Swimming Pool Blog
by Rob Cox, July 17, 2011
The Truth About Salt Water Chlorine Generators
Salt water pool chlorine systems are being installed at record numbers, in all parts of the country. They bring pool owners an easier way to maintain the chlorine level in their pool, but the chlorine they produce is not free.
The cost of Salt Water systems have come down from over $2000 to most units being under $1000, and smaller units for aboveground pools costing under $500, making the idea of salt water chlorination thinkable to more pool owners.
There are a number of misconceptions about Salt Water Generators. Allow me to clear the air on a few of the Myths & Facts about Salt Water Chlorine Generators.
Myth #1: Salt Water Chlorine Generators reduce chlorine cost.
We looked at the cost of providing chlorine to a 30,000 gal pool for a 5 year period, comparing the cost of purchasing tablets to the cost of a new salt chlorine system (controller and cell), and required amount of pool salt for the initial treatment and annual salt boosters for fresh water added.
Tablets come out ahead for an average in ground pool open 4-6 months. Open year 'round and the calculation tips to the salt system as being cheaper in the long run. But not by much. And if you need to replace the salt cell too soon, it makes a salt system more expensive than using tablets.
Myth #2: Just add the salt and you're done! After connecting the device (some plumbing may be required) and balancing the water, you do just pour in a special type of Pool Salt, (50lbs per 2000 gallons of pool water) turn the unit on and it begins to make chlorine. Just like with chlorine tablets, you still need to keep good pool water balance, Salt Chlorine systems don't manage your water balance (pH, Alkalinity, Hardness, Stabilizer).
Myth #3: Salt Water Pools are chlorine free. Salt water chlorinators make their own chlorine, they are small chlorine factories. The salt cell converts the salt water into water + chlorine. I once heard of a fellow who bought Pool Salt, poured it in, and called the store mad because his pool went green.
Myth #4: Salt water chlorinators are maintenance free. In order to protect the expensive catalytic "cell", it is vital to maintain proper water chemistry and to clean the cell when deposits occur. Some have a see-thru housing to view if deposits are building up betweent the metallic plates of the salt cell. Cyanuric acid must also be added manually to a salt pool, 3lbs per 10000 gallons, to raise it to 30 ppm.
Myth #5: Chlorine level is automatically monitored and adjusted. On very expensive models, yes - but most models will require adjustment of the controller to "dial-in" the proper levels of chlorine. You should still test your chlorine level to avoid overchlorinating your pool.
Myth #6: Pool Salt has no effect on the pool or deck equipment. Salt Pools may have problems with corrosion to stainless steel ladders or light rings. Using a Sacrificial Zinc Anode (shown right) can help prevent this. High salt levels can corrode some soft stones used as coping or deck stone, causing an etching of the surfaces, similar to how road salt will corrode a concrete highway over time.
In order to present a balanced and fair article, let's take a look at the facts of owning a salt pool system. And there are many, that's why they're so popular!
Fact #1: Salt Chlorine Generators reduce production, transport, storage and handling of a hazardous chemical. And this makes your pool "greener" and more environmentally friendly.
Fact #2: Salt chlorine pools do not taste salty, and the water has a silkier feel.
Fact #3: Salt Systems make it easier to maintain a steady level of chlorine, without worrying about running out of supply. Many systems will automate the shocking process as well, or allow you to superchlorinate at the push of a button.
Fact #4: Having a salt system on your pool makes a nice conversation topic at the next cookout with the neighbors. :-)
If you are considering installing a salt water chlorine system on your pool, you are not alone - thousands of Americans are doing the same thing. If you have your own Myths & Facts to share about your experience with salt systems for pools, please leave a relevant comment below.