Every year new products and technology are developed to help with the necessary job of sanitizing your swimming pool. In the last few years, Salt has been used to generate Chlorine through electrolysis that would ultimately do away with handling what some people think is an unhealthy and dangerous chemical. What’s the Cost to Convert a Chlorine Pool to a Salt Water?
Depending on the size & construction material of your pool for approx. $2000.00 a Salt Water Pool Conversion Cost would be:
Salt Chlorine Generator $750.00- $1500.00 to make Chlorine
Sacrificial Anode to the filter system-$30.00-50.00
Food Grade Salt-adjusted to levels of 320 ppm-$135.00-200.00
The jury might still be out on whether the cost to convert and maintain this cool scientific process of using a Saltwater Pool and making your own Chlorine but here’s what we know now.
How Does a Salt Chlorine Generator Work
Lately, Saltwater Pools have been very popular for people who see that owning a pool could be too much work or just too expensive. That kind of thinking and some new technology that is available to consumers in the Pool Industry has given us the Salt Chlorine Generator that can produce Chlorine using salt through Electrolysis.
Instead of adding granular or Chlorine tablets every day to your pool for disinfecting purposes, the Chlorine Generator will automatically disinfect your Swimming pool without the cost or the effort of using Chlorine product.
How Does this work you asked me?
As saltwater in the pool flows through the Chlorine Generator via the Filtering System it passes through a:
- Salt Cell, a low-voltage direct current is applied to flat, rectangular plates inside the cell, initiating electrolysis.
- Through electrolysis, salt and water break up into hydrogen gas and hypochlorous acid.
- The hydrogen gas simply leaves the swimming pool water in the form of small bubbles.
- The hypochlorous acid sanitizes the swimming pool water and ultimately reverts back into salt, and the process repeats
There are 3 main parts of a Salt Chlorine Generator. A way to separate the system into stages to make it easier to decipher any problems that may arise with it
The Power Supply-takes higher voltage from the supply panel and steps it down to a low voltage that is needed to energize the Cell in the Generator. It’s here where you can set the Chlorine output level from 0-100 % It also provides warning lights that alarm the operator on digital displays or flashing lights depending on the system. You may be able to identify such problems as high salt levels, cold temperature limits being exceeded, or problems with the power supply itself.
The Cell- most Cells on Generators are designed and constructed similar and usually consist of a PVC housing and titanium blades with ruthenium oxide coatings. The PVC housing sometimes is see-through so that the operator can see the cleanliness of the Cell by a visual inspection. The number of Blades in the Cell and the amount of power going to the Cell determines how much Chlorine is being generated. The amount of ruthenium oxide on the blade determines how long the cell will last. Most residential cells are rated for approximately 7,000 hours of life. Commercial cells are rated approximately 15,000 hrs.
Flow Protection-Two methods of flow protection are available: mechanical flow switch and electrical gas trap. The Mechanical flow switch uses a magnet and a paddle to correct the flow. The Gas flow switch controls the flow by regulating the gas that is accumulated inside the Cell.
Calcium deposits are a problem with the operation of a Salt Generator and should be taken into consideration. Calcium builds up in the Cell on the blades. This will reduce the life of the Cell and the Chlorine output. There are Generators that display Salt content with a Salt sensor and have self-cleaning systems.
Water Chemistry has to be kept up for the most efficient operation of a Chlorine Generator. The 3 Components fit easily inside the filtering system for above or inground pools.
Compatibility Issues for Saltwater and Inground Pools
Not all Inground Pools are compatible with Saltwater. Salt chlorinators are not ideal for concrete swimming pools. Salt chlorinators are up to 5 times more abrasive than regular chlorine on concrete surfaces. Although this doesn’t mean you cannot use a salt chlorinator in a concrete swimming pool, it does mean that you might have to resurface this type of pool sooner than you would have otherwise had to do.
Beside concrete Salt can cause rust and deteriorate metals fast destroying ladders and fixtures along with concrete copings, patios, and decorative flagstone. If let go and allowed to rise in excess of 6,000 ppm, high salt concentrations can contribute to the breakdown of handrails, lighting systems, and swimming pool liners. Care must be taken if splash out pool water is continually puddling and evaporating, as the resulting salt concentration will increase in that area, and unless it is rinsed off, or diluted by rainfall, has to potential to create salt damage.
Fiberglass swimming pools are the perfect surface structure with a nonporous surface that is appropriate to be used as a Saltwater pool. Maintaining an appropriate Salt content will help keep the corrosive nature down to minimal damage for the surrounding area.
Operating your Saltwater Pool is not much different than operating a standard freshwater swimming pool. If your pool’s not balanced correctly the chlorine that your generator is making won’t sanitize your pool. Then the same problems that happen when your water chemistry is off will happen in your Saltwater pool.
Keep your Salinity at 2500-4500 ppm to ensure Chlorine production and balanced chemistry. If you don’t have an automatic salinity sensor built into your Generator then use a good tester like the AZ8306 portable conductivity salinity temperature TDS tester, salinity meter electrode COND detector is recommended here by MywaterEarth&Sky and bought through Amazon.
The Pool Operator should monitor and balance the chemistry of the pool once a week. Some test maybe once a month but the pool needs to under control and balanced. If you are thinking of converting your pool over from Fresh to Saltwater, you no doubt have some experience with swimming pools and know that Basic Chemistry is the Bottom line on pool operation. That won’t change. Keep Control of the Pool’s Chemistry. It still depends on Chlorine for sanitation. Your pool has to be balanced for Chlorine to work. You are just delivering the Chlorine in a different manner to do the same job. Test Results should be:
Chlorine Stabilizers or Cyanuric levels (60 – 80 ppm)
- Low CYA- the destruction of chlorine by the UV rays from the sun
- High CYA- Partially drain and refill the pool with fresh water to dilute. Diluting will reduce salt. Check and adjust as needed
Free Chlorine- (2-4 ppm) for pools-bi-weekly
- Low free chlorine Check for combined chlorine level and shock as necessary. Increase chlorine output to maintain a 1-3 ppm (mg/L) residual reading.
- High free chlorine- Corrosive to metallic fixtures in pool water. Can bleach swimwear and hair.
High free chlorine: Decrease chlorine output. Let chlorine dissipate normally until 1-3 ppm (mg/L) is achieved. Shock your pool as you would normally after heavy usage or at startup and at intervals of once a week especially in hot summer temperatures. Use the Superchlorinator button on the Generator or Shock Chlorine.
Salt Levels (2,500-3,500)
- Low Salt- Below 2,400 ppm (mg/L) causes premature cell failure and reduces chlorine production. Add salt according to digital display on Pool Pilot unit or salt chart.
- High Salt- Above 6,000 ppm (mg/L) can cause corrosion of metallic fixtures and will taste salty. Note: Digital Nano/Nano+ can safely operate with salt levels up to 35,000. If undesirably high, partially drain and refill the pool with fresh water. (Diluting will reduce CYA. Check and adjust as needed.)
Adding Salt will happen mostly at the beginning when converting your pool from freshwater to saltwater. You’ll have to add some more if the pool is exposed to heavy rain or usage from splash out and evaporation. It’s recommended that you add a little bit less at the beginning than you calculated, so you can bump it up to where it needs to be. This is a better way than overdoing it, where you might need to take water out of the pool to try and remedy the situation.
Also, colder temperatures will affect the conductivity of the salt water and result in a lower reading than in warmer water. A good idea to test a water sample that has been warmed to room temperature if the water is colder or warmer than usual.
Add the salt like you would PH or granular Chlorine by walking around the outside perimeter of the pool and broadcasting the salt instead of dumping it all at once.
PH Level (7.2-7.6)
- Low pH- (acidic) Equipment corrosion, eye/skin irritation, plaster etching, rapid chlorine consumption add Soda Ash or Sodium Bicarbonate.
- High pH (basic) Scale formation, cloudy water, eye/skin irritation, poor chlorine effectiveness. Add muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate
Alkalinity (80-120 ppm)
- Low Alkalinity can cause Eye irritation, pH “bounce”, stained/etched plaster and metal corrosion. Add Muriatic Acid
- High TA Constant acid demand, difficulty in maintaining pH, and contributes to scaling formation and cloudy water conditions. Add sodium bicarbonate
- Calcium Hardness (200-400 ppm) Digital Testers are easy and reliable but I prefer Pool testing done with reagents and always feel that they are more exact and will last longer
- Low CH) Etching of plaster, equipment corrosion Add calcium chloride flakes.
- High CH) Partially drain and refill the pool with fresh water to dilute. Diluting the pool will reduce salt and CYA. Check and adjust as needed.
Total Dissolved Solids (3000-6000 ppm)
Salt will register as TDS on a meter so it seems to me to be overkill. Then again if you get a starting point after refilling your pool and another reading with after adding the salt, then it could be a value to look at to catch something before it happens. The problem with TDS is that it’s just an indicator and you’ll need a picture before and after adding salt, to make good comparisons on any problem brewing.
Saltwater Pool Maintenance
Regular maintenance of skimming every day and emptying your pump baskets shouldn’t change. The physical part of taking care of your pool won’t change dramatically. There may be a few things like adding chlorine tablets or granular chlorine that you won’t have to do. That’s true. There are some legitimate money savings and advantages for not using regular Chlorine but the hump work still remains for the pool owner.
Adding Algaecide and Clarifiers will still be valuable before using the vacuum and backwashing. All the normal pool work that is on your maintenance program that worked for Freshwater will work for Saltwater.
Some Generators have super-chlorinator buttons that will raise the output to 100% setting. This is not an exact science when using the Generator. Some owners, at least the ones that I’ve talked to, just add Shock Chlorine on a weekly schedule to avoid any problems with the setting on the output of the Generator. This seems to work out fine for most owners while others use the Super-chlorinator button for raising the percentage on the output. Again you will offset the initial cost from saving on chemicals.
There is some opinion that Chlorine Generators cannot produce the same lethal breakpoint chlorination that is needed for that instant pop that delivers the punch to your pool that a generator can’t do. The output of a generator creates a gradual rise to Chlorine levels which can still be effective.
There is not the advantage of a quick dissolving and delivery that you can achieve by adding Shock Chlorine. For this reason, I truly believe that Breakpoint Chlorination should be done with bags of Sodium Hypochlorite by hand to achieve the kill rate that fast and deadly compared to Bumping the output delivery on the Generator. Using the button on the Generator is something to be used every now and again.
Vacuuming and Scrubbing pool walls and floors are part of owning a pool and it doesn’t matter if it has saltwater or freshwater in it. There is no getting around the fact that there is some hard work involved with owning a pool but always will pay off at the end. You still have to add water and adjust the basic chemistry of the pool, most of the same things that are necessary for the upkeep of a swimming pool.
Saltwater Pool vs Chlorine Pool
The main difference between a standard swimming pool and a Saltwater swimming pool is the Salt (Sodium Chloride) that is added to the water. Salt or Sodium Chloride don’t sanitize the pool, chlorine still does. In order for the Chlorine Generator to make Chlorine and sanitize your swimming pool, the water in the pool must have a concentration of at least 3000 ppm or parts per million of Salt available.
If the pool doesn’t have this concentration of salt, Electrolysis won’t happen and the pool won’t get Chlorine and you know what happens after that. The salt content or the salinity is minimal compared to seawater as you can see here, it’s a big difference.
Sea Water – 35,000 parts per million (ppm)
Human Body – 4,000 parts per million (ppm)
Saline Solution for contact lenses – 6,000 parts per million (ppm)
High Purity Food Grade fast-dissolving Salt is used in Pools. Most are all the same but use Salt that is granular, 99% pure, and non-iodized.
The recommended amount of salt to start from scratch for a 30k gallon inground swimming pool is around 20 bags-40lb. bags again this starts from scratch. Use a Salt Calculator like this one. This one is easy and can be used for your other chemicals like Cyanuric Acid that will also come into play with a Saltwater Pool.
Don’t use Calcium Chloride that will cause water hardness and the problems that go along with that in pool water. Hard Water will foul up the Don’t use Rock Salt (halite) this won’t dissolve and is a cheaper version of Pure Salt.
The Salt level in a Saltwater Pool is about 1/10th percent what it is in the ocean or about 3000 to 5000 ppm.
If you are starting from scratch then you’ll need around 20-40 lb bags to get the needed residual of 3200 ppm.
A Salt Electronic Chlorine Generator is a convenient alternative to traditional chlorination. The Generator will have to be spec to your swimming pool size. Assuming that you already have a Filter & Pump System, this is all you will need. We are using a 30,000-gallon pool in this example so your Chlorine Generator will have to be sized properly. A generator recommended by MyWaterEarth& Sky found on Amazon for is energy efficient and will last for years. Saline Generating System Breeze 540 Salt Chlorine Generator
Approximate Price $750 $1500.00 depending on the pool size
Cyanuric Acid will play more of an important role in helping to keep Chlorine residual once you switch over to Generator and will be needed to REDUCE CHLORINE LOSS – Rx Clear Conditioner and Stabilizer helps protects chlorine from sunlight and prevents chlorine loss caused by the sun’s UV rays. Adding a stabilizer when opening your pool for the season greatly increases chlorine’s effectiveness and will actually cut chlorine consumption. Initial Reading to adjusted reading.
0.0 ppm -80 ppm
Approximate Price- $100-150 dollars
Initial Salt reading to adjusted reading in a 30,000-gallon refilled swimming pool will be:
0.0 ppm-320 ppm
Approximate Price 200- $300.00 dollars
Add the price of emptying and re-filling the pool to start over with fresh water that will vary over the country. Water rates are normally higher in the summertime because of temperatures and usage are higher around the country.
Final Price $2000 dollars depending on the size of the pool.
If The system is installed $4000.00
Sacrificial Anode Pool
Saltwater and metal don’t mix at all. Anode systems can be used to protect the equipment that you have been using on your pool for years and now with deciding on converting it over to Saltwater will be able to keep it.
Anode systems will be able to protect your lightings, wirings handrails, and ladders among other things metallic parts including the Chlorine Generator that depends on metal plates and on Cell blades can go bad.
The science of Anodes and how they work in the boating industry can be found in one of the last articles that I wrote in MyWaterEarth&Sky called What is a Sacrificial Anode For A Boat.
A zinc anode is a device that protects metal components and hardware from corrosion in a saltwater pool by conducting low voltage electric currents that pass through the salt water when chlorine is produced. The sacrificial anode anti-electrolysis device is also inexpensive and pretty easy to install, inexpensive, and available in numerous shapes and sizes depending on where you would like to install it in your pool.
A Sacrificial Anode is a type of Anode made from a less noble metal, say aluminum or zinc, which is more electrically active & protects the two original Metal Anodes. When electrically connected to them in seawater, it becomes the material that gives up electrons and dissolves, thus sacrificing itself while preventing Galvanic Corrosion.
This is a good explanation on the subject.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Saltwater Pool
Lower chlorine levels make saltwater pools gentler on skin and eyes. No more breathing problems from chlorine residue. , there are many people that have an adverse effect from chlorine dust. This is a great choice if the pool is to be used by young children and athletes who are immersed for long periods of time.
In fact, salinity content is almost the same as eyewash and contact lens solution. You can barely taste it. The continuous process of delivering Chlorine prevents the accumulation and production of Chloramines. So the water is easier to deal with. Pool salt is low-cost and recycles itself in the generator for prolonged periods.
Chlorine levels in saltwater pools are enough to disinfect, but not enough to fade expensive swimwear and gear.
Because of the natural chlorine, saltwater pools require fewer chemicals (and less attention) compared to chlorinated pools. No more trips to the pool center to pick up chlorine. No more handling granular or tablets or storing them. No more toxic fumes from containers of Chlorine that can be costly and dangerous. The best thing about salt will be that time you save and that is why most people have made the switch over to salt.
A saltwater pool is more initially more expensive than a traditional pool because it requires a higher initial investment.
Compared to chlorinated pools, a saltwater pools system is more complex. Both minor and major repairs will call for the expertise of a licensed (and specialized) technician.
The Generator’s Cell will need to be cleaned on a regular basis and replaced every few years. As all electronic equipment at some point can go bad and might need to be replaced. You may have to call in a technician to replace more complicated parts. With a heater added to the Filtering and Pump system along with the Generator, the picture could get more complicated with the Salt System.
Saltwater can damage and be corrosive in nature especially if the levels are kept within range. They can be a better way to go especially in a Fiberglass or vinyl constructed pool. You might need to purchase underwater lighting, heaters, fixtures, liners, concrete and masonry work specific to saltwater pools. Which will end up being for costly when doing pool renovations.
Super-chlorinating is a specific question that I have with Salt Generators. It’s whether they are equipped or up to the task to handle the necessary function to deliver chlorine to achieve a Breakpoint Reaction that is so important in operating an active swimming pool in the summertime.
Also, there may be a Professional cost that might be occurred over it’s lifetime because of technical problems that may or may not happen. Your better off doing your homework and studying what makes everything tick. It will benefit you in the long run. There is a lot of good basic information right here in this article that you will be able to use. Remember Your Pool Water Chemistry Needs To Be Balanced no matter what equipment or matter of Sanitation method you use.
In the end, it would be up to the owner to convert over from Freshwater to Saltwater because for reason of time constraint or problems with Chlorine. The whole thing can be accomplished in a pool with the right kind of construction Above or Below as long as corrosion won’t be a huge issue.
Jim has over 30 years in Water/Wastewater and Water Filtration Consulting Business. He has written over 300 articles on the Worldwide Water Situation.