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How Salt Chlorinator Systems Work

What if I told you that you could chlorinate your pool using table salt? You probably wouldn’t believe me, would you? Before you go clicking the “X” button on me, let me explain. Salt Chlorinators use table salt to chlorinate your pool water. You see, when water that contains sodium chloride (salt) has a small electric current applied to it, the salt converts into chloride ions and then into chlorine gas. Once the chlorine gas dissolves back into the water, a pure form of chlorine is distributed throughout your pool. If that’s not the coolest thing since sliced bread, I don’t know what is.

Now, let me introduce you to the wonderful, eco-friendly world of Salt Chlorinators. Without all the advanced chemistry words and formulas, the way a salt chlorine generator works is this:

  • Large quantities of table salt are added into the pool
  • Water containing salt passes through the Salt Cell
  • A small electric current runs through the plates causing a chemical reaction that releases chlorine gas
  • As the water passes through the salt cell during this process, the chlorine gas dissolves into the water and produces pure and fresh chlorine that kills contaminants
  • Finally, the pure chlorine is returned to your pool

Let us show you how this works with our favorite salt cell, the CompuPool T-Cell 15:

How Salt Chlorine Generators Work


There are many advantages to using a Salt Chlorinator over more traditional sanitizers. For instance, using a salt system gives you extra time for enjoying your pool rather than fussing with water chemistry every day. After you add your first batch of salt, you shouldn’t have to add more salt for at least three months (Don’t forget to test your water!). In addition to that, you shouldn’t have to replace your salt cell for 3-5 years. Using salt makes your pool water feel smoother, look cleaner, and lessens skin and eye irritation. Being an alternative sanitizer, salt chlorine generators reduce the usage of chemicals and waste and are better for the environment. And to top it all off, the overall savings make these low maintenance and eco-friendly products well worth the investment.

So, now you know something as simple as table salt can be just what you and your family have been looking for in a pool. Remember, if you need any help deciding you can always contact one of our knowledgeable specialists at 800.772.0467.

Salt Chlorinators



    • Hi Mark, thank you for your excellent question. Before we can correctly answer we will need to know how you are using your potassium soft water system. Are you using it to just fill the pool when necessary? Is it plumbed in line to your pool equipment? The answer really comes down to how you are using your system and if that system is able to support a salt level of 3500-4000 ppm in the pool water. Please write back or give us a call — we’re always happy to help!

    • Hi Mark, your potassium soft water system should not affect your salt chlorine generator, however, please keep in mind that your salt level should remain between 3,000 and 3,500 ppm. We also suggest using a product like Natural Chemistry Cell Protect to prevent build-up on the cell plates and reduce maintenance. Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

    • We are using it top off the pool when necessary. The soft water system is connect to the house plumbing and is not plumbed directly to the pool the pool was refilled with the soft water system bypassed

  1. I am installing the CPSC24 and have a capacity of 20,500 gallons. How much salt will in initially need to add?

    • Hi Tim, thanks for the question. If you are converting to salt from chlorine and your pool does not currently have any salt then you will need to initially add roughly 590 pounds of salt. Non-iodized, food quality salt can be purchased very inexpensively from your local hardware store. Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance!

    • Hi Charles, thank you for your question. A high phosphate level will eat away at your pool’s chlorine content, and the chlorine reading on your salt cell will show as zero. While the heavy iron and phosphorous content will not damage the salt cell, it will stop all production of chlorine. Natural Chemistry Pool Perfect + PHOSfree 3 L is a recommended way to heavily reduce the phosphate level of your pool, decreasing it to below 100 ppm or less to prevent algae growth and chlorine reduction. For maintaining a phosphate-free pool, Natural Chemistry Pool Perfect 1 L is also recommended. Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

    • cording to my local pool store expert, yes. They suggested I use a product to help reduce the phosphate level.

    • Hi Neil, when salt (NaCl) is initially mixed with water (H2O), salt dissolves and the molecules interact to create hydration cells, allowing sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-) to become separate ions. When that saltwater solution passes through the salt cell, a small electric charge causes hydrogen (H+) and sodium (Na+) to form a sodium hydroxide (NaOH) solution. Simultaneously, chloride (Cl-) and hydroxide (OH-) ions form chlorine gas.

      When that sodium hydroxide and chlorine gas mix together, sodium hypochlorite is formed. When sodium hypochlorite is introduced back in the water, sanitizing chlorine is produced in the form of hypochlorous acid.

      In short, sodium is there throughout the whole process, jumping from molecule to molecule, changing its bonds and becoming something different. We hope this helps!

  2. I have a Jandy 1400 aqualink system . I am still unclear on the part as to whether or not i need to turn the chlorine generator off (set to 00%) everytime I add chemical to the pool (ie muratic acid, conditioner, salt, hardner?? the label says to set to 00% for 24 hours when salt is added. when my sality gets down to 2.8 i add a bag. Can you answer this question for me. Thanks

  3. I have a jandy 700 salt cell system. It is about 3 or 4 years old. The power light comes on and the service light is on. I’ve cleaned the cell and nothing happens. Is it time to replace it and how much are they?


    • Hi James, salts chlorinators are not recommended for pools with high calcium levels, as the calcium can quickly damage the chlorinator’s salt cell and reduce the amount of chlorine produced. However, if you can purify your well water, a salt chlorinator should work well.

      The Eco One Hose Filter is a great product that turns calcium found in water into aragonite, which helps prevent calcium build-up and should definitely help lower the calcium levels in your well. You can also use multiple Eco One Hose Filters attached together, depending on your pool’s size. Because of your water’s location, we highly recommend contacting Eco One for more information, and they can be reached at (877) 492-8123.

      Most pool equipment nowadays is compatible with salt chlorinators, and generally corrosion is not a problem, though we do recommend using marine grade metal products, such as ladders. As with any salt chlorinator, you’ll want to ensure that it is installed last on your return line, after your pump, filter and heater.

      The Jandy AquaPure 1400 Salt Chlorinator is a great choice for pools from 12,000 to 40,000 gallons, provided you can reduce the calcium in your water. The AquaPure salt chlorinator can be easily programed through its control panel, with chlorine production rates fully adjustable depending on the chlorine demand of your pool. It installs into 2″ PVC piping and draws 6 amps for operation. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us for immediate assistance.

    • Hello Dean, yes there is a chance that salt accumulation will occur from the discharge from your filter backwash. This shouldn’t be a huge problem though as long as you constantly divert the discharge water to different areas. If you’re unable to divert the discharge, you can also try using clean water to remove excess salts from the upper soil levels. This will dissolve the salt and flush it down below the plant root zone. Thanks for the great question.

  5. 3 questions concerning the Jandy AquaPure EI – 1) How do I know when I need to replace the salt cells? 2) How much does it cost to replace the salt cells? 3) Is there some guideline as to how much salt is added to a pool? For example, my pool is about 12,000 gallons. How much salt would I put in to start? Thank you, kent

    • Hello Kent, Salt cells usually last between 3 to 5 years if taken care of properly and when they die the production of chlorine drops. Replacement salt cells can range anywhere from $200 – $700 depending on the manufacturer and your pool size. With a 12,000 gallon pool the replacement cell would be in the lower price bracket. As for starting up the pool with salt it would take about 300lbs of salt to get started. The salt readings should be around 3000 ppm for optimum chlorine production. It may seem like a lot of salt, but you would only need to add this salt 1 time and that’s it. Hope this helps you out. Thanks for the great questions.

  6. I have i pure pe40k240v, the power light shows “on” but no reading for any chemical level. What is going on? Are my cells dead? Do they need re coated? If so how do you do that? I am a DIY person…it seems silly to pay $1000 just to replace coated metal.

  7. Hi, what changes in the cell for them to die? Ours has, but it looks much the same as it has for a while… Thanks,Dean

  8. It’s been a record summer in Texas and my system quit working in Juneregistering “Hot” I was surprised because Texas is always hot in the summer, but just accepted it and started using chlorine tablets again. Now the watr temperature is only 81 and the system still says “hot” and isn’t working. Obviously something wrong? Can anyone tell me what to do, short of throwing this whole system away.,

    • Hi S, on some salt chlorine generators, a “hot” or “high heat” warning can signal that the salt cell itself is bad. If the cell is still under warranty, most manufacturers should be willing to replace it. If you could please let us know the make and model salt chlorine generator you have, we would be happy to try and help you get to the bottom of the situation and recommend the proper course of action, short of throwing away the whole system!

  9. In 3-5 years when my salt cell needs replacement, does that mean I need to but the whole chlorine generator again? Seems like a large expense for 3 years of operation!

    • I’m no pool expert, but I’ve had the Polaris Autoclear system for several years and love the simplicity of it. Generally, the system should last a long time, but the cell that produces the chlorine will last about 4-5 years. My original lasted 6, mostly due to good maintenance of it. Check for debris and any other buildup regularly, and store the cell indoors in winter if you are not year round. Obviously, if you are running it 6-7 hours a day and maintaining a good chlorine level, it will last a lot longer than if you are running it 12 hours a day. Good luck to you.

    • Hi L, thank you for your question regarding your salt chlorine generator. When it comes time to replace your salt cell, you only need to replace the cell, not your entire system. If ever your control panel needs attention, a service code should be displayed on the screen and/or a service light should come on. If this were to happen, we would recommend contacting the manufacturer for further diagnosis, and they should be able to advise you on the appropriate course of action. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

    • Hi Joseph, generally, salt chlorine generators are maintenance free, but we do recommend inspecting their cells every week during heavy pool use and every other week during the off season. Cleaning your salt cell as needed will prevent scale buildup and maintain optimal chlorine production. Most cells will last from three to five years when properly maintained, though some systems require their cells be changed more frequently.

      We always recommend oversizing your salt cell to accommodate increases in chlorine demand due to factors including, but not limited to, heat, direct sunlight and bather load. For instance, if you have a 25,000 gallon pool, we would recommend a chlorinator for pools up to 40,000 gallons rather than one rated for up to 25,000 gallons. The wiggle room will allow you to lower your chlorine output, which will help extend the life of the cell while still properly sanitizing your pool, but will enable you to ramp up the output when more chlorine is needed.

      You can also extend a salt cell’s life by using products such as Natural Chemistry Cell Protect and constantly maintaining proper water chemistry. If you would like help selecting the best salt chlorine generator for your pool, please give us a call, and one of our customer service representatives will be happy to assist you.

  10. Not sure how to ask this question…how quickly does chlorine convert back to salt? Background…I’ve trying a salt chlorine generator in a hot tub. The hot tub had been purged and filled with fresh water prior to switching system over. Regardless, I understand that the purge probably did not get all the built up in the line. Anyway, producing chlorine, still tweaking. First use, water was nice and soft. Since, water smells of chlorine. I’m upping the running time of the system but concerned it could over chlorinate if I’m not careful. I’m guessing best time to run CG is right after hot tub usage. How long after generator if completed with cycle will water return to soft feel of salt water?

    • Hi Katheryn, it sounds like the chlorine smell that you’re experiencing may not be chlorine, but another chemical in the water, as a salt generator is designed to greatly reduce chemical odors. However, a reduced chemical smell also depends on how fast the salt chlorine is being used. For example, if your chlorine is being rapidly eaten up by sunlight or by a water balance issue, then its chemical smell is more likely to occur due to the low salt chlorine being produced.

      The length of chlorine’s lifespan before it reverts back to salt depends on pool maintenance and water balance. If your chlorine is not being heavily utilized (no one is using your hot tub, no sunlight, etc.), it will take longer to revert back to salt. It sounds like your hot tub’s chlorine demand is not being met, so you’ll want to increase the chlorine production output of your salt chlorinator to accommodate the sanitation desired for your tub. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us for immediate assistance.

  11. I have an Aqua Logic Plus 40k purchased 4 yrs ago. Now I don’t see them on the market. They are now a Pro what’s the difference? Also can I change the speeds of a dual speed pump with my current system? System works great by the way.

    • Hi Jaime, the Pro Logic is actually the updated version of the Aqua Logic Pro, as the Aqua Logic Pro has been discontinued and is no longer made. Other than a slight software difference, they are essentially the same system. You can also change the speed of your dual speed pump with the Aqua Logic Pro, and for more information, we recommend contacting Hayward/Goldine at (866) 429-7665. Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

  12. I have two water heaters for the pool. The water coming out of the first heater goes through my salt cell. The water coming out of the second heater does not go through the salt cell but goes directly to the pool return line. Is this set-up correct. My salt cell is not creating enough chlorine and the water is always slightly cloudy.

    • Hi Tony, as long as the salt cell is receiving adequate flow, the setup of your heaters should not be a problem. Salt chlorinators need to sense a certain amount of water with its flow sensor in order to produce chlorine, and if your water pressure is too low, it will not be able to detect adequate flow.

      Generally, most salt cells require at least 11 GPM to operate properly, so you’ll want to ensure that your pump can offer this pressure rating to multiple return lines at a time. If you have any further questions, we advise contacting the manufacturer directly. Please let us know if you have any further questions.

  13. I have an above ground Vinyl Pool. Why do I have green algae growing in it? Is my generator not working properly?

    • Hi Jsingleton, algae is usually caused by high phospate levels in a pool. Phosphates are the main food source of algae, and although your pool is most likely properly sanitized, salt chlorinators cannot stop or reduce high phosphate levels. Phosphates can enter pools from nearly any type of debris, from leaves and soil to bark from trees, so eliminating phosphate levels completely is a difficult task, but keeping phosphate levels between 0-100 ppb is advised. For more information, please feel free to check out our blog “What are Phosphates and How Do They Affect Your Swimming Pool”.

      To immediately combat your algae issue, you may want to consider Algaecide 30 Eco Zapper. After using the algaecide, it’s also important to lower the phosphate level as much as possible, and we recommend both the Natural Chemistry Phosphate Test Kit – 10 Tests, to test your phosphate level, and Natural Chemistry PHOSfree 2 L to reduce it. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us for immediate assistance.

  14. I have an aqua logic plus 40k. Had crazy temp readings ie. pool temp 212F and it stopped generating. Purchased a new salt cell from this site. Still not generating. Took the new cell out and was ready to return it when I noticed Salt Level 3300ppm. My question is when the when there is no cell plugged in should it still say the salt level. I seem to remeber there was suppossed to be no reading without a cell plugged in. Please help otherwise I may be incorrectly returning my new cell. Note the software was set to the t-cell as the instructions stated to check for. thanks

    • Hi Jamie, the reading that you saw when you removed the cell will be the average. Your system will always show the average whether or not a cell is present. Based on the information you provided, it sounds like there is an issue with the cell and its sensor. To be absolutely sure, we recommend contacting the manufacturer for additional troubleshooting steps. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

    • Hi Jaime, recalibration instructions are slightly different for the Hayward Aqua Plus than other Hayward systems. First, you will need go into the diagnostic menu of your control panel and press the “right” button, which will show you the cell display menu. Press the “right” button again until an “Instant Salt” option appears. Your final step will be to press the “+” button directly on your unit, which will then reset the system. If you need additional assistance with recalibration, we recommend contacting Hayward at (866) 429-7665. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

  15. Dear Sir/ Madam.
    I work in the engineering consultants, which to design water treatment plant equipment do I need to list the chlorinator on my design, because in my design that row water from sea water by using a water intake and then before going into demin water tank I enter the first automatic water to the clarifier tank and then through a process of reverse osmosis, demin further into the tank before the water is sent to the boiler, do I still need to also use a chlorinator design? please explain

    thanks for the help.


    • Hi Stevenson! The equipment we are talking about here is designed for swimming pool sanitization. Drinking water sanitization uses different equipment. Let me know if you have any questions regarding swimming pool chlorination!

  16. Hi there, My control panel keeps saying “No Water”. What does it mean? and also does the chlorinator salt cell suppose to cover with water?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Hello, Danny. Basically, the Na dissolves into the water. It combines into a sodium-hydroxide solution to help form chlorine, which is the task of the salt cell, through electrolysis. Salt only needs to be added when necessary. You can tell by simply testing your water periodically. Salt levels can be lowered through splash-out/bather carryout, backwashing, rainwater, and leaks. Also, don’t only rely on your generator’s low salt indicators. It’s good to test manually every once in a while.

  17. I have a Hayward SwimPure Plus Chlorinator system. Recently I noticed that whenever I start the system, it runs fine for about 30 minutes and then the Instant salinity will drop down to 0 ppm and the unit will stop chlorinating. At that point, I switch the unit to the off position, wait about 10 seconds, then turn the unit back on and the process will repeat itself (runs fine for about 30 minutes and then the Instant salinity will drop down to 0 ppm and the unit will stop chlorinating)
    Any idea what’s going on with it?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Chris! It could be a few different things. The temperature of your water, the flow switch, or a loose point of contact. I would advise calling Hayward at (866) 429 – 7665. They will be able to troubleshoot the system for you and figure out what is wrong!

  18. My pool guy said he hasn’t been filling the salt generator this winter because they don’t work when the temperature gets too low. I’ve never heard this before. Is this true or is he lazy?

    • That’s true Kim! Most salt water chlorine generators do not work below 60 degrees. What do you mean by filling though? Generally you add salt to the water and the system generates chlorine. It doesn’t need to be filled. What model and manufacturer is your salt system?

  19. My pool guy said he hasn’t filled our salt generator all winter because it doesn’t work if the water gets below 60 degrees. Is this true? I haven’t read this anywhere? And even if it is, wouldn’t it still help to keep salt in through the winter in So. California because on warm days/weeks it would get above 60 wouldn’t it?

    • Hi Dawn! Salt systems work fine with well water there is just one thing to watch for. Salt systems will tend to cause your pH to increase faster than regular chlorine. With well water you will want to keep your pH low (7.2-7.4) to prevent staining or scaling. It’s also possible there could be mineral deposits in your well water that may turn a crystal green color when the chlorine from your salt system oxidizes. An easy way to test this is to take a sample of your well water and shock it with sodium monopersulfate chlorine free shock. If the water turns crystal green then you may have issues with a high level of minerals in your water. If that happens you can use a metal remover to lower the mineral levels in your water and the salt system will work fine!

  20. Hello
    In the process of building a new in ground pool in S California 30×20 7′ deep end
    Am overwhelmed with the different salt generators available
    My last pool was Hayward equipment 10yrs ago (No chlorinator)
    This new pool contractor is suggesting Pentair equipment with a chlorinator
    Can I ask your expert opinion in which system to choose

  21. our condo is considering converting to a salt system i have concerns our water source is from a deep limestone well that is high in calcium also is rust damage much of an issue THANKS Jim

  22. Hi Tony, if you choose to install a second salt cell, you will need to install a second control center as well, as the salt cell functions by plugging directly into its own control box. You’ll also be able to monitor and adjust each salt cell based off of its own control panel. Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

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