If you’re considering a saltwater pool, you may have some questions about how salt cell chlorination systems work. In this blog post, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about salt cell chlorination systems to help you make an informed decision.
Q: What is a salt cell chlorination system?
A salt cell chlorination system is a type of pool system that uses salt to generate chlorine instead of relying on traditional chlorine tablets or liquid. The salt is passed through an electrolytic cell, which converts it into chlorine gas. This gas dissolves into the water, effectively sanitizing the pool.
What makes a pool a saltwater pool? The main components of a salt chlorination system are the salt cell, water flow valve and the chlorination control box which is the computer and heart of the system.
Q: What are the benefits of using a salt cell chlorination system?
Salt cell chlorination systems have several benefits over traditional chemical chlorine pools. They are more cost-effective in the long run, as you don’t need to constantly buy chlorine tablets, powder or liquid. They also produce a more consistent level of chlorine, which means you’ll have a more stable and predictable pool environment. Salt water pools are also gentler on the skin and eyes, as they tend to require fewer harsh chemicals.
From a swimmer’s perspective, you tend not to get the chlorine smell on your body after swimming when the pool is properly maintained. The water tends to feel softer and less harsh on skin and hair.
From a pool owner’s perspective, a saltwater pool tends to require less work and less testing to maintain balanced water. Once you get the water balanced, it can be to a certain degree a case of “set it and forget it.”
Q: How much salt do I need for my pool?
The average saltwater pool owners will probably need 2-3 bags of salt per pool season. Most is used to open the pool especially if you drain water when closing the pool to prepare for winter.
The amount of salt you need for your pool will depend on the size of your pool and the specific salt cell chlorination system you’re using. Typically, you’ll need around 2,700 to 3,400 parts per million (ppm) of salt in your pool water. Be sure to consult the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific system to determine the recommended salt level.
3,000 – 3,200 ppm salt level is usually a good sweet spot to aim for since it’s closer to the high end of the range and means you have more leeway for salt to drop before you need to add more. Running the salt level closer to the high end also means you won’t have to worry about getting a low salt warning.
Q: Can I swim in a salt water pool if I have sensitive skin?
Yes, salt water pools are often a better choice for individuals with sensitive skin or allergies to traditional chlorine systems. Salt water pools use fewer harsh chemicals, which means they’re gentler on the skin and eyes.
However, if you have a severe skin condition, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before swimming in any pool.
Having said that, if you’re concerned about your hair changing color, check out this post I wrote for some thoughts on the subject.
Q: Do I need to add additional chlorine to my salt water pool?
Yes, there will be times where you need to manually add chemical chlorine to your saltwater pool. The most common examples are opening your pool in the spring, closing the pool at the end of the season and perhaps during the pool season when you have heavy pool usage and very hot sunny weather which is a chlorine killer.
Your salt chlorinator is designed to add enough chlorine to maintain clear, clean water. It is not powerful enough to go from 0 chlorine to 1 ppm – 3 ppm. Not is it a smart idea to do this. Each salt cell has a lifespan in terms of the total amount of chlorine in pounds (lbs) that it can produce so the more you use it, the closer you get to having to replace it. It isn’t designed to quickly add a large amount of chlorine to your water. That’s why adding chemical chlorine manually to the water is necessary from time to time.
A properly maintained salt cell chlorination system will generate enough chlorine to keep your pool clean and clear. However, it’s important to monitor the chlorine levels regularly and adjust the salt cell as needed.
You may also need to add additional salt to your pool over time, as some will be lost through splashing, backwashing, and dilution.
Q: How often do I need to clean my salt cell?
You’ll need to clean your salt cell periodically to remove any buildup or debris that may be preventing it from functioning properly. The frequency of cleaning will depend on the specific system and how often you use your pool.
Carefully follow the rules of your salt cell manufacturer or get a pool pro to do it. The metal plates inside the cell can’t be damaged or you risk having to replace the entire cell.
However, salt chlorinator systems are increasingly sold with built-in functionality to automatically clean the salt cell as needed. Look for a chlorinator with a “reverse polarity” or “self-cleaning” feature which reverses the polarity (which is normally DC) to remove scale from the cell as required.
You could also consider using a product such as Salt Water Magic which offers algae and organic contaminants prevention which can help extend the life of your salt cell.
Q: Can I use a salt cell chlorination system with an existing pool?
Yes, salt cell chlorination systems can be retrofitted to existing pools. However, you’ll need to make sure your pool’s plumbing and electrical systems are compatible with the salt cell system you’re considering. You may also need to make some modifications to your pool equipment to accommodate the salt cell.
Depending on which chlorinator model you choose, it might be a plug-in or hard-wired unit that could require an electrician. You also need to physically install the chlorinator control box on a wall or other mounting device.
Typically from a piping perspective, you just need to cut a small piece of the piping away and install the salt cell in its place. The water flow valve also needs to be installed. This work is best done by a qualified pool professional.
Salt cell chlorination systems offer a cost-effective and low-maintenance alternative to traditional chlorine pool systems. By understanding how they work and how to properly maintain them, you can enjoy a clean and clear pool with fewer harsh chemicals.
Remember to consult the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific system and consult with a professional if you’re unsure about any aspect of installing or maintaining your salt cell chlorination system.