Pool Chlorine Generator | Your Guide To Salt Water Chlorine Cells 

Chlorine generator (saltwater chlorinator) and the best swimming pool chemistry for your salt water pool systems.

Over the last few years, salt water chlorinators have risen in popularity.  Pool owners have found that manually adding chlorine is not the only way to get chlorine into their pools.  And some just want to make their pool lives just a little easier.  That the beauty of owning a salt water pool with a chlorine generator.

These units can either be in-line or you can have a stand alone machine which are usually about the size of a dishwasher.  Saltwater generators have been around for many years now but have just recently enjoyed mass success due to people's chlorine allergies, chlorine rash, and hot tub rash.  There's also the the convenience of not needing to add swimming pool chlorine on a regular basis.

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How Salt Water Chlorine Generators Work

Salt water chlorinators use a process called "electrolysis" to produce chlorine.  The right amount of salt is added to the pool and is dissolved in the water.  The salt water passes through the pool chlorine generator that is normally fitted inside with plates, or sometimes called fins.  The fins create an electrical current which produces chlorine gas.  Utilizing this electrolysis, the dissolved salt in the water is converted into hypochlorous acid (HClO) and sodium hypochlorite which is the sanitizing agent that kills organic matter and bacteria in the pool.

Pool Chlorine Generator

The Basic Parts Of A Chlorine Generator

The above video goes into great detail about salt pool and chlorine cells, but let's take a minute to review some highlights.

The Chlorine Cell

As it was already stated, the salt water passes through the cell which in turn produces chlorine.  The titanium plates that are located inside the chlorine cell are coated with precious metals, sometimes with ruthenium or iridium.

The Control Board

The control board is the engine room, or nerve center, for your salt water pool.  The control board give you the freedom to increase or decrease the chlorine at will, along with power lights, maintenance lights, no flow indicators, etc...

Pool Chlorine Generator

How Long Does A Salt Water Chlorinator Last?

If you properly maintain your chlorine cell, you can expect it to last anywhere from 5 - 7 years.  If you close your pool for the Winter your cell might experience a longer life.  I've personally seen chlorine generators for salt pools last up to 12 years.  Improper cleaning and sustained high calcium hardness levels can shorten its life.  Your control board should be treated just like any other electrical device.  Never get it wet and make sure to keep the cover closed.  Only open it when needed.

How Much Does A Pool Chlorine Generator Cost?

The answer to this question depends upon your size pool.  Obviously the larger the pool, the larger the cell will be, and that equals a higher price.  Here are some good ballpark figures for different size pools.  For this example, I'll be using the Hayward Goldline AQR9 AquaRite Electronic Salt Chlorination System for In-Ground Pools:

  • For a 15,000 gallon pool, you can expect to pay around $700
  • For a 25,000 gallon pool, you can expect to pay around $750
  • For a 40,000 gallon pool, you can expect to pay around $870
  • For 40 lbs. of Morton Salt you can expect to pay around $30

Maintenance Tips For Salt Water Chlorinators

Regardless of what you may heard, chlorine generators do need maintenance from time to time.  This quick list can help your chlorine generator last as long as it can.

  • Maintain the correct salt level for your particular chlorine cell.  This is normally between 2500 - 4500 ppm but always go by what the instructions say.  For an average 20,000 gallon pool you will need 7-10 50 lb. bags to bring your saline level to the correct reading of 2500 - 4500 ppm.  
  • Try as best you can to maintain a low calcium hardness level.  Never use calcium hypochlorite granular chlorine if you have a salt water generator.  Scale buildup will lead to premature cell failure.
  • Maintain a lower pH level, between 7.2 - 7.4.  Salt pools are notorious for increasing the pH so keep some muriatic acid or dry acid on hand to lower the pH.
  • Clean your cell at least once during the swimming season if you close your pool, and clean it twice if you keep your pool open all year.  Simply remove the unit from the plumbing and clean with a soft brush to remove any debris or deposits.  For calcium deposits, it is a recommended mixture of muriatic pool acid and water.  I normally use 4 gallons of water to 1 gallon of pool acid, a 4:1 ratio.We have these cool plugs that screw into the bottom of our salt water chlorine cell.  I fill the cell with the pool acid mixture and wait until the bubbling stops, about 5 minutes.I then pour the muriatic acid mixture out, rinse the unit with clean water, and re-install.  Works every time.

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Advantages Of A Salt Pool

So many people swear by their salt pools and chlorine generators.  No more handling chlorine containers.  No more pouring chlorine in your pool just to realize you now have bleach stains on your jeans.  Here are some other benefits of having a salt pool:

  • The water feels so much better
  • No need to add or store chlorine.  No extra trips to the pool store or grocery store to get bottles of bleach.
  • Skin and hair feel better and smoother
  • Can adjust the chlorine level to meet your pool's needs on demand

Disadvantages Of A Salt Pool

Yes, nothing is perfect and there's always some give and take.  Here are some disadvantages of having a salt pool.

  • Larger upfront cost compared to a traditional chlorine pool
  • No real savings on chlorine
  • Salt pool is not a chlorine free pool.  The chlorine generator still produces chlorine (hypochlorous acid).
  • Salt chlorine cells can be expensive
  • Care must be taken around higher calcium hardness water. 
  • More complex.  It might take up to a year to understand and gauge how to properly use the control board if you keep your pool open all year. 

Last Word About Pool Chlorine Generator 

Whenever I need to do a pool shock, I ALWAYS turn off the power to the cell. By having a high volume of swimming pool chlorine flowing through the pipes we run the risk of burning it up if it's running.  So maybe you could do the same.  Better safe than sorry.  And besides, if you do need to do a pool shock, why have the salt the water anyway?  You're just wasting salt.

I encourage you to do your homework and choose the right system for your specific needs and desires.  Even with the best saltwater swimming pools, you need to keep up the good swimming pool care.

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Specks In Water Only When Chlorine Generator On Not rated yet
When my chlorine generator is working I see small specks of something flowing through water. It is only noticeable at night against the glow of the pool …