How To Start Up a Salt Water Pool

Written by:  Danny Rhodehamel

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.

Tips & Warnings


Things You'll Need

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.

Comments (1 to 11 of 11)

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User: Inyopools

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.

User: Salt Water Convert

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

User: Inyopools

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

User: lharris

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

Please advise

User: Inyopools

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.

User: ladyvon

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!!!

User: Inyopools

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

User: Michele102677

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!

User: Inyopools

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.

User: sbrenn1

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

User: Chicago1

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

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Tips & Warnings

The pool pump must be on when adding any chemicals to the pool. Run the pool for at least two hours after adding chemicals and 24 hours after adding the salt.

Please Note:

Inyo Pool Products is not responsible for any injury or damaged equipment
while using our guides. Using our guides is doing so at your own risk.
These guides are suggested use of your pool or spa equipment and may vary
depending on which product you are using.