The Salt Chlorine Generator: The Complete Guide for Pool Owners

An introduction to Salt Chlorine Generator 

Salt chlorine generators have become very popular in recent years, they are generally promoted as a less toxic alternative to keeping swimming pools clean and sanitized. They are used in saltwater pools to convert salt to chlorine, providing a more consistent stream of chlorine and reducing the chances of swimmers experiencing skin and eye irritation as a result of swimming in a heavily chlorinated swimming pool. 

Salt chlorine generators are also referred to as saltwater chlorinators and salt chlorinators. In this article, we are going to provide you with a definitive guide to salt chlorine generators, what are they? How do they work? What are the benefits associated with using a salt-chlorine generator? 

What is a Salt Chlorine Generator? 

A salt chlorine generator utilizes dissolved salt through a process called electrolysis. It produces chlorine gas (hypochlorous acid or HCIO) This is also known as sodium hypochlorite or NaCIO. Therefore, swimming pools that use salt chlorine generators are not totally chlorine-free, the dissolved salt is converted into chlorine but using one eliminates the need to actually pour large amounts of chlorine chemical into the swimming pool water. 

The chlorine that is found in chlorinated swimming pools is a mixture of free available chlorine (FAC) and combined available chlorine (CAC) The free available chlorine contains free chlorine that sanitizes the pool water, the combined available chlorine contains chloramines that enter the swimming pool as a result of sweat, urine and other human waste products as well as insects and certain cosmetics. The distinctive chlorine scent is present as a result of these chloramines, they are responsible for causing skin, eye and respiratory issues. 

Salt chlorine generators utilize a process called electrolysis to consistently release chlorine into the water. Saltwater pools still need to be closely monitored to check chlorine levels, alkaline levels and pH levels. 

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The Components of A Salt Chlorine Generator 

With a greater understanding of how salt chlorine generators work, we can now take a deeper look into the components of a salt-chlorine generator. 

The Cell 

The cell is crucial to the conversion process, without the cell the salt cannot be converted into chlorine. The water enters the cell and runs over iridium and ruthenium coated plates. An electrical current is passed through these plates using a process called electrolysis. This is what allows the salt to be converted into chlorine. 

Control Board 

This is the main component of the chlorine generator system. Its main role is to power the salt chlorine generator for the transformation process to take place. This is the place where the amount of electricity is monitored and controlled, here you can either reduce or increase the quantity of chlorine that actually enters the swimming pool water. 

Maintaining Your Salt Chlorine Generator 

In order to increase the lifespan of your salt chlorine generator, you need to make sure you are carrying out regular maintenance work on it. Here are a few tips to maintaining your salt chlorine generator. 

  1. Remain diligent when it comes to keeping a steady salt level. The goal is 2700 parts per million to 3400 parts per million. 
  2. Keep the salt chlorine generator clean by cleaning it out once every 3 to 4 months. 
  3. Switch off the chlorinator during storms (specifically lightning storms to prevent power surge damage. 
  4. Watch calcium levels, you don’t want calcium to be too high but you still need to ensure that calcium is present in the swimming pool water. 
  5. Try and make sure that your salt chlorine generator has reverse polarity to decrease the chances of excess scale build-up. 

Chlorine Generator LifeSpan 

How long does a chlorine generator last? What is the typical lifespan of a chlorine generator? 

If you maintain your saltwater chlorinator properly, it should really last for about three to seven years. If you want to ensure that the lifespan is long, keep it clean and check the components often. If the time comes for you to change the cell or control board, you would need to set aside at least $500 to $1,000. 

Three to seven years is a good estimate however, most saltwater chlorine generators last for about five years. If you want to ensure that it lasts for that long, try to ensure that it is cleaned at least every three to four months, also ensure that you switch it off and cover it properly during severe storms. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Chlorine Generators 

Benefits

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using salt chlorine generators: 

Convenient 

Using a saltwater chlorinator is far more convenient than constantly putting chlorine into the swimming pool water. Yes, you will still have to put some chemicals into the pool but it eliminates the task of adding chlorine to the pool on a regular basis. 

Constant Flow of Chlorine 

A constant flow of chlorine is a major advantage because it reduces the possibility of chloramines being introduced into the swimming pool water. Chloramines are produced when there is a reduced amount of free available chlorine in the water.

Less Chance of Skin and Eye Irritation 

As stated above, when there is a reduced amount of free available chlorine in the water, chloramines are produced. When this happens, it increases the risk of skin and eye irritation. 

Softer Water 

The process of electrolysis actually softens the water, soft water is gentler on the skin, hair, eyes and respiratory system. 

Cheaper 

Using a saltwater pool as opposed to a traditional chlorinated pool is slightly cheaper because you don’t have to constantly keep buying or replenishing the salt. 

Disadvantages 

Now we have spoken about the advantages of using a saltwater chlorinator, we can now talk about the disadvantages of using one. 

The Start Up Cost 

The initial start-up cost can be quite expensive, the cost of the components and the system, in general, is not exactly cheap. However, once it is all set up, you will save money on purchasing chlorine because salt is relatively cheap. Thus, although this is a disadvantage, in the long run, the system should really pay for itself. 

Might Damage Metals 

Sodium chloride is corrosive and over time, it could damage the metals in the swimming pool, namely the pump and system components. It is vital that you check the pool chemistry on a regular basis because this is what essentially causes problems. 

Can Cause Excess Scales 

When the alkaline levels and the calcium levels rise too much this could result in buildup on the cathode plate and inside the pool, which is often referred to as scaling, 

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Rising pH Levels

Constant chlorine release will eventually lead to the pH levels constantly rising. When the pH is too high this drastically reduces the effectiveness of the chlorine. Thus, inhibiting the sanitization process. This is why it is extremely important to check pH levels and chlorine levels regularly. 

Some chlorinators however have an automatic detection monitor that monitors the pH levels and the chlorine levels and releases the optimum amount of chlorine into the swimming pool reducing the chances of pH levels rising dramatically. 

Cost of a Salt Water Chlorinator 

Saltwater chlorinators are actually pretty convenient when it comes to maintenance however, one thing that you do need to bear in mind is the cost of setting everything up. When you first decide to go down the road of using a saltwater swimming pool, you will need to get set up your saltwater chlorinator system. Remember also that you will probably have to replace the cell and control board at some point because they will eventually need to be replaced. 

If you want less stress, less fuss and more time enjoying the swimming pool, then you considering a salt chlorinator might be a good idea. 

To purchase the generator, you will probably end up spending about $800 to $1,000. Buying the salt is not a big deal since salt is not really that expensive at all. 

You will obviously have to buy the salt in bulk however, you will not have to think about buying chlorine at all, which is one advantage. 

Conclusion 

Do the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to using a salt chlorinator? To be honest, it really depends on your individual needs. If you want to spend less time maintaining the pool on a daily basis, then a chlorinator might be a good choice for you. However, if you really don’t want to have to bear the initial cost of purchasing the system, then stick with the traditional way of doing things. Consider however, that with salt chlorinators there will be less skin and eye irritation as a result of less free available chlorine in the water. 

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