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Are salt water hot tubs worth it in Manitoba?

People often ask about salt hot tubs,

It’s a hotly debated topic in the hot tub world, and my own personal opinion is that salt hot tubs are more trouble than they’re worth.

How do salt generators for hot tubs work?

First, many people say they’re interested in salt “because I don’t like chlorine.”

It’s not using salt to sanitize. It’s actually more accurate to call it a “chlorine generation” system because it takes salt and makes its own chlorine.

So it is still a chlorine tub – it’s just another way of adding it to the water.

If you remember your school, salt is Sodium Chloride, or NaCl.

And a salt system will convert that into chlorine to sanitize your hot tub.

You still need to do almost everything you’d need to do on a regular hot tub in terms of maintenance plus some extra for maintaining the salt system.

What is the maintenance and setup like on saltwater hot tubs?

Also, the setup can be complicated.

I’m working towards becoming the foremost expert on hot tubs in all of Manitoba, so while doing some research I read through the setup and maintenance section of the manuals of saltwater tubs…

I’m not going to name brands here, because they are pretty good hot tubs, but you can find all of this stuff yourself in their manuals.

For one well known Canadian brand,  there’s like 30+ pages of stuff to setup and maintain the system. It’s way more complicated than the folks selling them let on. It’s far beyond “set it and forget it.”

There’s also a special sensor it uses, and I’m quoting this directly from the manual:  The sensor  must never be permitted to freeze and must always remain in contact with water. If the Sensor freezes or is not left in contact with water at all times the sensor will fail and will require replacement”

This means if your tub ever leaks out or freezes then you are on the hook for  a $200+ sensor not covered by warranty!

Another brand says that as part of the startup of the salt system, you need to add your own chlorine anyway.

This is copied and pasted directly from the manual, so there is no disputing it: “SUPERCHLORINATE THE SPA WATER by adding 1½ teaspoons of chlorine (sodium dichlor) per 250 gallons (950 liters) of spa water”

So you’re just adding your own chlorine anyway.

Are there any issues with salt systems and Manitoba water?

Plus, none of these salt systems work if you have phosphates in the water, so if you’re on well water, then you’re out of luck unless you constantly add phosphate removers to your salt tub.

In fact we’ve had several customers with salt tubs come to us and say that the salt system failed, and they aren’t bothering to replace it – they are planning to just switch to a more traditional sanitization system anyway.

What can you do if you have skin sensitivities to chlorine?

The brands we carry don’t make salt hot tubs because there can be a lot of issues with them.

And the setup and maintenance can be a bit tricky. There are a couple brands that still make salt hot tubs, and if you find that’s the way to go, no worries – do what makes the most sense for your family.

If you’re comparing to hotel pools and hot tubs, they over-chlorinate the heck out of those things in order to keep up with the use they get, so it doesn’t really compare to a properly maintained home spa.

Here’s what we’ve done – and again I can’t say for sure if this will solve your issue so I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep since I am not a dermatologist and this is not medical advice.

The Hydropool Self-Cleaning tubs we carry have a UV/Ozone unit in them that uses UV light to kill bacteria like on a drinking water system and ozone to break down bacteria. So it adds an extra layer of sanitization to reduce chem use.

There is also an alternative sanitizer called bromine that’s easier on the skin than chlorine and when you pair that with the UV/Ozone system, it cuts down on chem use significantly.

On top of that, we have an enzyme product called Spa Marvel that attacks the stuff bacteria feeds on, so it’s a natural solution that makes it harder for bacteria to survive in the water, reducing your chem use even further.

There is no substitute for chlorine or bromine in the water to kill bacteria on contact, but you can reduce the amount you use when you put all those things together.

So far, there is no “set it and forget it” solution to hot tub water care, but I have it down to about 15 minutes a week. If you can handle that, then you’re good to go with a little education (which we provide free of charge).