Salt Water Pools


We love salt systems.  We install salt systems.  A salt pool system saves you from trips to the pool store to and buying bulk chlorine week after week.  However, if you are trying to get away from chlorine, keep in mind that salt swimming pool purification systems are just another method of adding chlorine to a swimming pool.  They are just a more convenient way to purify your pools water with chlorine.

Although salt systems are more convenient, there are two major downsides that you need to keep in mind:  First, salt is a corrosive agent and shortens the lifespan of your pool equipment.  Exposed metal such as rails and lighting fixtures made with metal are prone to rusting.  Second, a salt system is costly to maintain.

A salt system for pool purification is an alternative chlorine delivery system. They are actually miniaturized chlorine manufacturing plants: the same technology is utilized to purify the water as chlorine. A salt system is an easier chlorinating system than having to go to the store and purchase bulk chlorine to dump into your pool. These devices are plumbed in-line and work by electrolytically converting salt, in the pool water, into chlorine as it passes over specially coated titanium electrode plates. Salt must be added to the pool prior to start up, as directed. Thereafter, salt needs be added occasionally, to replace that lost due to splash out, rainfall, pool leaks.

Salt alone doesn’t keep water clear and free of algae. Ocean life depends on algae. Chlorine generators simply generate chlorine gas and hydrogen gas from salt and water at the expense of your power bill. Once mixed with pool water, chlorine gas produces the exact same active sanitizer as the chemical chlorine you are currently using.

This chlorine can continue to burns eyes, dry skin, and bleach bathing suits if it is not properly regulated. Chlorine generated from salt is not a chlorine alternative.

While a salt system is an improvement over traditional chlorine based systems, saving you from dealing with liquid chlorine, it is essentially the same process.

The chlorine produced by a salt water system has very positive ph. That reduces eye and skin irritation. The downside is that chlorine loses its ability to sanitize at ph levels over 7.8ppm.

While there is a cost savings by not having to purchase bulk chlorine with a salt system, the savings are offset by another downside to salt swimming pool purification systems in that it is expensive to replace the chlorine generating cell which periodically goes bad. Average life expectancy for the electrolysis cell is 4 to 8 years and typical costs range from $800.00 to $1200.00.

Corrosion can be a problem to metal surfaces in contact with the pool water purified by these chlorine generators. Its is not necessarily caused by low ph. It can be caused by improper grounding in the pool (don’t worry, this is not a safety hazard in any way) and related equipment through the process of electolysis.

In an article written by Jason Hughes, a pool installer that has installed over a thousand salt systems over many years:

Let me start off by saying that we are huge proponents of salt water chlorine generators and do recommend them to most customers. However, there is no such thing as a perfect system. The purpose of this article is to bring to light several of the issues we’ve seen with salt water chlorine systems after installing close to 1,000 of them over the past 8 or 9 years. As you’ll see, most of the issues we’ve encountered haven’t been with the actual salt water systems, but with the impact that the system has on other pool components.

Salt Generator - Pool Corrosion, Salt System1. Corroded handrail and ladder anchors

The high salinity level of the water does cause galvanized deck anchors to corrode prematurely. We’ve found that within 4 to 5 years of installing a salt system that galvanized deck anchors will corrode to a point where it is difficult or impossible to remove the handrail or ladder. The solution to this problem is to use brass anchors as opposed to galvanized steel. If you are considering installing a salt system on an existing pool with galvanized deck anchors it would be a good idea to spray them with some type of corrosion inhibitor to slow the deterioration process. If you are having a new pool built, make sure the contractor uses brass anchors.

2. High Chlorine

One of the greatest advantages of salt water systems is that you reap the benefits of a chlorine pool without the adverse effects associated with chlorine. This is wonderful….no strong smell, no burning eyes, etc. The disadvantage is that it’s possible to generate a high level of chlorine in the pool and never know it. This can have an adverse effect on the pool shell, pool equipment, etc. To keep this from happening, simply test chlorine levels on a weekly basis.

3. Cell Replacement

Although salt chlorinators typically cost less during a given season than chlorine, there will come a day when the cell, which is the component of the machine that converts salt to chlorine, will fail. The cost of cell replacement may off-set the savings experienced over the previous years. The average cost of cell replacement is $800-$1200 and the average life expectancy is 4-8 years. There are many wonderful advantages of salt chlorine systems, but my experience is that cost savings is not one of them in the long run.

4. Tough on Automatic Covers

There’s simply no getting around this one. Salt systems are tough on the metal components of automatic covers. Many of the major components of “auto-covers” such as the track system, the tube the cover rolls up on, the hardware, and the leading edge are all made of metal. The best way to prevent premature corrosion of these components is to periodically rinse them with fresh water from a garden hose.

5. Corrodes vinyl liner pool walls

This applies to inground and above ground vinyl liner pools with metal walls. Most vinyl pool builders today use polymer/plastic walls, so this is not so much an issue with new construction of liner pools. However, if you are considering building a vinyl liner pool with a salt system, do yourself a huge favor and avoid metal walls like the plague! Regarding above ground pools, it’s debatable whether the low-maintenance aspects of the system outweigh the impact that the salt water has on the metal wall structure of the pool. After doing many liner replacements on above ground pools with and without salt water systems, I can tell you that there is a significant difference in the amount of corrosion on the wall after a very short period of time. It’s a question of how long you want your pool to last. In my estimation, you’ll get 10-15 years out of an above ground pool with a salt system as opposed to 20-25 years without.

Corrosion caused by a salt system in a South Florida Swimming Pool

While salt systems are indeed popular and do have benefits, Caribbean Clear process keeps all of the benefits and eliminates all of the negatives that are associated with salt systems throughout all of South Florida.