The Economics of Converting your Pool(s) to Salt

In Blog by Timothy Petsch

The natural follow up to our discussion of The Advantages of Converting your Pool(s) to Salt is to talk about the economics of said conversion. For a commercial Aquatic Facility, converting their pools and spas to a Salt system is not a decision to be taken lightly. Many factors have to be considered, to result in an economically viable choice.

The first questions to ask are whether the system provider is an experienced ECG (Electrolytic Chlorine Generator) company, how many systems they have in place and how vast is their experience with this process. Do they understand the complexity of “sizing” the ECG to this particular pool and chlorine demand? Many factors influence this process. Is their reference list detailed, can you contact their clients, and how many references do they provide?

It is important to find out whether the unit being offered is actually a commercial electrolytic Chlorine Generator (ECG). The market is saturated with small residential units that have been approved for commercial use (NSF) but actually belong in backyard pools. Many times multiple units are plumbed together in a plumbing manifold, creating a maintenance headache and hefty electrolytic cell replacement costs, as they tend to fail early under a commercial load. Factors that come into play when choosing your provider and units are indirectly related to the economics of converting.  While the smaller “grouped” units may look more cost effective up front, they usually cost a lot more to run when they are not sized correctly, as backup chlorine will be required to substitute for poor sizing,  and the multiple cell replacements get very costly as time goes by.

So, the first step in the process is to choose a provider wisely. Ask the hard questions. With this type of conversion, access to support that is education based, knowledgeable, and responsive is critical. Running an ECG system requires a little initial direction in the early stages of conversion. 

On the economic side, there are two primary aspects to consider: the hard comparison- dollar for dollar-and the soft- member experience. Understanding how to “fund” each of these options is an important starting point.

 It is important to understand the monthly cost for chlorine usage and how much that cost has increased in the last few years. Equally as important is an evaluation of how much chlorine prices may increase in the future. Traditionally the cost of chlorine has risen about 9 to 11% per year. Chlorine costs (and client preferences) change from region to region, so it is important to first run the numbers. Start by comparing the cost of the salt system on a leased monthly basis versus the monthly cost of chlorine. This is not to suggest that you lease the equipment; rather, it is simply a functional way to compare costs month to month. The next step would be to break the numbers into a 5 or 10 year ROI (return on investment).  For example, if the monthly chlorine cost for the pool is $250.00, then in one year the facility spends $3,000.00 on chlorine. By year 5, that number would be $4,831.00 (assuming a 10% increase in chlorine costs per year).  This accumulating cost can be compared to the initial cost of the Salt system, and the expense of replacing electrolytic cells every 1 to 4 years, depending on the cell life claims of the bidders.

The “soft” cost advantages are the member experience and the marketing value of converting to a salt system. Many commercial salt system users report a membership increase after their conversions due to the improved quality of the water and improved indoor environment.  Salt systems are now the most popular single product in residential pool history due to these factors, so it makes sense that club members will also find the softer water more attractive to swim in. This is especially true for senior citizens, who are making up more of the general population with each year that goes by. Attracting that crowd can only improve the bottom line. In additional to client satisfaction, think about employee comfort as well. A facility that offers swim lessons is a facility where instructors spend a large period of time in the water. A salt system will be easier on their skin and eyes.   Retention of valuable revenue generating employees is as much an economic consideration as any other factor.

Marketing a conversion to a salt system generates excitement in the client and prospect base and can attract new members, while perhaps retaining members who are averse to the effects of ordinary chlorine on their skin. Newsletters announcing a switch to a “natural” process to chlorinate the pool are a powerful message. Posters in the changing rooms create a positive climate. How about giving members little packets of salt when they check in? Now that would generate a conversation!!

When chosen carefully and implemented in a well-defined and structured manner, a salt system will not only be a steady chlorine generator for many years to come, but also a welcome revenue generator for any facility!