Common misconceptions about salt systems…
Salt systems are gaining popularity among pool owners around Atlanta, GA. What’s not to like about them? They generate free chlorine from salt and they cut down on maintenance costs. All of your friends will recommend them to you and eventually you will get around to asking a pool professional about them. That brings me to the point of this article. I receive many questions about salt systems and most of the time these questions are very easy to answer because of how far off path they are. I want to take a lighthearted look at these common salt system questions and comments. We all must start somewhere and I recognize that, so please follow along and learn the basics of the salt system. Let’s dive in!
- Customer – “I need to replace my filter so now is a good time to upgrade to a salt system. What do we need to do to put in a salt filter?”
- Answer – A salt system does not replace your filter. It is simply another piece of equipment that works with your existing system. The salt is poured directly in the pool, not the filter. Once the salt dissolves into the water, the salt cell generates chlorine from the salt. When the generated chlorine is used, it converts back to salt. This means that the salt is technically only borrowed to make the chlorine and the only way you lose the salt from a pool is by draining or losing water.
- Customer – “Since I had this salt system installed, my water just takes care of itself. I never check my chemicals and the pool just stays clear.”
- Answer – A salt system only handles one thing and that is the production of chlorine. There are several elements to a properly maintained pool, most of which I cover in this article about pool chemistry. The free chlorine should still be checked weekly along with the pH. I would check the total alkalinity at least monthly and the calcium a few times per season. Cyanuric acid is very important for salt pools and I would check it periodically (monthly or bimonthly).
- Customer – “I can’t wait to install a salt system so I don’t have to use chlorine anymore.”
- Answer – First of all, salt systems generate chlorine from the salt. Any salt pool is using chlorine to sanitize the water. Secondly, there are still a few good reasons to keep granular chlorine or tablets on hand. Salt systems cannot generate chlorine during cold weather. Once the water temperature gets down into the fifties, most salt systems will turn themselves off. The reason is because they need more amps at colder temperatures and the circuits cannot handle the increased load. The good news is that during cold weather, there is almost no algae problem and a pool needs minimal chlorine. Another situation in which a salt system performs poorly is the cleanup of extremely foul water. If the water is green, the pool will need good old-fashioned granular chlorine.
- Customer – “My pool was starting to turn green so I added more salt. Now it is completely green and I can’t even see the bottom. What happened?”
- Answer – A pool’s salt level and chlorine level are two independent things. One does not directly affect the other. All salt systems will give the user a salt reading, which should be kept around 3200 on most systems. Pools need a free chlorine level of around 1 – 3. Every salt system has a way to control the percentage of chlorine generated. This may be a dial or simply up and down buttons. The chlorine level needs to be tested weekly and then the percentage being generated must be adjusted slightly to increase or decrease the chlorine level in the pool. If the salt level itself needs to be adjusted you simply add salt to the pool to increase it or drain some water, replacing it with fresh water, to lower the salt level.
- Customer – “I’ve only had my salt system for a few months and the check cell light is on. Is this thing defective? It shouldn’t already have a problem!”
- Answer – The Hayward salt systems specifically have indicators that remind the user to inspect the cell. This light turns on as nothing more than a reminder and in reality, the salt system does not know whether the cell is clean or not. To inspect the cell, it must be disconnected from the plumbing and visually checked for calcium buildup inside. If there is no calcium buildup (a white mineral looking growth), then the cell can be returned to the plumbing and the inspect cell light may be reset. It will turn on once again when a predetermined number of hours have passed, at which point the cell should be inspected and cleaned if necessary.
For any other questions about salt systems, feel free to comment below, call us, or email.