Alternatives to Chlorine: Saltwater Chlorine Generators

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Interested in an alternative sanitizer? Consider a chlorine generator. They were one of the first alternative sanitizers introduced to the pool and spa industry and remain one of the most popular. A main feature these generators have that attracts pool owners is the elimination of the need to purchase and transport chlorine. With a chlorine generator, the chlorine is created for you in your pool from table salt; that means no more handling it.

Curious about how it works? Well, here’s the simple explanation. Your pool water passes through the chlorine generator cell. It is pumped through by your filter pump. The salt in the water is then converted into Hypochlorous acid. Hypochlorous acid is, conveniently, the same chemical component that is prodcuded when chlorine is added to pool water. As your pool water returns to the pool, it introduces the newly produced chlorine. This prevents algae, bacteria, and killing micro-organisms.Haddad-novi (12)

Still curious? Here is the chemical explanation. The pool’s salt (saline) water is sanitized through a process of electrolysis. This electrolytic cell breaks down the water into its basic elements by the use of a small electric current. The basic elements are Hydrogen and Oxygen. By adding small amounts of granulated salt, similar to table salt- NaCL, Hypochlorous is produced. Hypochlorous is, again, the same chemical produced in your pool water when chlorine is added. During this whole process the Hypochlorous Acid (chlorine) is converted back to salt. So, the salt never really gets eliminated. The process repeats itself and the salt only needs to be topped off once or twice a year to replace displaced salt water.

Adding Salt to Your Pool

Having a salt water pool does not mean your pool will feel, smell, or taste like the ocean. Human bodies cannot taste salt until the PPM is around 5,000. A typical salt chlorinated pool is about 2,500 to 4,000 PPM. For comparison, the ocean salt water is around 40,000 PPM. That’s a huge difference. Salt water pools have a low enough salt concentration that your pool equipment is in no danger of corrosion.

Once the salt is added to your pool there is no need to continuously add more. If the pool is drained or if you lose a significant amount of water, salt may need to be added.

Maintenance

This is another bonus of Chlorine Generators: they require almost no maintenance. We recommend the generator cell be removed and cleaned on a yearly basis. The best time to do this is when you open your pool. Simply remove the cell from the pool plumbing and run a plastic brush through it. If you notice calcium deposits, a mild solution of muriatic acid and water will clean it up. You can also use the Lo-Chlor Green Cell Plus. The actual power supply unit requires no regular maintenance.

FAQ’s

What type of salt do I add? We definitely recommend avoiding rock salt because it contains too many impurities. The best salts to use include: food grade salt, water softener pellets, solar salt flakes, water conditioner salt, or brine blocks. Be sure to add salt with no iodine and also that it is as pure as possible.

How/where do I add the salt? The key factor in adding salt to your pool water is to brush the salt around until it is completely dissolved- you don’t want any remaining salt particles to be settled on your pool floor. This can be accelerated by turning on your pump, opening the bottom drain, and adding the salt over the drain. This is much easier than walking around the perimeter while adding the salt. We recommend you run the pump for around 24 hours so the salt can be spread evenly throughout the pool. If you’re using granular salt, almost 70% of it will dissolve before hitting the bottom. The remaining salt can simply be brushed into the drain. If you’re using any other form of salt, it will take longer to dissolve but the same process will do the trick.

How much salt do I add? We recommend adding enough for 4,000 PPM as a starting point. If you are starting off with a higher salt level in your pool, only add the amount needed to reach 4,000 PPM. For existing pools, the previous use of chlorine will have already created a level of salt in the water. Have the water tested first to see the salt level, then simply add the appropriate amount of salt. You can test the salt level using salt test strips, or contact Ask the Pool Guy and we can handle it for you!

What if I accidentally add to much salt? Don’t worry, over salting will not harm your chlorine generator. However, it will most likely lead to salty tasting water. For some people, this is not undesirable and they might enjoy it. For others, it can create discomfort. If you added a great amount of extra salt (over 6,000 PPM), you might begin to see corrosion damage to metallic equipment. To reduce the salt level, dilution is the key. Drain some of your over-salted water and replenish it with fresh water until you reach the ideal 4,000 PPM.

How often do I add salt? After your initial large dosage of salt, you will rarely need to add more. The most common ways salt is lost is through leaks, rainwater overflow, filter backwashing, and too much splashing. Normal water evaporation does not lose salt, in fact, it can increase the salt concentration. Most chlorine generators have low salt indicators making it easy for you to tell when you may need to add some.

Does this eliminate the need to add chemicals? Not necessarily. Chlorine generators do just one thing, generate chlorine. Because this chlorine is very pure, fewer chemicals are needed to keep the water balanced. So having a chlorine generator does not eliminate the need to use chemicals in your pool but it can lessen it significantly. It is also important to check the total alkalinity and calcium hardness of your pool monthly. In some situations, you might need to shock the pool due to rainstorms, accidents, or many swimmers. Shocking your pool will not affect your chlorine generator.

Will I have to use more energy? If your chlorine generator is properly sized to your pool, you will not need extended pump time. This means you will likely use the same amount of energy your pool is already using. Most chlorine generators have multiple configuration set-ups so that you can generate sufficient amounts of chlorine during your current pump circulation time.

How long will the Chlorine Generator last? Residential cells are rated for about 10,000 hours of operation. This usually means around 3-5 years. It all depends on the size of your pool and the sanitizer demands of your pool. Water chemistry balance is key in ensuring a maximum cell life. The harder you use and run the cell, the shorter the lifespan. Annual inspection and cleaning is a great way to extend the life of your chlorine generator.