What Is a Pool Ionizer? Cost, Problems, Pros, and Cons
Would you like smoother, silkier pool water? Want to use fewer pool chemicals? How about stopping algae in its tracks?
Enter swimming pool ionizers.
Pool ionizers are supplemental disinfecting systems that fight off bacteria and algae using copper and silver ions. Before you decide to get one, you might have questions like:
How do pool ionizers work?
How much do pool ionizers cost?
What are the pros and cons of pool ionizers?
As fiberglass pool manufacturers who also educate our readers on inground pool maintenance and sanitation, we’ll answer these questions to help you decide if a pool ionizer system is right for you.
Let’s dive in.
What is a pool ionizer?
A pool ionizer, which may also be referred to as a pool mineral sanitizer, typically uses copper and silver ions to eliminate bacteria and algae in the water. Silver ions are more instrumental in removing bacteria, while copper ions play a bigger role in preventing algae.
Fun fact: Copper is also known for its powerful antimicrobial properties and has been used in medicine for centuries all over the world. Most pool ionizer electrodes contain 90% or more copper and around 10% or less silver.
Your pool ionizer most likely will be an electric in-line device, which means it’s connected directly to the pump and filter system, but solar pool ionizers may also float in the pool like a chlorine dispenser. Electric ionizers may either have a cell to produce the ions within the device via electrolysis, or it might require mineral cartridges that release the ions into the water.
Note: A swimming pool cannot rely on an ionizer alone for sanitation. Ionizers work too slowly to be effective on their own and require another sanitizer such as chlorine to make the pool safe for swimmers, as well as an oxidizer to eliminate organic contaminants.
How much do pool ionizers cost?
An electric ionizer for an inground pool might cost you around $700 to $1,500 and up on average. The cell will need to be replaced every few months to every few years and can cost $70 to $200 and up.
Solar pool ionizers are significantly less expensive at $100 to $250 or more.
Note: If you purchase an electric pool ionizer, you’ll need to factor in the costs to have a professional install it (you shouldn’t try to DIY an electric pool ionizer installation if you are not an electrician or have not done it before).
Do pool ionizers really work?
There is evidence that pool ionizers effectively help eliminate bacteria and harmful pathogens in addition to preventing algae.
At least one study has concluded that combined with low levels of chlorine, ionizers were more effective at keeping pools sanitized than higher levels of chlorine alone. It was also found that copper and silver ions have long-term residual disinfecting power, which keeps the pool safer even when the chlorine begins to dissipate.
How long do pool ionizers last?
Pool ionizers can last many years provided they are cared for properly and the cells are replaced regularly. Most pool ionizer cells can last between several months to several years but will need to be replaced when the electrodes wear out.
Pro tip: To ensure your ionizer lasts as long as possible, make sure to check the parts regularly and clean out any scale deposits on the electrodes if you have hard water.
Swimming Pool Ionizer Problems
While pool ionizers come with their advantages, they might also cause problems for you as a pool owner. Here are the biggest issues that you might face if you choose a pool ionizer over other supplemental sanitizing systems.
Staining is the most common issue that pool owners have with ionizers. The surface of the swimming pool can easily develop stains when the ionizer is configured improperly and releases too many ions for the pool’s volume.
This can also happen when metals are present in the source water. Using a metal sequestering product might not be a good idea because it can neutralize the effects of your ionizer, but you can use a filter when refilling your pool or topping off your pool water to limit the presence of additional metals in the pool.
The best thing to do if you see stains appearing on the surface of your pool is to act quickly. The longer you let the stains sit, the harder they will be to remove.
Read more: How to Remove Stains from a Fiberglass Pool
If you have issues with hard water, you’ll need to add an extra step to your pool care routine and clean off any scale deposits from your ionizer’s electrodes. Doing this on a regular basis can ensure that your pool ionizer and the ionizer cell will last as long as possible.
Ionizers can take hours to become effective in the pool, which underlines the need to use another sanitation method with your ionizer to make your pool safe for swimmers. Remember, the bigger your pool and the more water it has, the longer the ionization process can be.
According to Aqua Magazine, when copper ions are primarily used to eliminate bacteria, some bacteria can develop a resistance to them. This would make the ionizer much less effective and require you to use more chemicals in your pool water.
Solar Ionizers are Unreliable
A floating solar pool ionizer will work as long as you have sunlight to keep it going. If you live in an area that has frequent overcast skies, or if you like to keep a pool cover on your pool when it’s not in use, you might want to consider an electric ionizer instead.
Pro tip: If you do go with a solar ionizer, it’s a good idea to remove it whenever you shock the pool.
Pool Ionizer Pros and Cons
Pool ionizers aren’t for everyone, so let’s outline the key advantages and disadvantages of pool ionizers to help you decide if it will work for you.
- The water is silkier and smoother.
- There is no noticeable taste or smell to the water from the ionizer.
- Ions and minerals do not evaporate or degrade, providing long-lasting antibacterial power.
- You can reduce your pool chemical usage, which saves money and can eliminate chemical irritation like red eyes and itchy skin.
- Ions don’t form byproducts like chloramines and are not corrosive.
- Copper keeps algae away.
- Requires extra work to maintain.
- Might cause stains on the surface of the pool.
- Solar pool ionizers are unreliable in cloudy weather.
- Ionizers take hours to become effective and can take longer to work as the pool volume increases.
- Test kits that monitor pool ionizer performance typically only measure copper.
Is a pool ionizer system right for your inground pool?
A pool ionizer can no doubt improve the safety of your pool water and help you prevent algae, but it may not be ideal for those who want to avoid pool stains or don’t have the time to attend to stains before they become difficult to remove.
Having an ionizer will also add to the number of pool chores that you need to carry out, including cleaning the cell, testing for copper and silver, and replacing mineral packs or electrodes.
However, if you’re seeking a way to reduce your use of pool chemicals and make the water softer and gentler on skin, hair, and eyes, an ionizer might be an excellent choice for your swimming pool.
If you have any questions about ionizers or pool sanitation, feel free to leave them for us in the comments below!
At River Pools, we manufacture world-class fiberglass pools for homeowners across North America. If you're interested in buying a fiberglass pool for your home, you can browse our pool shapes, request custom pricing, or try out our pool cost calculator below for a fast estimate:
Want to see about how much that cost will be with all your favorite pool accessories?
Use our Design and Price Tool to walk through your options and approximate price!