A saltwater pool is an excellent alternative to a standard chlorinated pool. It is much easier to automate and doesn’t require constant shocking and expensive chemicals to maintain. Although they are relatively easy to keep up with, converting your existing chlorine pool into a saltwater pool does take a few steps.
The first step in converting your pool is installing a salt-chlorine generator. A salt chlorine generator contains a salt cell that turns saltwater into chlorine, which cleans the pool water. Here is a step-by-step guide on installing a salt-chlorine generator and some of the supplies you will need for the process.
Supplies You Need
Installing a salt system by yourself does require a few tools and pieces of equipment. Before you start trying to put it together, make sure you have all of the necessary supplies. Installing salt systems involves some basic knowledge of plumbing and electrical work. So I recommend hiring a professional for the job if you aren’t entirely comfortable with doing it yourself. If installing the generator yourself, you will need:
- Wire cutters
- Voltage meter
- Rubber electrical gloves
- Salt cell
- Control unit
- Pvc glue
Step-By-Step: How to Install a Salt-Chlorine Generator
This installation is quite complicated because it requires basic plumbing and some electrical connections. I have separated it into three parts: Installing the control unit, installing the salt cell, and finally, setting up the pool itself.
Part one: Installing the control unit
Step one: Choose an area to mount your control unit
Make sure the area you choose is accessible, as you will need to use the control unit often. Also, be confident that all electrical fittings are long enough to reach the control unit.
Step two: Mount the control unit bracket
I recommend using a level when screwing in the bracket. This ensures it is visually appealing and mounted correctly.
Step three: Secure the control unit on the bracket
Some models require you to use a screwdriver to screw in the control unit, while others only need to be slid into place. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step four: Connect the pool timer and the control unit with a power cord.
*Contact a pool maintenance person or a professional electrician if you are uncomfortable working with electricity.
Step five: Turn off the power to the pool timer box
It is important to turn the power off before handling electricity.
Step six: Check the output power level. It should be either 120 or 240 VAC.
Open the box inside the timer that holds the electrical wiring. You will probably need a screwdriver to open it up. Turn the power back on, and place the electrical meter’s probes on the outputs of the electrical box. Then you can check the electrical reading of the meter.
Step seven: Turn the power back off and put the pool timer’s cover back on
This step is crucial; don’t skip it!
Step eight: Configure the control unit with your pool system based on the instructions.
Depending on the salt chlorine system you are installing, you will need to wire the control unit differently to the pool timer.
Part two: Installing the salt cell
Step one: Check the salt cell and ensure the barrel unions are tightened.
If the barrel unions are not adequately tightened, water can leak, and the salt cell will not function properly.
Step two: Use a hacksaw to cut about 7-10 inches of PVC pipe and glue the ends to the input and output areas of the salt cell.
After cutting the pipe sections and before gluing them, use sandpaper to soften the freshly cut areas. Doing so protects you from accidentally cutting yourself and ensures better sealing as well.
Step three: Attach 90-degree elbow joints.
Place the elbow joints on the cut ends of the PVC pipes facing outwards.
Step four: Glue the elbows to the return piping
The other end of the elbow joints should be glued to your return piping. Make sure both ends are sealed well.
Step five: Allow the glued PVC pipes to dry for a few hours.
Before you turn the system on, the glue needs time to dry. Usually, this only takes a few hours.
Step six: Plug the salt cell into an electrical outlet.
You have to make sure it works!
Step seven: After priming the pump, the salt cell is ready for operation.
Make sure to prime the pool pump before turning the whole system on. Turning the pump on before priming can damage the equipment.
Part three: Setting up the pool
Step one: Calculate the amount of salt to use in your pool.
You will want to aim for about 2,700-3,400 parts per million. Check out my pool salt calculator if you are unsure how to calculate this.
Step two: Pour the bags of salt into the shallow end of the pool.
Make sure to pour the bags of salt in the pool and not into the skimmer. The salt will likely take much longer to dissolve in the skimmer.
Step three: Allow the pool to circulate and dissolve the salt for 24 hours.
I don’t recommend swimming in the pool during this time. The water will not be completely sanitized until the salt has properly dissolved.
Step four: Turn on the salt chlorine generator and check that the current salt level is around 3200 ppm.
Read my salt level testing article if you aren’t sure how to grab a salt content reading before you turn on your salt chlorinator.
Step five: You are good to go. Enjoy the pool!
As long as the pool is maintained correctly, you will not likely need to add salt very often after the initial salt is added. Unlike chlorine, salt will not dissipate, so the pool should keep the same salt levels. Generally, I only need to add a small amount of salt each year for my saltwater pools to top up the levels.
What To Do After You Install Your Salt Chlorine Generator
After your salt chlorine generator is installed, you just need to add salt to the pool and turn the salt cell on. Calculate the capacity of your pool in order to calculate how much salt to add. Adding too much or too little salt can cause many problems, so this step is important. Set up the chlorine levels of your salt chlorine generator and allow it to run. A saltwater chlorine generator is a pretty self-sufficient machine that does not need much maintenance. Just check the levels often, and clean the salt cell when calcium has built up, or at least once a year.
Installing a salt-chlorine generator is a fairly complex task that can be done by yourself, but I usually recommend contacting a pool professional to get the job done right. It can be easy to mess up, so if you do decide to do it yourself be meticulous with every step, follow all of the instructions, and be extremely careful when working near electricity.
Have any questions about salt chlorine generators? Feel free to reach out; I am happy to help!