How To Choose A Pool Ionizer | Your Complete Guide

Can you sanitize your pool using less chlorine?  Do you have sensitive skin, but still love to swim?  Then a pool ionizer might be what you need.  This is where science meets, well, science, to give you a perfectly clear pool without using as many chemicals.  Are the savings really there?  Let's find out.

What Is A Pool Ionizer?

First we need to learn what an ion is, and it's fairly simple.  If we take an electrically charged atom or a group of atoms, then make it lose or gain one or more electrons, we have what's known as an ion.  Everything has atoms, even our swimming pool water, which is why this can work for you.  It works on the principle of using small amount of electricity and metal ions to kill bacteria and algae in your pool.  This process turns atoms into cations, which are positively charged ions. 

How To Choose A Pool Ionizer

How Does A Pool Ionizer Work?

A swimming pool ionizer works by sanitizing your pool water using copper and silver ions in place of chemicals to kill algae, bacteria, and viruses.  Your pool water is negatively charged and contains very small particles that cannot be filtered because of their tiny size.  The pool water then gets a low voltage current which sends positively charged copper and silver ions through the swimming pool water.  The negative particles (water, bacteria, etc.) then bind with the positive charge and together they make a large particle.

Will A Pool Ionizer Cause Metal Staining? 

High maintained levels of chlorine can decrease the effects of both silver and copper ions.  Pool ionizers may lead to staining on a pool's surface.  This happens when copper ions attach to the pool's surface and discolors it.  The discoloration is more noticeable on white or light-colored surfaces.  And you'll need to clean it more frequently if you have hard fill water over 350 ppm. 

Over-use of any type of copper, whether it's a copper algaecide or copper ions, can also turn blonde hair green.  The video below shows what can happen if a mineral system is installed and not properly used.   

Do I Still Need Chlorine?

The quick answer is yes and no.  Yes you can use it, but if your goal is to sanitize, oxidize and kill the organic matter in the pool, you're going to need to use chlorine to accomplish that.  You must also weekly shock your pool which, in effect, negates any benefits from having it.  The chlorine is actually do the job of killing the organic matter and "yuckies" in the pool.

Advantages Of Pool Ionizers 

Many people swear by them because they are a bit safer compared to normal pool chemicals such as chlorine. 

  • They are chemically stable and the copper and silver electrode grids (bars) that make the ions don't create any hazardous chemicals and is about as close to a natural swimming pool as you can get.
  • Some pool owners may say that less chlorine needs to be added.
  • If you need to add any extra pool chlorine, it can take around 1 ppm. 
  • Some of these swimming pool owners say you don't need to add pool chlorine (Calcium Hypochlorite) unless the pool water temperature is above 90 degrees F and/or if the water becomes very cloudy.
  • Pool owners seem to like the time and money they seemingly save by not having to purchase so many chemicals.  The silver and copper ions are pH neutral which means it won't change your swimming pool chemistry like adding Calcium Hypochlorite which has a pH level of about 12.

Disadvantages Of Pool Ionizers 

How efficient is it? 

  • If you have a swimming pool problem like algae, swimming pool ionizers may not be able to produce enough copper and silver ions to get rid of the algae or green pool water. 
  • If your pool is covered for a long period of time, i.e. pool winterization and you have an issue with pool algae, or worse yet, black algae the unit may not have enough juice to tackle the issue.
  • Some people will use a small dose of pool chlorine and chlorine tabs which might cause skin irritation.  
  • Cannot kill algae spores faster than they reproduce, hence, maintaining a residual chlorine level.
  • You also open yourself up to the risk of metal stains due to copper being added to the pool.
  • You need to have a proper spa sanitizer and sanitation for your pool or hot tub.  Copper ionization can do the trick.  However, copper and silver cannot oxidize AND sanitize the water.  Only chlorine can do that.
Easy pool maintenance

How Long Does A Pool Ionizer Last?

Everything breaks down and wears out over time.  Depending on your pool size and the ionizer manufacturer, the set-up can cost between $400 - $2000.  If you have a larger pool, or a pool that you don't close, you will need to replace the mineral cell once per year with a cost of $90 - $150. 

For smaller pools, or pools that you would normally close, you can get 2 and possibly 3 seasons out of your ionizer cell.  

How To Balance My Pool Water With A Pool Ionizer 

If you have a pool, you should balance your pool water.  Test it twice per week and add the right amount of chemicals to keep the chemical numbers in the proper ranges.  That being said, you will want to maintain your:

  • pH between 7.2 - 7.8.
  • Alkalinity between 80 ppm - 120 ppm.
  • Calcium hardness between 150 ppm - 250 ppm.
  • CYA between 30 ppm - 50 ppm.  Salt pools can have a slightly higher CYA of 70 ppm.
  • Chlorine between 0.5 ppm - 1 ppm.

For those of us who live in places with hard water, you will want to check yours every couple of months, clean it, and remove any possible scaling that may occur.  To test your chemicals, I use and recommend the Taylor K-2006 kit.   

Is A Pool Ionizer Right for Me? 

There's only 2 issues to look at.  First is their lack of ability to kill algae and bacteria faster than it reproduces.  Remember, those are physical living organisms and like all organisms, they reproduce and grow.

2nd is the possibility of pool staining if the swimming pool ionizer is not properly used.  To get rid of metal stains, you're going to need to do an ascorbic acid treatment which is a royally expensive pain in the wallet. 

You have the information you need to make a good judgment on the way you want to keep your pool clean and healthy.  Make the decision that's best for you, your family, and your pool.  If a pool ionizer is the way to go for you, then take the plunge and get one.