How to Install a Salt Chlorine Generator

Written by Michael Dean
May 29, 2023

installing a salt chlorine generator

A saltwater pool is an excellent alternative to a standard chlorinated pool. It is much easier to automate and doesn’t require as much maintenance or as many expensive chemicals. 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.

Here is a step-by-step guide on installing a salt chlorine generator and the necessary supplies.

Main Takeaways

  • To install a salt chlorine generator, you need some basic knowledge of plumbing and electrical work.
  • There are two main parts to installing a salt chlorine generator: 1) installing the control unit, and 2) installing the salt cell.
  • If you aren’t comfortable installing the generator, hire a professional!
  • After you install the unit, simply add the salt and turn it on.

Supplies You Need

Installing a salt system alone requires 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 doing it yourself. If installing the generator yourself, you will need the following:

  • Screwdriver
  • Level
  • Wire cutters
  • Voltage meter
  • Hacksaw
  • Rubber electrical gloves
  • Couplings
  • Salt cell
  • Control unit
  • Pvc glue

Salt Chlorine Generator Diagram

Here’s a diagram I drew to get you familiar with how salt chlorine generators work.

  1. This is the steel cathode.
  2. This is the titanium anode.
  3. These are the electrolytic plates. The water passes through the electrical current to create chlorine gas, hydrogen gas, and sodium hydroxide.
  4. Water flows from the swimming pool and enters the salt cell.
  5. Water with chlorine returns to the swimming pool.

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 tighten the barrel unions.

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 into 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 to 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 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.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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Bottom Line

Installing a salt-chlorine generator is a fairly complex task that you can do, but I usually recommend contacting a pool professional to get the job done right. It can be easy to mess up, so if you decide to do it yourself, be meticulous with every step, follow all 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!

Here is some of my related research on saltwater swimming pools:

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