an e-mail I received shortly after I started this blog last year;
"I read your material with great interest and wish to encourage you to keep up the fight. I run a reasonably large pool company here in... Florida that has been building pools... for [lots and lots of] years. We started using salt systems about 15 years ago when they were in their infancy (we tend to be front runners on pool issues). We started with units like the [manufacturer's name withheld] and other arcane units. My initial position with the company was to run the service department. At that time, almost every pool we built (about 200 a year) had a salt system on it. My indoctrination was in the form of countless service calls for staining, 'shocking', and a host of other 'unrelated' issues. When I started here, I spent a year tracking the complaints, making voltage checks, resistance checks, breaking down different units into its components and so forth. What I found was exactly what I expected given the construction of this sytem in the form of a battery. What I could not understand was the industry manufacturers with their (what I understand now to be) scripted answers to my problems. As you say, it ranged from 'grounding issues', improper materials, low grade stainless, and on and on. Especially frustrating was that we all knew how long we had been in the business and that the only common denominator was the salt system. By the time I had amassed my data, based on the soil type and condition of an install, I was able to tell the manufacturer of the last generator we were using what the 'stray' voltage amount would be and how long before the stains and corrosion would appear. Like I said, we tried [every salt system on the market]. In the end, we decided that there was insufficient profit in pursuing what was clearly a damaging component. Over the years, we have dealt with all manner of product that has one or more detrimental effects on a pool. But not until these salt systems had we encountered a unit that deals a blow to the entire pool. I think the biggest single factor was the propensity to negatively effect the grounding system around the pool. The stray current in the system created an environment where the grounding lugs would corrode off and leave large portions of the pool disconnected and very prone to shocking our customers. [Emphasis mine] Whether it was hand rails or coping sections, it made the whole pool experience less inviting."
So that's pretty much in sharp friggin' contrast to what that first guy was saying. It's also in sharp contrast to what I learn by seeing who visits the blog and where they come from and what they want to know.
And that’s the thing about reading my little Site Meter. I really get a sense of what problems people are having with their salt systems, instead of just burying my head in the sand and assuring myself that it can’t be happening and if it is happening then it’s God’s Will or Somebody Else’s Fault, like some people do.
To give you an example, of the last one hundred people who visited this blog, here’s just a few samples of the Google searches that got them here:
Travertine around pools with salt generator (these folks are from Charlotte, North Carolina. So, we can add North Carolina to the list of places where they’re seeing problems with salt eroding travertine pavers and coping.)
Using salt system pool water for irrigation (this person ended up HERE,which is an article I linked to about a proposed California rule to ban salt discharge into waste water. ALL salt discharge into ALL wastewater. Now they know that it’s not the best thing to irrigate with.)
Seal flagstone salt pool (this person lives in Mountain View, California. They followed the link, The Science Behind Why Salt Disintegrates Your Pool’s Hardscape. Now they know why they have flagstone issues. SOMETHING ELSE THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE TO KNOW BEFORE THEY BOUGHT THEIR SALT SYSTEM...)
Salt water pool damage grass (this guest got here through Google Australia. Gosh, I thought that salt pool’s weren’t having any problems Down Under. Could that be just marketing hype? Because we’re always told that the Aussie’s ground water is so saline that they hardly notice the difference in their salt pools. Sorry, mate. Guess you missed that memo.)
Flagstone and salt pool problems (this visitor is from Souther California. Everybody always says the flagstone issues are only occurring in Arizona and Texas. Hmmm... Could everybody be wrong? Or just lying to prop up the sales of a failed technology?)
Pool stray currents (this visitor is from Hollywood, Florida. Oh, no! Another improperly bonded pool in Florida. This week...)
Salt chlorinators and effects on brick coping (these folks are from Leesburg, Florida. If you go to all the forums, they say that Florida’s not having any problems with salt and coping because they get lots of summer rains that flush all the salt out of the coping. I wonder why so many people from Florida and California - both Northern and Southern CA - keep looking for information about problems with salt pools when EVERYBODY KNOWS that they’re not having these problems? It’s only happening in AZ and TX. Right?)
That’s 7 of the last hundred visitors. Google provides me with 17% of the traffic to this site. Thats only 17 of every hundred visitors. So, that means that 41% of the people who get here through Google are searching for answers to problems they’re having with salt chlorine generators, and they are from Maine to Florida, Southern California to Washington State, from Canada to Malaysia to Bahrain to Australia to Sweden... Pretty much all over the world.
I remember last year I was talking to a reporter from one of the trade magazines about my little Site Meter and the insights it gave me. They were working on a story about salt damage to pool coping and decks, and they said, Gosh, that's a story all by itself. They never did a story on it, though. In fact, most everyone's done everything they can to look the other way since then.
And that’s why I Do What I Do.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
My New Year's Resolution is to reorganize the blog. I've started by adding a heading here titled Why Salt Is Eating Up Your Pool. I moved the YouTube clip from the news report here in Dallas about how salt is damaging pools here, and I have put in a link to a technical manual for the preservation of stone buildings and monuments that explains in terrific detail how salt invades and destroys the hardscape around your pool. They're not talking about your pool. They're talking about buildings and such. But limestone is limestone, whether it's used for a building, a sculpture or for pool coping. And as you read about crystallization damage in stone, you see that salt damage is salt damage, whether it's coming from the salt in ground water, ocean spray, or even the trace amounts in the humidity of the air that settles on stone, seeps in and does it's damage, or gets splashed out of your pool and onto the stone by your kids playing.
I hope to expand that section to include more documentation about these processes of destruction, and even more importantly, what steps you can take to arrest the damage that the salt's doing to your pool hardscape. I'm looking hard at stone right now, so bear with me if the next few blog entries seem to be overly stone-centric. After that, I'll tackle the other issues, like galvanic and stray current corrosion, and environmental issues associated with using salt in your pool, and try to give each of those areas a heading and a group of linked reference material, as well.
It just feels like I've done the smart-ass, shooting from the lip thing long enough. No matter how right I am about salt, no matter how cute and funny I say it, and no matter how many references I provide in the text of my rants to prove it, I think that because the references aren't grouped into easily accessible areas, what I say is more easily disputed by the Fast Buck Artists who still want to sell you salt. I'm hoping to make this blog more of a jumping off point for folks trying to prove to themselves that it's not worth trading soft water for tens of thousands of dollars of damage to their pool. Maybe putting the reference material in groups will help accomplish that.
Funny thing... Speaking of smart-ass remarks. I just can't resist here. I only had eight visitors to the blog on Christmas Day. I was surprised that I had that many, being as it was Christmas and all. And one of those eight was a Salt Rep, signing on from his home IP address. It does my heart good to see that they can't even get through Christmas with the family without stopping to see what The Pool Guy is gonna say next about salt.
Like Old Lodge Skins used to say, "My heart soars like a hawk".
Labels: Salt Damage To Stone
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
THIS JUST IN: “SALT APPROVED” EQUIPMENT NOT WARRANTIED AGAINST SALT CORROSION.
FILM AT 11…
Yeah, I knew it was too good to be true. I didn’t read the Fine Print. I pointed out in the last blog entry that SR Smith had developed a line of “Salt Friendly” equipment, and even come up with a snazzy SALT APPROVED logo. Then someone wrote to me and pointed out that if you dig a little further, like here:
you’ll see that their warranty “specifically excludes… rust or corrosion of any metallic parts”.
And it’s really tempting to take a shot here. I mean, I’m The Pool Guy! I’m supposed to point out when the Emperor Has No Clothes and be really funny and snarky about it.
But I can’t, in good conscience, take that shot. First of all, they’re hardly the Muggers here. In fact, they’re the ones who Got Mugged. Then, when you roam around their website and look at all they’ve done to try to make the stuff they sell more salt resistant, it makes it even harder to take that Cheap & Easy Shot.
If you ask me it’s a miracle that anybody in the ladder/rail/slide/diving board business is still in business after standing warranty these last five years on all this salt damage. If it had been me, I’d have Cried Uncle years ago, and either closed up shop or just come out and said, “no warranty on pools with chloride levels above 2500 ppm”, which pretty much means salt pools.
But they didn’t. Instead, they did what they could to weather the salt storm while developing a product line that is at least an effort to make their stuff more salt resistant. THEN they threw up their hands and said, in effect, no more warranty on salt damage. They just left the word salt out of it, referring to it broadly as “rust or corrosion”.
I don’t blame them one bit.
There are other companies in that business who are still providing Unconditional Warranties against rust and corrosion, and I hope that keeps working for them. Truth is, I see them all as Victims of the Greed of the Big Three, who continue to flog the Dead Horse of Electrolyzed Salt Technology.
And you may be saying to yourself, “But my (fill-in-the-blank-with-your-Favorite-Full-Line-Greedhead-Manufacturer) stood warranty on one of my customer’s (fill-in-the-blank-with-your-Most-Frequently-Ocurring-Salt-Damaged-Equipment; heater, cleaner, etc.) without any questions or problems, so what’s the big deal about these ladder and diving board guys stepping up and standing warranty on their stuff?”
Well, just look behind the curtain and you’ll notice that the Full Line Manufacturer in question also sells a Salt System, and even if it’s not his Salt System hanging on the wall that caused all the damage, it’s a Salt System nonetheless, and it would be a hypocrisy that even a starry eyed Pool Guy who just thinks that the Sales & Tech Reps are the Coolest Guys On Earth (like I did when I was younger and more easily awestruck) would see through and point out that they ought not to try to Seek Shelter from The Rain that They Made.
I get Hate Mail. Imagine that. Hate Mail. If that’s too strong, then let’s at least call it Intense Dislike Mail. Now, don’t get me wrong. I know I’m a smart ass. And I’m a snarky S O B to boot. But if left to my own devices the only THING that I’m trashing is salt chlorine generators. Clearly, I take a dim view of the people who sell and defend that technology, as well. But, a lot of people write to me and, on their way to disagreeing with me, start in calling me names and casting aspersions on my integrity. Now, disagreement is at the heart of all healthy arguments. Name calling takes us to a different place; a place that I’m more than equipped to go. And so, when people’s rants drift into that arena, I admit I take particular delight in sniffing out their weaknesses and letting them know that I know what they are. That is usually when they stop writing to me.
But the thing that gets me is this; except for one Salt Rep - who no one has really been able to figure out why he rants around the internet like he does - everybody I’ve crossed keyboards with in that way has been someone who works in the swimming pool service industry. My own Brothers, so to speak. And every time they write to me, you’d think by their tone that I’d been talking about their mother instead of talking about making chlorine through the process of electrolyzing a saline solution. It’s as if I’m attacking some knowledge that they hold sacred by contradicting what they’ve been taught by the industry about how great and trouble free - and obviously liability free - chlorination through salt systems is supposed to be.
I can’t really explain their reaction. Even after all the evidence that’s piled up these last couple of years that proves beyond even a shadow of a doubt that Salt Systems are hard on swimming pools, they continue to hold onto these myths and outright falsehoods that they’ve been taught so they don’t have to feel guilty for having participated in screwing their customers by selling them a salt system. It’s like that circle of good old boys, sitting around the garage, drinking beer and farting and reassuring each other that, “Hey, salt’s great. Keep selling it… Here. Pull my finger again.”
I’m reminded of something Baboosa wrote in the Comments Section of one of the blog entries back in November of last year: “There are a number of … ‘technical’ people making erroneous statements because they heard something from someone. Then they give a presentation in front of a group and repeat what they heard as though it was their own verified experience or fact. Then the people that went there to learn go away and disseminate this garbage to everyone they meet. So another great myth is born. That's just my experience... not some BS someone told me.”
Which brings me to my point. In the latest installment of Hate Mail, a long time reader tells me that I strike him “as one of those guys who even though they know that they are wrong about [a] random topic, can't just say ‘got it, I made a mistake, I'll move on from it, and not do it again’”.
Further down in his rant, after displaying a fair knowledge of pool bonding, he goes on to posit that we should all “just use Potassium chloride instead. Would that please you since it isn't salt[?] You can make chlorine just the same and it is a doctor recommended alternative for people who use water softeners and also have hypertension. I use it in my pool because I have no deck[,] just artificial rock with grass planted right up to the edge. I didn't need a manufacturer's rep to tell me that salt is no good for the grass when water splashes out. Jeez, I figured that out from Sunday school when I was a kid. It's been a while but aren't there references to salting the soil.[sic] Maybe not, who cares, it's common sense anyway.”
Since I published his comments, it ends up making me feel responsible for someone who might read them and run off and pour potassium chloride in their pool. So I went off and looked up why we don’t use potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride.
First, I turned to the folks who manufacture salt systems. I called their tech lines and said, “Hi. This is The Pool Guy and I was wondering… Hello?... Hello?...”. After that, I turned to their owner’s manuals. I have them all as PDF files, so I just searched for Potassium Chloride and Sodium Chloride, and this is what I found:
The Ecomatic User’s Guide, page 16 says, “be sure to use sodium chloride and not potassium chloride”.
The Jandy AquaPure manual, on page 18, paragraph 4.7.1 says, “Use sodium chloride only”.
The Pentair IntelliChlor manual, page 13 says, “Use salt that is at least 99.8% pure NaCl”. Later in that paragraph, it also states, “Use sodium chloride only”.
The Zodiac Clearwater LM2, LM3 & Duo Clear manuals all says, “Only 99.5% pure refined salt (sodium chloride) should be used with a [Clearwater or Duo Clear] chlorinator”.
Even the Chlorine Factory R40B manual says, “Use clean, kiln dried 99.6% (or purer) coarse rock salt”.
So, there’s that.
It’s that spacing thing again. See? But anyway, that really didn’t explain why we shouldn’t use potassium instead of sodium chloride. So, I kept looking. I went to ScienceLab.com and read their Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for both. Under potential chronic health effects, it says of potassium chloride that the “substance may be toxic to blood, cardiovascular system. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.” The same spot on the sodium chloride MSDS says, “Repeated or prolonged exposure is not known to aggravate medical condition”.
So, there’s that, too.
Then, there was the implication of his statement that somehow switching to potassium chloride, KCl, would alleviate all of our problems with masonry damage from salt, which is NaCl. Hmmm… Gee, golly… Gosh, how to explain here, er, uh… Salt is just a shorthand way of referring to NaCl, the most common of the “salts”, Potassium chloride is still “a salt”. And as far as lessening the damage to masonry, you can go HERE and look at Table 7.1, whose title is “Salts that have been known to damage stone masonry and their sources”. Potassium chloride is the seventh one listed there. Potassium carbonate, potassium sulphate and potassium nitrate also made the list, as well as four different sodium compounds.
Now this reference here is the greatest thing since sliced bread. And the reason why is because it comes from Google Books. Google Books is putting everything it can, while respecting copyright laws, on line for us to read. Isn’t that great? Because now anyone with even a modicum of curiosity about something can look it up in authoritative texts like "Conservation of Building and Decorative Stone", by John Ashurst and Francis G. Dimes, instead of just eavesdropping on the finger pulling contest of “people making erroneous statements because they heard something from someone”, and then go “away and disseminate this garbage to everyone they meet”. That way, you won’t end up with a pool full of potassium chloride, a warranty voided by the manufacturer, and that God-I-am-so-Dumb look on your face.
Now, I still don’t know specifically why the manufacturers don’t want you to use potassium chloride in your Salt Pool. Maybe because it would be harder to sell the idea of a Potassium Pool, seeing as how potassium chloride is also one of the key ingredients in the Lethal Injection cocktail that’s about to get banned by the Supreme Court. It just doesn’t have that soothing ring to it. Know what I mean?
It MAY have something to do with its conductivity. PERHAPS it’s less conductive, which would make the cells work harder and wear out faster. I don’t know so I don’t want to state that as fact.
I do know this; potassium chloride is $11.38 for a 40 lbs. bag at Lowe’s. Salt pellets and salt crystals range from $4.73 to $4.99, which is about a one hundred and forty percent upcharge to possibly void your warranty.
And I know this, too: I’m sure the guy who wrote in recommending the use of potassium chloride will write to me and say, “got it, I made a mistake, I'll move on from it, and not do it again”.
Now, just as important as making this guy feel small and stupid, I want to emphasize that reference book that I got from Google Books. Go back and read the text that follows that table we were looking at. It says pretty much everything I’ve ever said in this blog about how and why salts damage different stones. It talks about the wetting and drying cycle. It talks about the porosity of the different stones. It talks about the hygroscopic nature of salts, how they can go through the wetting and drying cycle and the subsequent re-crystallization cycle that does all the damage just from changes in humidity of the air around the stone. So, you see, that’s why we get the pattern of excessive and rapid deterioration in the splash zones, fading to more subtle but still present damage as we move away from those splash areas. In fact, I posted a picture a while back of some limestone coping directly ABOVE a sheer descent, and you could see an apron of wear on that stone that displays this phenomenon exactly, where the humidity of the air directly above the sheer descent is higher due to the ever-so-slight aeration of the water by the sheer descent. Here’s that photo again. You can click on it to enlarge it.
So, keep them cards and letters coming, folks. I promise I’ll answer them all.
Monday, December 03, 2007
It’s good to have this blog. It helps me stay centered. You see, I subscribe to the usual industry magazines, and every time I read one, I set it down feeling like I haven’t lived up to all I could have done to be successful in the pool business.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not crying. I’m very happy with all that I have. It’s exactly what I always wanted; enough pools to keep me busy but not too busy and just enough money to let me and my wife enjoy our lives without pinching pennies. But we’ll never be rich - unless our investment portfolio in lottery tickets finally pays off.
But when I read those magazines and see all those young, fresh scrubbed faces just tearing it up out there and getting promoted to this CEO position, or showcased as that Builder with Something Extra, I tend to kick at what I have and ask myself why my phone doesn’t ring with those kinds of offers.
And then in a blinding flash it comes to me: It’s because you’re such an ass, Pool Guy. Hell, even your wife says so. I mean, let’s face it, with a blog like this and the attitude of belligerence and irreverence from which it was born, what did you expect?
And then I grin and toss that industry magazine in the recycle bin and go back to being Critical Bill, in all the ways that Bill was Critical. (hint: Things to do in Denver when you’re Dead. Great movie. Dark and Brooding, yes, but Great, especially Bill.)
Because the truth is, in twenty-five years of doing pools, there’s nothing I have enjoyed more than tweaking the nose of the Powers That Be by pointing out that the Emperor of Salt Has No Clothes.
At first, I was nervous about it. I knew what I was seeing – ruined coping and decks, rusted diving boards and handrails, disintegrating heaters, odd discolorations in plaster – and everything I read and researched said it was salt and electrolysis and stray current corrosion and galvanic corrosion that was doing it. But every time I asked someone in the industry - some of those self same folks who get their pictures and bio’s in the industry magazines - they’d tell me I was crazy, or that I was seeing things, and they’d remind me of all that acid I did in the sixties, and… anyway. But I went ahead and posted everything I was seeing to this blog.
And, boy, did I hit a chord. Turns out the Good Guys in this industry – and there are some. Not as many as I had hoped, but some pretty Heavy Hitters, whose hearts, it turns out, are in the right place, even if they are muzzled somewhat by their success – these Good Guys started writing to me and encouraging me to keep it up, to keep the bastard’s Feet to the Fire. So I did.
I suppose that, after a fashion, it did get me into the trade magazines. Quoted as “an anonymous blogger”, the dust I kicked up and the pictures I sent in made grist for a few articles and got everybody talking a little more openly and honestly about the destruction of pools and decks and equipment by salt systems. But only after a fashion. Because for everybody who reached inside their jeans and rummaged around and found that they still had a pair and admitted that they were seeing the same problems I was seeing, there were legions of naysayers who called me a liar and a troublemaker and worse. Those were pretty much the salt manufacturers and their reps.
And then there was that great, vast middle who said nothing. If you find yourself getting a little red in the face as you read that last line, then, yeah, I’m talking to you.
You sat there and you said nothing. You watched pools fall apart. You watched people get hyped and pressured into buying those hunk of junk salt systems. You listened to those people rant and rave about how soft their water felt when you knew that their pools were going to fall apart in a year or two.
And you said nothing.
Now, I’m not talking to those of you who were actually selling these systems to your customers after the truth started coming out. You guys are just crooks. You’re what gives our business its well earned Rep. The sooner you all find a new hustle and move on and out of the Pool Biz, the better. But, of course you won’t. I mean, you all obfuscated for all this time about salt systems, hid the truth and kept selling and selling and made piles of money doing it, and then pretty much walked away from all the liability. As easy as that was, you’ll probably all sign up to sell ionizers next. And get away with that, too, I suspect.
No, I’m talking to that vast middle right now. There’s an e-mail I got the other day that I want you to read:
Just got finished reading your blog postings concerning SWG’s and wow, you the man! We switched to a salt system two years ago and have noticed corrosion of our Texas flagstone over the last year. I keep seeing light pink dust/sandy particles and blamed my sons for NOT cleaning the pool good enough. The tile line is also flagstone, and it is gritty/dusty. Our pool is ten years old, and am getting estimates to resurface. Wanna know something interesting, more pathetic now that I have read your blogs, only one acknowledge a problem w/SWG and flagstone and suggested I seal it before replastering. Can’t guarantee the sealer though and I wonder why!
Others are clueless. I still have the normal chlorinator intact, so will make a switch FAST.
So, Pool Guy, before I invest more $$ into this, can you advise me please on this remodel? I did not read anything on your blog about ‘what to do if you have corrosion’. Know any reputable pool renovators and pool service companies in the Houston area? Needless to say, I am frustrated with this whole issue and want to start from scratch. So for a $1500 salt water system, I am estimating am now going to have shell out close to $10,000 to renovate this 25,000 gallon pool! Maybe less if can get the flagstone back to normal. You are right, one born everyday; two years ago was my day, and don’t plan to have another one any time in the near future!
Thanks for your input and being so forthcoming. It was refreshing to read your articles.”
And this is exactly what I’ve been talking about for the last fourteen months. Here’s a pool owner who bought into THE INDUSTRY HYPE just two short years ago and went with salt. Now, she’s seeing her stone deteriorate and when she asks The Remodel Contractors Who Are Supposed To Know About These Things, Especially Since We As An Industry Have Been Talking About It In Earnest For The Last Year, all but one of them say they haven’t heard anything about it.
But it’s really not that they haven’t heard about it. The truth is that everybody’s still afraid to say, “Yeah, whoever sold you that salt system ought to be on the hook for all this salt damaged stone. And hey, didn’t the Owner’s Manual or the Installation Instructions have any warnings about salt maybe not being compatible with certain types of stone? Well, maybe you should talk to your salt system manufacturer about their liability in all of this. Of course, you’ll want to take a shower after you get off the phone…”
Now, if you turn about six pages into your most recent issue of Pool & Spa News, you’ll see that Deck O Seal, the name we’ve all known and trusted since we first started driving around with a pole sticking out of the back of our truck now has a product called Deck O Shield, and their ad asks, “Is your deck too salty for your taste?” Further down, they say, “protects against salt and stains by limiting salt penetration.”
Then, on page 140, there’s a big ad from SR Smith introducing their salt friendly rails and slides and diving boards, with a really cool “Salt Pool Approved” logo. Go to www.saltfriendly.com for more information.
So, if a guy who’s Remodeling Pools For A Living – you know, Feeding His Family With The Proceeds Of His Work In The Pool Industry – if he took, say, thirty minutes a month to thumb through a magazine, then he would know what we’re talking about… Wouldn’t You Say?
Otherwise, you’d just have to assume he knows about it and is such a gutless turd that he doesn’t want to “throw the other guy under the bus”, which as I’ve said before is the same as holding the door open for the bank robbers so that they’ll like you later.
And this customer in Houston is stuck with thousands of dollars of stone damage because we, as an industry, didn’t know enough about what we were selling to warn her that this would happen, and since we’ve all admitted that, hell, yes, this is happening, nobody-I-mean-nobody is stepping up and doing the John Wayne thing and saying, “Hu-yeah, that’s our fault. We’ll make good on that for ya, little lady.”
Multiply her damages times every pool with a salt system and any of the myriad items that it’s incompatible with and tell me how many million dollars this Industry Wide Black Eye is going to cost our customers.
Just ask yourself, how many thousand copper heaters are failing in silence?
So, how did we make the leap from rumblings out in the field about salt issues to a few articles about how bad salt was with certain types of stone to a shift in the industry where we openly sell products to prevent damage from salt and products guaranteed to be salt resistant? What happened to the Go Back And Clean Up The Mess We Made And Are Still Making On All Those Pools That Are Falling Apart Around Their Salt System?
I mean, how do you advertise cupro nickel heat exchangers as being the answer to the problem of salt eating up copper heat exchangers and not at least send a one paragraph letter to folks with copper heaters and salt systems and warn them that their heaters are at risk?
How do you talk about the benefits of cupro nickel, which implies the unsuitability of copper, and not at least put a note in your installation instructions not to install a salt system on copper plumbed pools?
Seriously, I want to know. How does a guy who’s rep’ing for one of the larger full line companies stand at a showbooth and talk about salt resistant materials in his heater and then deny that those same materials are necessary when he turns around and tries to talk someone into backfitting all of his service pools with salt?
Or, how, when more and more of The Entire World is concerned with the viability of our drinking water do you use the words “all natural and environmentally friendly” when you’re talking about adding a pollutant to water?
The EPA’s Drinking Water Candidate Contaminant List.
Or, has anybody read the recent articles that now have a second federal agency, the FDA, gunning for salt?
Business Week's Take On It
The NY Times Take On It
Or, how about the fact that salt systems still explode. Like this:
This is from a recent explosion in France. It’s documented on a POOL FORUM HERE
Unless you speak French, you’ll need to cut and paste the text HERE (Google Translate) to get an approximate translation. What I find just hilarious in this whole thread about the exploding chlorinator is that everybody in the thread seems quite content because the E Bay seller stood good on the warranty for a new salt cell. Think about it. These folks probably had a hydrogen gas explosion in their back yard, scattering shards of plastic everywhere, like shrapnel from a grenade, and everybody’s happy because they have a new salt cell for free that, hopefully, won’t blow up like the last one.
But the funniest part of these last fourteen months to me, and what should be the most instructive to you, is that nobody’s ever done anything to try to make me Cease and Desist. And while I blog anonymously as The Pool Guy, it’s pretty much an open secret who I am to those who took the time to find out. And yet, nothing earth shattering has happened to me. And believe it or not, none of my customers have held it against me for telling them the truth. Which is exactly why no one’s done anything to stop me; because I’m not lying
So, the next time you’re faced with some new bullshit gadget that Our Industry wants you to ram down the throats of your customers, Just Say No.
Then go blog about it.
Labels: Exploding Salt Cells