How To Know When a Salt Cell is Bad - General

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This guide will show different ways to determine if your salt chlorine generator (SCG) cell is damaged and/or needs replacing. An SCG cell can be expected to last 5 or more years if the pool and equipment are maintained properly. This guide outlines the general steps that should work for most models, but you should also reference your owner’s manual for more model-specific troubleshooting instructions.

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Step by Step

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Step 1

Balanced Water Chemistry - To maximize the life of your salt cell, you’ll need to maintain proper water chemistry. The critical components of healthy water chemistry are  Chlorine, pH, Total Alkalinity (TA,) Cyanuric Acid (CYA or Stabilizer,) Calcium Hardness (CH,) and Salt. The image on this step provides the ideal ranges these categories should be maintained within.

For example, suppose your pool is high in calcium. In that case, the salt cell will become caked with scale (calcium buildup, which restricts flow over the plates and prevents the electrolysis chemical reaction from happening. Water with too high of pH or alkalinity will also lead to excess scale buildup and staining to the pool surface. And low CYA levels lead to rapid chlorine burn-off because there isn’t enough “stabilizer”  to protect chlorine from UV rays hence why cyanuric acid is commonly referred to as sunblock for your pool.

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Step 2

Inspect Cell LED or Fault Code - The inspect cell alert is not always a sign your cell is dead, but it is a tip-off that you need to clean the cell, or the water chemistry requires attention.

On some salt chlorinator models, like the Hayward AquaRite, the Inspect Cell flashes after every 500 hundred run hours. This timed reminder is more of a fail-safe built-in by the manufacturer to ensure the cell is maintained at regular intervals, even if the cell doesn’t have build-up concerns.

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Step 3

Check that Output % is Set Correctly - Make sure the output percentage is set to its usual position. For Hayward salt systems, you’ll need to ensure the output toggle is set o to AUTO.

This step seems obvious, but there have been many hours wasted on troubleshooting, that could have been solved with a simple turn of a knob.

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Step 4

Adjust Output to Account for Bather Load and Water Temps - Warm water and high bather loads significantly increase your pool water’s chlorine demand. Try increasing the output by 20 to 30 percentage points to counteract the higher demand.

If you notice repeated cell/chlorine issues after rain, you may want to adjust your usual chlorine output to counteract. Remember, rainwater is untreated freshwater, and any runoff from your pool deck brings any dirt in with it. The increase in fresh water and dirt will drop your chlorine quickly.

Step 5

Check Salt Level - Most salt chlorine generators will shut down the cell's salt levels are outside the prescribed range. For example, the Pentair Intellchlor’s operational salinity range is 3000 - 4200 ppm (ideal 3400 ppm.). If the salt level is outside of this range, the CHECK SALT light will flash, and the cell will shut down until correct.

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Step 6

Check Pool Water Temps - Salt cells are temperature sensitive. Most are programmed to halt chlorine production and shut down if the temperature is lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The actual shutdown temperature level varies based on the salt system model.

Chlorine demand is extremely low in temps below 50 degrees; algae cannot grow in water that cold. So, if you need to introduce chlorine to the water, manually shock the pool. 

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Step 7

Check Water Flow Strength - A “NO FLOW” or “LOW FLOW” alert is usually caused by a dirty filter or skimmer baskets, but more serious causes can be a blockage in the plumbing line.

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Step 8

Check Cable Connections - Check all wire connections from the control panel to the cell, flow switch, and power source. Ensure these connections are tight and secure. 

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Step 9

Check Cell Plates for Scale or Corrosion - Your cell’s plates for the white metallic calcium buildup called scale. This build-up naturally occurs in the cell over time, even in well-balanced pools, but its growth rate increases in imbalanced water. 

After cleaning the Cell, look for loose, broken, or displaced plates. The scale may obstruct your view, so take this time to inspect the plates. If the plates are damaged, the best solution is the replace the salt cell.

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Step 10

Check the Cell’s Polarities - Some salt systems can reverse the current polarity of the cell; it is sometimes called the “self-clean” feature. Reversing the cell’s polarity helps loosen h the scale has with the plates. The loosening of that bond, coupled with the flushing flow of water from your pool pump, clears the scale build-up.

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Comments

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(1 to 40 of 152)

 Posted: 6/22/2022 

Our Hayward Aqua Trol system with a T-Cell-5 was working fine 3 days ago (salt reading of 3300 ppm). It has suddenly stopped producing chlorine and is reading 0 ppm. The check salt and inspect cell lights are illuminated. Salt was confirmed at 3900 ppm at a pool store this morning. 85F, 31.9 vdc, 0 A, -0.0 instant salinity, AL-07, r 1.45. Salt cell was checked, no build up. Does this seem like an issue with the salt cell or something else?
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 6/27/2022  Latest

The 3900 PPM salt level is too high. The manual states the correct salt range is 2700-3400 PPM. That's your issue.
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 Posted: 5/14/2022 

Our Aqua-Rite T cell is 5 years old. When opening the pool this season, the flow switch light, the check salt light and inspect cell lights were on. We replaced the flow switch (just did this 2 years ago), flow switch light went off. Check salt light and inspect cell light are still on. Had water tested and the system is not making any chlorine. Cleaned the T-cell with an acid wash and do not see any buildup on the inside. Reattached the t-cell and still getting the same lights on. Is it time to replace my t-cell or is there another reason the check salt light and inspect cell lights are on.
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 5/25/2022 

Yes, your cell is bad and needs to be replaced. You've exhausted the options in clearing the alerts it is flagging. Salt cells have a 3 - 5 year lifespan generally.
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 Posted: 5/6/2022 

We just replaced our liner and added salt last week, I cleaned tcell while liner work was being done. Hayward Aqua plus pro logic and tcell9. System saying 1800 rpm salt level, check system light on, salt too low. Took water in for test, salt actually too high at 4100.(draining pool to correct now). When I run diagnostics salt test on unit showing 1000ppm 74 degrees +28.16V +1.71A when I reverse polarity it shows 74 degrees 1800ppm -27.37V -2.83A. The tcell is 6 yrs old, is it time for a new cell or is this a motherboard problem?
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 5/11/2022 

have you already reset the average salt level? This excerpt is from the ProLogic troubleshooting guide: NOTE: If the cell was reading a low salt level prior to cleaning, the average salt may need to be reset. To reset the average salt level, follow the steps outlined on pg.8 or wait 24 hours for the system to acclimate to the recent changes. For detailed instructions on resetting the ‘Inspect Cell’ message, refer to pg. 12. 
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 Posted: 5/5/2022 

We have a Saniclear 40 Salt system. The system is 5 years old. 23000 gal. vinyl inground pool. We close the pool in the winter so the cell is stored inside. This season the read out has not been stable. I have balanced the water. It is beautiful and very clear. The system said that the salt was 2300. Check cell and Salt lights were flashing though it was still generating. I did check the cell. It was not dirty at all and has no deposits on it. I added salt accordingly to raise the level up to about 2900. Now one day it is up and next it is down. The salt test strip says it is at about 3600. That is pretty high...maybe too high for our system. We had a lot of rain a couple of nights ago and I though it might dilute it. This morning it read 1100 and now it is at 1700 on the board. Both check cell and check salt lights are solid. I'm just not sure what else to check. Should I take water and have the salt checked at a store? I do have a good water test kit and it is balanced. Any ideas? Thank You.
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 5/11/2022 

Yes, take the water to get checked. You need to verify how far the readings are off.
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 Posted: 4/1/2022 

We recently replaced our board in our box before replacing the cell. Starting with cheapest thing first. It now shows generating, salt level reads 3100, it's been running for days but there is zero chlorine. Could it be possible that the cell is bad even though its reading generating and not throwing any lights on the display. If we decide to just convert back to chlorine what happens to all the salt we have put in the pool? ??????? I'm about to run out for some shock and tablets
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 4/1/2022 

Have you checked your water chemistry to see what the levels are? Chlorine does not operate in a vacuum; the water's pH, alkalinity, and stabilizer levels all play a part in the effectiveness of chlorine. If you haven't added any chlorine to compensate for the salt chlorinator being down, there's likely a lot of dirt or organic material to counteract. First, test your water; second, add shock to assist your cell in boosting the chlorine content of your water.
 Reply

 Posted: 4/2/2022 

I just did a check on my chemicals, I added algaecide, my husband went out today and back backwashed and it full of garbage. I did add shock and put a tablet in the skimmer. I just cant figure out why the board shows generating but it's not making. Maybe this will make a difference. Thanks so much for your response.
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 4/4/2022 

What you are describing sounds like either an algae bloom or you are opening the pool for the season. In either of those instances, it will take heavy chlorination, filtering, and backwashing to clear the pool. Follow the steps in this guide and video: How to Clean a Green Pool? The cell may be creating chlorine, but if your water is, as you say, "full of garbage," it's got a lot of stuff to work through. To explain it differently, if there's a bunch of hungry people at dinner, there likely won't be any leftovers. Whenever you are testing for chlorine levels in water, you're testing for free chlorine (unused) that is active in the pool. The debris and algae are gobbling up the chlorine. You need to keep adding chlorine, backwashing, and keeping the other chemistry level.
 Reply

 Posted: 1/21/2022 

Help. I replaced the t5 cell, 5/1/2019, 2.75 years ago. Unit is reading 2600 ppm, I had the water tested today at 5000ppm. The high salt light is not on. Re-calibrating the unit doesn't change any readings. I realize I need to drain the pool to lower the salt now. Voltage is 31.4 and Amp reading is 3.02My pool guy always goes by the numbers on the Hayward box on the wall, and kept adding salt. I checked the cell two months ago and it was very clean. I cleaned it anyway. Cell is a t-5, box is programed correctly for the t-5. My chlorine numbers are 3ppm so it appears to be working. Cells should last longer than this. Do you think it is the cell or the pc board?
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 1/24/2022 

What sticks out to me is that your voltage is out of the 22-26 VDC range the TCELL5 should be. Are there are no other fault codes or flashing lights on the system?It is also winter, so your chlorine being stable is not overly surprising. If the water temps have been below 60, there's not much for the chlorine to do. Algae can't grow in temps that cold, and without any swimmers, it is not getting used up. Did you test that the cell is producing chlorine?
 Reply

 Posted: 11/28/2021 

I have Aqua-Rite with Hayward t-15 cell (4.5 years old) and it displays "check salt" and "inspect cell" and the readings are: 62/32.7/0/35/-0/AP-0/r1.59/t-15/-2300. I had the salt level tested yesterday at Leslies and it was 2847, so my reading (2300) seems off by quite a bit. I had partially drained the pool in order to lower the salt level as it was over 4000. (The Aqua-Rite main circuit board was also replaced about 4.5 years ago). I see that the cell current is 0 but is that because it thinks the salt is low? What would you recommend as the next steps to diagnose?
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 11/29/2021 

Reference steps 3 and 4 in this guide. Your cell's voltage is 32.7V with 0 amps. If those values are in that range, the steps state that the cell is not producing chlorine. It's not making chlorine because you have those fault flashes. First, you should give the cell an acid soak to clear any scale from the plates. Then, reconnect the cell to see if the cell's faults have cleared. More troubleshooting help can be found here - Troubleshooting Your Hayward Aqua Rite System
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 Posted: 10/19/2021 

My T-Cell-9 is showing a salt level around 2500 ppm. The measured amount is way higher, like nearly 5,000 ppm. I have tried everything using my Omnilogic controller to reset and calibrate but nothing is working. There are no warning lights or error codes. The cell is completely clean and not corroded upon visual inspection. It also appears to not be producing chlorine even when I set it to super chlorinate. It show about the same when I reverse the polarity as well. Any suggestions? Do I need a new cell? Cell Temp: 77.9°F Cell Voltage: 27.33 V Instant Salt: 2422 ppm Cell Current: 4.09 A Average Salt: 2679 ppm Cell Type: T-Cell-9 Relay Polarity: K1
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 10/20/2021 

The only thing that looks out of line is the cell voltage; it shouldn't be higher than 26 volts. How old is the cell?
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 Posted: 7/31/2021 

My board registered 1400 salt level so I added salt. No change on the board. I had water tested and it registered 4000, which is too high. But chlorine level is low so now algae is growing. Is cell bad or board bad? How would I know which it is?
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 8/3/2021 

First, I would need to know the make and model of the salt chlorine generator. Each system has a different way of troubleshooting it.
 Reply

 Posted: 6/28/2021 

Everything on my aqua trol is running fine good numbers etc...yet my pool is green This has never been a issue before What is going on?
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 7/1/2021 

That is an excellent question. Unfortunately, you will not find an answer until you test your water to see chemistry levels. You have to know what is out of whack before you can try correcting it. It may be a cell, or your pH and alkalinity could be imbalanced.
 Reply

 Posted: 5/23/2021 

My board display is not showing the usual numbers. To ve honest, I do not know how to read it. How do I correct that? Secondly, generating cycles off after I hear a click and the the red no flow, high salt, low salt, and check cell lights come on...anything to do with the board? Could the cell itself cause all those lights to come on? My father passed away, so I am new to this. Do not wanna take out cell, if the panel board is the problem.
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 6/4/2021 

What is the make and model of your chlorinator? Do you see any information on the control panel like logos or model info tags.
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Anonymous  Posted: 5/18/2021 

The check cell light is on (not flashing) I had the cell checked and it’s good. What’s the reason for the light? I tried the 3 second thing still the same. Any ideas that can help me?
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 5/21/2021 

What are the cell's voltage and amperage readings on the diagnostics menu? Do you have the correct cell type selected in the diagnostics menu? 
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 Posted: 4/11/2021 

I'll admit my T-15 cell is 14 years old. When I started it this season, I noticed an abnormally low salt reading when the polarity is positive. It also was a small current draw at 1amp. When the polarity is negative it seems normal with about a 5amp draw and associated salt value around 2900. Do you think it is the salt cell or PCB causing this?
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 4/16/2021 

What is the actual number for the "low amp draw"?  A TCELL15 should have an amp draw between 3.1 - 8.0. If the amps show a reading that isn’t within range, then you should replace your cell.
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 Posted: 3/22/2021 

Hayward Aqua Rite SCG. Power and generating lights keep cycling on/off about every 25 seconds. All of the Diagnostic numbers are within range except the Cell Voltage. When not generating, it seems to max out around 23.5. When generating it climbs to about 18.5, I hear a click, it decreases back to 0, before clicking and rising again. This rising to 18.5 range and falling back to 0 continues until I shut it off. Any ideas? Time to replace??
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 Posted: 5/23/2021 

I am having the same problem. I hear a clicking noise and within a few seconds, the generating button goes off, snd the red lights for no flow, high salt, low salt, and check cell all come on. Ive tried resetting cell with the 3 second button...does nothing now. What is the problem?
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 6/4/2021 

First, what is the make and model of your chlorinator?
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 3/23/2021 

Which T-CELL model do you have? Also, what is the percentage the output is set to? Salt chlorine generators cycle on and off at varying speeds depending on the output. For example in an hour, if the output is set for 50%, the cell will only be generating chlorine for 30 of those minutes.Are there any other fault codes flashing on the Aquarite's display?
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 Posted: 3/23/2021 

T-15 and the percentage is showing 52p. I understand it’s not truly generating 100% of the time, but the power light and the generating light normally stay lit. Mine are going if after less than a minute, going out as soon as the Cell Voltage gets to about 18.5.
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 3/24/2021 

What is the amperage? If it is 0, then you need to replace the Main PCB. For a TCELL15, if the amperage is outside of the 3.1 - 8.0 range then you should replace the cell.
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 Posted: 6/5/2022 

How do I check the amperage?
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 6/6/2022 

It depends on the salt generator make and model, but unit like the AquaRite have a diagnostics menu which lists the cell's voltage and amperage. How to Read and Adjust the Hayward Aqua Rite SCG Operational Values
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 Posted: 3/24/2021 

The amperage is 0.00, so I guess I’ll be getting a new Main PCB. Thank you for the assistance.
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 3/26/2021 

You're welcome. When you get and install the board, let us know how it works out for you.
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 Posted: 11/8/2020 

I have a Hayward Aqua Trol system with a T-Cell-5 SCG. The unit suddenly quit producing chlorine. 0 avg salt level. 78F, 24 vdc, 0.0 A, -0.0 insta., AL-07, r 1.45. Is the cell or the motherboard likely bad. After checking at pool store salt level was low all other levels ok, added 120 lbs salt to 10k pool. no change in cell operation, dead in the water, as it were.
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 11/9/2020 

Are the Check Salt or Inspect cell lit or flashing?
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