Swimming Pool Salt System Review

by T. Duff on February 15, 2008

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Salt Systems – Long Awaited Review

Hi!

I truly hope this email finds you well.

One very common question among swimming pool owners Is…

“What type of salt water system should I be using?”

Actually, that’s a pretty good question.

There’s a TON of them out on the market. If you’re even considering picking one up, I would recommend reading this short message from top to bottom.

Over the years I’ve seen and reviewed countless systems. Let’s face it – there’s a lot of VERY GOOD systems available on the market.

Here are my top choices:

Here are a few options to point you in the right direction. These are systems that I have personally used and maintained, however, that doesn’t mean they’ll be the best solution for your needs.

This is meant to point you in the right direction and provide you with some different options to look at. If you have any questions please feel free to email me.

Please also be sure to do your own searching as well – this is designed to provide a ‘road map’ if you’re looking to replace your current unit

or if you’re on the market for a new one.

For Residential Environments:

Aqua Rite Chlorine Generator

Aqua Rite has been a true industry leader and frequently gaining more and more popularity. Aqua Rite is owned by Hayward, one of the most respected and well known names in the swimming pool industry.

Pentair IntelliChlor

This is a great solution that’s easily operated and the ‘viewer’ is simple to read and understand as well. I will admit that this system contains one of the easiest to understand and operate panels on the market today.

For under $800.00 (including the power module), this model is tough to beat from convenience and effectiveness.

Zodiac Clearwater

Zodiac produces GREAT PRODUCTS. Hands down, my personal favorite from a convenience and maintenance standpoint. Zodiac is the largest chlorinator manufacturer in the world. There are 2 points that really stand out with many chlorinators in their product line:

1. The LM Series incorporates a unique Super Chlorination feature which can be activated at the touch of your fingertips. This is an extremely quick way to automatically boost chlorine levels to compensate for heavy bather load or increases in temperature.

2. Actually does a pretty good job when it comes to ‘self cleaning’. Many units advertise them to be self cleaning, but their are few systems on the market that do a decent job. This is one of them.

If you’re currently shopping for a salt system, I would highly recommend sticking with one of the ‘big 3′. From a value standpoint and getting a good bang for your buck, they’re tough to beat.

If you want the ‘full scoop’ with NO DRIBBLE when it comes to salt systems or any other facet of your swimming pool, please be sure to visit:

www.fireyourpoolguy.com

“Professional Grade” is jam packed with INVALUABLE tips to save you massive amounts of time, money and energy with your swimming pool.

For many swimming pool owners this is their ONE SINGLE RESOURCE of information that they use when it comes to maintaining one of the most expensive assets they’ll every own – their swimming pool. This should be your ‘one stop’, single resource as well.

Be sure to get yours by clicking below…

www.fireyourpoolguy.com

Wishing you all the best in everything you do,

Terry

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Micki Schmidt April 30, 2008 at 1:42 am

Terry,
We have above ground Doughboy pool that needs the liner replaced. We have ordered a new liner from Doughboy but we are having a difficult time finding someone reasonable to install it for us. The local dealer tells us it’s not a difficult thing to do. We are wondering what “tricks” you have for installation. We have had several different opinions on which way is the correct way. We are guessing the pool is about 15 years old but it is in really great shape except for the liner. There has been a deck around the entire pool. It has an overlap liner. Can you give us some ideas.
Thanks

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fireyourpoolguy May 1, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Hi Micki,

Please check your email – I just shot you over some information that should be beneficial with installing your liner.

This can be a frustrating process, but the info should help you.

Please keep me posted.

All the best,

Terry

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raymond May 5, 2008 at 7:03 pm

I have sc-48 cell and digital version of the Pool Pilot. Love the salt system.

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shanna February 22, 2009 at 3:06 pm

i was wondering what the benefits for salt water system vs chlorinated? is it really cheaper maintenance? are there things to watch out for with a salt water system? can they really cause a build up in ur pool? thanks so much

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fireyourpoolguy March 4, 2009 at 8:16 am

Hi Shanna,

Good question…

I made a prior post some time ago regarding the salt systems and their pros/cons (I believe the article is under “Salt Systems”.

With that said, there are actually costs that can increase with a salt system like muriatic acid for example. Generally speaking, the big benefits of a salt system aren’t the money you’ll save (as that’s very debatable, but typically how they’re sold to the consumer), but how the water fells.

No more skin irritation, scratchy scalp or other items that are often associated with chlorine based swimming pools. Be sure to clean the cartridge frequently (most units, in most conditions should be cleaned every week or two for best performance).

Hope this helps…sorry for the delayed response.

Terry

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Tom March 20, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Question: Once my cell becomes caked up with salt, what is the best way to clean the caked up salt off the cell without scrapping and possibly damaging it?

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fireyourpoolguy March 31, 2009 at 8:41 am

Tom, good question. The best remedy is using an acid/water solution to clean the cell. This will reduce the difficulties in eliminating the calcium buildup from the cell. Let it “soak” in the solution for about 10 minutes prior to scrubbing and you won’t need to worry about damaging the unit.

All the best,

Terry

:)

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mike mahony April 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm

i have a hayward goldline salt system. a professional said the cell was working but the circuit board is shot. actually two different people have told me such. They wanted $600 to replace the board and i have found them on line for $200 and it appears to be all plug and play. what are the pros and cons for buying the board on line and actually how hard is it to replace the board?

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remo pace April 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm

hi terry .i own an under ground swimming pool(salt system) is it true that salt can damage many parts of the pool ,including the cement walkway ..its been 3 years and so far no signs of damage can you let me know if there are any precautions i should take thanks ,remo

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fireyourpoolguy April 20, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Hi Remo,

Never seen a salt (or any pool) damage a walkway. Not saying it can’t be done, but sounds like an old wives tale or something. Salt pools can tarnish gaskets/seals within the equipment, but so does any pool, regardless of how one is sanitizing it…if the chems aren’t in alignment.

Terry

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fireyourpoolguy April 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Hi Mike,

Think I flipped you an email regarding this, but couldn’t recall for certain. Here it is just in case…

Very quick and simple to swap out. Board has 4 wires – make sure they’re matched up correctly (as they were before) and shouldn’t have any issues.

Best,

Terry

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Leasa April 27, 2009 at 9:12 am

We have an Aqua Rite salt system on our pool and it has been the biggest pain over the past 4 years we have had our pool. While under warranty, they have replaced both boards along with numerous other things. Since day one it seems as though this has been the culprit to our pool turning green constantly. It will stop working and stop producing chlorine. It’s a battle we are ready to give up on and go to regular chlorine. But we do like how the water feels.

We have depended on the company that sold it to us to fix and maintain the system, and now need help with basic maintenance. Is there anything we should be doing to maintain the actual system? HELP!
Thanks
Leasa

Reply

fireyourpoolguy May 5, 2009 at 10:32 am

Hi Leasa,

Weird situation…this is typically a pretty strong unit and one of the best names in the industry when it comes to functionality/reliability.

The system itself should be maintenance free – it’s protected from the elements of mother nature. Nothing necessary on that front.

Assuming salt readings are accurate as well as cyanuric acid levels – the chance of a salt system not functioning is slim, although they can/do come from the manufacturer with issues – happens with anything mass produced.

Confirm salt readings are accurate and conditioner levels – if both sufficient, please shoot me an email to support with any further details you can provide and I’ll personally call Aqua to explain/work out a reasonable solution for you.

All the best,

Terry

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Tina June 22, 2009 at 9:35 am

Do saline chlorinators really prevent or kill algae?

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fireyourpoolguy June 22, 2009 at 9:40 am

Hi Tina,

The quick answer is “yes”. Remember, the purpose of a salt system is to essentially generate chlorine “on site” rather than bringing it in from a store or traditional retailer.

A salt sytem will keep free chlorine in the desired range…assuming the salt level in the pool is adequate and the cell is being cleaned routinely and operating adequately.

Hope this helps.

Terry

:)

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Leasa June 25, 2009 at 11:18 am

Update to my salt system issues….

After replacing the salt cell, the pump filter and a few other minor parts on the entire system, our pool seems to be back to normal. So it seems as though the salt cell was the main issue with our salt system. I’m not sure how long they are suppose to last, but ours was about 4.5 years old.

Leasa

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fireyourpoolguy June 25, 2009 at 11:23 am

Music to my ears Leasa…that’s about right under most conditions for a salt cell. They’re typically good for 4-5 years.

Cheers.

Terry

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Cindy July 7, 2009 at 7:39 pm

I installed a new salt system at the beginning of this season. After installation, I made sure the water was balanced and added enough salt to bring the equipment up to operating range. Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that my TA and stabilizer keep dropping. With my old chlorine system, I only had to add stabilizer a couple of times over a season and rarely had to adjust TA. Also, before purchasing the salt system, I read that salt only has to be added once or twice over a season, but my salt is disappearing along with the stabilizer and TA. What’s up??? Final question – any reason I shouldn’t use water softener salt pellets?

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fireyourpoolguy July 8, 2009 at 7:26 am

Hi Cindy,

Good questions. Without knowing too many specifics, let’s see if we can address the core issue here.

Typically, a pool does only require an addition of salt 1-2 times per year (possibly 3 in warmer states – due to water loss/evaporation). With the salt system, I assume you’re keeping the CYA levels quite a bit higher than previous (should be approximately 75ppm with a salt system).

Normal salt loss can take place from backwashing, evaporation, spashing, etc – rain can also dilute the water as well if you’ve had a high amount of rain over the past couple of months.

I’d check for any leaks (return side of the equipment and the backwash o-ring set). It’s likely not a coincidence that the CYA and salt levels are dropping at the same time. Also, depends on the quantity of salt being added – for example, if it was a small amount you’re adding (say 25 lbs) this would only increase a 15k gallon pool by approximately 150 ppm.

Nothing wrong with using water softener pellets – just stay away from rock salt as there’s typically other “stuff” in it that you’d rather not have in your pool.

Hope this helps.

Terry

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patricia July 14, 2009 at 1:21 am

thank -you for all this information when I can afford it I plan on buying your book.

thank-you again pool guy you’re great

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fireyourpoolguy July 23, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Thanks Patricia!

Whether you purchase or not, I’m glad you’re enjoying and benefiting from the information!

:)

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Denny July 31, 2009 at 8:21 am

Had a “pool guy” tell me the other day that we needed to add chlorine tablets to our skimmers to help the cell maintain chlorine level. I test the salt system we have weekly and don’t see a problem with chlorine level. He says it will help eliminate alegae (black) problems which we have had.

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fireyourpoolguy August 17, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Hi Denny,

Could help, but there are a few variables here. Free chlorine levels should be a bit higher during the summer months, especially if you’ve encountered black algae in the past or if it’s a “repeating” problem.

I’d confirm a few things before throwing tabs into the skimmer and I’d NEVER consider this a long term solution to an algae issue. Confirm the CYA levels are appropriate and the TA is OK.

I’d also add NoPhos or a good phosphate remover every 1-2 weeks to eliminate the food source of the algae to reduce the likelihood of this taking place again.

Best,

Terry

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Michael Schuller September 3, 2009 at 10:59 am

Terry,
Can a salt system be used with a vinyl lined pool and a sand filter?

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fireyourpoolguy September 3, 2009 at 11:06 am

Good question Michael,

There is no problem having a salt system installed on a vinyl lined swimming pool. There is also no harm caused using a salt system, regardless of the filtration media installed on the pool.

All the best,

Terry

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Mary June 4, 2010 at 9:09 am

Hi Terry,
First I would like to thank you for providing this site for people like us, I really appreciate it.
We currently have an in-ground fiberglass pool that’s approximately 30 years old. It has cracks in it and leaks enough that we have to add water with a hose every second or third day. We suspect it’s Katrina damage as we’re slightly north of New Orleans. We’ve been here almost three years. It’s currently on a chlorine system w/an automatic chlorinator and works great w/very little maintenance. We are considering switching to a salt system for reasons of cost and health. We’re in the process of doing research to determine if that would be a good decision and if we could do it ourselves. Someone patched the cracks but the patches cracked. What would you recommend for the cracks and for switching to salt? Also, I found a site that gave instructions for switching to salt that included emptying the pool. First, we’ve been told by the man that installed the pool 30 yrs ago not to ever drain it because it will cave in. Second, is it really necessary? Couldn’t you just close the chlorinator for a day or so to let the chlorine level drop a little before switching?
Thanks,
Mary

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Bernie May 1, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Terry,
I too have Aqua Rite salt system that was installed 2-1/2 years ago during pool installation. This system has failed numerous times, all under warranty. It has had the cell replaced 4 times, the main board replaced 3 times, each separately. The board and cell were also replaced together the last time (fall 2010). The cell has failed again, reading 190 Degree cell temperature. I am not impressed with the reliability of the Aqua Rite system. My warranty will expire this August and then it will be expensive to repair this unit twice a year. I am looking to replace the Aqua Rite system with a different brand. My pool chemistry is tested monthly and has never been an issue so, it must be the salt system.
I can easily do the work myself but am waiting for the warranty to expire.
Thanks
Bernie

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Ellen September 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Hey Terry,

I have a Pool Pilot Digital DIG-220. It has been working just fine until today the warning light was flashing stating that the temp sensor was bad and the salt was low. Other checks found that neither was true. The last time I had someone out a fuse was replaced and the serviceman said that it appeared the mother board was showing wear. We talked and he said it might be cheaper to replace the system than an old mother board(maybe 7-8 years old). I would appreciate your opinion. Thanks.

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Ashley June 12, 2012 at 10:53 am

What salt system would you recommend using on large commercial pools (50,000-200,000 gallons)? The main selling point for salt systems is the cost savings. How long does it take for the conversion cost to be recovered if you include the increase power useage costs? How much savings can be expected for a heavily used large commercial pool?

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fireyourpoolguy July 9, 2012 at 11:06 am

Ashley, good questions.

Stick with a major brand like Pentair or Hayward – there’s lots of good models on the market for what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, most consumers buy into the savings that pitched – that’s rarely the case. You’ll save on chlorine and spend 3-4 times what you are now on acid to manage pH/TA levels.

The big benefit is the feeling of the water and convenience. It’s like having soft water in your pool. Nothing beats it.

Terry

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Stanley January 6, 2014 at 11:18 am

I will be installing a 40x36x20 pool in the near future and want to go salt. If you were going to pick a salt unit, which one would it be and why? Also, would you use 1 1/2 or 2hp pump.

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Jim Nanninga January 7, 2014 at 6:59 am

Terry,
I am building a 50,000 gal inground pool in Florida. I don’t see many systems this big. Am I better off installing two 30,000 gal systems. If I do go dual, do I need two pumps and two filters? What do you recommend? Thank you.

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T. Duff January 15, 2014 at 8:11 am

Hi Jim,

Good question and thanks for sending this in. That is a very big body of water – generally speaking, and there’s many variables here, but ideally, you’d have 2 pumps and 2 filters installed to ensure adequate flow and filtration.

All the best,

Terry

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T. Duff January 15, 2014 at 8:33 am

@ Stanley,

Good questions. On the pump size, that will depend on the elevation of the equipment relative to the pool and the distance. Assuming the run is relatively short (less than 20′ or so) you’ll likely be ok with a 1.5 hp motor – again, this is without knowing all the variables.

On salt systems, there’s a couple options that I’m a big fan of. These days, with the larger manufacturers, the biggest difference in the units is how long the cells last and the features offered.

1: Pentair Intellichlor – very user friendly, 2 buttons primarily are all you use, once installed and we’ve seen very few issues with this unit. The self cleaning mechanism is solid as well.

2. Hayward Goldline – simple controls to adjust settings (I especially like how you can adjust the chlorine with precision compared to “ranges” as with most units), cell has awesome flow rates in my experience, cell auto reverses polarity every 90 minutes (may be 100).

Personally, I’ve had great experiences with both above units and pretty much the only ones I recommend these days for inground pools.

Terry

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