Pool Info: Pool Chlorine Generators
One of the first alternative sanitizers introduced to the pool and spa industry was the chlorine generator. Chlorine generators are attractive to pool owners simply because they eliminate the need to store, buy, transport and handle chlorine. They are not an alternative to chlorine, but actually make their own chlorine from regular table salt. The pool water passes through a generator cell that creates the chlorine within the pipe, where it immediately goes to work.
How Does It Work?
As pool water passes through the chlorine generator cell, pumped through by your filter pump, the salt in the water is turned into Hypochlorous acid. Hypochlorous acid is the exact same component that is produced when any chlorine is added to pool water, whether you use sticks, tablets, granular or liquid. As the water returns to the pool, it will introduce the newly produced chlorine, preventing algae, bacteria and killing micro-organisms, creating a safe and sanitary swimming environment.
OK? How does it really work?
This mild saline water produces chlorine through the process of electrolysis. The electrolytic cell (salt cell), through the use of a small electric current, breaks down the water into its basic elements, Hydrogen and Oxygen. By adding small quantities of granulated salt (much like household table salt - NaCI), Hypochlorous Acid (common chlorine) is produced. During the process, the Hypochlorous Acid (Chlorine) is ultimately converted back to salt. Thus, the salt does not get "used up". Salt only needs to be "topped off" once or twice a year and only to replace salt lost due to water splash-out, bather drag off or filter backwashing.
Salt in My Pool?
The salt level required to maintain a safe, chlorinated pool is about 2500 to 4000 PPM (parts per million). The human tongue cannot taste salt until the PPM is around 5000. As a reference point, the ocean is around 40000 ppm. The amount of salt in the pool is usually not noticeable. Once the salt is added to the pool, only small additional amounts are needed, usually annually, unless the pool is drained or a significant amount of water is removed. Also, the salt level is low enough so there is no danger of equipment corrosion. Chlorine generator users also report the water is softer, leaving a more refreshed feeling after swimming, with less chlorine smell.
Is There Any Maintenance Required?
Chlorine generators require very little maintenance. We recommend the generator cell be removed and cleaned on a yearly basis, usually at start up. Remove the cell from the pool plumbing and run a plastic brush through the cell. For heavier deposits, a mild solution of muriatic acid and water will do the job, or to be careful, use the Lo-Chlor Green Cell Plus cleaner. The power supply unit requires no regular maintenance.
What Type of salt do I add?
Avoid Rock Salt as it contains too many impurities! Acceptable salts include Food Grade salt, Water softener pellets, Solar salt flakes, Water conditioner salt, or Brine blocks. Make sure that your salt contains no iodine and is as pure as possible. Aqua Salt is accepted by all Salt Chlorinator or Chlorine Generator manufacturers.
Where do I add the salt?
What is most important when adding salt is to brush it around until it is dissolved. This is accelerated by turning your pump on, opening the bottom drain and pouring the salt over the drain, rather than walking around the perimeter while adding the salt. It is recommended that you continue to run the pump for 24 hours so the salt can spread evenly throughout the pool. With Granular salt, 60 - 70% will have dissolved before hitting bottom. The remaining salt can simply be brushed into the drain which will then complete dissolution. With all other forms of salt, it will take longer to dissolve but the same process will accelerate the dissolve rate. Simply brush the salt in a pyramid pattern over the drain to increase dissolution.
How much salt do I add?
Enough for 4000 ppm (parts per million) as a starting point. So depending on the initial salt level of your water, you only add the amount needed to establish 4000 ppm. For new pools or freshly filled pools, the salt level will most likely be zero. In this case, 40lbs of salt per 2,000 gallons of water will establish 4000 ppm. For existing pools, the previous usage of chlorine bleach or tablets will have already introduced a level of salt into the water. Have the water tested first then add the appropriate amount to establish 4000 ppm. You can test the salt level of your pool using salt test strips, or your local pool store may have the ability to test a sample for you.
What happens if I add too much salt?
Over-salting will not harm your chlorine generating system, but will lead to a salty tasting water. For some, this is not undesirable as it will more closely match our body’s natural salinity level, making it more comfortable to swim in. If it is too excessive (over 6000 ppm), you can sustain corrosion damage to metallic equipment such as stainless steel handrails, ladders and filters, light rings, or copper heat exchangers. To reduce the salt level, dilution is the solution. Drain some water and refill with fresh water.
How often will I need to add salt?
After the initial dosage of salt, you will only need to add salt when necessary. The most common ways salt is lost is through leaks, rainwater overflow, filter backwashing, and bather splash-out/carryout. Normal water evaporation does not lose salt, it increases the concentration. The make up water added to bring the water level back to normal will then reduce the salt concentration back to 4000 ppm. Most chlorine generator units have low salt indicators, with Digital Units going further to provide the user with the proper salt amount needed to reestablish 4000 ppm.
Do I eliminate the need to add chemicals?
Chlorine generators do one thing, generate chlorine. However, the purity of this chlorine has less effect on the overall water chemistry balance; therefore, FEWER chemicals are needed re-balance the water. We recommend periodic (weekly or bi-weekly) testing of stabilizer levels (30 - 50 ppm), Free Chlorine (2 - 3 ppm for pools and 3 - 6 ppm for spas), pH (7.2 - 7.6), and salt levels (2500 - 4000 ppm). Since salt generating chlorine systems do not affect the Total Alkalinity or Calcium Hardness, a monthly check is sufficient.
Will I still need to use chlorine tablets or shock?
In some cases, you might still need to add chlorine for shocking purposes due to extremely heavy bather loads, rainstorms, or accidents, (fertilizer, excessive organic debris or human waste). Shocking the pool or using tablets may be necessary in the event of mechanical problems with your salt chlorinator, pump or filter. Finally, salt chlorinators shut down at water temperatures of around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, if your pool is operating during colder times of the year.
Will I have to run my equipment more?
You are only creating chlorine when the pump is running. A chlorine generator does not rely upon a higher salt level AND extended pump run times in order to generate enough chlorine, provided the cell is properly sized to the pool. Most units allows for multiple configuration set-ups so that you can generate sufficient amounts of chlorine during your current pump circulation time. For pools that have short pump run times, you can increase the output power of the generator to compensate.
How long will the salt cell last?
Most residential salt cells are rated for approximately 10,000 hours of operation. This typically translates to 3 - 5 years, depending on pool volume, cell size and the sanitizer demands of your pool. Water chemistry balance, salt levels and stabilizer levels are all key factors in ensuring maximum cell life. Proper water chemistry is the key here. The harder you use the cell, the more you ask of it, the shorter its life span. Annual inspection and cleaning of your salt cell is one of the best things you can do to help delay salt cell degradation.
Does a Salt Chlorinator Save Money?
In the long run, probably not. An inground salt chlorinator system, plus the salt can get close to $1000. After 5 years, you’ll need to replace the salt cell at a cost of $400 or so. The cost of using tablets and shock could be less, or about the same as using a salt chlorinator, over a multi-year period.
Will Salt Water Attack my Pool Surfaces?
High levels of salt can attack metal components such as ladders, light rings or handrails. They can also slowly corrode soft decorative rocks over time, noticeable in areas of heavy traffic or water feature spray. A sacrificial anode of zinc can be used, attached to the ladder, skimmer, or plumbed in-line, to draw away the ions that would attack metal components around a pool. Under normal salt levels however, the amount of corrosion caused by pool salt is negligible.