The Definitive Guide to Salt Water Chlorinators
Traditional chlorine isn’t your only option. Instead of just dumping chemicals in your pool, you could use salt water chlorinators instead. Here’s how.
Salt water chlorinators have risen in popularity over the years as swimming pool owners search for better and easier ways to clean their pools. Some just prefer not to dump potentially toxic chemicals into their pools while others just want to make the cleaning process just a tad easier on themselves. That is where salt water chlorinators come into play.
How Salt Water Chlorinators Work
Salt water chlorinators use dissolved salt as a means of creating chlorine to clean the pool. It’s in important to note that these systems are not chlorine-free, they just use a different process to create the chlorine instead of just dumping the chemical into the pool.
A salt water pools make hypochlorous acid (HClO) by using table salt or sodium chloride (NaCl) and electrolysis. The salt water passes through an electric current creating chlorine gas (Cl2), but you’re also forming hydrogen gas (h2) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Using electrolysis, dissolved salt is converted into hypochlorous acid(HClO) and sodium hypochlorite, the sanitizing agents used to clean the water of any dirt and bacteria.
So, instead of just dumping chlorine into the water, you create a chlorine generator with a salt water chlorinator that continues to generate chlorine until more salt is needed.
The Anatomy of a Salt Water Chlorinator
Now that we understand how the basic chemical process works, let’s take a deeper look at the basic parts of a salt water chlorinator.
1. The Cell
The cell is the part of the system that actually converts the salt into chlorine . Water passes through the cell and over solid plats that are coated with ruthenium or iridium. These naturally occurring metals are charged from the control board and allow the salt to convert to chlorine through electrolysis.
2. The Control Board
The control board, as I already mentioned, is really the control center of the system. Its primary purpose is to provide electricity for the process, and it also allows pool owners to control the amount of electricity sent to the cell, thus allowing pool owners to dial up and cut back the amount of chlorine in the pool.
5 Maintenance Tips for Salt Water Chlorinators
In order to make your salt water chlorinators last, you will need to perform regular maintenance on them just as you do every other part of your pool. Here are a few maintenance tips to help get you started:
- Try to always maintain a consistent salt level of between 2700-3900 ppm.
- Clean the chlorinator cell at least once a season or as needed but do not over clean.
- During lightning storms, turn off the chlorinator to reduce the risk of power surges that could damage the Control Board.
- Keep your calcium levels as low as you can while still maintaining proper levels for your pool as per your manufacturer.
- Only purchase chlorinators with reverse polarity to reduce the scale buildup on the cell.
How Long Do Salt Water Chlorinators Last?
A well maintained salt water chlorinator system should last you anywhere from 3 to 7 years. When it comes time to replace the cell or the board, you are looking at a replacement cost of anywhere from $500-$1100 depending on what part you need to replace and your particular system.
What you don’t want to do is cause them to go out before the end of their lifespan. Improper cleaning or too frequent cleaning of the cell is the leading cause of early replacement.
The circuit board, on the other hand, is just like any electronic device. It could last you years or something may cause it to go out. Making sure it is properly covered and off during electrical storms is your best defense against early outages.
How Much Does a Salt Water Chlorinator Cost?
There is no denying that salt water chlorinators are much easier to maintain compared to other filtration systems. However, they do come at a cost.
When setting up a salt water chlorinator, you can expect to pay more for the equipment and initial setup. Since the cell and the control board don’t last forever, you can also expect higher costs when it comes time to replace them as well. Still, that added cost can make your daily pool maintenance so much easier you may find that it is worth it.
For the salt water chlorinator itself, you’ll spend between $800 and $1,000 depending on the brand. The salt is pretty inexpensive depending on how big your pool is. The bigger the pool, the more money you’ll spend each year on large bags of salt, but you won’t’ spend money on chlorine. That’s the trade-off in the long run.
5 Reasons To Convert To a Saltwater Swimming Pool
If you are thinking about building a new swimming pool or have an existing pool and you are thinking of converting your pool to salt water then you should read these top 5 reasons to use salt water over traditional chlorine treatments for your pool.
1. Less Frequency of Adding Chlorine Manually
Pool owners without a saltwater chlorine generator system use liquid chlorine or tablets to maintain sanitizer levels in the pool. While effective, buying, transporting, storing, and using chlorine is not fun. For example, liquid chlorine is volatile, loses potency extremely quickly, and is dangerous to skin, eyes and to breathe.
While a salt water swimming pool may need to occasionally have the chlorine levels manually adjusted you can usually accomplish this using tablet or granular forms of chlorine so that you do not need to use liquid chlorine at all.
2. Save Money On Pool Chemicals
Salt is the base ingredient that chlorine is derived from. Since salt does not dissipate in the water like other chemicals you use, the initial dose of salt that you put into your pool will continue to be there throughout the season and into the next. Only when you physically remove water from the pool do you lower the salt concentration levels.
In a regular pool season, you may need to add a single bag or two of salt to top off your system and keep the salt in the range of 3000ppm. Even the next season you may only need to add one or two bags to start off the year.
3. Salt Water Pools Are Easy On The Eyes, Skin, and Hair
The biggest single advantage that salt water pool owners commonly reference is the fact that salt water pools are much softer on the eyes and much less drying to the skin than traditional chlorine pools.
There are a few reasons why this is, with the first being that salt in the pool water near to 3000ppm is soft on the skin and actually will help to hydrate you as opposed to severe drying effect like typically experienced with chlorinated water.
People with skin problems, or swimmers with a sensitivity to chlorine such as red eyes, specifically notice the soothing benefits of salt water systems. If you are used to swimming in regular pools then you will notice less red eyes, less itchy and dry skin as well as less bleaching to clothing and bathing suits worn in the water.
4. Less Chlorine Smell
One of the biggest complaints of chlorinated swimming pool water is the fact that you can carry the chlorine smell on your skin and especially in your hair for long periods of time after you get out of the water.
While this chlorine smell is usually attributed to a buildup of chloramines in the water and in theory can be avoided in any swimming pool by using breakpoint chlorination, and proper pH balancing, salt water pool owners note specifically less chlorine smell after bathing than regular swimming pools and spas.
5. Less Pool Chemical Maintenance
The final point about the advantages of salt water pools versus traditional chlorine pools is that it takes much less time to balance and maintain the water chemical balance in a salt water pool.
Most of this has to do with the fact the sanitizer is mostly automated through the salt water system leaving you to worry only about the calcium hardness , pH balance , and total alkalinity under regular conditions as well as stabilizer levels.
Since the chlorine (which is what typically causes variations in pH and total alkalinity) is automated and released into the system in small and steady doses you would notice less overall fluctuations in your pH and total alkalinity levels making the water much easier to manage overall.
Ready To Switch Your Pool To Saltwater?
Salt water chlorinators are a great option for pool owners who want to lighten the pool maintenance load but they do come with a slightly added cost over traditional chemical based systems.
Still, if you are looking for chlorination alternatives, this is by far one of the best options out there. If you are tired of dumping chemicals into your pool, why not give salt water chlorination a try? You could find that it is both easier on you and your swimmers.
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