Salt Chlorine Generators for Above Ground Pools

Salt Chlorine Generators for Above Ground Pools

Salt swimming pools have absolutely been the rage for at least the last 15 years and they aren’t going away any time soon. There are a few misconceptions about salt pools as some who don’t know may think that they are a cure-all to pool water chemistry. They of course aren’t, but I do think it’s often a good idea to have one.

With above grounds being the “red-headed stepchild” to the pool industry, a decent salt chorine generator didn’t come out for a few years prior to the original salt pool craze.  There are a couple available now, so let us talk about salt pools and above ground swimming pools being salted. Well, we’re not really going to talk, but you know what I mean.

So What Is a Salt Pool Anyway?

how does a salt chlorine generator work? People don’t ask me what a salt pool is much anymore and I wish they did, because most just think they know what it is and some are wrong. A salt swimming pool is a pool that has a bunch of dissolved salt in it. This salted water goes through a device that is in-line with the pool piping. That said device then makes a small amount of chlorine using the salted water and then voila, the pool now has chlorine. As long as the device is on it’s making chlorine and sending it into the pool along with the other water coming from the filter. This is all a salt pool really is. So, although it’s a super cool invention, it’s almost exactly the same as a boring, regular, unsalted swimming pool with the exception that it can make its own chlorine. That’s about it.

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Common Misconceptions About Salt Pools

I. Salt pools don’t use chlorine

The absolute most common misconception about salt pools is that they don’t use chlorine. For some reason, people will often want to try to avoid using chlorine for their pool. More people than I want to admit actually think that by making their pool a salt pool, they are avoiding chlorine. If you read the above paragraph (and I know you did), then you know that’s impossible.

II. Salt pools feel better

OK, so maybe this isn’t a misconception for some. Some people are hypersensitive.  They can feel the unusual vibrations of croaking frogs in Brazil and know that mean a hurricane is coming or something. You wouldn’t need that high level of “connection” to your environment in order to feel the salt in a salt pool, but it may be close. A salt pool needs a specific level of salt in the water in order for the generator to make chlorine and that level is about one-tenth of the salt content that exists in the average ocean. For most of us, that’s not enough salt for us to feel the difference.

I’ve heard many say how great their pool feels now that they’ve turned it into a salt pool and hey, good for them. Chances are it’s some kind of placebo effect as most “all regular” swimming pools have chlorine in them which also means there is salt in that water as well.

III. Salt pools are healthier

Salted pools would only be healthier than regular pools if they are being better maintained and better balanced. Having salt in your pool and the ability to make its own chorine will absolutely not make your pool healthier. A salt pool does make chlorine whether you forget to add it or not. So, in that case and by default, a salt pool can be healthier, because you didn’t stay on top of your pool’s chlorine needs when you didn’t have a chlorine generator (salt pool).

IV.Salt pools have less chlorine in them

Often the opposite is true. Most of the time when I test the chlorine level in a salt pool, the level is much higher than with non-salt pools. Personally, I don’t see this as a bad thing, but it is a true thing. Most people aren’t able to dial in their salt pool’s chlorine generator enough to regularly maintain a lower level of chlorine in the pool. It’s OK though as, in my opinion, a higher level of free available chlorine is fine. Combined chlorine is a different story, though, as it’s bad to have high levels of it. I’d explain, but that’s a whole other blog post.

V. Salt pools cost less to maintain

Again and in most cases the opposite is true. A salt pool does make its own chlorine which means you don’t have to buy it and that certainly does save money. Salt chlorine generators are expensive to buy and it would take years of not purchasing as much chlorine in order for you to break even and just when you do, the generator will need a new cell or something electronic and it won’t be cheap.

Anyone who tells you a salt pool costs less to maintain is either trying to sell you a generator or doesn’t know better or is bad at long-term math or all three. Don’t get me wrong. I think most people should have a salt pool, but don’t do it to save money. Do it for convenience.

On Having a Salt Above Ground Pool

Making above grounds salt pools is very common lately. It is in fact so common that retailers now sell what is called “salt friendly models”. This means that some of the parts of the pool are made of resin instead of steel or aluminum and therefore cannot corrode from the saltwater. I don’t think salt pools cause extra rusting with above grounds, but that’s another rant in another blog post (see “Will a Salt Chlorine Generator Rust Out My Above Ground Pool”). Resin parts for above grounds have come way down in price so you might as well play it safe and get a so-called salt friendly model, if you’re planning on having a salt pool. They’re usually nicer to find above ground pool rust

If you are going to have a salt above ground, buy a good salt chlorine generator. The cheaper ones don’t seem to work as well and certainly don’t last as long. I recommend the AquaTrol by Hayward. It’s pricey, but works well and has a legit three-year warranty directly from Hayward.

Lastly, if you are getting an above ground pool, don’t have much experience with maintaining a pool, and aren’t sure whether you want to get a salt chlorine generator, you can wait. Chlorine generators are pretty easy to install later on above grounds so you might want to see what it’s like maintaining a pool without one. You may find you don’t need one after all.

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10 thoughts on “Salt Chlorine Generators for Above Ground Pools

  1. I have a new Coleman 22×52 above ground pool. I want to go with salt water. I tried the traditional way, & it was too much for me to keep up with. What ALL equipment do I need to start off right?

  2. I’ve recently switched over to salt water in my above ground pool, bought the Chlorease Salt Generator, pool looked fabulous for a little over a month. Recently we’ve had 10 days straight of rain and now it’s a swamp green color. What do I do to get it beautiful again? I’ve used the shock for salt poils as well as the water clarifier but neither have made a difference. My salt trains are still in range, I just need some help! Thanks in advance!

    1. I tell all my new pool owners the same thing. “Your pool will turn green once or twice. When it does, take a water sample to a good pool store and have them test the water and let them sell you what you need and follow their advice”. After you’ve spent more money than you needed to, you’ll learn some things. Also, don’t think that salt system is going to solve your problems. It’s an off brand so there’s a good chance the thing’s not even making chlorine anymore. Don’t rely on it and don’t blame it for anything. You’ll have to learn some basic pool chemistry in order to be happy with maintaining your pool.

  3. I think the reason many feel salt water pools are more comfortable isn’t the salt, but in fact that you are swimming in a more pure chlorine product produced from electrolysis and minus all the stabilizers and the 90% other ingredients that are found in commercial chlorine products. I have found that some people who have negative reactions or allergy to commercial chlorine do not have adverse reactions in salt water pools. The itching skin, burning eyes, and asthma related irritation is gone.

    1. You may be right about the additives but my guess is placebo. Itching skin, burning eyes, bleached out swim clothing and if asthma is at all related to chlorine, it’s from combined chlorine which can be and certainly often is in salt water pools.

  4. we have an Intex saltwater system that decided not to work this season. we have already added the salt to the pool.
    If we don’t want to buy a new system, how do we convert it to a conventional pool?

  5. Have a small 15′ above ground pool for grandkid’s that enjoy it very much. It was freshwater I converted to saltwater. Have an intex saltwater system that has motor, generator and filter all in same system and seems to do fine. Is this sufficient for my pool. Model eco7111.

  6. Dan, have you had any experience using ORP in big pools of more than 20 000 sf in order to low the expenses in chemicals?

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