UV Pool Sanitizers Offer Healthy Alternative to Chlorine

Posted by Blue Haven Pools & Spas on Apr 4, 2016 3:10:00 PM

How safe, powerful germicidal ultraviolet systems ensure swim-ready water

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Yes, there are effective, healthier substitutes for harsh chlorine in residential swimming pools!

One of the top options around capitalizes on safe, powerful, ultraviolet light—the same wavelength used to pasteurize food, purify drinking water, and sterilize medical equipment.

Using ultraviolet (UV) rays, today’s state-of-the-art pool sanitizers disinfect water by destroying a wide array of unwanted pathogens. In fact, UV has the ability to wipe out 99.9% of disease-causing microorganisms that form in swimming pools.

Pools at universities, luxury resorts, and at the Olympics Games depend on this advanced technology to maintain water. Your new or existing backyard pool can too!

Before we look at how UV sanitizers deliver pristine pool water for thousands of residential pool owners around the world, it’s helpful to understand why UV is a much better choice than chlorine.

Toward that end, let’s start with a brief overview of traditional chlorine and why it produces a rash of unwelcomeside effects. 

How pool chlorine works

Chlorine, which the U.S. Enivornmental Protection Agency classifies as a pesticide, is the most widely used product for disinfecting water. For decades, swimming pool owners everywhere have relied on its tablet, powder, and liquid forms to maintain water.

When added to pools, the chemical breaks down into several different compounds, including hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ion. They annihilate pathogens by attacking the lipids within the microorganism’s cell walls and the enzymes inside the cell. This process deactivates the microbe, making it harmless.

Chlorine also controls most organic matter. Organic matter is material that’s brought in by swimmers (and pets)—sweat, urine, saliva, body oils, and suntan lotion. It also includes algae and contaminants that come in from leaves, rain water, and other debris that winds up in pools.

Because chlorine is dispersed throughout all of the pool water, it combats organic matter immediately—right away as swimmers introduce these substances when they are in the pool.

Now, the process by which chlorine manages organic matter (is to mix in and join up with it. Once combined with organic matter, it forms byproducts known as chloramines or combined chlorine. That’s when the complications begin.

Chlorine, chloramines, and the hassles and hazards they create

Chloramines in pools are the chief culprit of a host of evils. For starters, they make pools downright uncomfortable for anyone in them.

Effects can include dry skin, burning eyes, and bleached-out hair. These chlorine byproducts can also make a dip in the pool virtually unbearable for those with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

Then, there are those noxious odors. You’ve probably inhaled those awful smells. Most anyone who has swam in a pool and anyone close to a pool has experienced them before. Along with the stink, the fumes can trigger or aggravate respiratory problems such as sneezing, wheezing, and sinus congestion.

Chloramine vapors can also irritate and even damage your lungs, making them more vulnerable to infections and allergens. Research shows that these chemical vapors are particularly risky for children and for anyone with allergies or health conditions like asthma.

If you have pets, chlorine exposure may impact them as well. Dogs and cats that regularly drink from pools are actually ingesting the agent into their systems.

Even your deck and adjacent landscape can suffer from a heavily chlorinated, chloramine-filled pool. The threat comes from chemical-laden water that can splash out from heavy winds, boisterous water play, or water features. When it does, it’s certainly no friend to nearby plant life, and over time, it can bleach and speed up the aging process of a wood or porous-stone deck.

How UV water sanitizers attack pathogens in your pool

With a quick, simple process, UV technology destroys spores, algae, bacteria, viruses and parasites lurking in your liquid playground. From start to finish, the UV treatment takes place entirely in the enclosed sanitizing chamber inside the pool equipment—away from the pool itself. At no point is anyone in the pool exposed to the UV light.

Here’s how it works: As the water in your pool routinely circulates through the equipment for filtration and heating, it also enters into an enclosed chamber in the UV system. There, special bulbs emit intense, controlled, germicidal rays. These rays treat the water as it passes by in a transparent quartz or polymer tube.

Once the UV light hits the water, microbes can’t escape. Within a few seconds of passing through the tube, the light penetrates their cell membranes, disabling their DNA. Because they can no longer reproduce and multiply, these inactivated microbes are now as good as dead!

Unlike chlorine, UV can even defeat Cryptosporidium—better known as “Crypto”. This dreaded agent can remain in pools for about a week and can survive even in heavily chlorinated water.

Other pathogens that UV takes on—that chlorine cannot—include E. coli, Giardia, and Cylcospora. These contagions can cause fatigue, nausea, weight loss, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and in extreme cases, death.

Do note that even with the best UV systems, a small dose of residual chlorine—comparable to levels found in municipal tap water—is still required to keep pools sanitary throughout the day. However, using a high-quality UV sterilizer will allow you to use 75% less chlorine!

Choose a UV system for your new pool (or add one to your current pool)

Over the years, pool owners and swimmers have also been forced to contend with the load of problems that come with this potent chemical and its nasty byproducts.

However, with the rising popularity of UV water sanitizers, as well as alternatives such as ozone, the trend is changing. Relying on chlorine as the backbone for pool-water hygiene is no longer your best or only option.

What makes UV pool sanitizers so desirable is that they never use potentially harmful chemicals to kill contaminants. Instead, they rely on a physical process that adds nothing to the water—unlike chlorine, UV lights won’t leave any unwanted compounds in your pool.

Demand for UV systems is also growing due to its additional benefits. The units are energy-efficient, simple to operate, and require minimal routine care. Compared to traditionally chlorinated pools, they also make it quicker to maintain water, as it’s easier to balance pH and alkalinity levels.

Yet another advantage UV delivers is chloramine reduction. Remember that pools will already have dramatically fewer chloramines, since UV slashes chlorine needs. For the few chlorimines produced by the tiny chlorine level, UV helps out here too. When the UV rays hit the water, a process called photo-oxidation obliterates chloramines with radiant energy. Without strong, pesky chemical byproducts around, both the water and the air around the pool will be healthier.

Discuss UV options with potential pool contractors

If you are considering a new pool, take advantage of industry offerings for water purification. As you interview contractors for a new pool, be sure to ask what kind of systems they offer and if UV sanitizers are among them.

UV units work in virtually any pool—inground, above-ground, vinyl, fiberglass, and concrete (gunite/shotcrete). The technology is also compatible with any popular brand of equipment—it does not matter which manufacturer’s line of pumps, filters, heaters, or other pool equipment.

You can make an even smarter choice by requesting your pool builder also include an ozone generator with your equipment line up. By combining a UV light with ozone you can achieve an even higher degree of water purity with an even lower amount of residual chlorine.

Many UV brands are on the market, and builders with whom you consult should be pleased to learn that you are already familiar with this superb technology. To increase the odds that they are recommending a reliable UV model, do your research and ask questions about the proposed choice. Be sure to inquire about the manufacturer and how long both the UV bulb and the warranty lasts.

UV sanitizers are friendly for pools, swimmers, and the environment. Without the typical chlorine load and the threats it poses, you can have peace of mind—and everyone in and around your pool can relax without worries and simply enjoy the water.

Topics: Design / Features, Health/Lifestyle Benefits, Equipment/Technology, Buyer Tips, Purification