Salt water pools are becoming more popular among pool owners who want to enjoy the benefits of chlorine without the harsh chemicals and maintenance. Salt water pools use a salt chlorine generator that converts salt into chlorine, which sanitizes the pool water and prevents algae growth.
However, salt water pools still require some care and attention to keep them clean and safe. In this article, we will cover the basics of salt water pool maintenance, including:
- How to add the right amount of salt to your pool
- How to maintain proper water circulation and filtration
- How to prevent erosion and calcium buildup in your salt cell
- How to check and clean your salt cell every 3 months
- How to keep your water balanced, especially pH and chlorine levels
- How to shock your pool every week or as needed
- How to skim, brush, and vacuum your pool every week or as needed
How to Add the Right Amount of Salt to Your Pool
The first step in caring for a salt water pool is adding the right amount of salt to your pool water. Salt is what makes your salt chlorine generator work, so you need to maintain a sufficient level of salinity in your pool. The ideal salinity range for most salt water pools is between 2,700 to 3,400 parts per million (PPM), but you should check your owner’s manual for the specific recommendation for your generator.
You can measure the salinity of your pool water using a salt test kit or a digital salt meter. You should test your salinity at least once a month or whenever you add fresh water to your pool, such as after heavy rain or backwashing. If your salinity is too low, you need to add more salt to your pool. If your salinity is too high, you need to dilute your pool water by adding fresh water or partially draining and refilling your pool.
To add salt to your pool, you need to use pool-grade salt (sodium chloride) that is at least 99% pure. Do not use table salt, rock salt, or any other type of salt that may contain additives or impurities that can damage your pool equipment or affect your water quality. You can buy pool salt from most pool supply stores or online.
To calculate how much salt you need to add to your pool, you can use a pool salinity calculator or follow this formula:
- Multiply the desired increase in PPM by the volume of your pool in gallons.
- Divide the result by 1,000.
- Multiply the result by 0.008.
For example, if you have a 20,000-gallon pool and you want to increase the salinity from 2,500 PPM to 3,200 PPM, you need to add:
- (3,200 – 2,500) x 20,000 / 1,000 x 0.008 = 112 pounds of salt
Pool salt usually comes in 40-pound bags, so you would need about three bags of salt for this example.
Before adding salt to your pool, you should turn off your salt chlorine generator and turn on your pool pump. This will prevent the generator from overworking and help circulate the salt throughout the pool. You should also check the pH level of your pool water and adjust it if necessary. A high pH level can cause scaling and reduce the efficiency of your generator.
To add salt to your pool, you should spread it evenly over the surface of the water as far away from the skimmer as possible. Do not dump the salt in one spot or near any metal fixtures or fittings. You should also avoid adding salt when people are swimming in the pool or when the sun is shining directly on the water. This will prevent irritation and evaporation.
After adding salt to your pool, you should wait at least 24 hours before turning on your generator again. This will allow the salt to dissolve completely and evenly in the water. You should also retest the salinity level and adjust it if needed.
How to Maintain Proper Water Circulation and Filtration
The second step in caring for a salt water pool is maintaining proper water circulation and filtration. This is important for any type of pool, but especially for a salt water pool because it helps distribute the chlorine produced by the generator and prevent stagnant areas where algae can grow.
To maintain proper water circulation and filtration, you should run your pool pump for at least 8 hours a day or as long as recommended by your manufacturer. You should also check and clean your filter regularly according to its type and condition. A dirty filter can reduce the flow rate and pressure of your pump and affect the performance of your generator.
You should also check and adjust the position of your return jets so that they create a circular motion in the water. This will help mix the chlorine and other chemicals evenly throughout the pool. You should also avoid placing any objects or obstacles in the pool that can block the water flow or create dead spots.
How to Prevent Erosion and Calcium Buildup in Your Salt Cell
The third step in caring for a salt water pool is preventing erosion and calcium buildup in your salt cell. The salt cell is the core component of your salt chlorine generator that converts salt into chlorine. It consists of a series of metal plates or blades that are coated with a special material that conducts electricity. As the salt water passes through the cell, an electric current is applied to the plates, which causes a chemical reaction that produces chlorine gas and sodium hydroxide.
The salt cell is exposed to high levels of salt, chlorine, and pH, which can cause it to wear out over time. The most common problems that affect the salt cell are erosion and scaling. Erosion is the gradual loss of the coating material on the plates due to the electric current and the water flow. Scaling is the accumulation of calcium and other minerals on the plates due to hard water and high pH levels. Both erosion and scaling can reduce the efficiency and lifespan of your salt cell and affect the chlorine production of your generator.
To prevent erosion and scaling in your salt cell, you should follow these tips:
- Use a stabilizer or conditioner (cyanuric acid) in your pool water to protect the chlorine from the sun and reduce the demand on your generator. The ideal level of stabilizer for a salt water pool is between 50 to 80 PPM, but you should check your owner’s manual for the specific recommendation for your generator.
- Maintain balanced water chemistry in your pool, especially the pH and alkalinity levels. The ideal pH level for a salt water pool is between 7.2 to 7.6, and the ideal alkalinity level is between 80 to 120 PPM. A high pH level can cause scaling and reduce the effectiveness of chlorine, while a low pH level can cause corrosion and damage your pool equipment.
- Use a scale inhibitor or sequestering agent in your pool water to prevent calcium and other minerals from forming deposits on your salt cell. You can buy these products from most pool supply stores or online.
- Check and clean your salt cell every 3 months or as recommended by your manufacturer. You can do this by removing the cell from the generator and inspecting it for any signs of erosion or scaling. If you see any buildup on the plates, you can soak the cell in a solution of water and muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid) for about 10 minutes or as instructed by your manufacturer. You can also use a soft brush or cloth to gently scrub off any stubborn deposits. Do not use any metal tools or abrasive materials that can damage the coating on the plates. After cleaning the cell, rinse it thoroughly with fresh water and reinstall it in the generator.
How to Check and Clean Your Salt Cell Every 3 Months
The fourth step in caring for a saltwater pool is checking and cleaning your salt cell every 3 months or as recommended by your manufacturer. This is an extension of the previous step, but it deserves its own section because it is one of the most important and often neglected aspects of saltwater pool maintenance.
As mentioned earlier, checking and cleaning your salt cell regularly can prevent erosion and scaling problems that can affect the performance and lifespan of your generator. It can also help you detect any issues with your generator before they become serious and costly.
To check and clean your salt cell, you should follow these steps:
- Turn off your pool pump and generator.
- Disconnect the power cord from the generator.
- Remove the cell from the generator by unscrewing or unclamping it from its housing.
- Inspect the cell for any signs of erosion or scaling on the plates.
- If you see any buildup on the plates, soak the cell in a solution of water and muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid) for about 10 minutes or as instructed by your manufacturer.
- Use a soft brush or cloth to gently scrub off any stubborn deposits.
- Rinse the cell thoroughly with fresh water.
- Reinstall the cell in the generator by screwing or clamping it back into its housing.
- Reconnect the power cord to the generator.
- Turn on your pool pump and generator.
How to Keep Your Water Balanced, Especially pH and Chlorine Levels
The fifth step in caring for a salt water pool is keeping your water balanced, especially pH and chlorine levels. Water balance refers to the chemical equilibrium of your pool water, which affects its clarity, comfort, safety, and sanitation. The main factors that affect water balance are pH, alkalinity, hardness, stabilizer, salinity, and chlorine.
pH is a measure of how acidic or basic your pool water is on a scale from 0 to 14. A pH level of 7 is neutral, while a pH level below 7 is acidic and a pH level above 7 is basic. The ideal pH level for a saltwater pool is between 7.4 and 7.6. Maintaining the proper pH level is crucial because it impacts the effectiveness of chlorine, the comfort of swimmers, and the overall condition of the pool equipment.
Chlorine is a vital component for disinfecting pool water and preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and algae. The appropriate chlorine level for a salt water pool typically ranges between 1.0 and 3.0 parts per million (ppm). Regularly testing and adjusting chlorine levels are essential to ensure proper sanitation and water quality.
To keep your water balanced and maintain optimal pH and chlorine levels, follow these steps:
- Regular Testing: Use a reliable water testing kit to check pH and chlorine levels regularly, ideally a few times a week. This will help you catch any imbalances early and make necessary adjustments.
- pH Adjustment: If your pH level is too low (acidic), add a pH increaser (sodium carbonate) to raise it. If the pH is too high (basic), use a pH reducer (muriatic acid) to lower it. Aim to keep the pH within the recommended range of 7.4 to 7.6.
- Chlorine Maintenance: Based on your testing results, add chlorine to the pool as needed. You can use various forms of chlorine, such as liquid chlorine, chlorine tablets, or salt chlorine generators (salt systems).
- Monitor Total Alkalinity: Total alkalinity helps buffer the pH and prevent rapid fluctuations. Maintain alkalinity levels between 80 and 120 ppm to support pH stability.
- Calcium Hardness: If your pool water is too soft (low calcium hardness), it can lead to corrosion of pool surfaces. If it’s too hard (high calcium hardness), it may cause scale buildup. Aim for a calcium hardness level between 200 and 400 ppm.
- Stabilizer (Cyanuric Acid): Stabilizer helps protect chlorine from the sun’s UV rays, prolonging its effectiveness. The recommended stabilizer level is around 30 to 50 ppm.
- Salinity Levels: Since you have a salt water pool, monitor salinity levels to ensure they remain within the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific salt system.
- Regular Maintenance: Keep the pool clean by skimming debris, brushing walls, and vacuuming the floor. A clean pool requires less effort to maintain proper chemical balance.
- Professional Help: If you’re unsure about the appropriate adjustments or if the pool consistently experiences imbalances, consider seeking assistance from a professional pool maintenance service. They can offer expert guidance and solutions.
Remember that maintaining proper water balance is an ongoing process. Factors like weather, pool usage, and environmental conditions can affect your pool’s chemistry. By staying vigilant and proactive in your pool care routine, you’ll ensure a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable swimming experience for everyone.