Rob Cox, March 30, 2012
Pool Salt Systems: MythBusters!
Saltwater Chlorine Generators, Pool Salt Systems, Salt Cells - whatever you call them, the technology is the same. By adding salt to the pool water, to a level of 2500ppm, and then moving that water through a series of electrically charged metal plates, we can safely convert salty water into chlorinated (salty) water.
It's not so much salt that you would notice, it's less than a tenth of the saltiness of the ocean, and a third of a human tear. It doesn't taste or feel salty, but it does add a buffering quality to the pool water. What you will notice is that the water has a softer, silkier feel.
Allow me to dispel a few myths about salt water chlorine generators.
Myth #1: Salt Systems are chlorine-free.
I saw a tweet yesterday that read, "I need to get to a salt pool, this chlorine is frizzing my hair!" lol - Salt pools are not chlorine-free, they can have just as much chlorine in the water as any other pool. Salt systems make their own chlorine, to replace tablets - but to be clear, it is a chlorine system.
Myth #2: Salt Systems are maintenance-free.
This one is almost true. Salt cells can develop mineral deposits on the metal plates, and need to be cleaned every so often. It's an easy process of acid cleaning the salt cell, which dissolves the mineral plaque. In addition, you also need to maintain the salt level in the pool, occasionally adding more to make up for backwash and splash out.
And - most importantly, you still need to test the pool water and maintain proper water balance. Salt pool systems do nothing for the pH, alkalinity or calcium hardness level in the pool. Salt systems do not create stabilized chlorine, and to help reduce demand on your salt cell, it is recommended that you still continue to maintain a level of chlorine stabilizer, also known as conditioner, to help shield your chlorine from the sun.
Myth #3: Salt Chlorine systems are cost-free.
If you compare the cost of a pool salt system + salt to the equal amount of tablets required to do the job, you may come out pretty close to equal. Salt cells will also eventually need to be replaced, they don't last forever - so this will need to be factored into the overall equation. You may save some money and time using a salt system, but it may be more time and less money savings.
Nonetheless, salt chlorine systems are very popular nowadays for their convenience, ease of use, and coolness factor. 10 years ago, salt systems were complicated and expensive devices, and not all that common. Few manufacturers were producing the units, and they spent most of their time educating and evangelizing salt chlorine generation.
Nowadays, it seems that everyone has a new pool salt system coming out, each year with more features than the last, and at a lower price too. Formerly the domain of high end inground pools, salt systems are now just as common on aboveground pools. Everyone enjoys the convenience and the coolness.
Installation of a new pool salt system is usually a 2 step process. 1). Mount the Controller and 2). Plumb in the salt cell and the sensor. Then you need to add salt to the pool - a special type of pool salt of course, called ... Pool Salt. The average aboveground pool will need 100-200lbs of salt, and inground pools can require at least double that amount for the initial pool salt treatment. Then you only need to add occassional boosters to replace the salt lost during backwash and splash out.
Fortunately, Pool Salt is rather affordable, you will save money to source it locally, as the cost to ship the salt can be prohibitive. Good sources may be a Culligan outlet, popular home stores, or sand and gravel yards.
Take a look at what modern pool salt systems have to offer. They can make chlorine management simpler, safer for you and the environment, and have a coolness factor - something to talk about when people ask you about your pool.
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