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 136)

 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.
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 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? 
 Reply

 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?
 Reply

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.
 Reply

 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?
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 6/4/2021 

First, what is the make and model of your chlorinator?
 Reply

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?
 Reply

 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.
 Reply

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.
 Reply

 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.
 Reply

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.
 Reply

 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?
 Reply

 Posted: 11/11/2020 

No none of the lights are on
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 11/12/2020 

You will need to replace your AquaTrol's main PCB. Do you have the RJ or HP model?
 Reply

 Posted: 11/9/2020 

No, the "no flow" light comes on and cycles off. The generating light never comes on any more. if I switch to Super Chlorinate it and the power light come on for maybe 15-20 seconds then both go out.
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 11/16/2020 

Have you tried cleaning your filter or replacing the flow sensor?
 Reply

 Posted: 11/4/2020 

My board is saying "cell temp sensor short circuit" and "chlorinator off sensor fault." Do I have to replace the cell, or can I replace the sensor, and where is the sensor?
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 11/4/2020 

What is the model number or the make and model of your salt system? We need the model info to figure out what kind of diagnostic process to follow.
 Reply

 Posted: 11/5/2020 

And I have T15 Simple Cell from Optimum Pool Technologies. I believe the sensor is inaccessible in the cell.
 Reply

 Posted: 11/5/2020 

I have a Hayward Aqua Logic. The only model number I could find is AQL-XX-XX.
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 11/10/2020 

The part you need is the Goldline / AquaLogic Temperature Sensor Kit w/ 15ft Leads - GLXPC12KIT; it is replaceable. You should be able to follow the sensor cord from the control box to where the sensor is installed.
 Reply

 Posted: 10/12/2020 

Will the cell have current if salt levels are low ? I have voltage but no amps but it is disabled for low salt.
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 10/19/2020 

If you know you have low salt, use a salt test kit or have it tested at a pool store, then add the salt if needed. Your low salt light being on could be a symptom of other problems.
 Reply

 Posted: 9/27/2020 

Hi, i have this Hayward salt display for 4 yrs. now. I cant keep the salt ppm up for some reason. I added salt a few days ago and it stated 3100 ppm. A week later its showing 2700ppm. What could be wrong?
 Reply

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 10/27/2020 

Have you been backwashing more than usual, or has there been heavy rain recently?
 Reply

 Posted: 9/7/2020 

We have a Hayward Aquarite - replaced the front board bc it was poor display. Cell is clean. It won’t show any lights except the power light. It won’t trigger generate or super chlorinate. Display shows 0.00/28/32.2/0.00/16P/-0.00/AL-1/R1.59/t-5. I can change the t-cell to a t15 on the display. Can someone tell me if the problem is the main board or the T cell? It won’t let me recalibrate salt level. It doesn’t recognize even that there is no flow.
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InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 9/8/2020 

If I am reading the jumble of numbers correctly, 32.2 is the cell voltage, and 0.00 is the amperage. Am I correct?What cell do you have, the TCELL5 or the TCELL15? And you need to make sure whichever cell you have is selected in the settings menu. If the correct cell is not chosen, switch it to the proper cell, then give me the cell voltage and cell amperage.
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 Posted: 9/13/2020 

We have a T15 Cell. Those are the numbers with the correct cell inputted. There is zero amperage, you are correct
 Reply