How To Know When a Salt Cell is Bad - General

WRITTEN BY:  Inyo Pools

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You can expect a Salt Chlorine Generator (SCG) cell to last 5 or more years if the pool and cell are maintained properly. Knowing when a Cell has gone bad and needs to be replaced is not always obvious. Before you replace the Cell, you will want to check several possible issues that can cause a good Cell to shut down or perform poorly. This guide reviews these issues at a general level since each SCG has unique functions. See your owner's manual for more specific trouble shooting instructions.

Step by Step


Step 1

MAINTAIN CHEMICAL LEVELS - To maximize the life of your pool Cell, make sure that you maintain the balance of your pool chemical within their operational ranges. Operating outside these ranges for any length of time will rapidly deteriorate the plates inside the SCG Cell. If your Stabilizer is too low, the pool water will not be able to hold the chlorine being produced and it will appear that your SCG cell is not producing adequately. Likewise, a low pH level will oxidize chlorine faster, making it difficult to maintain the right level of chlorine.

Step 2

"INSPECT CELL" LED - You may think something is wrong with your cell because the "Inspect Cell" LED suddenly came on. For most SCG systems, this light is a maintenance reminder to periodically check your CSG cell. This LED is generally programmed to come on every 500 hours or so. Look at the cell and clean if necessary, Then press the diagnostic button for 3 seconds to turn the Inspect Cell LED off.

Step 3

CHECK SCG IS ON - This may seem obvious, but it's easy to check that the system is switched to "AUTO" or equivalent to generate chlorine.

Step 4

CHECK % OUTPUT - Warm water and heavy bather load increase chlorine use. One way to increase chlorine production is by increasing the % OUTPUT.  See if increasing the % OUTPUT by 20% or 30% increases the amount of chlorine generated. This may take 24 hours to verify.

Step 5

CHECK SALT LEVEL - Many SCGs shut off if the pool's salt level is too high or too low.  2700 to 3500 is a typical range of operation, but this will vary across the different SCGs. Use salt strips to measure your pool's salt level. Have a pool store check your salt level periodically to verify your measured values. Also SCG readings are not always accurate, so only use them as a general indication of where you pool's salt level is.

Step 6

CHECK POOL TEMPERATURE - If the pool water is too cold (below 50F) the "GENERATING" LED will start flashing and the SCG will stop generating chlorine. Your pool does not need much chlorine at these temperatures. If required you can manually shock your pool with liquid chlorine.

Step 7

CHECK FLOW LEVEL - When "NO FLOW" LED is illuminated, the flow switch has detected no water flow and the SCG is NOT generating chlorine. A flashing LED indicates that the flow is restored, but there will be a 60 second delay before generation is re-established. In this case either the Flow Switch is defective of you have a restriction in the pool system.

Step 8

CHECK SCG CONNECTIONS [1] - Check all the connections between the Cell and the SCG Control Box to make sure they are tight. If your SCG has a separate water flow monitor make sure its connections are tight .Check that the control wires are not cut.

Step 9

CHECK SCG CONNECTIONS [2] - On some Cells there may also be a removable connection at the Cell itself. Make sure these connections are tight. If they are loose, your SCG control will get inaccurate readings which will affect the Cell's performance.

Step 10

CHECK FOR CORRODED PLATES - Most SCGs have an internal timer that turns on an "INSPECT CELL" LED after something like 500 operational hours. If this light comes on or you think your cell is not producing chlorine, remove the cell and inspect it. If your Cell is transparent, you will be able to see a white metallic buildup on the plates of a corroded Cell. If you see signs of corrosion, remove and clean the plates of the Cell. See our guide on "How To Clean a Compupool Salt Generator Cell" or "How To Clean a Hayward AquaRite Turbo Cell". Note: if you have an opaque Cell, like an AquaRite Turbo Cell, you will have to remove the Cell and look inside both ends to check for any corrosion. If the cleaned Cell still does not produce sufficient chlorine, you should replace it.

Step 11

CHECK FOR DISCONNECTED PLATES - While the; cell is out, look for heavily corrosion and disconnected plates. If a Cell is not cleaned periodically and is allow to become heavily corroded, the plate welds will deteriorate and eventually separate. At this point the Cell will have to be replaced.

Step 12

CHECK POLARITIES - Some SCGs reverse the polarity of the current flowing through the Cell to extend the life of the Cell. If the two polarity LEDs do not alternate over time, the productivity of the Cell will be reduced. Check that the connections between the Cell and the SCG control box are tight. If that does not correct the issue, you may have to replace a PCB for the display but not the Cell itself.


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Inyopools  Posted: 12/05/2017 11:41 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

John - 4-5 years is the typical time to replace a salt cell. I would also have your pool's salt level checked by a pool store. If it's really at 7100 ppm, that is way too high and most cells shut down at that level. You should be getting a high salt warning. If it is that high, try reducing the level to around 3500 ppm before buying a new cell. See our guide on "How To Reduce the Salt Level In Your Pool".

John  Posted: 12/02/2017 12:00 PM 

I have a Hayward salt cell. My control panel keeps giving me a low salt level, 1900-2000 range. I checked it with a test strip and it shows my salt level around 7100 ppm. I have cleaned my cell 3 times in the last 5 months. Is my cell worn out? It is 4 or 5 years old I believe.

Inyopools  Posted: 10/13/2017 13:22 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

AAron - If the "No Flow" LED isn't on, water flow is probably not the problem. The "Inspect Cell" LED is programmed to come on after 500 hours of use to remind you to clean the cell. If you cell has not been cleaned recently, try cleaning it. When you replace the cell, hold the diagnostic button down for more than 3 seconds to turn the "Inspect Cell" LED off.

AAron  Posted: 10/08/2017 15:10 PM 

I keep getting the inspect cell light. I have turned the system off, I have unplugged, I have even brought it in to the local dealer for testing. It reads as fine for them. There is a separate black cable that also goes to the machine. That seems to sense flow. Could that be the reason that the inspect cell is continually resetting? My pool is green because it stops generating when inspect cell activates.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/10/2017 9:21 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Morgan - Wait until the salt is completely dissolved, about 24 hours. Then test your salt level again. Take an independent salt reading, pool store or strip, to check your system and salt level. Note for clarification: the operation of your salt chlorine generator does not raise or lower your pool's salt level. It only measures it.

Morgan  Posted: 07/07/2017 20:11 PM 

I've just installed a new cell. Salt level was reading 0 (howeverver I didn't try to calibrate it before I started. I added 240 lbs. it now reads 2700. It hasn't been running long and our water is fairly warm. Should I add more salt now or will the level go up as it generates? Thank you

Inyopools  Posted: 06/27/2017 14:44 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Crowhbc - Make sure the arrows on flow switch are installed pointing in the direction of the water flow. Then check for low water flow. See our guide on "How to Correct Low Water Pressure in Your Pool System". First check for a clogged impeller, Step 6.

Crowhbc  Posted: 06/26/2017 20:13 PM 

Salt generator not producing chlorine, no lights on except no flow, salt cell is clean. Salt cell is 4 years old... help!

Inyopools  Posted: 04/18/2017 11:11 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

trad - I don't know why your SCG system would work in the spa mode and not in the pool mode. It's the same water. Try cleaning the cell. Make sure the displayed cell size is the same and the actual cell size. Reset the average salt level. See our guide on "How to Read and Adjust the Hayward Aqua Rite SCG Operational Values" Steps 9 and 10 for these last two procedures.

trad  Posted: 04/16/2017 22:48 PM 

my cell, when in pool filter mode reads 4100 ppm with yellow light on and high amps message i changed the water yesterday and it still reads the same. but when in spa mode, cell works fine. help. i can't get it off of 4100 ppm in pool mode

Inyopools  Posted: 03/23/2017 16:12 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Lois adams - The most common problems with salt cells is: they are old - 5 plus years; they need to be cleaned - see our guide on "How To Clean a Compupool Salt Generator Cell"; and the cell cable connections are loose.

Lois adams  Posted: 03/20/2017 16:42 PM 

We have the same problem salt cell not working
We need help

Inyopools  Posted: 10/01/2016 10:52 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

BATCHIEF30 - When you replaced your cell, did you reset your cell type so that the displayed cell type matched the installed cell type? And did you reset your system's average salt level? See pages 4 and 5 in this Hayward's Aqua Rite Diagnostics Manual. It may also have other tests to help isolate your problem. Try running your system in "super chlorinate" to see if that produces chlorine. Also, have your pool's salt level tested by a local pool store to verify that your salt level is within operational range.

BATCHIEF30  Posted: 09/28/2016 10:13 AM 

My 16,000 gallon salt pool is not holding chlorine. I've been dealing with this for weeks. I had Hayward tech support trouble shoot the system on the side of the house and they said it's working as it should. I took the cell to be tested and it showed "fail" on the test box. Hayward sent me a new cell since the failed cell was under a year old. I installed the new cell Monday night, it is now Wednesday, still zero chlorine. Pool water test results from this morning are as follows:

Free Chlorine: 0
Total Chlorine: 0.2
CYA: 89
Alk: 120
PH. 7.7
Hardness: Uh, don't remember but it was in range.
Salt: 3100
Phosphates: 0

Salt generator has been set at 60% for 3 weeks now. Power light is on, generating light is on.

I'm at a complete loss.

C. Flowers  Posted: 09/05/2016 10:34 AM 

Finally, a comprehensive set of salt chlorinator owner instructions that can be followed and understood.