Saltwater Pool Conversion:
Benefits & How To
For generations, chlorine has been the
sanitizer of choice for swimming pools. No matter the size, shape, or location
of a given pool, unwieldy bags of chlorine have traditionally been as much a
part of its upkeep as skimmers or drain covers.
But while chlorine itself is as important as
ever for keeping pools clean and sanitary, recent years have seen a significant
improvement in how it’s created and managed. Salt chlorination is becoming much
more common as an alternative to mixing pure chlorine with the water.
Converting chlorine pools to saltwater allows
pool owners to avoid storing chlorine and hauling it out to the pool whenever
needed, and the common complaints of skin irritation associated with high
levels of chlorine (as well as its smell) are also quickly fading into the
past. Today, we’re sharing the primary benefits and how-to for converting a
pool to saltwater.
How Does Salt Chlorination Work?
Salt chlorination operates through
electrolysis, in which a salt cell attached to the pool's plumbing converts
saltwater into hypochlorous acid using an electric charge. This process
eliminates the manual addition of chlorine, maintaining both chlorine and salt
in the pool. Contrary to popular belief, chlorine remains essential for pool
cleanliness. Electrolysis is a reversible process where chlorine converts back
to salt, which minimizes but does not remove the need for salt addition.
A critical component of a salt system is the
power center, supplying the current for electrolysis. Typically, the salt cell
and power center are purchased together, although alternative power sources are
What are the Advantages & Benefits of Saltwater?
Like we mentioned, salt systems eliminate the need
for buying as well as storing chlorine, a bulky and fairly hazardous chemical
with a strong clinical smell, around the house. But there are plenty of other reasons
to switch to saltwater.
First, many swimmers prefer the softer feel of
saltwater over the often irritating effects of free chlorine, such as red eyes
and discolored hair. Many people associate saltwater pools with the experience
of swimming in the ocean, but ideal pool salt levels are only roughly 10
percent (3,000-4,000 parts per million) of those in open saltwater, so such
comparisons are not realistic.
Another strong motivation for switching to a salt
system is that less maintenance is generally required for the pool. Not only is
the need to manually add chlorine to the water eliminated, the salt cell (shown
attached to a pool's returns below, between the filter and pump) handles a
major part of upkeep by measuring the level of salt automatically. The power
center's digital readouts alert the owner whenever there’s a problem.
Is Saltwater Pool Conversion Worth It?
Salt chlorine generators
like the Pentair Intellichlor
or Hayward AquaRite
, including professional
installation, costs at least $1000, not including the initial cost of salt.
Traditional chlorine pools often require supplemental chemicals such as
stabilizers and algaecides costing around $500-$600 annually, especially in
areas with extended swim seasons.
In comparison, a saltwater pool requires
approximately $120 of salt initially and about $30 annually thereafter, with
fewer chemicals needed for maintenance. Salt systems are cost-effective
investments considering the improved swimming conditions and less maintenance,
making them popular among pool owners.
To maximize your initial investment, consider
purchasing a comprehensive automation package like the Pentair EasyTouch
Intellichlor system. This package controls all pool features, like lights,
pumps, heaters, and valves, and includes a standard salt cell. Thus, the
EasyTouch system provides the benefits of a regular salt system and more. Learn
more about the many benefits of automation
Converting an In-Ground Pool to
an in-ground pool to saltwater is a manageable task, with the main challenge
being calculating the pool's volume, especially for pools with varying depths.
To calculate, multiply the pool's length, width, and average depth, then
multiply by 7.5 to convert to gallons. For instance, a 20' by 40' pool with an
average depth of five feet equals 30,000 gallons.
Volume = Length x Width x Average depth x 7.5
Once the volume
is determined, purchase a salt cell rated higher than needed to prevent
excessive wear. For a 30,000-gallon pool, a 40,000-gallon cell is advisable.
Next, you’ll need
salt. Typically, 25 pounds of salt per 1,000 gallons of water is needed. For a
30,000-gallon pool, that's 750 pounds of salt. This large quantity is only
required during the initial conversion.
Add half the salt
initially to prevent oversaturation, distributing it in the deep end, if
available, for easier dissolution. Brush the pool bottom to prevent salt from
settling. After 24 hours, check salinity and add the remaining salt to achieve
3,000 to 4,000 ppm, then activate the salt cell.
monitor your chlorine levels. The cell only measures salinity, so it's crucial
to ensure chlorine remains within the optimal range to avoid over-chlorination,
despite the less harsh nature of chlorine salt.
Converting an Above-Ground Pool
above-ground pool to saltwater requires a few modifications to the previously
outlined steps. With these pools, volume calculation is more precise due to the
absence of a deep end, and less salt is typically needed due to their smaller
Select an above ground pool salt chlorinator based on
your preferences and budget, choosing between a hanging model (one that sits on
the side of the pool) or one integrated with your current pump—the latter being
more efficient but pricier. Some experts advise draining the pool prior to
conversion, but you must comply with local drainage regulations due to the
chemicals in the water. Alternatively, you can convert without draining.
Add half the salt
around the pool's edge, moving around by ladder if a full walkway isn't
available. Ensure to brush the pool bottom to dissolve the salt and prevent
Wait 24 hours to
check salinity levels before adding the remaining salt and activating your salt
cell. After another 24 hours, recheck the levels to confirm you've added the
appropriate amount of salt.
What If I Add Too Much Salt?
The risk of
over-salinating your pool is low, with the guideline of 25 pounds of salt per
1,000 gallons of water. However, if salinity levels exceed 5,000-6,000 ppm,
dilution is necessary to prevent corrosion of the pump and other metallic
partially drain, and replace with fresh water, while complying with local
regulations for saltwater disposal.
volume of water to drain based on your excess salt. For instance, if salinity
is 5,000 ppm, you need to reduce it by around 2,000 ppm. Given a 40-lb bag of
salt contributes 480 ppm, you'd need to eliminate roughly four bags' worth of
salinity. This could mean draining around 40% of your pool. So, for a
20,000-gallon pool, you'd drain about 8,000 gallons.
volume underlines how challenging over-salinization is. If you're using more
salt than expected, your salt cell sensor may be faulty.
elevation isn't problematic, so don't fret if your levels are slightly above
For all of your
pool conversion and maintenance needs, Pool Supply Unlimited has you covered
with the best prices and selection around. Browse and shop today, or contact
our team for more tips on converting your chlorine pool to saltwater.