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An ion is an atom, or group of atoms that possess an electrical charge. Ions exist everywhere and your pool is full of ions. It was discovered long ago that copper ions behave as an algaestat, that is, they inhibit algae growth, while silver ions behave as a bactericide, that is, they kill bacteria.
A pool ionizer is a device that uses electricity to produce these metal ions right in the plumbing, or floating in the pool using solar power, so the ions are dispersed into the water to do their work. Copper and/or silver electrodes are energized with a low voltage, DC current supplied from the equipment sub panel. The voltage is applied to two metallic electrodes placed very close to each other within the plumbing return pipe. The electrical current causes atoms of the copper or silver electrode to lose an electron and become cations. These cations are drawn towards the opposite electrode, but are swept away by the rushing water passing by. After this introduction in the water, these ions float dissolved in water until they encounter a negatively charged microorganism. Attaching themselves, they erode the cell wall within minutes, destroying the organism.
Pool Ionization is not a stand alone sanitizer. Pool ionizers cannot oxidize organic matter effectively, so a low (0.5 ppm) chlorine residual is necessary, using liquid or chlorine tablets. There also is the potential for staining of interior surfaces. Copper can deposit itself on these surfaces, giving a blue-green color, not too bad to look at, but nonetheless a stain. Silver can react with sunlight, or heavy shocking, similar to the way photographs are produced, and create black stains on the plaster. Used properly, and not overused, electric pool ionizers won't stain. Regular use of a sequestering agent (Stain & Scale product) is recommended if you use one of these systems, to keep the metals in solution.
Electrical pool ionizers such as Caribbean Clear or Power Ionizer all operate essentially the same way. Floating ionizers such as Floatron use solar power to produce low levels of ions. Copper and Silver ions reduce the amount of micro-contaminants in the pool water, which reduces your chlorine demand. Some folks use a pool ionizer continuously, and shock the pool weekly, eliminating the need for tablets. Frequent shocking however, may cause excess metals to precipitate out of solution, depositing itself on pool surfaces. A better method is to think of pool ionization as a supplement to another daily use sanitizer, such as chlorine, UV systems or ozone.
TDS levels in a pool are recommended to be below 1000 ppm, for a swimming pool mineral ionizer to work effectively. Hard water pools, with Calcium Hardness levels in excess of 500 ppm may also need to clean the electrodes more often to remove scale deposits.
High pH levels can have a suppressive effect on copper, but has little effect on silver ions. High levels of chlorine can also have a dampening effect on both copper and silver ions. When using ionizers on pools, keep the free chlorine level at 0.5-0.8 ppm, and avoid shocking the pool heavily or often.
Ionizers can reduce reliance on traditional chemicals, or provide additional power to your sanitation program. Copper and Silver ions are not harmful, even if the pool water is swallowed, in such low levels.
Too much copper in the pool can turn your hair green, especially for blonde swimmers. Too much copper – from copper algaecide, ionizers, copper pipes or heat exchangers can also stain your plaster or white plastic surfaces. Silver ions can also stain a pool, typically with black streaks or spots.
Removing heavy mineral staining can require an acid wash for plaster pools. Fiberglass and vinyl pools tend to stain less easily but when they do, draining and cleaning is not an option. You can use pool stain removal chemicals such as A+ Stain Remover or EZ Stain Remover, for vinyl or fiberglass pools that need all over stain removal.
For stain prevention, pools that use an electric ionizer, including solar powered ionizers, should be using a sequestering agent to keep minerals in solution. If dosage and treatment is followed carefully, and water balance is maintained, and minerals are not overused, your pool can remain stain free while using an electric ionizer.
Erosion type mineral purifiers such as Frog and Nature2 won’t stain your pool, and they have a No-Stain guarantee. In these devices, ions are not electrolytically created, but are slowly eroded from the replaceable 6 month cartridge.
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