Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why I Do What I Do...



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:

Stray Currents Are Dissolving Your Swimming Pool


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:

http://www.pooltoolco.com/catalog4.html

http://www.pooltoolco.com/catalog3.html

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

Plaster Discoloration
Metal Erosion
Heater Damage
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.


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Comments:
Sorry, just saw your comment on my blog. Thanks for the info...I know nothing about pools. I just hope Nam Yen doesn't get any serious ailments from drinking the pool water. He's a big guy who looks healthy though...I hope he doesn't get his daily dose from the pool though. Thanks for snooping around. You're always welcome.
 
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