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Bromine Swimming Pools in Costa Blanca
 

Article Revised: October 2011

Due to local conditions, more and more Costa Blanca pool owners and professionals are switching to bromine sanitizers.
If you have a "problem" pool (with heavy bather load), a community facility or would just prefer not to swim in chlorinated water, Bromine Systems are the only logical options.

For Pool Professionals: Bromine is a far more efficient sanitizer than Chlorine, slightly more complicated in use and slightly more expensive as far as product cost is concerned.
However labour is, by far, the most expensive element in any pool plan. Once familiarised with the use of Bromine, the frequency between visits can be reduced dramatically and time-consuming problem-solving visits eliminated completely.

Both Bromine and Chlorine work well as sanitizers.  Both have good and bad points.

Please study the following comparison of the two plans and see the Bromine Schedule for precise usage instructions.

To B . . .

 
 

. . . or not to B!

Perhaps this all sound complicated but below you can compare the two products individually.

   

CHLORINE

BROMINE

GENERAL QUALITIES

Chlorine is a gas and can only be used for domestic pool sanitation by combining with another chemical (Cyanuric Acid) because it is destroyed by heat and sunlight, both of which we have a lot in Costa Blanca.

Bromine is a liquid and a very similar chemical element to Chlorine.
Bromine is ONLY SLIGHTLY affected by heat and sunlight. Unlike Chlorine, it remains in the water for reuse.

The most common source of chlorine for domestic pools in Spain is Trichlor granules and tablets (Trichloroisocyanuric Acid).
When dissolved in water it produces Cyanuric Acid (the stabilizer) and Hypochlorous Acid (the sanitizer).
The main disadvantage with using Trichlor is that the stabiliser can increase over time, rendering the sanitizer totally ineffective.

The Bromine sanitizer is Hypobromous Acid, which is not affected by the stabiliser, Cyanuric Acid.
Bromine salt (Sodium Bromine) is added to the water to provide a Bromine Bank. This has to be oxidised to form the sanitizer.
Trichlor will oxidise Bromine.
Eventually the Bromine returns to the bank for reuse.

Chlorine kills bacteria, controls algae and combines with the remains and other debris in the water (bather waste, dust etc.) to form Chloramines (Chlorine + Nitrates & Ammonia).

Bromine kills, controls and combines with debris (just like chlorine) and forms Bromamines (Bromine + Nitrates and Ammonia)

Chloramines are smelly irritants and POOR sanitizers.

Bromamines have little smell and are VERY GOOD sanitizers.

Shocking removes the Chloramines by breaking them down into gas form (Nitrogen and Chlorine) and both disappear from the water.

Shocking is seldom necessary because the bromamines eventually "burn them selves up" and the Bromine element remains for re-use.

The real advantage is that Bromine simply does not smell. Even with a properly maintained chlorine pool the chlorine smell is unavoidable on skin and hair. This is because the chlorine continues to work after bathing, breaking down the "natural debris" that forms on the body and forming chloramines. Even showering does not completely remove the smell because tap water contains a lot of chlorine.
With a Bromine pool, better NOT to shower off after bathing.

NB: Showering BEFORE is vital with either chlorine or bromine.

For optimum effectiveness with chlorine sanitizers the pH of the water is critical and must be kept between 7.4 and 7.6

Bromine sanitizers work just as well with the pH anywhere between 7.0 and 8.0.

With Problem Pools (with high cyanuric acid heavy bather load and/or general abuse) the only way with Chlorine is regular (sometimes daily) shocking and long filter running times as this is the only way to control the Combined Chlorine (Chloramines).

Taking a typical problem pool scenario: There is a gross bather overload & abuse, the filter is small and the pump under-powered.
Within 3 days of shocking, although the Total Chlorine is 3.0 ppm, around 2.0 ppm is Combined.
The pH has drifted to 7.8 and, because so much Chlorine is going in, the Cyamuric Acid level has exceeded 150 ppm.
The little remaining Free Chlorine no longer sanitises and the water is a dangerous culture for bacteria and virus - that's if it's not already green or swimming has stopped due to the bad odours and sore eyes!

Bromine systems are often the answer for Problem Pools because the Combined Bromine (Bromamines) are just as effective killers of virus and bacteria as the Bromine Sanitizer whereas Cloramines are quite useless.

The pH can go as high as 8.0 and, with Bromine, the sanitizer is still working.

Nevertheless it is still sometimes necessary to shock occasionally because, if Bromamines are allowed to build up, the water becomes turbid.

Cyanuric Acid build-up is not a problem  because bromine is not affected Cyanuric Acid.

PLEASE NOTE: Once a pool is treated with Bromine it is always a Bromine pool - until it is drained.

BATHER EXPERIENCE

A lot has been said about Chlorine being smelly and an irritant but, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that Chlorine, at the correct level, is virtually undetectable.
It is the Chloramines that cause all the trouble and these are usually caused by poor pool maintenance or lack of knowledge about shocking.
There is no doubt that some people are allergic to Chlorine and others suffer from sore eyes and skin irritations after prolonged bathing.
If shocking is neglected smells, sore eyes and skin irritations are virtually guaranteed.
Another problem with chlorine is that partial draining annually is vital every in order to keep the cyanuric acid at the optimum level - and water is expensive in Costa Blanca.

Bromine is commonly use in the USA and many pool owners, once they have tried it, would use nothing else.

Bromamines, like Chloramines, cannot be avoided.
However Bromines have no taste or smell, do not irritate and go on sanitising the water.

If you use a chlorine product to produce (oxidise) the bromine, you may think that you are back to having a chlorinated pool but this is not the case.
The chlorine oxidises the bromine ion to form Hypobromous Acid (the sanitizer) and the chlorine gasses off - you only have the bromine left!

EASE OF USE

Nothing could be simpler than a Chlorine system. The Chlorine level is easy to measure and control. The only drawback is rising levels of Cyanuric Acid and the only know solution is partial draining every year.

Using Bromine is slightly more complicated and requires support initially from the pool supplier.

Bromine Salt (Sodium Bromide) has to be added, and replenished (usually twice a year, to allow for water loss) in order to establish a "Bromine Bank".

Any chlorine product, monopersulfate or hydrogen peroxide (oxygen products) is then added, on a regular basis, to maintain the "Free Bromine" level.

RELATIVE COST AND TIME

Chlorine is cheapest, without a doubt, but only in terms of product cost.

A chlorinated pool is pleasant and safe for bathing as long as it is maintained correctly and there is no bather overload or abuse.

In practice this is not so easy to achieve and a lot of time has to be spent.

Bromine is probably the only option for "problem" pools with a high Cyanuric acid level or excessive bather load.
For normal pools the annual product cost is slightly higher.
However a bromine pool needs less frequent visiting, therefore is an economical option for pool professionals.

Most certainly, the sheer joy of swimming in Chlorine free water makes it all worthwhile.

Some good advice for either chlorine or bromine -

Study the Bromine Annual Schedule for precise usage instructions.

Understand bather load and "abuse" -
Even without the bathers the pool purification plant will deal with a certain amount of extraneous material (dust, leaves, insects, pollen, algae etc.). It is also designed to cope with bather load.
Bather load refers to the extraneous material introduced by bathers and includes dead skin cells, make-up, sun oil, dirt & dust from the feet, sweat, urine (yes, the little one do!).
Therefore it is obviously important for pool users to consider the commonsense precautions, such as -

Showering-off BEFORE bathing.
Keeping the pool terrace swept and free of dust.
Cutting back tress and plants close to the water.
Keeping the pool topped up to the right level.
Talking to the children.
Putting fresh "Pampers" on babies and waterproof pants.

Now that's fine for the villa owner and friends but, when the property is let to holidaymakers, "bather abuse" can easily occur but placing signs does help a lot.
A common misconception is that showering-off after bathing is necessary to remove chlorine odours from the skin.
In actual fact it is more important to shower off before bathing in order to minimise the bather load, which is the principle cause of smelly chloramines.

Understand Cyanuric Acid -
Without a stabiliser and with strong sunlight chlorine disappears from water in a few hours but pool water is easily over-stabilised.
There are different opinions regarding the optimum level and this is considered to be 30 - 50 ppm.
Most certainly, anything over 100 ppm is considered to be too much.
What happens is that as the level increases then the longer the chlorine takes to work against algae and bacteria. This "killing time" varies from seconds, under ideal conditions, to days in over-stabilised water and the results are obvious.
One Trichlor tablet produces 2 ppm of Chlorine and a similar amount of Cyanuric Acid in the average pool. Consequently, after the addition of 25 tablets, the water becomes over-stabilised.

 

Bromine vs Chlorine Technical Comparison

Chlorine

Bromine

Effective Disinfectant Form when added to water

Hypochlorous Acid (HOCl)

Hypobromous Acid (HOBr) and Bromamines

Reaction with Ammonia

Reacts to form Chloramines

Reacts to form Bromamines
Major compound present is NH2Cl

Major compounds present are NHBr2 and NBr3

Considerably reduces disinfection ability

Does not affect disinfection

Chloramines or Bromamines as Bactericides

Chloramines are poor bactericides
and have only 5% of the activity of HOCl.

Bromamines are excellent bactericides,
and exhibit activity similar to HOBr.
Bromamines or Chloramines as Viricides

Chloramines are not effective viricides.

Bromamines are excellent viricides
and exhibit activity similar to HOBr.
Ammonia removal
Shocking is vital to reduce ammonia level.
It is necessary to improve Chlorine effectiveness
as a disinfectant by eliminating Chloramines.

Bromine is an effective disinfectant in the
presence of NH3. Low levels of NH3
are therefore acceptable.

If you don't understand all this there is a simple similarity: A swimming pool is a battlefield, "goodies" against "baddies". In this case the baddies are bather waste, virus & bacteria; the goodies are the two different sanitizers, who fight in different ways.
The chlorine sanitizers capture, guard and imprison the insurgents. Eventually there are as many sanitizers as imprisoned insurgents and the only way is to kill (shock) them all (good and bad) and start over.
The bromine sanitizers have a different relationship with the insurgents and, once they are overcome and captured, they change sides, become "goodies" and help the bromine sanitizers in the battle.

Disinfection pH dependence

Chlorine is strongly pH dependent and is only
22% effective of its active form of HOCl at pH 8.0.

Bromine has no significant pH dependence
in the range 7-8 pH.
Eye Irritation

Chlorine disinfection can produce eye irritation
from the formation of Chloramines.

Bromine produces a significant reduction
in eye irritation.
Halogen Odours
"Chlorine" odours result from chloramines,
which arise from heavy bather load,
abuse or improper maintenance.
Bromine has virtually no halogen odour.
Overall Summary
Cheap, nasty, smelly, unpleasant and not particularly effective from a commercial point of view - but extremely easy to use! Pleasant for bathers (the water actually feels good, effective as a sanitizer and extremely cost effective - but requires a little more thought!

 

 

Links about Bromine for swimming pools:

Wikipedia | Bromine for Swimming Pools

Ask Alan about Bromine
Ask Alan about Cyanuric Acid