Swimming Pool Salt Water Conversion FAQs

Posted by Denise on 09/16/2015

A salt shaker next to a water drop

You may have heard about salt water systems as a growing alternative for home pool systems. This system uses a special chlorine generator that can cut down on maintenance and related costs, as well as make your pool water less irritating to skin, hair and eyes. In most cases, converting your pool to a salt water system is fairly simple: Here are common questions about the process and what you need to know.

What Does it Mean to Use a Salt Water System? Is it Like Sea Water?

No, a salt water system will not turn your pool into an ocean dip – far from it. This system is simply a new type of chlorine generator that makes it easier to manage chlorine levels in your pool without constantly adding new chlorine. The salt in the water is necessary because the generator needs the elements to create a chemical reaction. By using an electrical current (nothing dangerous to humans), it turns the "chloride" part of "sodium chloride" into chlorine.

 The result is pool water very much like what you already had, but with an additional feature that creates and – to an extent – regulates chlorine production. You probably will not notice any difference in the water. Today's new chlorine generators require only around 3,000 parts per million of salt in your water, around 1/12th the amount in seawater; usually impossible to detect by taste or smell.

What New Components Do I Need?

The chlorine generator is the primary new component that you will need. Based on your pool, you may need upgrades in drains, piping or pumps to use the generator effectively. The system must be installed at the end of the plumbing system so that only filtered water passes through the generator. Usually you do not need to worry about replacing your pump, heater, filter or other features unless they are old and already in need of an upgrade.

What are the Benefits of Switching?

In addition to not worrying so much about chlorine levels and related testing, there are a variety of other benefits to using a salt water system.

 First, you will no longer need to continually purchase chlorine and shock treatment chemicals for your pool, only pool salt. This salt is far less expensive and will only cost around $30 per year, so you can find considerable savings by adding a salt water system to the pool.

 The way chlorine is generated also tends to be friendlier to your pool and your skin. This naturally created chlorine often lingers in your pipes and has less of a presence in your pool water than old-fashioned treatments. In general, residual chlorine tends to be lower throughout the water. This leads to less irritation for your skin and eyes, especially if you are sensitive to chlorine.

What is Pool Salt? Is it Like Normal Salt?

Not exactly. Pool salt is sold in bags and is specifically designed for use with chlorine generators. There are many different brands available – generally different companies and generator sellers will have their favorite or affiliate brands. It's a good idea to find the recommended salt or look up pool salt reviews to see if there are any reported consumer problems before switching pool salt types.

There are Different Sizes – What Size Do I Need?

Outside, a larger generator will be able to more easily maintain the correct amount chlorine levels. Indoors, sunlight is not a problem and it is important to choose a small generator that only produces low levels of chlorine.

How Much Does a Conversion Cost?

Ultimately, it's best to get an estimate tailored to your specific pool. In very general terms a conversion can cost between $1,000 to $1,500 for the average residential pool. But size, location, and other factors are very important when it comes to specific numbers.

Is Salt Going to Damage My System or Pool Materials?

Salt is corrosive, but with a new generator you shouldn't experience any difficulties. The salt content is low, and the components of new systems are quite durable. If you have older pool materials or old metal pipes, then you should consider using a zinc anode bar to attract extra salt particles and take on the corrosion so that other metal pieces don't suffer. As for your delicate pool surfaces, the good news is that for many materials, chlorine is actually more damaging than salt, so things like pool liners may last even longer with a chlorine generator.

Is There Any New Maintenance for Salt Water Systems?

Maintenance is still very important for salt water systems. You will need to check your chlorine levels to ensure that the generator is performing adequately. You must also continue to balance pH levels. New additions, such as stabilizers to prevent chlorine degradation, are also required. Some older additives, like phosphate to prevent scaling, should not be used with a chlorine generator. 

If you still have questions about converting your chlorine pool, contact our professionals at Blue Haven Pools for a consultation.