Conversion to Salt

The title of this post is actually a bit of a misnomer. Conversion is a word that people commonly use when discussing the addition of salt to their swimming pool. The only conversion that happens though, is the conversion of the salt into hypochlorous acid and then back to salt again. Before we get any deeper into the way a salt chlorinator works, it is important to understand what it actually consists of.

Salt System Components

A salt chlorinator, commonly referred to as a “salt system” consists of a few components that work together to sanitize your pool water.

Salt Cell

ConversionThere is the “salt cell” that handles the physical production of chlorine. These cells mount inline on the plumbing. Water flows through the cell and electrolysis occurring within the cell produces the desired hypochlorous acid. The cell itself is “dumb” and is either switched on or off. This is where the next component come into play.

Control Box

ConversionSince the salt cell produces chlorine at 100% or 0%, we need a way to regulate it so that the desired amount can be obtained. This amount will vary depending on pool size, surroundings, and swimmer load. The control box allows us to adjust the amount of chlorine being produced. In most cases, it switches the cell on and off as needed to create the amount of chlorine desired. For example, if set at 50%, the cell will operate at 100% for 10 minutes and then 0% for 10 minutes. A few cells, such as Pentair’s IntelliChlor, have the controls mounted on the cell itself. Personally, I think it makes more sense to keep the controls separate from the cell so that you don’t have to replace both if one of the two should fail.

Flow Sensor

ConversionThe other critical component to any salt system is a flow sensor. If a salt cell were to produce hypochlorous acid while water was not flowing through it, there would be major problems. Hydrogen is released when the chlorine is created and this would create a gassy buildup in the plumbing. The chlorine being created could also backup into a heater or other equipment under a no flow condition and this would cause damage over time.

The flow sensors vary between salt systems. Hayward and Pentair use a mechanical sensor where two strips of metal make contact when water is flowing. Jandy uses a strange combination of temperature sensors to determine if there is flow. Either way, these sensors are replaceable with most salt systems.


Now that the components have been identified, you may have noticed that these are all additional parts and not similar to your existing pump and filter. Many people think that the salt goes into a filter or that the filter will be replaced with a “salt filter”. This is not the case at all. The components discussed above are added to your existing equipment and the salt is added to the pool water just like any other chemical. There are a few catches to salt system installation and proper maintenance afterward. Sometimes there can be extreme corrosion issues if the pool is improperly bonded. Removable deck railings can become stuck, lights can rust, cloudiness can occur from microscopic hydrogen bubbles. Salt systems are incompatible with stainless steel filter tanks. There are a variety of things to check out before installing a salt system, so it is always best to let a professional look at the equipment before diving in head first.

If you would like some additional material to read, have a look at this previous post for some frequent questions and answers about salt systems.

Salt System Myths

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Hayward Rebates from February 1, 2016 – April 3, 2016

Turbine Suction Pool Cleaners

Navigator ProFor Spring of 2016, Hayward is offering a $75 rebate and a free leaf canister on their suction based pool cleaners. This includes the popular Navigator Pro. These cleaners range in price from $399 – $449 and the rebate requires you to pay a minimum price, so those super cheap internet prices may not qualify.

Pressure Pool Cleaners

TriVac 500It looks like Hayward has decided to release the TriVac 500 – a virtual clone of the old Phantom / Viper cleaners. This cleaner works with a separate booster pump and cleans both the surface and floor of the pool. The rebate for this cleaner is $50 and you must spend $579 to qualify for it.

Salt Chlorination & Controls

AquaRiteWe get quite a few options in this category. The highlight for me is the $80 rebate on an AquaRite with the 40,000 gallon cell. Once again, a minimum price of $1129 is required, so internet buyers need not apply. For only $216 more ($1345), you could purchase the AquaPlus – a complete control system with a 40,000 gallon cell. The rebate on the AquaPlus is for $75.

Replacement Cells

TurboCellPerhaps you already have an AquaRite system and just need a replacement cell. Hayward is offering $50 rebates on their extended life 40,000 gallon cells or $40 rebates on their extended life 25,000 gallon cells. These cells must be purchased for $599 and $429 minimums, respectively.

Rebate Forms (Below)

2016 Hayward Rebates A

2016 Hayward Rebates B

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Pool Maintenance

What We Do

MaintenanceWith Spring fast approaching, what better time to explain our strategy for maintaining swimming pools on a weekly basis. You can not only learn what we do, but apply these tips to your own regiment if you prefer to maintain your own pool.

We offer pool maintenance on weekly, biweekly, or monthly schedules. Weekly pool maintenance is what we will focus on here. Every single visit will involve a few tools; they are a small gas powered leaf blower, 8′ – 16′ telescopic pole, leaf net, and a test kit for testing chlorine, pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, and cyanuric acid. We start our visit off by blowing any light debris away from the pool. Afterward, we skim the surface of the pool and depending on the amount of dirt or leaves on the floor, we may skim the floor as well. While skimming the surface, we usually empty the skimmer baskets into our leaf net and then go dump the net out one time. Efficiency is key for us because we visit up to ten pools per day. Once the surface has been skimmed, we empty the automatic cleaner’s bag (if there is one). If the bag has a lot of silt or fine debris in it, you can rinse it off in the skimmer. We test the water at this point. Chlorine and pH are tested every week. Alkalinity and calcium tests can be skipped occasionally, but they are tested most of the time. Now that all of those tasks are done, we take a look at the equipment area and note the filter pressure. This is a good time to quickly check for anything out of the ordinary, like leaks or debris in the pump basket. By now, we have usually spent 10 – 15 minutes and we make a return trip to our vehicle to get chemicals, a brush, and vacuuming equipment (if needed). Upon return to the pool, we vacuum, add chemicals, and brush the surfaces. This concludes a standard visit and total time spent is around 30 – 40 minutes.

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When renovating always upgrade the drain.

Drain SafetyThis is the time when many pool owners decide to spruce up an aging pool. Whether you are replacing an old faded liner or resurfacing a gunite pool with pebble, it gives us the perfect opportunity to address the drain cover in the floor of the pool.

To put it very bluntly, this one feature of most pools has been known to kill and there are ways to prevent it. For starters, the drain covers have been redesigned over the past decade or so. The old drain covers were made in a way that, under the right conditions, could allow a swimmer to get sucked against it. Now they are designed with more height from the floor and more holes in them to allow water flow, even if partially blocked.

Consider adding an extra drain.

Another method to prevent entrapment is to install more than one drain in the floor. The idea here is that if one drain became blocked, water could flow in from the other drain. The drains are far enough apart that a swimmer could not get sucked against both of the drains. This is a very common modification in gunite pools and all it requires is cutting of the floor to allow installation of the extra plumbing and drains.

Additionally, some pumps feature a technology that can sense when an entrapment may have occurred and shut themselves off. The terminology is SVRS and stands for “safety vacuum release system”. Many times this vacuum release system is paired with a variable speed motor and will run much more efficiently, saving you money.

With all of these options, there really is no excuse for swimming pool drain entrapment in the year 2016. Even if you are not renovating your pool, there are new drain covers that could be installed over your drains. If your pool was built in the last decade, there’s a good chance you already have them. If not, what are you waiting for?

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Leak Detection

It’s not a matter of if it will leak, but when.

Leak Detection

There will come a time in your pool ownership when the water just won’t stay in the pool. Think about how much that water loss is costing you over time and consider the alternative to constantly filling it up. A leak detection costs about $400.00 on average and many times, the leak is found in an easily repairable place. Light conduits and skimmers are common places for leaks to occur. They are also repaired easily by using a two part underwater epoxy that hardens completely within a couple of days and lasts for a few years. Although this is considered a temporary fix, going forward, you will know the location of the leak and be able to reapply the epoxy putty when necessary.

Some things to consider when analyzing a leak.

  • Could it be evaporation?
    • We can test for evaporation by using a large bucket filled with water. Usually we place the bucket on a top step in the pool or near the pool in average sunlight. The water loss is measured in both the pool and the bucket. By comparing the two measurements we can determine if the water loss may be evaporation. Keep in mind that water features like spillovers or waterfalls will lead to a lot more evaporation than normal.
  • Does it leak more when the pump is on?
    • If you lose the same amount of water whether the pump is off or on, that would indicate a possible leak in the structure. If you lose more with the pump running, there may be a leak in a return line or backwash line. If the water loss is more when the pump is off, there may be a leak in the suction side of the plumbing (skimmer or drain).
  • Does the water stop at a certain point?
    • Sometimes a pool will leak to just below the skimmer and stop. That may indicate a problem inside the skimmer somewhere. If the water lowers to a certain point and stops, we would consider what may be at that level, both visible and underground.
  • How much loss is there?
    • Measured loss is very important. We want to know how much is the pool losing, from a completely full state, in a time period of 24 hours. We would also like to know this measurement with both the pool equipment on and off. For a full analysis, you need to fill the pool and let it sit for 24 hours. Measure the loss, refill it, and then set the pump to run for 24 hours. Measure the loss again. You could also incorporate the evaporation test into this and check the loss in a bucket during each 24 hour period too.

It is important to find and repair leaks, not only to lower your water bill, but to prevent the erosion of soil around the structure of your pool. A leak that goes without repair could lead to settling of the pool deck or further damage to underground plumbing. Leak detection can be performed year round, so there is no reason to wait.

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Automation that doesn’t break the wallet.

I recently had an inquiry about swimming pool automation. My customer has a very nice gunite pool. The equipment configuration is quite simple since there is no spa. Essentially, we have to control a circulation pump, heater, Polaris cleaner, lights, a water feature that operates with a valve, and a salt system. Currently there are two Intermatic timers that control the main pump and cleaner pump. The salt system is a Jandy AquaPure and the lights operate by a standard light switch.

Let’s look at the main manufacturer’s offerings.


Starting with Jandy, my personal favorite for pool automation, we have the AquaLink RS, AquaLink PDA, and AquaLink Z4. The AquaLink RS is going to be overkill for what we are trying to achieve here. The AquaLink PDA is very hard to recommend for a few reasons. The “PDA” remote control that it comes with is slow to connect with the system and it is very laggy when trying to move through the various menus. With the alternative to use a smartphone, tablet, or computer to program and control the pool, the AquaLink PDA seems like a relic that should be retired. Next up, the AquaLink Z4 is a product that I have little experience with, but for the situation I laid out above, it seems to be the best Jandy product for the job. The Z4 has a controller integrated into the main panel. This controller can be mounted in another location if desired. It is also compatible with Jandy’s iAquaLink interface, which allows connection by smart devices and computers. We’ll come back to this later on after a look at what else there is out there.


Hayward has five offerings for pool and spa automation. In order of price/performance, they are OmniLogic, ProLogic, AquaPlus, E-Command 4, and OnCommand. Once again, the top end options will just be unnecessary for our example, but they may very well be relevant to your needs. I have only seen the fairly new OmniLogic automation installed on a pool one time. It was quite a pool and it definitely made good use of the technology. The ProLogic has been around for quite some time and it was Hayward’s top end automation before they introduced the OmniLogic. AquaPlus grew out of a product that was previously called AquaLogic. It is Hayward’s mainstream control system, combining functionality with affordability. The last two entries are very similar. The E-Command 4 maintains the same style, large sub panel enclosure as the higher end AquaPlus or ProLogic panels. It will only control one body of water, so no pool/spa combos here. It will fit our needs well for the scenario we outlined at the beginning. The OnCommand box is styled very differently than any of Hayward’s other products. Even the onboard controls are extremely different. Function-wise, it appears to be much like the E-Command 4, controlling either a pool or a spa. Previously, I mentioned Jandy’s iAquaLink smart device/computer integration. Hayward offers a similar product called AquaConnect. I will get into the details of both of these systems closer to the end of this post. For now though, it appears that Jandy’s iAquaLink is actually much easier on the wallet than Hayward’s AquaConnect. This is mostly due to the difference in the way the two system’s connect to your home network and internet.


Pentair is a well known brand among pool professionals. They manufacture some of the best filters and pumps in the business. Having said that, I’m not too sure about their automation systems. They have a few models to choose from; the EasyTouch, IntelliTouch, and SunTouch. The IntelliTouch is Pentair’s premium automation choice, offering the same types of features as Jandy’s or Hayward’s top end systems. Once again, the feature rich IntelliTouch is just too complicated for what we are trying to achieve here. EasyTouch is one small step down on the Pentair ladder. It comes with a sub panel breaker box if that is desirable for you. The SunTouch is Pentair’s answer to the budget automation market. It is considerably cheaper than pretty much anything I have written about thus far. The biggest problem that I see with it, is that there is no smartphone/computer support for it. As far as the IntelliTouch and EasyTouch automation systems go, Pentair offers what they call ScreenLogic2 to make either controllable from a smart device or computer.

My Pick

AutomationiAquaLink iPhone AppI could ramble on for days about all of these automation choices and, make no mistake, these are not the only options that exist out there. I chose to focus on these because of the reputation of the manufacturers. After thinking about my customer’s situation, the equipment that must be controlled, and mixing in my personal preference, I would recommend the Jandy AquaLink Z4. My reasons for this recommendation are as follows. My customer already has all Zodiac/Jandy equipment, so we are sticking with the same brand. The AquaLink Z4 automation system is sold in several configurations and one of those is including the antenna needed for connecting it to the internet. I think that this is an important feature and I also believe that Jandy has the best way of implementing the internet connectivity. You see, with Jandy’s iAquaLink interface, the automation system connects to an antenna. That antenna receives the WiFi signal from your home’s router. That’s all there is to it. Once the automation is connected to your home’s WiFi, you can access the system from anywhere in the world, as long as you can connect to the internet. For comparison, the Hayward AquaConnect system requires a bit more. Much like the Jandy version, the automation system connects to an antenna. Hayward’s antenna doesn’t connect directly to your router’s WiFi. Instead, there is a device (much like another router) that connects to your router and this device communicates with the antenna connected to the automation system. It sounds convoluted because it is. It is more expensive than Jandy’s solution as well. As far as Pentair’s ScreenLogic2 smart device/computer interface goes, I would just leave it alone. It seems to be more complicated than the Hayward AquaConnect and judging by reviews I have read, it is extremely unreliable and an unpleasant user experience.

Runner Up

AutomationAutomationHayward’s OnCommand is worth looking at if you are not interested in the smart device or computer functionality. I would recommend using the 6 button waterproof remote with it for easy control of the equipment. You can’t program the system or set temperatures with the remote, but it will allow you to use up to six functions like turning the lights on or activate a water feature. Programming can be accomplished at the main control box.

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To winterize or not to winterize, that is the question…

winterizeWell it’s that time of the year once again. Leaves are falling, the air is beginning to have that crisp feel to it, and the swimming pool is cooling off. You might be tempted to knock the chill off and enjoy a few more weekends if you have a heater, but the inevitable truth is that winter is coming. Once again, it’s time to revisit the topic of winterizing your pool. I blogged about this last year also. It’s a topic worth revisiting since I might be able to save you from making a costly mistake.

I hear of people making what I consider to be a terrible mistake year after year. It goes something like this, “Hey Mrs. Smith, do you plan to have us winterize your pool this year?” Mrs. Smith replies, “No, we just turn it off and worry about cleaning it up next year.” The fictional Mrs. Smith means exactly what she says. She is finished using the pool for the year and she literally plans to just turn the circuit breakers off and walk away, doing nothing else. She doesn’t drain the water from the equipment, she doesn’t make sure the freeze protection is working, she doesn’t even cover the pool, and she certainly will not be checking on anything during the winter. Fast forward to six months later and she (more likely her pool guy) is discovering a wealth of problems. The plumbing is shattered, valves are broken, the pump’s housing is cracked, and the pool is full of leaves. Please don’t be like Mrs. Smith. All of her problems could have been avoided with a simple pool closing and winterizing procedure. Alternatively, she could have left her pool running during the winter and avoided most of these problems. However, you need to have a freeze protection device if you leave the pool open.

Read these blogs from last year if you would like to learn more about closing your pool.

Pool Closing

Freeze Protection

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I want to make a slight departure from my usual posts and bring your attention to a product designed to repel mosquitoes. I received a Thermacell mosquito repellent appliance about a year ago as a gift. I can tell you that this thing actually works and I have used it for many hours in some truly mosquito filled places. A few weeks ago, I found it in my basement and suddenly realized what I had been missing all summer.

Once I rediscovered my Thermacell, I brought it with me to work, and a few days ago, while using it at a customer’s pool, I was asked to explain about it. I realize that most people don’t realize the Thermacell even exists and I think everyone should have one. Upon starting to write this post, I discovered that there are a couple more designs that I didn’t even know about.

The way that it works is simple, but much different from conventional mosquito repellents. The appliance requires two things to make it work – butane cartridges and the mosquito repellent mats. To use it, you turn it on and it heats up the repellent mat. The mat discharges a vapor and mosquitoes disappear. The butane cartridges last about 12 hours each and the mats are good for about 4 hours. Thermacell claims that the device will create a zone of 15′ x 15′ that is mosquito free. I don’t know how exactly accurate that is and I am sure it varies depending on weather conditions.

Here are links to the different models on

Thermacell Standard DeviceThermacell

Thermacell LanternThermacell

Thermacell Camping LanternThermacell

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Technology and Swimming Pools

We are entering an interesting time concerning technology and our swimming pools. It is important to understand what is available and how it may impact the enjoyment of your swimming pool. Just because a technology advancement happens does not mean it is right for you. Some pools are just so simple that it makes no sense to upgrade to the latest and greatest. Other pools may be very complicated and benefit greatly from a slight upgrade in the latest control system technology. I will attempt to explain a few of the best upgrades you can make to your pool equipment and why you might want to do it.

Smartphone Controls

TechnologyWho needs a smartphone to control their pool? Upon thinking about this question, you will either think the idea of controlling your pool with your phone is terrible or you will have a, “Why haven’t I thought of this before?” moment. If you think this notion of using common technology to control your pool is a bad idea, you probably have a very simple pool equipment setup. We must remember that some pools have an attached spa and possibly multiple pumps to create waterfalls or other features. These types of scenarios is where a smartphone tends to shine. Imagine the ability to turn your spa heater on from a restaurant several miles from home. When you arrive home, the spa is heated, lights are on, and all you have to do is hop in. Another possibility might be that you have guests visiting that are unfamiliar with your pool. They want to use the spa or turn on some feature, but are unsure of how to do it and you are away at work. You could use your phone to activate the feature they want to use. Another benefit is that your pool professional can even access your system from offsite and adjust settings.

All of these features rely on a technology that most of us have access to. You need either a WiFi or hard wired internet connection near your pool equipment. Once connected to the internet, your pool equipment can be controlled from any computer, tablet, or smartphone, from anywhere in the world, as long as you are connected to the internet. All three of the major pool equipment manufacturers offer a solution for this technology. I am most familiar with Zodiac’s iAquaLink 2.0 system and I can tell you that it is impressive. It never gets old setting it up for a customer and then watching them turn things off and on for the first time.

Variable Speed Pumps

TechnologySecond up, let’s talk about variable speed pumps for a few minutes. These pumps allow significant energy savings and that means more money in your wallet. They are not cheap and thus they are a hard sell for someone like me. I think that pool owners are warming up to them somewhat and I have installed more of them in the past couple of years than ever before.

The way variable speed pumps work is that they allow you to program several speeds for different times of the day or different functions to be performed by the pump. Think of it like this – you can have one high speed run for an hour every day at noon (because you like to swim at 1:00 pm). The point of running the pump on high speed at this time is to help skim the surface to remove any bugs or debris that may be floating around. The rest of the afternoon the pump can run at a lower speed, just to circulate the water. Then at night, maybe you have it go to an even lower speed or shut off completely. Some people may have an automatic cleaner attached that needs to run on high speed in the morning. You can program the pump to do that and then run at lower rpm for the rest of the day.

Variable speed pumps can be controlled by an automation system or they can be used standalone, using the pump itself to control the speed programming. They are even compatible with the smartphone controls that we spoke about above. The important thing to take away about variable speed pumps is that they save electricity by running at a slower speed for longer hours.

Salt Systems aka Chlorine Generators

TechnologyI am not going to go into great detail about salt systems, but it is worth noting here in an article about technology. Salt systems are not new by any means and they do exactly what they have claimed to do for decades now. You add salt to the pool water and the salt system turns it into chlorine. An interesting note is that when chlorine gets used, it turns into salt, so this is a renewable process. You only lose salt from the pool when you lose water by draining, backwashing, splashing, carrying it out, etc. Although not normally an issue, saltwater is more corrosive than just regular pool water, so there is a slightly accelerated degradation to pool equipment and the surroundings. Flagstone coping, for example, does not fare as well with a salt pool. The salt soaks into the stone and then expands as it drys. This causes flaking of the stone to occur. Of course, if sealed properly, the stone should be better protected from the saltwater, but this is almost never the case. In my opinion, the benefits of a salt system far outweigh the negatives. I always recommend to buy one to anyone who asks.

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Chemical DispensersDispenser

A chemical dispenser can be one of several things. There are traditional chlorinators, connected to the pool’s plumbing, that deliver a constant feed of chlorine into the water. A cheaper, simpler solution, is a floating chlorinator that actually goes in the pool itself. There are also automated systems that dispense liquid chlorine and muriatic acid. I want to focus on these automated systems today.

Who Needs An Automated Chemical Dispenser?

Commercial pools are required by the state of Georgia to have an automated chemical dispenser. Unfortunately, the proper functionality is something that the government doesn’t require or, at least, enforce properly. Many times, the systems exist, but do not function in any way. It is also important to have a properly sized system for the pool. I have seen incorrectly sized systems dispense so much chemical that you cannot keep the barrels full.

There are automated chemical dispensers designed for residential use as well. These are sized for small pools and usually incorporated with more technical control systems. Quite uncommon, I have only seen one or two of the automatic dispensers installed on residential pools.

Pros and Cons

The chemical dispensers monitor pH and chlorine levels, adding chemicals constantly to maintain proper levels. This way, if the pool experiences a heavy bather load, the automation will increase the chlorine being added and compensate for the extra swimmers. While some systems use liquid chlorine, most residential dispensers will actually produce chlorine from salt. The muriatic acid is dispensed as a liquid, however.


Constant adjustment of chlorine and pH. No need to add the most dangerous chemicals directly to the pool. System maintains the water automatically, even when the pool owner is away for weeks at a time.


Does not maintain all chemicals needed for proper water chemistry. Muriatic acid and liquid chlorine must be stored in tanks. Expensive to install and most pool technicians are unfamiliar with automatic dispensers.

Links to Chemical Dispensers

Hayward Sense and Dispense

Pentair IntelliChem

Jandy Watermatic

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