History of
Pool Ionization Technology
For at least 1200 years silver can be traced for its ability to kill bacteria. The Greeks used silver to keep water and other liquids fresh. The Roman Empire stocked wine in silver urns to avoid spoilage. During the Middle Ages, the wealthy used silver to help protect them from the plague. Pioneers trudging across the American West placed silver and copper coins in their water to help keep water safe from bacteria, algae and diseases.

In the 1800's western scientists rejuvenated silver as a fierce, antibacterial agent. Through the years medical silver then developed and silver became universally used as a medicine. Then by 1940 roughly four-dozen different silver based medicines were on the market being used to treat every known infectious disease. However, in 1938 the Food & Drug Administration was formed and Penicillin was introduced. Silver as a superior infection-fighting agent was replaced by synthetically manufactured drugs. The profits and the ease of production of this modern medicine quickly pushed more expensive silver in to the background of contemporary medicine due. Some medical uses of silver luckily survived. Doctors use Dilute Silver Nitrate to protect newborn babies from infection. 70% of American burn wards use Silver Sulfadiazine to kill infection. A silver based bandage has recently been approved by the FDA and licensed for sale. Silver water purification filters are used by many national and international airlines to avoid growth of algae and bacteria.

Copper has played an important role in improving health. It's anti-virus properties guard against infections. Copper pipes are used in plumbing and can help preserve the purity of drinking water. These copper pipes prevent water-borne microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, algae, and infectious parasites that reside in your plumbing. These microorganisms include Legionnaire's Disease, E. coli, and polio. Copper surfaces in food preparation reduce the risk of microbial food poisoning. In fact, Escherichia coli O157 strain, a very lethal strain of the E. coli bacterium, dies after just a few hours on a copper surface, even under the worst conditions. However, the deadly bacterium can live for over a month on stainless steel, which is an extremely common surface in food processing. Most hospitals and clinics use copper-based paint on walls and install copper doorknobs and fittings on doors to help prevent the spread of bacteria through out the building.

In the 1960's NASA scientists needed a way to supply pure drinking water for the crew on their long missions. Because chlorine was too toxic of a chemical to take into space they had to develop an ionization system to recycle the water in the Apollo Lunar Landing Program. The aim was to provide clean drinking water for a three-man Apollo mission lasting up to two weeks. Water wastes were recycled in Shuttle flights and silver's first job was to treat hydrogen-saturated water coming from the Shuttle fuel cells. By establishing 100 ppb of silver in the water NASA eliminated the need for 1,000 to 1,500 ppb of chlorine to purify the water. NASA scientists reported silver to eliminate bacteria, including Pseudomonas A and Type IIIA bacteria. NASA's new purification system doubled the production of pure water and it even lowered the risk of corrosion. The unit provides Shuttle crews with 32 gallons of pure water daily for all uses inside and outside the Shuttle. The new unit eliminated the need for mixing, metering and testing water while in flight.

Russian scientists that worked on water recycling and purification problems for the Soviet space ship and orbiting station program decided on silver as the best sanitizing agent. By researching the problems of water storage over periods of several months, as well as purification for immediate use, they determined that ionized silver provides the safest and longest lasting method of transforming polluted waste into drinkable water.

Not space travel but a little closer to home, half of the world's airlines use silver water filters to defend water borne diseases. This is also true in over 1,000 passenger ships. Soft drink, beer, liquor, wine and other beverages are drinkable due to silver in over 70 countries.


Ionize Your Pool!
by Peter Crawford, Environmental Assistance Director
Vermont Small Business Development Center

Alternative Sanitizers for Swimming Pools There is now a viable alternative to using chlorine or bromine as a swimming pool sanitizer. Copper/silver ionization is a proven technology used to sanitize water in many different applications. It is used for drinking water, cooling towers, fountains, fish ponds, zoo water features, industrial waste water, industrial process water and of course for swimming pools. Its most notable use is by NASA as the treatment method of choice to purify drinking water aboard their spacecraft. This technology has not been approved in VT for commercial spas yet.

Copper is a well known algaecide and bactericide and silver is also well known for its ability to kill bacteria and viruses. Pool ionization eliminates the constant need for chlorine, though ionized pools still need a regular shock routine, this can be accomplished with a non-chlorine shock, if you want to totally eliminate chlorine from your pool. In the long run this reduces overall chemical costs, not to mention the pleasure of no chlorine smells and associated bleaching. You and your guests will really notice the difference, especially for an indoor pool. There is also the Nature 2 mineral cartridge option which uses no electricity.

Ionizers run from $200-$1500 depending on the size of your pool and the features of the ionizer (you definitely want one which automatically switches between copper and silver electrodes), and are very easy to install in your existing system (electrode PVC Tee just needs inserted into the PVC line after the filter, and hooked up to power). Electrodes usually last 2-3 years for seasonal pools, and replacement tends to cost <$100. Since ionization uses low voltage, it costs very little to run, and is safe.




Copper and silver ion problems

Pool water problem - ions of copper and silver

Ion generators or ionizers use D.C. electricity to "erode" electrodes composed of copper, silver and sometimes zinc. The result is free ions of these metals in the pool water. At low concentrations they are effective in combatting a range of algae, bacteria and viruses in conjunction with a low oxidizer level (such as chlorine).

At high concentrations, these ions are oxidised by the chlorine (or other sanitizer) resulting in clear but colored water.

Solving colored water problems

To solve problems of colored pool water there are two main options:

  1. Shock treat the pool to oxidize the ions, which then settle out of solution as "rust". The "rust" can then be vacuumed off the bottom of the pool.
  2. Add a chelating or sequestering agent which bonds with the ions and prevents them from reacting with the chlorine.

In both these cases the ions are lost and need to be replaced for the ionizer to be effective.

Preventing high ion levels in pool water

Regular monitoring of the ions in the water is essential when using any ion generator or ionizer. Refer to the product's maintenance manual for testing procedures, electrode maintenance and replacement, and operating procedures.

Problem-free minerals

There are a few products on the market which allow the pool to have low levels of copper, silver and zinc without the risks of over-ionizing. They either release the minerals slowly over a period of time, or the minerals are in a complexed state which prevent them from being oxidized by the chlorine.

The Pool Wizard falls into the latter group, having its copper, silver and zinc in complexes that ensure its long term stability in pool water.

Other popular products include Nature2 and the Frog and are sometimes called "alternative sanitizers". Before deciding which one is right for you compare the following: