Wednesday, December 19, 2007


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.

Moving On…

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 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.

Submitted by Park Cities Pools, a Dallas Pool Service & Pool Repair Company

So, keep them cards and letters coming, folks. I promise I’ll answer them all.

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