Does swimming pool ionization systems work?

The question: Do pool ionization work? Is one that comes up quite regularly. The answer is that it depends upon what you expect it to do. If you expect a chemical free swimming pool, then the answer is no, it does not work. If you want to be able to reduce the amount of chemicals in your pool, then the answer may be yes.

As people are getting increasingly conscious about the chemicals they are being exposed to daily, it is only natural that they would want to reduce that exposure as much as possible. Chlorine is being related to respiratory problems, to allergies among other things. Still, chlorine is the pool sanitizer that is being recommended by the FDA. It is not however a bad idea to take a look at alternatives or at least on ways to reduce the amount of chlorine and other chemicals in your pool.

How the swimming pool ionization systems work

Pool ionizers release metal ions into your pool water. Most often copper will be used, sometimes in combination with silver, sometimes with zinc. The ionizer is usually a chamber where metal rods are placed and where the water can run through the chamber while a small electrical currents are run through the metal. This is called electrolysis and will cause the metal to release positively charged ions. As the water is flowing through the chamber the ions are carried by the water current and brought into your swimming pool.

Different metals have different purposes. For instance silver has the property of killing bacteria, while copper has the property of killing bacteria, virus and algae. In fact most of the store bought algaecides are copper based.

The ions of copper and/or silver floats around in your pool and kills the bacteria, virus and algae. However it does not kill equally fast as for instance chlorine or bromine does, leaving the swimmers exposed to risk of contamination.

Also these ions do not oxidize (burn off the organic matter) so the dead organic matter will float in your pool water. This may not only be making your look cloudy it will also make the ionization process to work less effectively. This is why these systems recommend pool owners to shock their pool with chlorine once a weekly.

You should also test for Total Dissolved Solids or TDS, which is dirt, sun lotion, pollen, urine, etc, etc that also is floating in the pool water. If this is too high it may also affect the effectiveness of the ionizer. Check with the manufacturer on what is should be. Most will recommend under 1000 ppm. TDS is not causing your water to look cloudy, however, that would rather be TSS or Undissolved Suspended Solids.

One of the many tools in a well assorted pool owners tool box is a TDS tester:

When you install your ionizer the first time you should also allow for from 2-14 days, depending on the manufacturer, for the ion level to build up in your pool and reach its most effective state.

Swimming pool ionizer problems

Too much copper in your water may stain your pool green and even give your hair a greenish color, especially if you are blond. Try to keep copper levels around 0.2-0.4 or at least below 1.3 ppm (normal tap water levels).

Too much silver in your pool may give your pool black spots.

Because of these issues, we would recommend you to buy from a well known brand with a good track record that is known to not cause an over concentration of copper or silver ions.

Because of these issues, we would recommend you to buy from a well known brand with a good track record that is known to not cause an over concentration of copper or silver ions.

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By Joachim Wolff on July 3, 2014

I installed the Ionizer myself, it only took about 30 minutes, after one year the electrodes are still OK and my water is crystal clear, Chlorine use very minimal, the water feels "Fresher" I have told my friends about it and they are in the process if getting the system, I did not want to boast about the unit until I have used myself for some time. I can only recommend it to any pool user. Besides the chemical savings the main reason for me was and is the minimal Chlorine in our pool water, anyone who is health conscious should install this unit.

Things to keep in mind when considering swimming pool ionization systems

As mentioned, the ionizers should always be used in conjunction with an oxidizer be it chlorine, bromine or some other method of oxidizing.

You should also test for bacteria etc in your pool whenever you try to lower sanitized in your pool water so that you can make sure that the water is held within acceptable safety levels. You can do so by taking a water sample to your local pool store or you can get a test package and test yourself.

Also remember that a sparkling clear water doesn't necessarily mean that the pool is free of bacteria, virus or other health risks, so please test the water even if it looks clear.

Causes and solutions for cloudy pool water

So your pool water has turned cloudy. Read our article on Causes and solution for cloudy pool water.

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