by Rob Cox, July 9, 2012
Myths about Salt Chlorine Generators
Salt chlorine generators convert salt added to your pool into chlorine. Add salt just once, and it's reused over and over again, only boosters are needed to replace salt lost to backwash and splash out.
Salt pool systems are a relatively new technology, but have been adopted by the largest pool builders, some of whom estimate that 25% of chlorinated swimming pools have replaced chlorine tablets with salt chlorine systems.
Despite their rapid adoption, or perhaps because of it, many misconceptions have made their way into our collective knowledge base. Some of these myths have nearly become urban legend.
Let's discuss some of these pool salt system myths.
No, you won't need to drain the pool if you have already been using chlorine. There is no special treatment that needs to be done to a pool to convert from chlorine tablets to salt. If however, you have been using a biguanide like Baquacil or Revacil, you will need to take certain steps first to remove the residual. Same with bromine. If a pool has been using bromine, it has a bank of bromide salts that will need to be removed first by draining.
Actual twitter comment to me, a few weeks back "@POOLCENTER Doesn't dumping a bunch of salt into a pool help control algae? Do I really need the expensive "convert to chlorine" equipment?" My answer: "Hi, you also need the equipment for the hydrolysis of the salt, to create the chlorine. The salt by itself won't do too much". So, myth dispelled, you can't just dump salt into the pool, but after doing so, you can create chlorine by running the salty water through electrically charged metal plates. Salt, per se, is not a sanitizer - chlorine is.
This sounds like a dream! Salt systems create chlorine, and that's it. They don't control your pH, alkalinity or calcium levels. You also will still want to add Conditioner, to reduce the workload of the salt cell. You may also need clarifiers or algaecides in certain situations. Think of a salt water chlorinator as simply replacing chlorine tablets. You won't need to buy, transport, store or handle chlorine tablets any longer with a pool salt system.
Now that you have read the previous misconception, you know that this myth is also false. Salt chlorine generators "generate" chlorine, quite effectively. Indeed, it is still a chlorine treated pool. It may not smell like one any longer however, with a reduction in chloramine formation.
You know that feeling of tight skin and dread-locky hair when you exit the ocean. The salt from the ocean, running about 10,000 ppm on average, does seem to attach itself to you when you have an ocean swim. Not so with salt water pools, the level of 3,000 ppm or less makes the water feel silky soft. You won't taste it, or feel it - on your skin, hair or eyes.
For the most part, yes. However, the salt cell will need to be cleaned every 3-6 months, to remove calcium buildup on the cell plates, and restore full chlorine production. You also will need to add occassional salt boosters to replace salt lost due to backwashing or splashout. Usually, an annual booster treatment is sufficient.
For our similar article on the topic, written 12 months ago, we did a small study on the costs to a pool owner using a salt system, as compared to a similar pool using chlorine tablets.
We looked at the cost of chlorinating a 30000 gallon pool for a 5 year period; comparing the cost of buying tablets to the cost of a new salt system (controller and cell), along with the annual pool salt treatments. We added the cost of the electricity to operate the salt cell. and assumed a replacement of the salt cell after 5 years.
Although our results were close, tablets come out ahead as the cheaper overall option, in our small and rather unscientific study.
Well, it is a nice conversation piece, and maybe a bit of pool equipment that will allow you to one-up that neighbor who's always bragging about his new techy gadgets. But win friends, and influence people? Probably not, better look to Dale Carnegie for such benefits.
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