How Long Does a Salt Chlorine Generator Take to Make Chlorine?

Written by Michael Dean
April 3, 2023

salt chlorine generator next to a pool and timer

If you have a saltwater pool, you know that your saltwater generator is vital to the health of your water. However, you might wonder how long a generator takes to make the chlorine necessary to keep your pool in top condition and how long you should run it daily to keep it that way.

In this article, I will help you answer the above questions while also diving into how a chlorine generator works, what happens if you do not run it enough, how to tell if your generator is working, and more. All set? Let’s dive in.

Main Takeaways

  • A saltwater chlorine generator can take anywhere from 4 – 12 hours to produce enough chlorine to properly sanitize a pool.
  • On average, a saltwater generator should run for 8 – 12 hours per day to maintain the chlorine needed for a pool.
  • If you don’t run the generator long enough, you could be at risk for an algae infestation, corroded pool equipment, and salt buildup.
  • It’s important to run your pump in a saltwater pool to circulate the salt and chlorine effectively, keeping the water constantly sanitized.

How Long Does A Salt Generator Take To Make Chlorine?

In short: You can expect a chlorine generator to take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours to produce enough chlorine to sanitize a pool.

So, while the SWG constantly creates chlorine, it doesn’t necessarily mean it produces enough from the get-go to properly sanitize your pool. Ideal chlorine levels for saltwater pools are 1 – 3 ppm. The actual time it takes to get to the ideal chlorine levels depends on the size of the pool, the output setting, your filtration system, and, most importantly, the salinity of the water, which should be between 2,700 to 3,400 ppm.

How Does A Salt Generator Work?

A saltwater chlorine generator (or SWG for short) is the most important part of a saltwater pool. The equipment mainly consists of two main parts: a control panel and a salt cell. The saltwater enters the cell, after which an electric charge is applied to the titanium plates designed to catalyze the conversion process. The charge turns the chloride ions in the water into hypochlorite acid and sodium hypochlorite, which are the active sanitizing agents in chlorine. This then dissolves in the water, which keeps your pool sanitized and repels bacteria and algae growth.

How Long Should You Run Your Salt Generator Per Day?

So, how many hours do you need to run your salt generator every day? As a general rule, you should be running your generator for 8 to 12 hours a day. How long you run it depends on several factors, including:

  • The size of your pool
  • The number of people using your pool
  • The chlorine demand (this can be affected by a pool party, the sun, and/or a lack of cyanuric acid)
  • The output setting of the saltwater generator

Test and adjust your output setting to ensure your chlorine levels are 1 to 3 ppm while running the SWG for 8 to 12 hours daily. This output setting may need to be adjusted periodically based on certain factors. For example, during particularly hot days or following a pool party, you might need to raise your output setting to 80-100%

Also, keep in mind that although keeping your saltwater chlorine generator running is a good idea, be careful not to overdo it. Overworking your generator for no reason can shorten its lifespan, cause issues in the long run, and lead to some expensive repairs. 

What Happens If You Don’t Run Your Salt Generator for Long Enough?

Just as you may run into issues if you run your salt generator for too long, you may run into issues if you don’t run it long enough. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect:

Low Chlorine

Of course, the first obvious issue you’ll come across is low chlorine. As mentioned, your chlorine levels should be between 1 to 3 ppm, and if you do not run your SWG long enough, these levels may drop. Low chlorine is not only unsanitary and can make you sick but will also lead to a host of other issues, such as algae growth and damaged pool equipment.

Algae Growth

When the chlorine levels in your pool drop below the recommended levels, this may lead to an increased risk of algae growth, bacteria, and cloudy or green water. Not only is this unsafe to swim in (you could get an eye infection or a UTI), but it also takes money and time to fix.

Damaged Pool Infrastructure

In addition, low chlorine levels mean your pH and alkalinity could fluctuate enough to damage your pool equipment and surfaces. The water might become either too acidic or alkaline because of insufficient chlorine, which could mean pitting on your pool tiles or calcium deposits in your pipes and equipment. That’s a guaranteed headache for any pool owner.

The bottom line is don’t neglect to run your saltwater generator for 8 to 12 hours every day to keep the chlorine levels within the recommended range for your pool. Most generators nowadays can be controlled remotely, too, using an app or device, in case you’re away from home. Others come with settings where they run intermittently once you’ve fine-tuned the requirements.

How Long Should You Run Your Pool Pump in a Saltwater Pool?

How long you should run your pump in a saltwater pool varies depending on the size of your pool, the pump’s flow rate, and how much it’s used. On average, your pump should be running for 8 to 12 hours a day. This helps circulate and filter the water in your pool, which aids in maintaining proper water chemistry, killing algae (which prefers stagnant water), and minimizing the buildup of contaminants.

Don’t be tempted to run your pump continuously, though. Instead of running it for 8 continuous hours, try to break up the time in cycles of 2 to 3 hours each, which cuts down on your electricity bill and also reduces the wear and tear of the pump. To help you with this, use a pool timer.

How to Tell If Your Salt Generator is Working

The following signs are indications that your saltwater chlorine generator is functioning as intended:

Proper Chlorine Levels

If you test the water and find that the chlorine levels are consistent, it’s a sign that the salt chlorine generator is producing enough chlorine. If it isn’t, you might have to check for a clogged or dirty cell, rebalance salinity levels, and/or add cyanuric acid. I have another entire article on troubleshooting salt chlorine generators that don’t produce enough chlorine, so make sure to check that out if this is happening to you.

No Algae Growth

If you aren’t having algae growth, green or cloudy water, brackish water, sliminess on your pool tiles, or any other unpleasant issue, your generator is functioning as intended in properly sanitizing your pool.

Balanced pH Levels

If you aren’t having regular issues with your pH fluctuating when the rest of your pool system is functioning as intended, then your SWG is working perfectly too!

No Error Codes

Most SWGs have display panels that show error codes when there are issues with the chlorine generator. If you see an error code on your display panel, there could be an issue with your generator. If there isn’t any such notification, things are golden.

Steady, Proper Flow

Uninterrupted water flow through the generator is a sign of a healthy SWG. On the other hand, if the flow is weak or interrupted, you may need to troubleshoot it. If your flow sensor or switch is not lighting up with any issues, your SWG is functioning normally.

A Clean Salt Cell

The salt cell is the most vital part of the salt generator. Check the cell regularly and make sure it is clean. A salt cell that is dirty or clogged with debris can easily affect the SWG’s performance. Read my research on common salt chlorine generator problems for more information on this issue and others.

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That’s it! Questions? Let me know; I’m always happy to lend a hand.

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