Should I use a bromine or chlorine generator?

There is a lot of confusion out there relating to chlorine and bromine use in a spa or hot tub so how is one supposed to determine whether they use a chlorine or bromine generator?

First of all, bromine and chlorine are both halogens and are very similar with some very distinct differences. Chlorine is much more reactive and able to oxidize better then bromine which is why it is recommended to maintain twice as much bromine in the water vs chlorine. This is true with most health departments in the country. Bromine is much more expensive then chlorine so initially costs will be more and having to maintain a residual level that is twice that of chlorine also leads to higher costs.

Bromine is much more stable then chlorine in hot water environments which is one of the primary reasons for its use in spas and hot tubs but that is not necessarily a good thing. In a hot water environment, it is good to have a less stable oxidizer because there is much more bacteria to destroy.

Bromine has also been favored in spas and hot tubs because it has less offensive smell then chlorine. The reason for this is due to what happens when chlorine and bromine combine with ammonia compounds and produce chloramines (combined chlorine) and bromamines (combined bromine) respectively. Both are primarily caused by a lack of fresh chlorine or bromine to compensate for contaminate load. Chloramines are very offensive  to the respiratory system, eyes and skin. Bromamines are usually very difficult to detect but can contribute to skin irritation.

Bromine is much better at “denying” that there is a problem where chlorine use will give you very obvious signs that there is a problem with your water quality. Whenever you are near a swimming pool or spa that has a strong chlorine smell, it is contrary to popular belief, in need of more chlorine. If this is hard to believe then get a bottle of chlorine bleach from your laundry room, open it up and smell. There is very little odor and it is typically a fresh, clean smell. That bottle of bleach has a free chlorine level many times higher then any pool or spa.

Bromine generators can be twice the cost of chlorine generators and sodium bromide is much more expensive then sodium chloride.

In my personal experience maintaining many public pools and spas with a much higher usage level then most backyard spas and hot tubs, I have had much more success using chlorine over bromine. The key to excellent water quality is automating the chemical process as much as possible in order to compensate for spa usage and ensure there is proper sanitation at all times. Chlorine and bromine generators are much better at this then tablet feeders or powders. There is a much more in depth explanation of water treatment for spas in my book “The Hot Tub Wizard’s Guide To Chlorine and Bromine Generation For Hot Tubs”

Either type of system will give you much better results then traditional methods so for many it may come down to cost. I just know from my own experience that chlorine generation is my preferred method of water treatment.

What Are Chlorine Generators?

Chlorine generators are electronic devises that assist in the automation of pool and spa water management.

Chlorine generators use a small amount of salt dissolved in the water. Through a process called electrolysis, they separate the chlorine from the sodium and produce pure chlorine which is absorbed into the water and creates hypochlorous acid (HOCL) this is the sanitizing form of chlorine.. The unused chlorine combines with the free sodium converting back into natural salt minimizing the need to add more salt to your pool or spa. chlorine generators have been around since the mid 1970?s primarily in Australia and are now their use has been spreading across the United States, Canada and Europe over the last 15 – 20 years.

Chlorine generators are a type of equipment for recreational pools and spas that eliminates the cost of purchased chlorine or bromine. Spas and hot tubs equipped with a chlorine generator,  generate chlorine automatically using the spa or hot tub water itself and thereby avoid the cost associated with purchasing expensive chemicals.

In order to utilize chlorine generators, the water must be converted from freshwater to what is called a “saltwater hot tub”. This is accomplished by adding approximately 2.5 cups of salt per gallon of fresh water to achieve a 2,000 PPM salt level in the spa water. (The average hot tub takes about 6 pounds)  Technically, this low level of salinity is still considered fresh water by drinking water standards.

chlorine generators
A chlorine generator in action

Chlorine generators have been around a long time in swimming pools and commercial spas but it hasn’t been until the last 5 years when technological advances have made it practical to utilize in a spa or hot tub. To learn more about these devices check our post to the right “What are chlorine generators?” To see some differences between models, see the drop down menu for this category.

What Do I Really Need To Treat My Hot Tub?

Luxury doesn’t have to be complicated. In keeping it simple, I will tell you what you really need to simplify maintenance and turn your spa or hot tub into a back yard paradise.

Most of the chemicals you can buy for a spa or hot tub are usually not necessary but most stores will not tell you that. Here, I will take the mystery out of spa and hot tub water care and avoid the confusion caused by seeing all of those little bottles.

Many customers use plain salt and some like the extra luxury that our Natural Himalayan Salt & Minerals provides. The other components to simplify hot tub maintenance are baking soda and vinegar.

It is not uncommon to find phosphates in the water which makes spa maintenance complicated and expensive but the good news is that phosphates are easy to get rid of with a natural phosphate remover.

What Causes a Smelly Hot Tub?

It is not uncommon for people to complain about the smell of their hot tub water.  Let’s take a whiff and determine what these smells are and what causes them and what can be done about eliminating them.

1. Musty Smell – Most commonly associated with water treated with bromine. There is not much that can be done about this smell.

2. Dirty Sock Smell – This smell is often reported with those using a biguanide water treatment such as Baqua Spa. Again, there is nothing that can be done about this smell.

3. Strong, Irritating Chlorine Smell – This smell is common to those using chlorine like tablets and granular products. This is caused when the chlorine level gets too low and the chlorine is combining with ammonia compounds coming from the body. This can be prevented by having a continuous supply of fresh chlorine being added in order to continually oxidize the contaminants being introduced from bathers. The common terms for this is “combined chlorine” or “chloramines“. A common myth is when you have an overwhelming chlorine smell that there is too much chlorine in the water. In this case it is the exact opposite, there is not enough chlorine in the water.

Another way to help prevent this problem is to have a good, working ozone generator. I qualify this because this because some ozone generators produce very little ozone and all ozone generator cartridges have a life span. A cartridge slowly degrades in respect to ozone output will typically last about 2 years and then it needs to be replaced.

4. Rotten, Stinky Smell – This means you have no sanitizer in your water and you should stay out! This can be solved by either draining your tub or pouring about a quart of bleach into it if you are using chlorine, bromine or mineral treatments. Do not do this if you are using alternative treatments such as Baqua Spa.

Knowing this helps to make your tub smell better.

 

Why is My Hot Tub Cloudy?

Cloudy hot tub? Here’s Why…

There are 2 potential causes that would make your hot tub cloudy. Any one or both will cause your spa or hot tub water to be uninviting. There are mechanical and chemical causes for cloudy hot tub water.

Causes that are mechanical in nature are not enough flow and/or filter problems. If you can’t detect a strong flow when your tub is on circulation mode then you definitely have a flow issue. This can be caused by a worn or clogged impeller on the pump, an obstruction in your plumbing or a very dirty filter cartridge.

A missing or damaged filter cartridge can also be a cause of cloudy spa water because there is nothing to trap the impurities produced in the water when the spa or hot tub is being used.

The most common cause of cloudy hot tub water is chemical in nature, regardless of what you are using to sanitized your water with. Many things are marketed as “chemical free”  but water is a chemical and everything that gets dissolved in water is a chemical.

If you are using chlorine or bromine tablets or granules, then the very chemical you are using to treat your water is also causing cloudy water over time. The chlorine granules and tablets sold for spa use also contain cyanuric acid and bromine tablets contain BCDMH (short for a very long name) which actually inhibits the ability of chlorine or bromine to effectively sanitize, especially as the levels increase over 30 PPM. It is not unusual for levels of these by-products to reach 100 PPM or more in a hot tub in as little as 30 days.

If you are using mineral treatments, enzymes, ionizers or biguanides, these products have no ability to oxidized the impurities in the water and require supplementary treatments such as chlorine, hydrogen peroxide or non-chlorine shock to keep the water clear.

Consistently sanitizing keep your water properly sanitized with sanitizers free of the unwanted additives and balanced will also play a big role in preventing a cloudy hot tub. Many times a hot tub runs low or completely out of sanitizer when the spa is used which will cause bacteria to grow at an alarming rate and make your water cloudy.

The good news is that with the proper tools, it is very easy to prevent cloudy hot tub water so you can enjoy your hot tub experience to its fullest.

cloudy hot tub

 

 Can I Use Ozone With a Chlorine or Bromine Generator?

The simple answer in most cases is yes! With Baqua Spa, chlorine, chlorine generation, bromine and mineral treatments, your hot tub can use ozone with no problem.

Ozone in a hot tub is a very effective oxidizer and can destroy bacteria, viruses and cysts. Ozone will also destroy chloramines and improve water quality. The problem is that just because you have ozone installed on your tub doesn’t mean you have ozone in your water. Most ozone generators have a lifespan of 2-3 years. During the life of the ozonator, the output will slowly diminish from maximum output to nothing.

When ozone is working and producing high enough concentrations, it will oxidize everything in the water. This includes metals from ionizers and mineral cartridges. It will also act as a metal and stain preventive when it oxidizes the metals in the water.

My advice is to make sure you have a working ozone generator installed in your hot tub which will save you from having to buy lots of extra chemicals and allow you to have lower sanitizer levels.  You can find some good units under the ozone tab.

The one thing that keeps ozone from being a complete solution is that it has no residual value so when the main pump is off, their is no more ozone being introduced into the water in your hot tub and what was once there is quickly gone.

Here is an example of a good hot tub ozone generator.

hot tub ozone

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