Indoor Swimming Pool

Ionization systems in commercial pools add value

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Although sun-filled days of idling by the pool may be long gone until next summer, facility managers and building owners must still maintain commercial spas and indoor pools.

Due to the large amount of chlorine used to ward off bacteria, such features are often costly, time-consuming and sometimes uninviting to visitors and occupants.

Recent advancements in ionization technology have offered healthy and cost-effective alternatives.

Sabrina Assad, director of distribution for Clear Blue Ionizer—the first digitally controlled ionizer system approved by Health Canada and the CSA, addresses sustainable benefits of new ionization systems.

How did ionization systems come about and how do they operate?

Silver, as an antibacterial element, has been around for centuries. People eventually began ionizing silver by placing it in water and producing silver ions. NASA was the first to use these ions on their space shuttle because their water would remain clean and bacteria-free.

The idea of using the ionization process in pools has been around for more than 40 years; however, many systems were not able to regulate the amount of ions going into a spa or pool. It’s difficult to maintain ion levels without a very advanced control system. Some of the earlier systems weren’t as developed because they would release way too many ions into water or not enough.

Our system is more controlled by taking into account the water chemistry and conductivity. It continuously releases precise amount of microscopic ions into the water that seek and control algae, bacteria, and viruses. Ions are picked up by the water flow as it passes over an electrode that is installed into the plumbing of the pool or spa.

What are the benefits of transitioning to an ionization system over relying on chlorine maintenance

In all commercial pools and spas there has to be a residual of chlorine. However, sometimes people are running up to 3.5 parts per million of chlorine, which is extremely toxic. Since it’s linked to cancer, organ damage and respiratory problems, it’s best to limit chlorine use as much as possible.

With this knowledge, people are now trying to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals they’re exposed to. For commercial pools to advertise the use of an alternative sanitizer as opposed to chlorine, would be good for tenants and customers who are now looking for healthier options.

For people who are sensitive to chlorine, ionized water is like spring water; it’s tasteless and odourless. At 0.5 parts per million, chlorine becomes harder to detect. However, when you reach levels of 1 to 3 parts per million, the side effects will become more noticeable.

Also, with higher levels of chlorine, design features like delicate tiles and wood can corrode, needing frequent replacement over the years, which isn’t cost-effective. Ions are pH neutral, and completely non-corrosive or abrasive.

What are some other cost factors associated with the system?

Owners can reduce the amount of chlorine to 0.5 parts per million and save thousands of dollars in chemical costs.

By using an ionization system, you no longer need to purchase chlorine buckets. You also don’t have to worry about increasing the amount of buckets used in hot summer weather when the chlorine is constantly evaporating, making it hard to keep up with algae growth.

The only thing you need to replace is the silver, copper and zinc electrodes. There’s a direct current released in very low voltage, sending out the silver, copper and zinc in microscopic ion form. As these ions slowly wear away–every one to three seasons in a pool, or a couple years in a hot tub–you’ll see electrodes are gone and you’ll want to thread in a new set.

How easy are these systems to install and use?

Any handy person can install this system within half an hour, although some people prefer their maintenance person to do the work.

Once you plug it in, you set the ion action according to the pool or spa and test every two weeks. Since the system runs on low-voltage, you can leave it running and it’s still inexpensive to operate.

We have an advanced digital controller, which is first on the market. The controller takes into account the water chemistry, adjusting for things such as conductivity to provide a constant output and maintain the recommended ion level very easily.

Should people be skeptical of ionization systems?

Ionizers have received a fair bit of skepticism because when they came on the market, people were told that they were a stand-alone system, they no longer needed chlorine. Silver attacks bacteria, copper is a strong algaecide and zinc reacts with the copper to keep it in the solution and prevent staining. However, you still need to use an oxidizer such as chlorine to breakdown organics, like body oils, lotions, deodorant and urine.

Chlorine has been approved in Canada for a long time, and many manufacturers have given ionization a bad reputation. If you are seriously looking into an ionizer system, our advice is to evaluate not only the unit itself, but the entire water maintenance program put forth by the manufacturer.

While ionizers don’t completely eliminate the need for chemicals, they reduce the amount required to a level that is undetectable, while still providing the security that your water is safe.

Sabrina Assad is owner of Argenia Systems—an engineering and manufacturing company that develops technologies to help people lead safer and healthier lives.