Saltwater Pools 101: 10 FAQs Answered

Saltwater Pools 101: 10 FAQs Answered

If you’re new to saltwater pools, there are a number of commonly asked questions that pop up that potential (and even current!) saltwater pool owners don’t know the answer to.

Here are 10 frequently asked questions about saltwater pools along with their answers in full:

  1. What is a saltwater pool?

    Answer: A saltwater pool is a swimming pool that uses a saltwater chlorination system to keep the water clean and sanitized. Instead of manually adding chemical chlorine to the pool, a saltwater generator converts salt into chlorine through a process called electrolysis.

    It’s important to note that a saltwater pool is a chlorinated pool. It has chlorine in it, but it isn’t chemically added like with a regular pool. Instead salt is converted to chlorine through a process called electrolysis using a salt cell chlorinator system.
  2. How much salt does a saltwater pool need?

    Answer: The ideal salt level for a saltwater pool is between 2700 ppm and 3400 ppm (parts per million). You should consult your chlorinator manufacturer’s instructions for the specific salt level recommended for your pool as it might differ slightly by brand or model.

    Be careful when adding salt! It’s easier to increase the salt level in a pool than reduce it! Over time, salt levels do drop for various reasons but if it’s far too high, it can negatively impact the pool and might need to be reduced which in the extreme, normally means draining water and refilling with fresh water.
  3. Is a saltwater pool better than a traditional chlorine pool?

    Answer: Both types of pools have their advantages and disadvantages. Saltwater pools have a more natural feel and are gentler on skin and eyes. However, they can be more expensive to install and maintain than traditional chlorine pools.

    More specifically, both types of pools have pros and cons for both swimmers and pool owners. The biggest thing to know is that a saltwater pool costs more up front given the extra equipment involved, namely the salt cell and chlorinator system itself. But if you like the idea of having less maintenance and measuring and tweaking of chemicals, a saltwater pool might be the way to go.
  4. Do saltwater pools require less maintenance than traditional chlorine pools?

    Answer: Saltwater pools generally require less maintenance than traditional chlorine pools. With a saltwater pool, you do not need to add chlorine to the pool regularly. However, you still need to maintain the pool’s pH balance, clean the pool, and regularly test the water.

    And of course, vacuuming the pool is still something you need to do and that’s probably the most time-consuming aspect so that part doesn’t change. But if you don’t relish the thought of having those little vials of chemicals to check water levels every few days, then a saltwater pool is for you because in my entire time of having this type of pool, I’ve never used one of those things and don’t even own one.
  5. How often do you need to add salt to a saltwater pool?

    Answer: You should generally only need to add salt to your saltwater pool during specific events such as when the pool is first installed and during pool opening each spring. You may also need to add salt after a heavy rainfall, due to backwashing (if you have a sand or D.E. filter) and perhaps midway through the pool season.

    As mentioned above, there are other specific and normal reasons that salt levels drop such as splashing, leaks and things of that nature so salt will need to be replenished every so often.

    Important: Salt doesn’t evaporate so when you experience water loss due to the hot rays of the sun, salt level won’t be impacted. When water is actually removed from the pool (backwashing, splashing, leaks), this will lead to lower salt levels.

    Otherwise, the salt level should remain relatively stable in between these events and shouldn’t drop too much. And unless you are adding salt, the level won’t go up either!
  6. How long does a saltwater chlorinator last?

    Answer: A typical chlorination system has two main parts to talk about: The salt cell and the chlorinator system control box itself.

    The salt cell should last several pool seasons when properly taken care of but it’s important to note that each salt cell has a lifespan in terms of the total chlorine it can produce. Buying a chlorinator with a reverse polarity feature means the salt cell will be cleaned automatically which can at least ensure the lifespan is met and that the cell runs properly.

    A saltwater chlorinator control box could last 10 years or longer, depending on brand quality, usage and maintenance. You should consult your manufacturer’s instructions for the expected lifespan of your specific saltwater generator.
  7. How much does it cost to convert a traditional chlorine pool to a saltwater pool?

    Answer: The cost to convert a traditional chlorine pool to a saltwater pool can vary depending on the size of the pool and the specific equipment needed. On average, it can cost between $1,500 to $2,500.
  8. Can you swim in a saltwater pool if you have sensitive skin or allergies?

    Answer: Yes, saltwater pools can be beneficial for people with sensitive skin or allergies. The lower chlorine levels in saltwater pools can be gentler on the skin and eyes.
  9. Can you use a saltwater chlorinator with any type of pool?

    Answer: Saltwater chlorinators can be used with most types of pools, including fiberglass and vinyl liner pools. Fiberglass is very hardy – fiberglass is commonly used to build boats – and vinyl lined pools have had salt systems for decades. However, you should consult with a pool professional to determine if a saltwater chlorinator is suitable for your specific pool.

    One conflicting question is whether or not a saltwater system should be used with a concrete or gunite pool. Some pool builders will certainly build you one but some won’t because they feel it’s a recipe for disaster: Saltwater can be very corrosive and pool builders may not want the grief associated with having to service or warranty one.

    You can also use any pool heater in a saltwater pool too. You aren’t limited to any specific technology in this regard and may even consider a heat pump if your local climate warrants.
  10. Can you still use shock treatments in a saltwater pool?

    Answer: Yes, you can still use shock treatments in a saltwater pool. Shocking a pool can help to eliminate contaminants and maintain the water’s clarity. A chlorinator by design helps to maintain chlorine levels by producing a constant but relatively low amount of chlorine. Sometimes, you need to quickly raise chlorine in a pool and a chlorinator just can’t do it quickly enough.

    Shocking even a saltwater pool from time to time when needed can help to quickly raise chlorine levels in the water due to certain chlorine-killing events ie. hot sunny days, heavy rainfall, heavy pool usage.

Carl Mueller

I bought a home with a salt water pool in 2006 and soon realized the benefits over traditional chlorinated pools. On this website I'll discuss all the tips and tricks I've learned over the years. I'll also help you troubleshoot various problems with pools in general and ones specific to salt water pools that I've experienced personally!

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