Why You Need A Salt Chlorine Generator

There are many benefits to having a saltwater pool. However, you can't reap the benefits without the proper equipment. Read on to learn more.

Salt Generator Quick Answers:

  1. What Is a Salt Chlorine Generator and How Does It Work?
  2. How Much Does a Salt Chlorinator Cost?
  3. Benefits of a Salt Chlorine Generator
  4. How Long Do Salt Chlorine Generators Last?
  5. How Do I Know If My Salt Chlorine Generator Is Working?
  6. Checking Your Pool Chemistry

Salt water pools are getting more and more popular – but aren’t they a lot of trouble to set up and maintain?

Actually, if you already own a pool, you’re already more than halfway to a salt water swimming pool! And making the switch to salt water is probably easier than you think. Aside from water test strips, the Pool Calculator app, and some chlorine and salt, all you’ll need to do a salt water pool conversion is a salt chlorine generator.

Are you considering going salty? Keep reading for a detailed breakdown of salt water systems for pools, including the different components of a saltwater generator, how much they cost, maintenance requirements, and what to look for when shopping for one.

What Is a Salt Chlorine Generator and How Does It Work?

a Pentair salt chlorine generator for a pool
Pentair is a great brand to reference when starting your search for a salt chlorine generator. 

What many people don’t realize about salt water pools is that they aren’t completely chlorine-free. Granted, a salt pool contains much less chlorine than a regular pool – but you can’t go totally sans chlorine. That’s where a saltwater chlorinator comes in. 

A saltwater chlorine generator is a machine that uses electrolysis to convert salt water into chlorinated water. (It’s also sometimes called a saltwater chlorinator, a salt chlorinator, a saltwater generator, or a salt chlorine generator.) This keeps your salt water pool at the right chlorine level, so it stays sanitary.

So how does a salt chlorine generator work? Basically, it takes NaCl (sodium chloride, AKA table salt) and turns it into HClO (hypochlorous acid)[3]. When your generator is running, the salt dissolved in your pool water passes through the chlorine generator cell (or salt cell) and over metal-coated charged plates. This initiates electrolysis for chlorine generation[3].

The “control board” of your generator is just what it sounds like. It controls how much electricity runs through the system, and thus how much chlorine is produced. It’s also where you turn the entire unit on and off.

This chlorine production process is necessary for keeping salt water pools clean, free of chloramines and bacteria, and healthy for swimming. Additionally, a salt chlorine generator will ensure that your pool’s salinity (salt level) isn’t too high.

How Much Does a Salt Chlorinator Cost?

Saltwater chlorinators typically cost between $800 and $1,200, which is the biggest expense of converting your pool. Aside from that, replacing the salt cell periodically (i.e., every 3-7 years) is recommended. This can cost anywhere from $600 to $900, depending on the model. 

The other costs associated with a saltwater chlorinator are the price of salt and supplemental chlorine. (You won’t need nearly as much chlorine as you did prior to converting your pool.) Bags of salt usually run $10 to $20 apiece. How much you spend each year on salt and chlorine depends mostly on the size of your pool and where you live. Having said that, most salt water pool owners don’t end up spending more than a few hundred dollars a year on salt and chlorine expenses.

Benefits of a Salt Chlorine Generator

The benefits of a salt chlorine generator mostly reflect the benefits of having a salt water pool. Many pool owners make the switch because salt water pools contain fewer chemicals – such as muriatic acid and calcium hypochlorite – and less chlorine than traditional pools[2]. This means no chlorine smell, green-tinted hair, or irritated skin. On top of that, some people notice clearer skin after swimming in a salt water pool, similar to the effects of swimming in the ocean[1].

Speaking of the ocean, salt water pools aren’t actually very salty! The salinity is closer to human tears, which far less salty than the ocean. Why does this matter? With low salinity, you can open your eyes underwater. Additionally, your skin and hair won’t feel salty and dry after swimming[1].

Since a salt water pool calls for less chlorine, you’ll have lower maintenance costs and easier upkeep. Also, you only need to add salt a few times a year, which cuts down on costs as well.

Saltwater chlorinators themselves tend to be much easier to operate and maintain than other swimming pool filtration and cleaning systems. Instead of manually adding liquid chlorine or chlorine tablets, you can control how much chlorine your pool generates by simply pressing a button. This makes it easy to regulate your chlorine levels and maintain balance. Some high-end models allow you to schedule salt water chlorination for your pool, and many have self-cleaning features.

Although a salt chlorinator is generally easy to maintain, you still need to test and balance your pool chemistry regularly. (Keep reading for guidelines and tips.)

How Long Do Salt Chlorine Generators Last?

With proper maintenance, a saltwater chlorinator system can last up to ten years. However, as we mentioned, the cell will need to be replaced every few years. In some instances, you might have to replace the control board, too. However, at that point, you’ll need to weigh the costs of replacing parts versus getting an entirely new salt system.

To ensure your salt chlorine generator lasts as long as possible, stick to these best practices:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for adding salt and operating the system.
  • Regularly clean the cell to prevent salt buildup and replace it when necessary.
  • Regularly clean your filtration system and pool pump.
  • Replace your filters, pumps, and other pool equipment as necessary.
  • Turn off your salt chlorinator system during heavy rainfall or other particularly stormy weather to avoid damaging the electronic controls.
  • Test your salt and chlorine levels on a regular basis.
  • Maintain consistent salt and chlorine levels and balance your water as needed.

While keeping the water clean in a salt water pool is relatively easy, pool maintenance is still crucial. Some salt chlorine generators have displays that indicate a pool’s current salt and chlorine levels. That said, we suggest testing the water once a week with a test strip, which will provide the most accurate reading.

How Do I Know If My Salt Chlorine Generator Is Working?

Not sure whether your saltwater chlorinator is working properly? When your system is operating, the control panel should indicate this, either with a production light or another “on” signal. Also, the production light will tell you that the cell is clean and functional. In other words, if you’re unable to turn it on, you might need to clean or replace the salt cell.

In the event that your salt chlorinator system is clearly on, but you’re not sure if it’s working, test the salinity and chlorine levels in your pool with the handy Pool Calculator app. If your levels are where they should be, you can rest assured that your salt chlorine generator is working. On the other hand, if your chlorine or salt levels are too low or too high, Pool Calculator will tell you how much you need to add to balance your system.

Checking Your Pool Chemistry

Despite what many pool owners may think, you can’t stop maintaining your pool after installing a saltwater chlorine generator! No matter what kind of water you have in your pool or how many gallons it takes to fill it, regularly checking your pool chemistry is essential. 

 a hand holding a pool water test kit above a pool after testing the water
Keeping the chemicals in your pool balanced is the most important part of pool maintenance! Don’t forget to test your water regularly. 

A pool is a delicate ecosystem, and throwing it off balance is easier than you may think. Your pool needs to be monitored, cleaned, tested, and adjusted to ensure the water is safe and healthy for swimming.

For instance, it’s crucial to check the pH and total alkalinity of your pool, which can be impacted by a variety of factors. When these levels are off, balancing them with a pH+ or pH- basicity corrector or cyanuric acid is critical – and this goes for salt water pools, chlorinated pools, inground pools, above-ground pools, and hot tubs.

Whether you need to balance your pH level, find your total alkalinity, stabilize your free chlorine, check for calcium hardness, or adjust your salt chlorination, Pool Calculator makes maintaining your pool water a breeze. Get the Pool Calculator app on your desktop, Android, or iOS mobile device and get started in minutes!

External sources:

1. https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/benefits-of-salt-water-pool/

2. https://www.thespruce.com/saltwater-pool-and-how-it-works-27365563. http://dwi.defra.gov.uk/research/completed-research/reports/dwi0203.pdf

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