Hot tubs are quite a large investment, so caring for them should be just as important as caring for all your prized possessions. In today’s hectic world, we need more places where we can relax in the comfort of our very home, and a hot tub can help you turn a simple patio into the place you’ll crave to be in at the end of each day.
Today, we’re going to talk about saltwater hot tubs, what are the systems used to turn a regular hot tub into a saltwater one, and check out some of the myths related to the ease of care for these units, so make sure you stay tuned!
Top 3 Picks
Best Overall: Intex Krystal Clear Saltwater System
“So far it has been working great and I’m really happy I don’t have to deal with chlorine tablets/smell.” (Customer review)
Best Monitoring System: Bluelab MONGUA Guardian Monitor
Since monitoring the pH and water temperature is important when you own a hot tub, this little gem right here delivers accurate readings, ease of calibration, and a wall-mounted unit that will never get in the way.
With its capacity of handling up to 20,000 gallons of water, the Solaxx CLG10A works with everything from hot tubs to pools.
Why a Saltwater Hot Tub?
Invented in 1980, saltwater systems were designed to convert dissolved salt into sodium bromide or chlorine throughout a process called electrolysis. The main role of a saltwater system is to generate chemical sanitizers that are used in other non-saltwater systems. Basically, the main difference between a salt water hot tub and a regular one is the addition of a device which is called a salt cell chlorinator. It eliminates the need to add chlorine into the tub.
There is a lot of debate on whether or not these systems are suitable for hot tubs, as some experts claim they are better for swimming pools rather than hot tubs. Even so, saltwater hot tub systems are becoming more and more popular, and today we’re going to find out why.
Tips for Choosing
Essentially, what you need to buy is a saltwater chlorinator if you already own a hot tub and, if you don’t, purchase a hot tub kit that also has a chlorinator included. Before choosing one of these chlorinators, here are some things you should know.
There are two types of chlorinator kits: drop-in and in-line. A drop-in chlorinator is easy to install because you don’t have to make permanent modification to your system. It comes with a cord that’s attached to the chlorinator cell which hangs from the edge of your hot tub.
An in-line chlorinator, on the other hand, needs to be placed into the system and becomes part of it. This means that you need to alter the plumbing of your hot tub, which means you will have to call in a professional to do it, which translates into extra costs. The main advantage of an in-line saltwater chlorinator is the fact that the cell doesn’t hang into the tub, making the entire setup more aesthetic.
Converting a Hot Tub into a Saltwater System
If you already own or have purchased a hot tub without a saltwater kit and you want to add one, here is what you need to have: the hot tub itself, saltwater test strips, a pH increaser or decreaser, a drop-in chlorinator (on an in-line model if you are willing to call a plumber to install it), an alkalinity increaser or decreaser, a spa line flush, a soft cloth, a garden hose, a screwdriver, a hose filter, filter cleaner. The steps for making the conversion are:
- Drain and clean the hot tub. One of the most important steps is making sure that there are no contaminants and residue in the hot tub before using the salt cell. Some experts suggest using the line flush before you drain the tub in order to clear it.
- Refill the hot tub. Make sure you’ve cleaned it before adding a fresh batch of water. Attach the hose filter to the garden hose to make sure you only add filtered water to the hot tub.
- Test the water. You’re going to need a bunch of the aforementioned products for this step. You have to check the water’s salinity and alkalinity levels. The results will tell you how much salt you have to add. You can use regular hot tub strips to check the pH and alkalinity of the water.
- Install the control panel. Saltwater hot tub kits usually come with a control panel and the hardware needed to install it. This control panel is usually placed near the base of the hot tub, on the outer portion. The chlorinator cell will be linked with the power supply, but don’t plug the power cord in just yet.
- Add the chlorinator to the hot tub. Also known as a salt cell, the chlorinator needs to stay inside the hot tub, in the deepest part (this helps even distribution of the sanitizer).
- Start the device. You can now plug in the power cord and access the control panel to start the chlorinator. It’s really important that you follow the instructions listed on the manual on how to operate the chlorinator, as each model is different. The user manual should offer details on what needs to be done.
How to Clean a Saltwater Hot Tub
A lot of manufacturers claim that a saltwater hot tub is better because it sanitizes the water better, but how much of that is actually true? By pushing this feature forward, brands advertise these products as being easier to clean, so let’s see how much of that is valid.
First of all, it’s important to note that saltwater systems take longer to start up because the salt needs to be first converted into bromine or chlorine. The electrolysis process behind this operation can take up to 72 hours to generate an amount of sanitizer that will be able to keep up with the hot tub’s usage.
You also have to consider the fact that splashes will get out of the tub on the surrounding patio deck. Needless to say, the composition of the water could lead to deck damage if you don’t clean that mess up fast. If you have any plants surrounding the tub, we suggest getting them out of the way as well, just for safety.
Some manufacturers also state that when you maintain saltwater, it has a lifespan of one year and cartridges require replacement every four months. The truth is that a saltwater hot tub needs multiple products in order to maintain it, much like a regular water care system. If you want to make the best out of these products, you are going to have to invest in spa cleaners, metal and stain removers, balancing chemicals, test strips, and more.
Pros & Cons of Saltwater Hot Tubs
In case you’re not sure whether or not saltwater hot tubs and system are the right way to go, let’s look at some honest advantages and drawbacks so that you can reach your own conclusion:
- Pro: You don’t have to worry about adding chlorine to the water anymore. With such a chlorine-free system, your skin will be saved from harsh chemicals.
- Con: The upfront costs are higher. Traditional hot tubs are less expensive compared to systems that come with a salt cell chlorinator, and you could end up spending from a few hundreds to thousands of dollars more.
- Pro: You get to enjoy soft water. When there is salt in the water, it turns it soft, which could lead to a more relaxed hot tub session overall.
- Con: There is a higher corrosion risk. When exposed to salt, metallic parts are more likely to corrode. The parts that are most exposed to the risk are underwater lights and heaters.
- Pro: It keeps your skin safe. With these systems, your water won’t have as many chemical additives, which lowers the chance of skin and eye irritation.
Best Saltwater Hot Tubs
Our first suggestion for today is a generator that can help convert a regular hot tub into a saltwater system because it generates chlorine to sanitize the water. This is a drop-in system which means that you can plug it in and have it do its thing without having to mess around with the plumbing of the hot tub. There are plenty of benefits to choosing this system, but one thing that stands out is the fact that you don’t have to add chlorine every day. With one setup, the generator can take control over the operation. Just make sure you keep an eye on the pH, as saltwater chlorinators tend to raise it.
Keeping an eye on your water is important even if you buy a saltwater system. Because of that, we suggest investing in a unit that monitors this stuff for you. The Bluelab MONGUA is a monitoring system that monitors the pH, conductivity measures, and water temperature, displaying all this information on an easy-to-read control panel that’s mounted on the wall. It offers continuous readings for higher accuracy. It has a bright and large LED with numbers that are easy to read even from far away. pH calibration is easy to perform once you’ve made the system’s initial calibration.
The Saltron is another drop-in saltwater system that promises to deliver a quality experience thanks to the ease of use and intuitive user design. It is designed to help convert any hot tub into a saltwater system. Using the electrolysis process we talked about in the beginning of this article, salt is converted into chlorine which is then recycled back to salt. The system uses a small salt concentration and is suitable for hot tubs with a maximum of 2,000 gallons water capacity. The system also includes a built-in timer and low energy consumption.
Intex is already famous for its hot tubs, so it makes sense that they manufacture and sell a saltwater system as well. There are two units to choose from, depending how much water you plan on filtering. The system is designed with four parts that are super easy to put together: the water inline, the hose that takes water to the tub, a water flow sensor, and the electrolytic cell. The front panel of the units features LEDs that provide information on low or high saltwater levels, pump low flow warnings, and more. You also have an integrated timer and a self-clean feature.
The last product for today comes from Solaxx, a unit that can handle hot tubs, but also pools of up to 20,000 gallons of water. The salt cell is pretty robust, and it’s made from commercial-grade titanium cell plates. Thanks to the unit’s reversed polarity feature, the cell is kept clean and scale-free. It has a digital power supply that ensures a steady stream of power to prolong the lifespan of the unit. There is also a programmable digital timer feature if you want exact control over the chlorination time.
Can any hot tub use salt water?
Yes, any hot tub can be paired with a suitable in-line or drop-in salt water chlorinator. If you want to install an in-line system, you should know that it connects directly to the hot tub’s existing plumbing, while drop-in systems are easier to install because all you have to do is plug them in and have the chlorinator cell connected to the control panel and dropped inside the water.
Is a salt water hot tub better?
It really depends on a series of different factors, as well as the view of the person who answers this question. Saltwater hot tubs are efficient, but they tend to cost more and have higher maintenance fees compared to chlorine tubs.
What are the benefits of a salt water hot tub?
Saltwater hot tubs have fewer chemicals, no odors, offer improved wellness, cause less skin irritation, and help conserve water.
Are salt water hot tubs easier to maintain?
No. In fact, a salt water hot tub is more complicated to maintain compared to other systems because there are lots of consumables to be taken into consideration if you want to prolong the lifespan of the system.
There are plenty of benefits to choosing a saltwater hot tub or a system that turns your regular hot tub into a saltwater one. However, we always aim at being transparent with our readers, so we have to stress out the myths that make saltwater tubs feel like a Godsend.
First of all, remember that no matter what a seller is trying to convince you of, saltwater hot tubs do require maintenance.
Second, you are going to have to add chemicals to the mix, even if it’s not chlorine we’re talking about. The system requires a pH increase or decrease.
Third, know that due to the salt content, hot tubs are more likely to suffer corrosion.