How To Look After Your Salt Chlorinator Cell

Salt Chlorinator Cells

Although the cells provided by Best Pool Supplies are manufactured from high-quality materials with longevity in mind, over time the electrolysis will wear out the cell coating which will result in the electrodes stopping producing chlorine.

Here are some handy hints that help you to prolong the life span of your salt chlorinator cell:

  • Don’t overwork your salt cell – running the chlorinator at 100% output or longer than 8 hours a day will shorten its life.
  • Use Conditioner or Stabilizer to protect your chlorine from breaking up in the UV of the sun which will again prevent overworking your salt cell.
  • Keep proper pH balance. PH level below 7.2 will etch the salt cell, and if above 7.6 will reduce the chlorine’s effectiveness. To reduce the PH use pool acid or dry acid and raise the PH using soda ash.
  • Maintain proper salt level in the pool. Low salt levels will destroy the coating of the electrodes and high salt levels will overload the chlorinator.
  • Inspect the cell regularly and once you notice scale build-up on the electrodes clean it with an appropriate Salt Cell Cleaner.

Calcium deposit (formation of scale) is one of the main reasons for premature failure of the chlorinator electrode. The scale on the electrodes will reduce the chlorine production, restrict the flow of the water, and if not addressed it will put an unnecessary strain not only on the cell but also on the powerpack and can cause damage to both.

It is important to check the cell and clean the electrodes from the scale when it becomes necessary. How quickly calcium builds up on electrode(s) varies from pool to pool and depends on various factors:

  • Your geographic location – areas with hard water and when bore water is used the scale forms quite quickly.
  • The pool finish – calcium from the pool plaster (concrete pools) or grouts (tiled pools) can raise the calcium levels of the pool water.
  • Pool chemicals – super chlorinating with calcium hypochlorite affect pool water calcium content.
  • Unbalanced PH level of the water plays role in calcium build-up on the electrodes.
  • Incorrect salt level.

If your chlorinator is non-self-cleaning (does not reverse polarity) it is advisable to check the cell once a week (even more often during summer months). If the milky white substance starts to appear on the electrode(s) you know it is time to give the cell a clean.

These days most new chlorinators on the market are self-cleaning. These units avoid scale build-up on the electrodes by reversing the polarity between the electrodes, repelling mineral deposits, which are washed away by the pool water rushing through the cell housing before they can attach to the oppositely charged electrode.

Even if the chlorinator is self-cleaning, the cell still needs to be cleaned roughly once every 6 months (more often in hard water areas). Many of these intelligent units advise you when it is time to clean the cell and warn about the low salt level in the pool water as well.

To clean the salt chlorinator cell:

Switch off the chlorinator and remove the cell from the housing following manufacturer instructions.

  • If the scale layer is not very heavy the deposits can be washed away with a garden hose. (NB! Do not brush the electrodes or scrape with sharp objects.)
  • If the above does not help, it is needed to soak the cell in a suitable cleaning solution like Salt Chlorinator Cleaner or self-mixed acid solution. To prepare acid solution mix 1 part of Pool Acid (Hydrochloric Acid) with 5 parts of water in the bucket. Submerge the cell into the solution for 3-5 minutes. If it takes longer than 5 minutes to clean the cell it is an indication that the electrodes should be cleaned more frequently.
  • Put the cell back into cell housing.

NB! Always take extra care when handling chemicals and store them out of the reach of children.

Salt Chlorinators And Chlorine Levels In The Pool Water

We get many inquiries from the pool owners about the chlorine levels in their pool after they install a new chlorinator or replacement cell. It is not uncommon to have different chlorine levels at different water tests. So what determines the chlorine levels in the pool and why can the chlorine levels be different when there is no change in the setup?

Salt levels: It is quite obvious that we need to have a proper salt level for the chlorinator to operate. If you have changed the chlorinator make sure that the salt levels are adjusted to the new unit. Different brands and models of salt chlorinators often work at different salinity levels.

Phosphates:  If the phosphate levels are high (together with warm weather and high pool use) the chlorine might be used up by fighting algae at the rate it is produced by the chlorinator. The pool does not have to be green. Phosphates are food that stimulates algae growth. The result is that you can be left with less than the desirable amount of chlorine in your pool. In other words – the algae are killed by produced chlorine but there is not much chlorine left afterward. Recommended phosphate levels in the pool water are below 200 ppb.

Stabiliser: The chlorine gets broken down fast by UV. The way to stop this is to use stabiliser which acts as a sunscreen for the pool water. Recommended stabiliser levels are 30 -50 ppm.

PH: Chlorine is more effective when the PH is low. For obvious reasons, we can not have the pool water lower than neutral, as low PH will be corrosive to equipment and cause skin irritation. The closer we keep PH levels to neutral the better chlorine disinfection we will get. For example, at 7.4 (neutral PH) chlorine is roughly 50% effective and at 8.0 it is only about 20% effective (see chart below). Meaning –  the higher the PH the more chlorine is being used in sanitation process and less of it is left in the water.



Testing time: The chlorine readings in your pool water differ depending on the testing time.  For example, if you collected the test water in the morning when the chlorinator just stopped working the chlorine reading will be considerably higher than if you take the sample in the afternoon when the pool has been exposed to UV and bathers all day and all the chlorine has already been used before the chlorinator starts working again in the evening.

Test accuracy: If you test chlorine yourself at home make sure that the reagents are not expired and that they have been kept in dry cool place out of sunlight. Expired reagents can cause incorrect chlorine readings.

To determine whether the chlorinator works properly make sure that the salt levels are correct, balance total alkalinity and PH and assure that the phosphate levels are below 200 ppb. Then run the chlorinator overnight at 100% output and take the water sample in the morning. If you still read low or no chlorine levels, then there most likely is a problem with your chlorinator or the electrolytic cell.