How To Maintain a Salt Water Pool

Written by:  Danny Rhodehamel
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 (3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS ON 2 RATINGS)

There are many benefits to operating a salt water pool. The benefits include softer water, lower cost of operation, and no chloramines. Many people believe that a salt water pool will be maintenance free. Although there is less maintenance required with a salt water system, there are still necessary steps required to maintain a stable pool.

Tips & Warnings

Things You'll Need

Step by Step

Step 1

Weekly, test the pool water for Free Chlorine and pH. The water can be tested using test strips or by a drop test kit. The Free Chlorine level should be 1-3 ppm. The chlorine can be adjusted by the output control on the control box or cell. The pH should be maintained at 7.2-7.6. The pH can be lowered with muriatic acid or raised with soda ash or sodium bicarbonate. Please review your owner's manual for specific ideal levels.

Step 2

Monthly, test the pool water for Salt, Alkalinity, Stabilizer, and Calcium. The water can be tested using test strips or by a drop test kit. Please review your owner's manual for specific ideal levels and make adjustments accordingly. Note: Most salt chlorinators will display a salt reading. However, it is a good practice to test the salt yourself in case the salt chlorinator needs to be recalibrated.

Step 3

To maintain maximum performance, it is recommended that you open and visually inspect the cell every 3 months. Most salt chlorinators will remind you to do this by a flashing "Inspect Cell" light on the control box. Once removed, inspect the inside of the cell for scale build up or any debris that may have bypassed the filter. If no deposits are visable, reinstall. If deposits are seen, use a high pressure garden hose and try to flush the scale off. If this is not successful, use a plastic or wood tool (do not use metal as this will scratch the coating off the plates) and scrape deposits off of plates. If flushing and scraping are unsuccessful, a mild acid wash will be required. Please refer to your owner's manual for specific instructions. Most manufacturers suggest a 4:1 ratio of water to muriatic acid (one gallon of water to one quart of acid). Always add acid to water and never water to acid. Pour the solution into a container to a level where the solution will reach the top of the cell but not the cable (some cables can be removed from the cell). The cell should soak for a few minutes and then rinsed off with a garden hose. Reinstall cell once it is cleaned.

Step 4

Keep the filter, pump, and skimmer clean. The water flow will be reduced if the filter, pump, or skimmer is full of debris. If the water flow is reduced significantly, the salt chlorinator will stop generating chlorine.

Step 5

To winterize the salt chlorinator, most manufactures recommend that the flow switch and salt cell be removed from the plumbing and stored inside out of the elements. There are dummy cells available that can go in place of the real salt cell during the winter months. The control box can withstand freezing temperatures and can remain installed. For warmer climates, where winterizing is not necessary, run the pump continuosly if a freeze is expected.

Comments (1 to 18 of 18)

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User: Inyopools

Hopeless - That seems short. I would think he should at least check the water, add chemicals and brush the pool down each time. If your pool starts to get green or cloudy, he might have to spend a little more time.I would suggest having him list what he does on each visit. He should at least tell you what chemicals he adds so you know when it's safe to swim.

User: Inyopools

Hummerbug - The only chemical that a SWCG produces is chlorine. You still have to maintain the other chemicals associated with a pool. See our series of guides on maintaining chemicals starting with "How To Maintain A Swimming Pool Part 1 (Chemicals)".  Note: even though your SWCG is generating chlorine for your pool, you may still have to shock it occasionally during heavy use.

User: Hopeless

I pay my pool guy $85 a month and for the last 2 months he is at my house for 3-5 minutes is that the norm?

User: Hummerbug

Brand new above-ground pool & we decided to go with the SWCG set-up. My hubs has had chlorine pools in the past but we're not quite sure what chemicals we need to use with the SW system. I saw that we still need to shock, but what about all the other stuff (Balance / Sanitize / Shock / Algaecide)? We read somewhere about some sort of acid but couldn't find it when we went back.

User: Inyopools

Griffin - Scaling and algae are generally good indications that your pool chemicals are not balanced. If you can, take a sample of your pool water to a local pool store and have it tested. They are generally more accurate that what you can measure yourself. Also ask them to test for phosphate and salt level. And, even though you have a salt pool, you still have to shock your pool occasionally. See our guides starting with "How To Maintain A Swimming Pool Part 1 (Chemicals), for more information.

User: Griffin

I have a new salt water pool (7 months old) and have developed some algae and debris on the walls of the deeper end and hard to reach areas for the skimmer. I have tried brushing and cannot get it off. I also have some scaling. What can you recommend to get the walls and bottom of the pool clean without having to drain it?

User: Inyopools

cloudy pool - If your sand is that old, you might try "Sand Aid Cleaner" to remove suntan lotions, body oils and other organic materials that have probably clogged up your sand filter system.

User: 

I have a salt water pool, which I opened in early May, after being covered and with the salt generator turned off for the winter. Of course, it was green, so after algaecide, several shocks, baking soda, salt, and stabilizer, and running the pump 24 hrs/day for several days, all of the numbers are perfect, and the pressure is around 12psi. I have backwashed and rinsed several times, swept and vacuumed, and I run the pump now about 6 hrs/day. The issue is that the water is cloudy and has a slight greenish tint. I know I need to run the pump longer (I will change that today) and will probably replace the sand in the filter at the end of the season (it is >10 yrs old), but would more shock or a clarifier/defloc help with the cloudiness?

User: Rita

We did not know what to do about getting the pool regulated with Free Chlorine and Rob very quickly and nicely told us what to do. I feel much better and am so very glad that we can chat with you about our pool maintenance. Thank you so very much. Rita

User: 

I couldn't unloosen the cell to inspect it. I finally loosened the smaller end using channel locks, but the large end still wouldn't budge. I ended up getting a strap wrench with a rubber strap at Lowes, and it came right off.

User: Inyopools

Robert - We have an older reference to code "110" as follows. "First have the salinity level checked independently from the reading on the Clormatic [now AquaPure] to verify the reading is correct. If the reading is correct add the proper amount of salt to the pool. If the reading is wrong clean the flow sensor [now Tri-Sensor] (see code 110). If the reading is still wrong have the flow sensor re-calibrated by a pool professional. If the problem persists replace the flow sensor." It seems that having to replace the Tri-Sensor is a common problem. See this link: "Jandy AquaPure 1400 Error Codes 172 and 186". Here is another helpful document:." AquaPure TroubleshootingAquaPureControl". The tri-sensor can be viewed or purchased here (key 16): "Jandy AquaPure Models 700 & 1400 Parts". And finally, we do not have a step by step guide on cleaning the salt cell, but there are some instructions for cleaning the cell starting on page 27 of the owner's manual: "Installation and Operation Manual"

User: Inyopools

calcium - Check your calcium level to make sure this is the issue. It should be under 400 ppm. If it's under 400, you have another problem besides calcium. See our "Pool Maintenance" guide for other possible issues. If your calcium level is higher than 400, like 450 -600, your only solution to reducing calcium is to drain the pool somewhat and adding fresh water. If you have a hard water supply, there's not much you can do to reduce calcium other than adding a softener to your supply line which can be expensive.

User: Robert Jandy Pump

I have a Jandy Pump with aqua pure panel that reads "service" and the error number is 110, however this number is not included in the owners manual what do i need to do. I am sure the chlorinator cell needs cleaning do you have a step by step for this model? I dont have the model number but it was purchased new 2008

Thanks

User: 

I have a 4 year old in ground salt water pool in Arizona. My problem appears to be to much calcium. There are white flakes in the pool that clog up the filters in a very short time. I have to clean them about every two weeks. I replaced the filters a year ago. What can I do to resolve the problem?

Thank you, ken Clouston

User: Inyopools

mustard algae - Have you shocked your pool recently. Even though this is a salt water pool, you still have to shock the pool occasionally to keep it under control.

User: 

Not sure if I can post this here. I have a salt pool and need help. My readings on my control box are
3200
81
24.9
6.34
83p
-3300
Al-1
R 1.33
I have a little bit of mustard algae in the pool an after I brush it it, it keeps comin back. I need help and any would be greatly appreciated. Thank you kindly;)

User: Inyopools

bobh - No, it is not necessary to float a 3" tablet in a pool with a salt chlorine generator. You will, however, still have to shock your pool occasionally with heavier use in the season.

User: bobh

Is it necessary to float a 3 in tablet in a SWGS pool?

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