Jun 2, 2017 1:26:22 PM / by David Minchener

From the advertisements you read for saltwater chlorine generators, we understand how you might think that you will never have to add chlorine to your pool again, or even maintain it.  “Produce all the chlorine a pool needs.” “No need to buy, handle or store chemicals.” “Never worry about manually adding chlorine to your pool again.”

Is this true? Could a generator that converts food-grade into chlorine eliminate the need for adding chemicals to the water (therefore saving maintenance, materials and time)?

As with most things that seem too good to be true, such is the case with some claims you’ll hear about saltwater chlorine generators and their capabilities. Yes, they will convert food-grade salt into chlorinated water, therefore reducing the need to add concentrated chlorine to your Florida pool. So as a result, you will use less materials. (Though, we’ll point out that the cost of chlorine is an insignificant part of your pool maintenance bill.)

But what a saltwater chlorine generator will not do is eliminate the need to add any extra chlorine, or reduce pool maintenance. Your South Florida pool still requires cleaning and proper maintenance to ensure that the water is balanced and safe. You’ll still need to purchase chlorine, along with chemicals to sanitize the oxidize the pool, such as acid, sodium bicarbonate and stabilizer. (These chemicals preserve the pool finish and ensure equipment longevity.)

saltwater chlorine pool

So, do you need a saltwater chlorine generator? You might benefit from one. Let’s talk about what it can do to improve your pool environment and its limitations so you can make the best decision for your Florida swimming pool.

How Does a Salt Water Chlorine Generator Work?

Saltwater chlorination uses food-grade salt—the same salt you’d put on your burger and fries. It is referred to as “pool salt.” Salt molecules are passed through a cell and exposed to a specific electrical charge that converts salt molecules into chlorine molecules. An equivalent of 1 tsp per gallon of water—or between 3,000 to 3,500 parts per million (ppm) of salt—is added to the pool.To compare, the ocean contains 35,000 ppm of salt. When the salt converts into chlorine gradually, the result is softer, more comfortable water.

For some swimmers who are sensitive to chlorine, they experience less irritation of the skin and eyes because chlorine is produced at a lower level than if you were to add it to the pool manually. For those with skin conditions, saltwater systems create water that is less abrasive and less likely to irritate their condition.

Who Benefits From A Salt Water Chlorinator?

The hallmarks of a saltwater chlorine generator are its ability to create comfortable water. This is nice for swimmers who use the pool all of the time, and for children who are often in the water and may be more sensitive to chlorine. (Because saltwater chlorinators convert salt to chlorine more gradually, the chemical is less harsh.)

what is a saltwater chlorine generator

People who use their pool for therapy like how salt-water chlorinated water feels because it’s softer. And, those who are sensitive to chlorine find that a saltwater chlorinator produces water their skin and eyes can tolerate more easily.

The average cost of a saltwater chlorinator is between $2,000 to $3,000, so the choice to add this equipment to your pool is for the comfort factor—not because you’ll gain a return on investment by saving on chlorine cost.

The reality is, chlorine is pennies per gallon when you figure in the overall cost of caring for a pool.

Should You Add A Salt Water Chlorinator To Your Pool?

If the reason is to create more comfortable water that is enjoyable to swim in: Yes, the saltwater chlorine generator will give you the desired results. But if the plan is to stop using chlorine forever or to stop adding chemicals to your pool: No, a saltwater chlorine generator is not a replacement for regular pool maintenance. This is the problem we run into with some of the perceptions pool owners have based on the marketing they read. Your pool is a dynamic water environment that still requires cleaning and monitoring—regular maintenance to ensure safety.

Even with a saltwater chlorine generator, the pool must be cleaned and balanced on a regular basis.

For example, pool maintenance includes checking the water pH, and this is important if your pool has a saltwater chlorine generator. We find that saltwater chlorinators often raise the pH level of pools, so it’s important to stay on top of this to make sure the pool is balanced. It’s necessary to add acid to lower pH and bicarb to raise it.

how does a saltwater chlorine generator work

Also, pools still must be checked for alkalinity, calcium and stabilizer. (The claim that you’ll never add another chemical to your pool is simply not true!) And, you’ll still need to add chlorine to your pool following a heavy storm to “shock” the pool so water is safe for swimming. Note that there is a boost mode on saltwater systems that will “shock” the pool after a storm or high bather load.

You also have to care for the salt water chlorine generator. It is not maintenance-free. The filtering cell must be cleaned quarterly, and perhaps more often depending on the amount of salt added to the pool. Feeders need annual maintenance including cell inspection. Also, salt must be added to the pool periodically. Pools generally need food-grade salt added every few months to maintain proper chlorine levels.

Some clients want to know if the cost of salt is included with regular pool maintenance. It is not, because we add the salt on an as-needed basis and this fee is different for every pool based on the size, frequency and amount of salt required.

Conclusion

Saltwater chlorine generators are an effective way to gradually convert table salt to chlorine, creating softer more comfortable swimming pool water that is pleasant to use. However, a saltwater chlorinator is not a substitute for pool maintenance, and the generator cell also must be serviced on a periodic basis.

We encourage property owners who want that softer water to consider a saltwater chlorine generator—so long as they continue with maintenance measures that ensure pool water stays in balance.

Find out how you can create a luxury outdoor environment on your South Florida property with pool features ranging from saltwater chlorinators to LED lighting, and advanced pool automation.

Call Reef Tropical at 305.367.2005, or fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.

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Topics: Pool & Spa Maintenance

David Minchener

Written by David Minchener

David has 25 years in the pool service industry and truly enjoys making people happy. His level of knowledge makes it easy for him to answer questions and remedy all pool inquiries from construction to maintenance.

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