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Can I Convert My Swimming Pool To A Saltwater Pool?

April 19, 2019

Converting Swimming Pool To Salt Water Generator System Best CPO Course Class Certified Pool Operator

Can I convert my swimming pool to a saltwater pool?

This is a question I’m often asked in my C.P.O. classes. The simple answer is, yes. Saltwater pools have been part of our industry for quite some time and there are some benefits to installing a salt water system on your commercial swimming pool. There are also some drawbacks. In this article we will go over everything you need to know about saltwater conversions.

 

Article Highlights

  • Converting your pool to a saltwater pool is not only doable, it's actually relatively easy.
  • A chlorine generator works like a sophisticated light bulb that will produce chlorine from saltwater.
  • A chlorine system should be installed in your pool recirculating system after your heater or in your return line.
  • Chlorine generators are intended to maintain a consistent chlorine value in the pool. They release chlorine slowly and steadily to your pool. They are not designed to respond to higher chlorine demand due to increased bather loads.
  • Some properties will make the claim that “our pool is all natural” - which is kind of true. 
  • Many report that salt water is more appealing for most bathers than your traditionally chlorinated pool and that the water “feels softer”. Many bathers report their skin feeling softer and having less issues with their hair.
  • Before you can choose the right saltwater generator system you will need to know your pool volume, flow rate, and average number of bathers.
  • The first piece of equipment you’ll need is a chlorine generator. 
  • When searching for the right salt generator manufacturer, contact their customer service department and ask questions. Remember, these are the people you’ll be working with if issues arise with your unit and you need to be comfortable with their tech support.
  • Salt water levels are normally maintained at 2,500 to 3,000 P.P.M. (parts per million) but some systems may require as high as 8,000 P.P.M. Consult your system manual to know the specs of your particular generator.
  • Your should monitor water-loss on a daily basis to ensure your salt water system is dialed-in properly.
  • There are varying grades of salt available in the marketplace. Salt water generators for swimming pools use pool salt only! Do not use any salt other than pool salt.
  • An in-line anode is a must for saltwater pools.
  • Specialty heat exchanges, like cooper-nickel, are not necessarily a necessity if your pool chemistry is maintained correctly.
  • Phosphates can pose a real threat to metal components in saltwater pools, specifically heat exchangers.
  • Increased bather loads require a supplemental chlorine feeder that is in-addition to the salt water system.

 

Understanding Saltwater Swimming Pool Systems

Before we get into the nuts and bolts let’s look at some comments from my students regarding the pros and cons of saltwater pools. 

 

Pros

  • My bathers enjoy the feel of saltwater.”
  • “Our cost of operating a saltwater pool on a day to day basis is less than operating a conventional chlorinated pool.”
  • “I like the ease of operation with a saltwater pool. Put in salt and forget it”. 

 

Cons

  • “Whad a salt water system and removed it.”
  • “It was too much work. We couldn’t keep our chlorine levels where we needed them.”
  • “ In no time at all we were replacing heat exchangers.”

So, the big question, is a saltwater pool Nirvana or the Apocalypse? Well, read on and we'll discuss salt systems more in detail and you can be the judge.

 

How does a saltwater pool work?

A chlorine generator is installed in your pool recirculating system. It works like a sophisticated light bulb that will produce chlorine from saltwater. These generators must be installed after the pool heater or in the return line to the pool.

Chlorine generators are intended to maintain a consistent chlorine value in the pool. They release chlorine slowly and steadily to your pool.

It’s important to note that they do not respond to higher chlorine demand created by high bather loads quickly. These generators are designed to create a base line chlorine residual in semi-commercial pools.

I’ll cover the issue of high bather demand later in this article.

Is a saltwater system the right fit for your pool?

The answer to this question boils down to your motivation for a saltwater pool. Is your motive to save money? Your daily operating costs, in most cases, will be less than a conventional chlorinated pool. There are, however, some upfront costs to consider - equipment and installation. We’ll cover those details later.

Salt Water Pools Are More Appealing Than Chlorinated Pools

Many report that salt water is more appealing for most bathers than your traditionally chlorinated pool. They will often tell you that the water “feels softer” and most bathers report their skin feeling softer and having less issues with their hair.

Some properties will make the claim that “our pool is all natural”’ - which is kind of true. Sure, it's using salt (a natural substance) to create chlorine, but it is still putting chlorine into the pool, so it's not necessarily "more natural". It's just getting there in a different way. My thought on making claims like this is to be careful. I wouldn’t oversell this point. 

I would highly recommend you do your research about your specific pool to decide if installing a saltwater generator makes sense for you. 

Assuming you are still interested in putting when, let's talk about the process of choosing the right system and installation.

How Do I Convert My Swimming Pool To A Salt Water System

So, you're still interested in installing a salt system! Great! Let’s get started.

First order of business, your pool's volume. This is a must-know factor in choosing the correct size generator.

Next, is flow rate of your pool. The water must circulate at a specific rate in order to maintain proper pool water quality (we will be covering this more in a separate article).

Now, calculate the average number of bathers using your pool daily or weekly.

With these three values, you can now start you research.

Selecting The Right Salt Water Generator Equipment

The first piece of equipment you’ll need is a chlorine generator. 

Here are some items I would take into consideration in selecting a saltwater generator in your swimming pool:

How much salt is required for a generator to perform for your pool?

There are two schools of thought here. There are generator that require as little as 2500 - 3500 parts per million (P.P.M.). These are the models that would be best suited for the semi-commercial pools.

Lower salt levels make it easier to manage the Total Dissolved Solids (T.D.S.) levels. T.D.S. is a subject we’ll cover in greater detail later in this article.

There are some manufacturers that require 4,000 - 8,000 P.P.M. salt for their generators to preform. Most of these companies create higher chlorine values that are more suited for commercial pools (100,000 gallon plus).

Also keep in mind, higher salt levels add to higher water balance issues.

Some companies that have a good track record in semi-commercial generators are Pentair, Hayward, and Zodiac.

But keep looking, there are several new comers to the market that might work for you as well.

When searching for the right salt generator, I suggest that after your initial review you narrow down your selection to two or three companies. Contact their customer service department and ask questions. Remember, these are the people you’ll be working with if issues arise with your unit. You need to be comfortable with there tech support. 

Some questions to ask the salt generator manufacturer:
  • Who in your local area has experience with their equipment?
  • What is the life expectancy of their unit and what would be required after this generator has reached its life cycle?
  • Do I need to replace the complete unit or components?

Now that you have found the right system for your swimming pool and it has been professionally installed, it's time to use it!

Using Your Salt Water System

To start your salt water system you’ll need to add salt. Remember our goal is 2,500 - 3,500 P.P.M. (Example: for a 30,000 gallon pool you will need approximately 250 pounds of salt.)

There are some generators that have a salt monitor built into them. These will typically read in P.P.M. However, with other generators you will need to test for salt levels separately. There are test kits available to test for salt levels.

Adding Salt To My Swimming Pool

To add salt to your pool, pour it directly into the shallow end of the pool and brush it toward the deep end.

Pool salt is soft so it will mix into the pool quickly. East as that, you’re creating chlorine!

Saltwater will be lost from the pool, so it's important that salt levels are maintained at normal levels.

How is water lost in a swimming pool?

Pool water is lost through splash-out, drag-out, and carry-out - which will occur with normal bather use. Also, backwashing your sand filters will remove water.

These are all part of normal water loss.

An additional concern is pool leaks. Leaks will consume large quantities of salt.

I would advise you monitor water loss daily. (This subject will be covered in a separate article.)

What Type Of Salt Should I Use In My Swimming Pool?

There are varying grades of salt available in the marketplace. Salt water generators for swimming pools use pool salt only! Do not use any salt other than pool salt.

The price can vary on pool salt, so shop around.

Important Things To Know About How Salt Affects Your Swimming Pool
An in-line anode is a must for saltwater pools.

This is a small P.V.C. housing that contains a zinc rod. Zinc is a soft metal. The high solids created by the salt (T.D.S.) will attack this zinc core before it will have any negative effect on your hand rails, ladders etc. It’s called a sacrificial metal. In-line anodes are easy to install! For the anode to give its maximum performance, it must be connected to your bonding loop - this is the #8 bare-copper wire that runs through your pump room. It attaches to your pump, heater, and any other metal equipment. By attaching the anode lead to this bonding wire it will give even greater protection.

You can find more on this subject in separate article called grounding and bonding.

I would also suggest an anode model with a clear lid so you can watch as the Zinc core inside the unit erodes, so you can replace it in a timely manner. PoolTool is one of many that make anodes for pools

Specialty Heat Exchangers - Cooper-Nickel

There is some controversy as to the need of a cooper-nickel (also known as cupronickel) heat exchanger for your pool heater with a salt water system.

It has been my experience, if the system is properly maintained, this upgraded exchanger is not generally necessary.

Phosphates and Salt Water Pools

Phosphates are a byproduct associated with saltwater pools. Phosphates can pose a real threat to metal components, specifically heat exchangers.

The simple way to control Phosphates in your pool water is to use an enzyme developed specifically for this purpose. A company I’ve been pleased with is Natural Chemistry.

There are test kits, or strips, made specifically to monitor your Phosphate levels. These levels are maintained in parts per billion (P.P.B.)

Increasing Chlorine In An Emergency Or As Bather Load Increases

As mentioned early in this article, a chlorine generator is designed to maintain a constant chlorine feed. So, to meet the higher chlorine demand created by increased bather loads a supplemental chlorine feeder is required.

This could be an erosion feeder designed for chlorine tablets, or preferably, a liquid chlorine feeder.

Liquid chlorine is salt-based and thereby adds salt to the pool for you generator.

Understanding How ORP and PH Affect Your Salt Water Swimming Pool

When adding a supplemental chlorine feeder I always recommend installing an O.R.P. (Oxidation Reduction Potential) and p.H. controller to your pool system.

These controllers will automatically feed chlorine to offset the higher demand created by increased bather loads.

In addition, it will maintain the p.H. of your pool water, as salt constantly increases the p.H. of pool water.

O.R.P. / p.H. controllers operate by reading the milli-volt levels in pool water, giving you more precise control of your pool.

In fact, an O.R.P. /p.H. controller can maintain water quality equal-to and above drinking water standards! Companies such as Chemtrol and Rola-Chem are two good controller companies to consider.

Hiring A Pool Management Company To Help You With Your Salt Water Pool

There are pool management companies that can install, control, and manage your saltwater pool for a nominal monthly fee. A nationally recognized provider is Eco Lab. However, you may find a local provider that can perform this service also.

Conclusion

I hope that this article has helped you along in your salt-water journey! If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about what we offer at the Pool Training Academy, send us an email to: info@pooltrainingacademy.com. We're always happy to help!

Well, are you ready for a saltwater pool?




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