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What is a Salt Chlorinator, and Are They Worth it?

Salt Chlorine Generators are also known as salt water chlorinators, salt chlorinators, or salt generators. These generators are increasing in popularity because of how environmentally friendly they are, how soft they are on the eyes and skin, and the need of less pool chemicals to maintain your pool clean. There is, however, a misconception that salt chlorinators create a chlorine-free pool. The truth is that chlorine generators dissolve salts that creates chlorine in order to keep the pool sanitized, free of bacteria, and algae-free. You can see the basic function of a salt water generator in the image below. 

Here are the Basic Components of a Salt Chlorine Generator.

How a salt chorine system works chart

There may be many different brands, but most of them have the same basic components. See below!

Power Supply/Control Panel:

Hayward Control Center for a Salt Generator

This little unit controls the amount of output power that goes to the Salt Cell. Depending on how much you spend on your salt generator, it can also give you valuable information like the pool’s salinity and temperature!

The Conversion Cell:

Hayward conversion cell

This is where the magic happens! The Salt Cell is the part of the chlorine generator that produces chlorine gas from the salt that is dissolved in your water.

Water Flow Sensor/Switch:

Hayward water flow sensor

This is pretty self explanatory. This piece of unit simply detects that the cell has the proper amount of water flow going through it with the two internal and external sensors it has. Some sensors/switches are plumbed into the line along with the salt cell while others are built into the cell itself. The sensors function as a protective mechanism for the salt generator. Without proper flow, the system will not produce the chlorine needed to maintain a sanitized pool.

The Salt: (last but not least)

Best swimming pool salt for chlorine generator

Once the saltwater chlorinator is installed, you can add the salt needed according to the gallons in your pool. In around twenty-four hours the salt will completely dissolve and you can turn on the salt chlorinator pool system. The salt chlorinator will now continuously create its own pure form of chlorine from the salt water that moves through the plumbing. This process uses electrolysis to separate the chlorine and sodium molecules that pass through the cell. While this process uses the salt in the water, it does not consume it. Another pro is that the salt will still remain within the pool even when the water evaporates. So, the only time you will need to replenish the salt in your pool is when you drain the pool, backwash the pool, or the salt splashes it out with the water.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT SALT

Note: ALWAYS buy the highest purity, food-grade salt to ensure you salt chlorinator lasts  as long as it can. Buying a salt that is not highest purity means that your pool chlorinator will not be able to maintain the pool as clean as it should. It needs to be free of anti-clumping agents as well as be 99.8 percent pure food-quality. Using the proper form of salt is crucial for the health and longevity of your saltwater pool cell!

What Are The Advantages of Owning a Salt Chlorine Generator?

Thinking Emoji

There are some great benefit to owning salt generators. Here are a few:

  • No longer need to buy, store, and handle chlorine products.
  • Much more comfortable swimming experience than swimming in a chlorinated pool.
  • Does not discolor your bathing suit!
  • Cheaper maintenance
  • Better air quality for people with Asthma.
  • Softer on the eyes, so no more red eyes!
  • Easier on the skin for people with eczema, psoriasis, and other skin sensitivities. 
  • Only add salt once a year
  • You protect the Mother Nature by using natural salt which does not damage your body and the environment like other harmful chemicals.
  • ⅓ of pool owners have switched to salt chlorinators in 2018!

The upfront costs of a pool chlorinator might feel like a lot, but when you only have to put salt in your pool once a year, it becomes cheaper in the long run to have a pool chlorinator.

How Much do These Salt Generators Cost?

Complete Unit – usually costs $1,500 – $2,500 to install. 

A new Salt Cell – can cost $700.00 – $1,100 to replace and could last 3-7 years if well maintained. 

A New Power Supply – can cost $800.00 – $1,200 to replace and could last 4 – 10 years. Depending on weather, wear and tear, and maintenance.

How Long Do Salt Chlorinators Last?

Like any electronic device, salt chlorinators do not last forever. They also do require some maintenance here and there. After a couple of years, you might need to replace them. Salt chlorinators can last between 3-7 years. Higher priced salt chlorinators generally last longer. Other ways to increase your salt generators life is by using the proper salt and maintaining it well. A malfunctioning salt chlorine generator can rapidly become a homeowners nightmare.

 

 

Here are the Most Common or Obvious Symptoms People Report.

Low Chlorine Output:

You can diagnose thi yourself by performing your own water PH tests. You will usually start to see unsanitized, murky, and dirty water. With the hot weather here in Broward County, Florida, your pool can easily turn into an algae infested swamp that normal people would not dare to get into. 

Indicator Lights:

Many salt water pool chlorinators come with error lights that flash, sort of like a car engine light, when there is a problem with your swimming pool or salt generator. These lights usually tell you if there is no water flow, high or low salt within your pool, or voltage/amps that are not within their proper ranges.

Salt Water System Malfunctioning? Here are Troubleshooting Tips to do Before You Call in the Professionals.

Before calling the pros, (Sublime Pools & Spa), sometimes there are some things you can troubleshoot to save you some money!

Check the Power:

CGI outlet showing reset and test

If your salt cell is plugged into a ground fault circuit  interrupter (GFI) electric outlet, the ones with a button that pops out when it attempts to protect against a surge, make sure that button has not been pressed! If your salt system is hardwired, different voltages could cause the system to act a little haywire. If this is the case, you will need a professional pool technician to fix this for you.

Check Salt Levels:

Salt on table to written in salt

Maintaining the proper salt levels in your swimming pool is very important. Using salt testing strips or meters is highly recommended! Sometimes, even when your unit displays a healthy salt level – it could be wrong! This is a simple test you can run yourself.

Check Flow/Switch Sensor:

Pool pump basket with leaves disrupting the suction flow of a swimming pool

Check, check, and double check! The water flow is vital for you salt generator to work properly. Dirty pump baskets and skimmer baskets could be clogging up your water flow. Other things that can clog up your water flow are impellers, dirty filters, and dirty inline strainers–this can cause very little or no chlorine output. If all of the above checks out good and all the debris has been cleaned and removed, but the water flow is still an issue, you may have a problem with the Salt Cell itself. In this case again, you will need a pool professional to assist you.

Check Water Balance:

Pool technician taking water from a pool to test PH levels

It is important before you call a professional that you check your PH and Cyanuric Acid (CYA) levels. High pH and low CYA can make it hard for chlorine to be effective. Keep a pH level of 7.2 – 7.6, and a CYA level (or Stabilizer) of 40 – 60 ppm. This will reduce the workload on your salt cell and ensure your salt cell lasts as long as it can! Abusing the salt cell depreciates its functionality and may cause premature cell failure. You can purchase some PH testing strips here.

Check Pump Running Time:

Pool timer installation offered by Sublime Pools & Spa

Your salt system has the option to run from 0% to 100% capacity. If you set your system to run at 50% capacity and your pool pump is set to run 8 hours everyday, then your salt cell will produce chlorine for 50% of that time – which is 4 hours. The system runs its capacity according to the pool pump. In very hot weather such as the weather we have in South Florida, you may have to run your salt system at 100%! You may even need to extend the run time on your pump to allow the system to produce enough chlorine for your pool. This all can be done by adjusting the pool timers on your pool pump and adjusting your salt generator capacity.

Check Salt System for Proper Size and Programmed Settings:

Someone calibrating the salt generator according to the gallons in a pool

Making sure that your salt water chlorinator power supply was programmed properly according to the gallons your swimming pool is very important. Not only does it have to be programmed according to the gallons of the swimming pool, but also the type of salt cell it utilizes. This is why it is best to hire a professional pool technician that can correctly program this for you, which will save you some long-term headaches. If your salt system has all the correct settings and it still does not chlorinate properly, then you may have to supplement it with chlorine tablets or run the system for longer hours.

Check Salt Cell:

Check salt cell and salt cell valves

As your salt cell creates the electrolysis needed to convert the salty water into chlorine, the metallic plates of your salt cell develops a scaly build-up that reduces chlorine output from your salt water generator. This needs to be visually inspected to confirm this is the problem. The cell will typically last anywhere between 3 – 7 years depending on the care it receives. Your salt levels and maintenance have a big impact on how long your salt cell will function. Take care of your salt chlorine generator, and it’ll take care of you!

CONCLUSION
  • If you want to get a salt water generator, get familiar with your salt chlorine generator. There are so many benefits if you properly maintain it.
  • Know your basic components and what they do.
  • Keep in mind that depending on how old the unit is, you may be better off with a whole new part instead of a temporary fix that my or may not last. But by this time, if you bought a salt system from a solid brand and have us to ensure it lasts that long, you would have saved enough money to get a new one!

Contact Your Local Broward Pool Professionals for a FREE Quote and Unbeatable Guarantees!

If you live in Broward County, Sublime Pools & Spa can run all of these diagnostics for you to ensure you choose the best option for your swimming pool. We service pools in Fort Lauderdale, Weston, Sunrise, Coral Springs, Davie, and many other local cities in South Florida. Call us today for a free quote at 754-260-7193. We take pride in our unbeatable guarantees and our values that keep our company afloat!

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