Are you searching for alternatives to a chlorine or bromine hot tub sanitiser? Does this have you thinking “what is a salt water system in a hot tub” and “is a salt water hot tub better?”
In this article, you’ll learn the common questions people ask about salt water systems, maintenance, pros, cons and more.
This will help you work out if a saltwater system could be right for you, or if you may be best to consider another sanitiser option.
Disclaimer - In this article, we’ve used brand names not affiliated with Jacuzzi Group. You can see the list of the brand owners at the bottom of this article. All information, including pricing and product details, was accurate at the time of writing (March 29, 2023) and may change without notice.
What is a salt water hot tub?
A salt water hot tub has a salt-chlorine generator that converts salt into chlorine.
This means you do not need to manually add sanitiser to the water to keep it clean.
How does a salt water hot tub work?
Salt water hot tubs are charged with salt, and the hot tub changes this to chlorine.
The conversion from salt to chlorine occurs through electrolysis. This is the chemical reaction process that causes the end result – chlorine.
What is the difference between chlorine (from a salt water system) and bottled chlorine?
Chlorine produced by a salt water system is sodium hypochlorite.
The difference with chlorine that you buy in a bottle (which is also sodium hypochlorite) is that it also contains additional chemicals such as cyanuric acid (CYA), known as stabiliser acid.
When you remove this acid, you get chlorine without the irritations you can experience from bottled options, hence the salt-water system alternative.
Why does bottled chlorine have added chemicals?
The role of a stabiliser acid in bottled chlorine is to reduce the amount of chlorine that’s destroyed by the sun’s UV rays.
Saltwater hot tub systems in the UK
Several hot tub brands offer the option of a salt water system. However, the main and most regarded system in the UK is the FreshWater™ Salt Water System, used by Hot Spring® and Caldera Spas®.
Is a salt water hot tub easy to maintain?
A salt water system does not eliminate hot tub maintenance, but it can make aspects of maintenance a bit easier.As the salt-chlorine generator creates the required chlorine for sanitisation, you won’t need to sanitise your water.
However, you will still need to maintain the water in other ways, using chemicals such as pH plus and minus, as well as test strips, monitor water levels, clean filters and top up the salt when required.
The salt-chlorine generator will also need replacing. For some products such as the FreshWater™ Salt System, this can be as often as four months.
Will I save money on chemicals with a salt water hot tub?
You will need to buy and use some chemicals to adjust levels, if a saltwater system associated with a brand or model requires it. This may be necessary, especially after heavy use of the hot tub.
Salt-chlorine generators also require the changing of disposable cartridges several times a year. This is an additional cost to keep in mind too. If you’re interested in a salt-water system, view online or ask a salesperson what annual costs you can expect to pay for cartridges.
Do I still need chemicals with a salt water system?
Chemical usage cannot be ruled out with a salt water system. That’s because salt produced chlorine is not as strong as bottled chlorine. It does not contain additional stabiliser acids.
Using the HotSpring® FreshWater™ Salt System as an example, different stages of water maintenance may still require chemicals. These include:
-Start up – Shocking the hot tub once it’s filled with water requires the addition of chlorine or monopersulfate:
-Changing ph levels– pH up and pH down, also used in non-salt water systems, is needed to meet the right levels
-General– To reduce bacteria growth, maintain health or water or reduce the need for additional chlorine. As an example, HotSpring® recommends the use of silver ions.
Salt water hot tub benefits
There are several benefits that come with using a salt water system in a hot tub.
-No strong aroma - The chlorine produced is created naturally. This means you don’t get the harsh dry chemical smell that granules and tablets give off.
-Kinder on your skin - Lower levels of chlorine. Skin is less likely to get irritated, turn red or get itchy.
-Added buoyancy - Saltwater adds extra buoyancy to the water, so your body floats that little bit more. Easing pressure on the body and heightening the hydromassage.
Salt water hot tub considerations
Along with the benefits a saltwater system in a hot tub can bring, there are also some important factors to keep in mind too.
-Cartridge replacement costs – Depending on use, how many people use the hot tub and how well maintained the hot tub is, some cartridge options, such as the HotSpring® FreshWater™ Salt Water system can last up to four months.
However, if they are disposable cartridges, there is the added cost of buying refills. According to HotSpring® Central, replacement cartridges range in price from £95 to £270 (for a pack of three).
-Corrosive nature of salt – For a salt water system to work well long-term in a hot tub, the correct levels or ppm of salt (parts per million) need to be maintained. Adding too much salt and exceeding the maximum ppm level can lead to harmful effects such as corrosion of metal elements, including the stainless steel fittings and bearings inside jets, as well as pumps and heaters.
-Salt residue – If a build-up of calcium occurs, this will need to be cleaned and removed.
-Maintenance - A salt water system still requires maintenance. This generally includes the testing of water, cleaning and replacing of cartridges, as well as emptying and refilling the hot tub water, and adding salt with the changeover of water.
-Chemical usage - Certain stages of installing and using a salt water system can still require the use of chemicals, to boost water quality or to solve issues.
Can any hot tub use salt water?
Salt systems can only work in a hot tub that has a salt water system built into it. Most suppliers in the UK do not offer this.
We recommend you speak to your retailer about what options are available to you.
Can you buy automatic salt water systems for hot tubs?
Salt systems are usually factory fitted or optional extras for a hot tub that is designed to use salt.
Salt will always have to be manually added to a domestic hot tub. It is the conversion from salt to the sanitiser (chlorine or bromine) which is carried out by the electronic system.
Can I use salt instead of chlorine in a Jacuzzi® Hot Tub?
Jacuzzi does not recommend the use of salt in a Jacuzzi® Hot Tub. This is due to its corrosive nature that is not covered under the product warranty.
This provides similar benefits to what you will find with a salt water system – reduced chemicals and smell, and the flexibility to use whichever sanitiser works for you.
Can I use salt water in a swim spa?
Yes you can use salt water in a swim spa. However, like hot tubs, not all brands provide the option. If you look at Arctic Spas®, their swim spas can be equipped with a salt water system which delivers the benefits of a salt water pool.
If you prefer to take a closer look at the range of Jacuzzi® Hot Tubs we offer, find your nearest Jacuzzi® showroom by clicking the button below to book an appointment and try one of our hot tubs for yourself!
Disclaimer: The following registered trademarks are owned by companies not affiliated in any way with Jacuzzi Group. Hot Spring®, Caldera Spas® and FreshWater™ Salt System are trademarks owned by Watkins Wellness Association. Happy Hot Tubs® is a trademark of Hot Tub Care Ltd.Arctic Spas® is a trademark owned by Spa Logic Inc
Affiliations: Jacuzzi® is a registered trademark of Jacuzzi Group. All rights reserved.
We, Jacuzzi® Group, are not medical professionals. Any health-related information stated in this article is of a general nature and should not be taken as specific advice on any medical conditions, including their diagnosis or treatment. Nothing in this article is intended to prescribe any particular diagnosis or course of action, nor to constitute a claim that any product referred to can diagnose, treat or prevent any disease, injury, ailment or adverse condition. If you are in any way concerned about your current health or wellbeing, please make contact with your General Practitioner or other medical professional for advice, and in particular we encourage you to take independent medical advice before committing yourself to any significant treatment.