Salt water pools are becoming more popular among pool owners who want to enjoy the benefits of chlorine without the hassle of adding chemicals manually. Salt water pools use a device called a salt chlorine generator, which converts salt into chlorine through a process called electrolysis. This way, the pool water is always sanitized and balanced, with less irritation to the eyes and skin.
However, salt water pools are not maintenance-free. They still require regular care and attention to keep them clean, clear, and safe. In this article, we will explain the basics of salt water pool maintenance, including how to add salt, how to check the salt cell, how to balance the water chemistry, and how to shock and clean the pool.
How to Add Salt to Your Pool
The first step in salt water pool maintenance is to add the right amount of salt to your pool. Salt is the main ingredient that allows the salt chlorine generator to produce chlorine. Without enough salt, the generator will not work properly and the pool water will not be sanitized.
The ideal salinity level for most salt water pools is between 2,700 and 3,400 parts per million (PPM). You can check your salinity level using a salt test kit or a digital salt meter. If your salinity level is too low, you will need to add more salt to your pool. If your salinity level is too high, you will need to dilute your pool water by adding fresh water or draining some water and refilling it.
To add salt to your pool, you will 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 contains additives or impurities. These can damage your pool equipment and affect your water quality.
To calculate how much salt you need to add, you can use a pool salinity calculator or follow this formula:
- Multiply your pool volume (in gallons) by the desired salinity level (in PPM).
- Divide the result by 1,000.
- Subtract the current salinity level (in PPM) from the result.
- Divide the result by 0.8.
- The final result is the amount of salt (in pounds) you need to add.
For example, if you have a 20,000-gallon pool and you want to raise your salinity level from 2,500 PPM to 3,200 PPM, you will need to add:
- (20,000 x 3,200) / 1,000 = 64
- 64 – 2,500 = 61.5
- 61.5 / 0.8 = 76.9
You will need to add about 77 pounds of salt to your pool.
Before adding salt to your pool, make sure to check your owner’s manual for any specific instructions or precautions. Some salt chlorine generators require you to turn them off while adding salt. Others may have different salinity ranges or recommendations.
To add salt to your pool, follow these steps:
- Turn on your pool pump and filter system to circulate the water.
- Open the bags of salt and pour them evenly around the perimeter of the pool.
- Brush the bottom and sides of the pool to help dissolve the salt faster.
- Wait at least 24 hours for the salt to fully dissolve and distribute throughout the pool.
- Test your salinity level again and adjust if needed.
How to Check Your Salt Cell
The second step in salt water pool maintenance is to check your salt cell regularly. The salt cell is the part of the salt chlorine generator that produces chlorine from salt. It consists of metal plates that are coated with a special material called ruthenium. As water passes through the cell, an electric current causes the ruthenium to react with the salt and create chlorine gas.
The salt cell is prone to wear and tear over time. It can also get clogged with calcium deposits or debris that reduce its efficiency and performance. To prevent this, you should inspect and clean your salt cell every three months or as recommended by the manufacturer.
To check your salt cell, follow these steps:
- Turn off your pool pump and filter system.
- Disconnect the power supply from the salt chlorine generator.
- Remove the cell from its housing by unscrewing or unclamping it.
- Rinse the cell with a hose or in a bucket of water to remove any loose dirt or debris.
- Examine the cell for any signs of damage or corrosion. If you see any cracks, chips, or flakes on the metal plates or the ruthenium coating, you may need to replace the cell.
- Check for any calcium build-up on the cell. If you see any white or gray crusty deposits on the plates, you will need to clean the cell.
To clean your salt cell, follow these steps:
- Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing one part muriatic acid and four parts water in a plastic bucket. Always add the acid to the water, not the other way around. Wear gloves and goggles for protection.
- Submerge the cell in the cleaning solution and let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes. You should see bubbles forming on the cell as the acid dissolves the calcium.
- Remove the cell from the solution and rinse it thoroughly with water.
- Reinstall the cell in its housing and reconnect the power supply to the salt chlorine generator.
- Turn on your pool pump and filter system and run it for a few minutes to flush out any remaining acid or debris.
How to Balance Your Water Chemistry
The third step in salt water pool maintenance is to balance your water chemistry regularly. Even though salt water pools produce their own chlorine, they still need to be tested and adjusted for other chemical parameters, such as pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, stabilizer, and metals. These parameters affect the quality, clarity, and safety of your pool water, as well as the performance of your salt chlorine generator.
To balance your water chemistry, you will need to use a pool test kit or a digital pool tester to measure the levels of each parameter. You can also take a water sample to a pool store for professional testing. The ideal ranges for each parameter are:
- Chlorine: 1 to 3 PPM
- pH: 7.2 to 7.6
- Alkalinity: 80 to 120 PPM
- Calcium hardness: 200 to 400 PPM
- Stabilizer (cyanuric acid): 50 to 80 PPM
- Metals (copper, iron, manganese): 0 PPM
If any of these parameters are out of range, you will need to add the appropriate chemicals to adjust them. The most common chemicals you will need are:
- Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to raise alkalinity
- Sodium carbonate (soda ash) or sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) to raise pH
- Sodium bisulfate (dry acid) or muriatic acid to lower pH and alkalinity
- Calcium chloride to raise calcium hardness
- Sodium thiosulfate or metal sequestrant to lower metals
- Cyanuric acid or chlorine stabilizer to raise stabilizer
Always follow the instructions on the label of each chemical and add them slowly and carefully to avoid splashing or overdosing. Always pre-dissolve granular chemicals in a bucket of water before adding them to the pool. Always wait at least two hours between adding different chemicals and retest the water before making any further adjustments.
One of the most important parameters to monitor in a salt water pool is pH. Salt water pools tend to have higher pH levels than regular chlorine pools due to the production of sodium hydroxide by the salt chlorine generator. High pH levels can cause scaling, cloudy water, eye irritation, and reduced chlorine effectiveness. To prevent this, you should test your pH level at least once a week and lower it if it exceeds 7.6.
How to Shock Your Pool
The fourth step in salt water pool maintenance is to shock your pool periodically. Shocking is the process of adding a large dose of chlorine or a non-chlorine oxidizer to your pool water to kill bacteria, algae, and organic contaminants. Shocking helps restore the clarity and sanitation of your pool water and prevents algae growth and chlorine demand.
You should shock your pool every week during peak season or whenever you notice any signs of cloudy water, algae growth, or chlorine odor. You should also shock your pool after heavy rain, high bather load, or any other event that may introduce contaminants into your pool.
To shock your pool, you will need to use either chlorine shock or non-chlorine shock. Chlorine shock is more effective at killing algae and bacteria, but it can also raise your chlorine level too high and bleach your pool liner or equipment. Non-chlorine shock is gentler on your pool surfaces and equipment, but it does not kill algae or bacteria by itself. It only oxidizes organic matter and helps boost your chlorine level.
The amount of shock you need to use depends on the type of shock and the size of your pool. You can follow the instructions on the label of each product or use a pool shock calculator to determine how much shock you need. Generally speaking, you will need about one pound of chlorine shock or two pounds of non-chlorine shock per 10,000 gallons of water.
To shock your pool, follow these steps:
- Turn on your pool pump and filter system to circulate the water.
- Turn off your salt chlorine generator if you are using chlorine shock.
- Wait until dusk or night time when the sun is down and the chlorine level is low.
- Dissolve the shock in a bucket of water and pour it slowly around the perimeter
How to Clean Your Pool
The fifth and final step in salt water pool maintenance is to clean your pool regularly. Cleaning your pool involves removing any dirt, debris, or algae that may accumulate on the pool surfaces, equipment, or water. Cleaning your pool helps prevent clogging, staining, and damage to your pool components and improves the appearance and comfort of your pool.
To clean your pool, you will need to use some tools and equipment, such as:
- A pool skimmer to remove any floating leaves, bugs, or other debris from the water surface.
- A pool brush to scrub the walls, floor, and steps of the pool to remove any dirt or algae.
- A pool vacuum to suck up any settled debris from the bottom of the pool.
- A pool filter to trap any fine particles or contaminants from the water.
- A pool cover to protect your pool from dust, dirt, rain, or sunlight when not in use.
To clean your pool, follow these steps:
- Skim your pool daily or as needed to remove any floating debris. Use a long-handled net or a skimmer basket attached to your pool pump. Dispose of the debris in a trash bin or a compost pile.
- Brush your pool weekly or as needed to remove any dirt or algae. Use a stiff-bristled brush for concrete or plaster pools and a soft-bristled brush for vinyl or fiberglass pools. Start from the top and work your way down to the bottom. Pay special attention to any corners, crevices, or steps where algae may grow.
- Vacuum your pool weekly or as needed to remove any settled debris. Use a manual vacuum with a hose and a pole or an automatic vacuum that runs on its own. Move the vacuum slowly and steadily across the pool floor in overlapping strokes. Make sure to cover the entire surface of the pool.
- Clean your filter monthly or as needed to remove any accumulated dirt or debris. The type of filter you have will determine how you clean it. There are three main types of filters: sand, cartridge, and diatomaceous earth (DE). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean each type of filter. Generally speaking, you will need to backwash, rinse, or replace the filter media depending on the type of filter.
- Cover your pool when not in use to keep it clean and protected. Use a solid or mesh cover that fits snugly over your pool. Secure it with straps, clips, or weights to prevent it from blowing away. Remove any water or debris from the cover before removing it.
By following these five steps, you can take good care of your salt water pool and enjoy its benefits for years to come. Remember to test and balance your water chemistry regularly and shock your pool periodically to keep it clear and sanitary. If you have any questions or concerns about your salt water pool maintenance, feel free to contact us for more information.