Swimming Pool Blog

Salt Chlorinator Installation and Start-Up

 Salt Chlorine Generators

by Matt English, April 19, 2013

All About Salt Chlorine Generators



Chlorine generators, or salt chlorinators, are a popular means of hassle-free regular pool sanitation. You’ve probably heard about their benefits. Less work maintaining sanitizer levels in your pool and silky feeling water that feels great to swim in. So you’re made the decision to install one into your pool.

Most pool product manufacturers have come out with some sort of chlorine generator system. What they all have in common is how they work. An electric current is passed between two electrodes causing common table salt (NaCl) in the water to react with your pool water to produce Hypochlorous acid (HClO) through the electrolysis. 

Hypochlorous acid is the exact same substance that forms when you put regular chlorine sanitizer into your pool water. This is one of the important things to know, a salt pool is a chlorine pool – but instead of adding the chlorine yourself the chlorine is generated whenever your pump is on.

How do I get started?

The first step is to decide on a salt system. It is imperative that the system you choose is sized properly for the amount of water in your pool. Too small of a system and your generator will never keep up with the chlorine demand of your pool. There are also various bells and whistles to choose from and it’s up to you and your budget as to what you want or can afford.

A popular feature on many chlorine generators is a 'clean' setting. As a natural part of electrolysis, metals such as calcium dissolved in your pool water are attracted to and deposit onto your salt cell’s electrodes. Every so often these deposits have to be cleaned off or the system will not work properly. The cell has to be removed from the system and soaked in a solution of hydrochloric acid and pool water and brushed off. The 'clean' setting reverses the polarities of the salt cell’s electrodes causing mineral deposits to drop back into your pool water. This means that instead of cleaning your cells every season, you can go two or more seasons between cleanings.

Another feature on high-end chlorine generators is temperature compensation. As pool water temperature increases, chlorine loses its sanitizing efficiency. A chlorine generator with temperature compensation will increase chlorine production as the temperature rises, and lower chlorine production as the temperature decreases. Most salt systems with this feature will also shut down automatically if the water temperature is too high or too low.

Other features on chlorine generators include a super chlorinate function to shock the pool, programmable pump timing controls, inline mineral supplementary sanitizers, and microprocessor water diagnostics that will actually test and adjust your pool’s chemistry as needed! You can really add a lot of bells and whistles to a salt generator system. 

How do you Install a Salt Chlorinator?

Your salt cell, the electrode part of the generator system, is typically installed on your pool’s return line after the pump, filter, and heater. Installation varies from system to system and can be as involved as cutting your return line and plumbing the cell in, or simply drilling a couple of holes in your pipe for the electrodes to contact the water. solar chlor XT

Some chlorine generators don’t connect to your pool plumbing at all and simply float around freely like a chlorine dispenser or clip onto the side of your pool.

The control units for the higher end units use standard household current and can be plugged into a standard outlet, or be powered from a filter timer to run in conjunction with your pump.

How do I Prepare my Pool?

The first step is to make sure that all of your pool equipment and metal surfaces are properly bonded by being connected to an equipotential bonding grid and to each other with a bare copper wire. By law the equipment and structures of most modern in ground pools are already bonded. A bonding grid is designed to catch stray voltage from entering your pool and causing a shock. 

Most of the time any stray voltage is merely a nuisance, but on rare occasions improperly installed equipment or faulty local utilities can cause much higher voltage to end up at your pool. You can test to make sure that your pool is properly bonded with a potentiometer tested on a wire touching two metal components of your pool. Your salt generator owner’s manual will include an entry on proper bonding. 

For salt pools, improper bonding also contributes to the corrosion of metal equipment such as pool light faces and handrails. Rusting is basically and electro-chemical process where oxygen in the water binds with iron molecules to produce iron oxide (rust). This process involves the trading of electrons (electricity) and is helped along by salt and electrical current.

Proper bonding helps to lessen this reaction by lessening electrical current. You can also lessen corrosion by using a sacrificial zinc anode in your pool. Anodes help by more readily giving up their ions to the water than your steel components, so the zinc anode corrodes in place of your expensive pool equipment.

How do I Maintain a Salt Pool?

Table of chemical levels recommended by the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, or the APSP.

Ideal Levels
2700 to 3400 ppm
7.2 to 7.6
Free Chlorine
1.0 to 3.0 ppm
Cyanuric Acid (Stabilizer)
60 to 80 ppm(80 ppm better)
Calcium Hardness
200 to 400 ppm
Total Alkalinity
80 to 120 ppm
0 ppm
Saturation Index
-.2 to .2 (0 best)
Obviously, the big thing to add to your water is salt, lots of it. You are going to be shooting for a 2700 to 3400 ppm concentration of salt. This is approximately 40 pounds of salt per 2000 gallons of water. The salt you want to use is NaCl, sodium chloride table salt of at least 99% purity. You can use common table salt, water softener salt, or salt specifically for pool water such as Aqua Salt. Do not use iodized salt, rock salt, salt with yellow prussiate of soda, or salt with anti-caking additives.

To add salt turn on your filter pump and add the salt directly to your pool water. Use a brush to help the salt dissolve and to prevent the salt from piling up on the bottom of your pool. Run your pump for 24 hours to help distribute the salt evenly throughout your pool. Test your salt level using salt test strips or a pocket salt tester. 

Now you can start up your salt chlorine generator. Hand in hand with salt you are going to need to maintain your stabilizer levels. Stabilizer is especially important with salt pools outdoors so that your salt generator can keep up with chlorine loss to the sun. 

Finally! Your salt system is installed and your levels are balanced. Now it’s time to start enjoying that silky water that salt pools are known for. Regularly handling or even buying chlorine on a regular basis is a thing of the past! 

But remember, salt pools are not maintenance free – It is important that you check your pool chemical levels weekly and keep your water balanced.