What is a salt water pool and what can it do for my family?
Salt Series: What is a salt water pool?
A salt water pool is a pool of which we add salt to the water and it transforms into chlorine by way of a machine called a salt chlorine generator.
How does it work?
Typically approx. 3400 ppm of salt is added to the water (based upon the source water salt readings) where it dissolves. It then travels through the water via the circulatory system of the pool to the generator where through the process of electrolysis, an electric current breaks the salt (sodium chloride) down into….. Upon disinfecting the water, the chlorine reverts back to sodium chloride to go through the same process again and again eliminating the need for every day chlorine pucks.
The dial is set to a percentage of time in a 24 hour period of which the cell is “ON” and generating chlorine. The required amount needed will change with bather use and must be done manually. Many generators also offers a boost or shocking function. This is because as the water passes through the cell of the machine it adds a very high dose of chlorine to the water. When the dial is low, the generator will produce chlorine only for that percentage of time during the day. When uses boosting or shocking function, the generator goes to 100%, which means it is on full blast for approx. 24 hrs. You should not use your pool at this time.
Because a salt chlorine generator produces chlorine it meets Health Canada’s requirement of being a chlorine based sanitizer. (The only other option is Bromine). The salt level is usually low enough that you cannot taste it. In comparison, a tear is 9000ppm and the ocean is 36000ppm of salt. A salt water pool has just a drop of salt in it.
A salt water pool is a chlorine pool. It is actually just like having a chlorine manufacturing plant attached to your own swimming pool. The pool water is treated just like a traditional chlorine pool and should be tested weekly by the homeowner, and taken monthly to a professional.
Like all sanitizing systems out there, a salt chlorine generating system is not a standalone system and does require chemicals. Please consult your manual or head to your local pool store for proper instructions. In addition to the regular testing the pool store will also check your salt levels.
All reputable generator owner manuals such as Hayward’s Aqua Rite generator manual will indicate that a salt water pool requires regular and routine balancing of the pool water to maintain and prevent corrosion, warranties and for bather safety. This means that a salt water pool is not chemical or maintenance free.
Like any mechanical piece of equipment it is important to know what the system requirements before it is turned on for the very first time AND before it is turned on for the season every spring. WARRANTY states that water balance must be address BEFORE turning the salt chlorine generator on. It is best to keep chlorine pucks on hand during this process for protection against algae and contaminants.
What can a salt generator do for you?
- It can provide a nice even level of continuous chlorine to your pool when monitored properly
- It can provide a nice feeling environment on your skin and eyes
- It can give a slight floating ability
What can it not?
- It cannot turn itself up and down based on bather load and season
- It cannot shock your pool for you efficiently
- It does not replace balancing your swimming pool
- It is not a babysitter for your pool duties/ or a set and forget it unit
- It will not replace chlorine as it is chlorine
- It will not save you money compared to using traditional chlorine
What do you need to know?
- You will need to purchase and add salt to the water at the beginning of the year and as required.
- Salt water mimics good water balance feel. Just because the water feels good to you does not mean it is not corroding your surfaces away. All pools need to test weekly and see your pool store every month.
- Salt water systems have a high pH. This is not the case with traditional chlorine systems and will have bad consequences if left untreated. All pools must test the water every week and see your pool store every month to prevent corrosion, warranty issues and for bathers safety.
- Salt water is corrosive. It can eat at decks, pool equipment etc. Check with a deck expert to see how the salt will affect it over time, balance your pool water and rinse clothing immediately after use.
- I recommend to not use the shock button on your generator, but a traditional shock. Your cell has a finite life. When you crank it up to 100% for 24 hours you are essentially using it up faster. A salt pool should be shocked weekly to prevent build up. A salt pool CAN have algae.
- This is an appliance and requires routine maintenance and has replaceable parts. Typically a cell should be cleaned before the start of the season, and it will be replaced after 5 years. The cell is half the cost of the unit.
Who could use this unit?
A salt chlorine generator can be used by any pool which has been bonded and approved for salt generator use. The decision to purchase this product should be based upon an analysis of the costs, benefits and work required vs a traditional chlorine pool. Please consult your professional pool store to discuss the above. There are different types of salt generators and not all of them are interchangeable or suit every pool system.
Salt Chlorine Generators are good solid reliable units. However they must be maintained as well as the water balance in the pool. The most important part of owning a pool is the bather’s safety. You should not own a pool if you are not going to look after the bathers. Balance your water, have it tested regularly and adjust the dial to coincide with the seasons and bather numbers. All forms of sanitizer systems are just that easy. Enjoy.