How To Start Up a Salt Water Pool

WRITTEN BY:  Inyo Pools

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The start up of a saltwater pool is simple. If the salt water chlorinator is being installed on an existing pool, the water does not need to be drained. However, the water needs to be tested and properly balanced before the salt chlorinator is turned on. Note: Please refer to your owner's manual for specific ideal levels.


Step by Step


Step 1

The first step will be to test the chemical levels of the pool water. The water can be tested by a pool professional or with a home testing kit. The water will need to be tested for Free Chlorine, pH, Cyanuric Acid (Stabilizer), Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness, Metals, and Salt. Note: An existing pool may have a salt level if liquid chlorine has been used.

Step 2

Before making any adjustements, it is necessary to calculate the gallons of the pool. Please see the chart to the left for directions on how to calculate the gallons. The total gallons will determine how much of each chemical needs to added.

Step 3

The first level that should be adjusted is the Alkalinity. The Alkalinity should be in the range of 80-120 parts per million (ppm). Low or High Alkalinity can affect the pH level. Low Alkalinity requires the addition of sodium bicarbonate. High Alkalinty requires the addition of muriatic acid.

Step 4

Once the Alkalinity is in the correct range, the next level that needs to adjusted is the pH. The pH level is the foundation for all other chemicals. The normal range for pH is 7.2-7.6. Low pH requires the addition of pH Increaser (soda ash) or Alkalinity (sodium bicarbonate). High pH will require the addition of pH Decreaser (sodium bisulfate) or Muriatic Acid.

Step 5

After the pH is adjusted, the chlorine will need to be at a level of 1-3 ppm. If the chlorine level is low, it can be raised by adding Zappit Pool Shock (calcium hypochlorite) or Chlor-Burst (dichlor). If the chlorine level is high, it can be lowered by Chlorine Reducer or by draining 2"-3" and adding fresh water.

Step 6

Cyanuric Acid protects the chlorine from being instantly diminished by the sun. A normal level for Cyanuric Acid is 50-80 ppm. Adding Stabilizer will raise the Cyanuric Acid level. Stabilizer will need to be added directly to the skimmer. Draining 2"-3" inches of water and adding fresh water will lower the Cyanuric Acid level.

Step 7

A low calcium level can cause pitting or etching of the surface. High calcium can cause cloudy water and scale build op on the walls. The normal range for calcium is 200-400 ppm. The calcium level can be raised by calcium hardness. The calcium level can be lowered by draining 2"-3" and adding fresh water.

Step 8

There should be no metals (0 ppm) in the water. Metals can cause staining on the surface of the pool. Metal Control can lower the metals in the water. Jack's Magic Magenta Stuff will prevent staining and scale build up on salt cells.

Step 9

Finally, once all the other chemical levels have been adjusted the salt can be added to the pool. All salt chlorinators have a suggested range for salt. The average salt level will be 2700-3500 ppm. It is important to use only sodium chloride (NaCl) salt that is greater than 99% pure. This is common food quality salt or water softener salt and is usually available in 40-80 pound bags. DO NOT use rock salt, salt with yellow prussiate of soda, salt with anti-caking additives, or iodized salt.

Step 10

The salt water chlorinator can be turned on once the chemicals are balanced and the salt level is in the ideal range. Note: Please refer to your salt water chlorinator's manual for specific instructions.


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Inyopools  Posted: 07/13/2017 14:57 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Chas - See our guide on "How to Add Salt to Your Pool". It should give you the information you are looking for.

Chas  Posted: 07/13/2017 8:38 AM 

I came looking to find out how much salt to add to the pool on startup. Didn't find the answer. It would be nice to have a chart showing how much salt to add during initial startup for the volume of water in the pool, could be a simple line graph or even plot common points on it. Could be just a set of numbers we could interpolate. Anything would help. Back to the pol store.

Jerry Lows  Posted: 06/13/2017 3:44 AM 

Very good.

Inyopools  Posted: 06/12/2017 12:13 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Jessica Turner - You are probably all right. Just don't believe any of the salt system readings until the pool chemicals are balanced. Then recalibrate the salt system again as required. Balance the chemicals as soon as you can so that the salt cell is not damaged.

Jessica Turner  Posted: 06/10/2017 10:38 AM 

we just converted our above ground pool to the Hayward aquatrol salt system. We made the mistake of adding the salt before balancing the water. What can we do now?

Inyopools  Posted: 04/10/2017 12:05 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Create & Build - We do not have acid tables. You will have to look at the instructions on the muriatic acid container to determine how much acid to add to your pool. For the salt, here is a link to our guide on "How to Add Salt to Your Pool". Most start-up pools have some salt in them, like 500 ppm. If you are going from 500 to 3500 ppm, you will need to add a little over 626 lbs of salt ( ~ 15.5 40# bags) of for a 25,000-gallon size pool. Check your pool size calculations once more, then add 15 bags of salt. let it dissolve for 25 hours then resample your salt reading. Add another bag if required. Remember, it is much easier to add salt than to remove it.

Create & Build  Posted: 04/06/2017 12:31 PM 

Just built new salt water pool, 26300 gallons. Tested the water for startup and Alkalinity is at 200, ph at 8.5.

?, how much muriatic acid do I need to add in order to balance alkalinity and ph level?

?, how many lb. of salt is needed to add for the startup of this pool?


Inyopools  Posted: 03/06/2017 12:57 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

salt water AG pool - Yes you can set a salt water above ground pool. Here is a link to above water salt water generators. Be aware thought that if your AG pool structure is steel, those parts will corrode faster with a salt water pool. We do sell resin and aluminum AG pools that resist the salt water better.

Anonymous  Posted: 03/05/2017 13:27 PM 

Can I setup salt water for an above pool?

Anonymous  Posted: 09/26/2016 22:26 PM 

Can trichlor be used in place of calcium hypochlorite?

Inyopools  Posted: 06/28/2016 13:33 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

btwinters - No problem dissolving salt now. Adding 200 lbs assumes that your "fresh" water has no salt in it. You might have your local pool store test the salt level of your fresh water to make sure you are starting at 0 ppm.

btwinters  Posted: 06/27/2016 15:57 PM 

Just had my 18 ft pool filled with fresh water. Will be doing a salt water pool this year, and my salt water generator won't be in until a week from now. Is it ok to add the 200 lbs of salt to let it dissolve and run my regular pool filter as usual until next week? Or will it ruin anything. Any advice is welcome:)

Inyopools  Posted: 06/27/2016 11:11 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

JD - According to an SCG manufacturer, you should wait 60-90 days, as you indicated, before adding an SCG to your new pool. The dust and particles that come off the surface initially would damage the SCG cell.

JD  Posted: 06/25/2016 11:47 AM 

I have heard that with a brand new pool after i fill it that i should wait 60-90 days before i start the salt generator, is that ture or can I turn it on once the pool chemistry is balanced?

Inyopools  Posted: 07/15/2014 10:07 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Salt Water Convert - You can swim in your pool after the salt has dissolved - usually after 24 hours. Check your salt level to make sure it is within bounds. Your water chemistry should have been balance before you added the salt. Some people add a zinc anode for extra protection against metal corrosion.

Salt Water Convert  Posted: 07/14/2014 14:12 PM 

Just installed a SW generator in our inground pool with black pebble surface and have added the salt. It's been 48 hours. What is the process now? What should we be checking? Should we add a zinc anode? When is it okay to swim in it? Thanks

Inyopools  Posted: 06/04/2014 8:01 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

lharris - Generally that is true but you may have to shock your pool occasionally during the summer with heavy use.

lharris  Posted: 06/03/2014 10:55 AM 

I was told that with a salt water pool, you don't need to use chlorine. Is that not true?

Please advise

Inyopools  Posted: 05/29/2014 20:15 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

laadyvon - Floc ‘N Vac is the perfect cure for cloudy water problems. Flock ‘N Vac's unique formula coagulates fine particles in your water dropping them to the pool floor for quick easy vacuuming. Green to Blue is the process for eliminating the green algae in your pool to produce clear blue water. See our guide on "How to Clean a Green Swimming Pool (Algae)" for more information.

ladyvon  Posted: 05/28/2014 13:08 PM 

What does it mean to "flock: a pool? What is green to blue method? Have had a salt pool 5 years. This is first year have had green algae, & don't believe pool stood gave correct instructions. Only normal levels are pH (7.2 ppm), Alkalinity (100 ppm) and salt (3000). Phosphates 500 ppb, Calcium 100 ppm, total chlorine .5. All they suggest is soda ash, Phosfree, & Black Algae killer; in that order. help!!!

Inyopools  Posted: 05/09/2014 16:30 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Michele102677 - Use the green to blue method. It will provide the same results for a saltwater pool.

Michele102677  Posted: 05/07/2014 10:03 AM 

We opened our saltwater above groud pool last summer, so this is our first year of opening. We have a bit of an algae issue to resolve before we can really test our water. Would you recommend using the green to blue method? or will the algae be resolved just by adusting the chemicals appropriately? Just curious as to if there is an easier way other than the green to blue. We used it last year and it worked like a champ, but I've heard no other means of algae removal in a salt water pool. Thanks!

Inyopools  Posted: 06/14/2013 8:58 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

sbrenn1 - Your sequence is correct. Balance your pool chemistry first, then flock and vacuum. When you vacuum, bypass the filter. Use the waste setting on sand and DE filters. Remove the cartridge in your cartridge filter and purge water to a waste line until most of the suspended material is out of the pool. Check the chemical balance after. You may not have to add any more chemicals.

sbrenn1  Posted: 06/12/2013 11:17 AM 

was wondering if you ever flock your pool? They always tell me to balance and then flock vacuum then re-add all chemicals

Chicago1  Posted: 04/23/2013 18:11 PM 

After searcing the web This is finaly exactly what I was looking for PERFECT instructions.