How To Convert Your Pool Into A Salt Water Pool
One of the questions that we get a lot from our blog readers here at Mr Pool Man is how to convert their existing traditionally chlorinated pool to a salt water pool. Is it as simple as attaching a saltwater chlorinator to the system or does it entail something more? Well, were here to answer those questions and more with our guide to converting your traditional pool into a salt water pool!
Before we dive in, here’s our resident pool guru, Tom, with an overview of our favorite saltwater chlorinator, the Water TechniX Atomic Salt Water Chlorinator. Its also the chlorinator that well use as the basis for our conversion guide.
Selecting Your Salt System
Before purchasing your salt system, there are a few things you want to consider. First, make sure you know how many gallons of water your pool holds. If you are unsure, you can check a pool volume calculator HERE.
Next, you want to determine which type of plug setup you have for your pool area. Lastly, think about how you intend on installing it to your pool.
There are two different types of plugs for above ground salt systems: the standard 3-prong and twist lock. Selecting the wrong type of cord can delay your installation. You can determine which plug you need by looking at your current above ground pool set up.
You can find the three-prong plug on most household appliances. The Twist Lock plugs arent as popular and you typically see more of them in the Northeastern part of the US.
Depending on the make and model of the salt system, you can mount the cell to your plumbing lines one of two ways, the return jet or the hose/pipe . With the use of adapters and flex hose, you install the RJ units vertically under the return jet. There is an additional elbow that hooks into the return line. Because of the design, there is no need for a flow switch.
The HP units install directly into PVC pipe or pool hose. You have the ability to install these units vertically or horizontally. In some salt systems like the Pureline Crystal Pure, the cell easily plumbs in-line and has quick disconnect unions for easy access.
Where to Buy
Salt Water Pool Conversion In 5 Steps
After you have purchased your salt system it’s time to install it in your existing pool plumbing system. It should be installed at the end of your plumbing after the pump, filter and heater right before the return valve to your pool. This ensures that the freshly chlorinated water that has passed through the salt system and cell enters the pool directly.
The ideal setup is to run your control panel and pool pump from the same power source and timer to ensure simultaneous operation. This keeps the entire system is in sync and ensures that the pump is running during chlorination. You can print off our salt water pool installation diagram for easy reference.
If you decide on a system that requires a more complex installation you will be required to do some basic plumbing and electrical work. It’s recommended that you hire a plumber or pool professional to complete the conversion if you arent comfortable with either of these tasks. If you want to try on your own you can follow our step by step guide on how to complete a salt water pool conversion.
1. Establish Location for Installation
In most inground swimming pools you will be adding the salt system in your existing plumbing that is fitted for 1.5-2.5 inches diameter. It should be installed after the pump, filter and heater and within proximity of the power source and control panel.
2. Plumbing, Flow Switch and Check Valve
3. Sacrificial Zinc Anode
4. Control Panel and Power Supply
5. Adding Salt
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How To Convert Your Pool To Saltwater
Thats all fine, youre probably thinking, but how do I convert my pool to saltwater? The good news is that salt water pool conversion is a fairly simple process and likely more affordable than you think.
After youve tested your water, balanced its chemistry, installed your saltwater chlorinator, and connected it to your pool pump, you can begin adding salt. You should look for granulated, non-iodized salt with 99.8% NaCl or higher.
When you enter your current water chemistry into Pool Calculator, youll know how much salt to add. In most cases, youll be starting with zero salinity, but if your water contains a little bit of salt, our app will tell you exactly how much more you need. Check the user manual on your salt chlorinator for specific directions on how to add salt. Since the salinity of salt water pools is relatively low, you only need to add salt a few times per year.
After adding salt, power on your saltwater chlorinator and let it run for 12 to 24 hours until it dissolves completely. Test your pool water again to ensure your salt and chlorine levels are balanced. If the chemistry looks good, you can go ahead and jump in!
Salt Water Testing Strips
To check your salt water PPM levels, youll need specialized salt water testing strips. Not that salt water testing isnt included in your regular 7-in-1 testing strips so if youre thinking of converting to a salt water pool, get a bottle of these salt water testing strips when you get your salt water chlorinator. Testing for salt water PPM is also different than testing for chemical levels in your pool.
Regular chemical testing with 7-in-1 test strips require you to swish your strip in the pool water and see how the colors change. To test for salinity, fill the included container up to the required level and then put in the strip and leave for five minutes. The color on the strip should start to fade, and the highest faded point should be your PPM reading. The way this works is that the strip has different resistances for salt concentration, the faded parts of the strip have had their requirements fulfilled and have done their job, while the unfaded sections means that there isnt enough salt in the water to cause them to fade, giving you an approximate reading of the salt level in the water.
P.S. Do not submerge the entire strip into the water! Only submerge the indicated section of the strip to get the proper readings!
Now that we have everything that we need to convert our pool into a salt water pool, its time to install our salt water chlorinator!
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Test & Balance Before You Convert
Before beginning the conversion process, youll need to test and balance your pool water. We recommend using standard test strips, which will provide you with an accurate read on your current water chemistry. This will let you gauge your pools pH, total alkalinity, free chlorine levels, cyanuric acid stability, calcium hardness, and salt.
The simplest and most seamless way to track and test your pools water chemistry is with Pool Calculator a handy app for desktop, Android, and iOS. Just enter the results of your test and well show you exactly how to balance your water before converting to a salt water pool. Adding chemicals and stabilizers to balance your water is a crucial first step before you proceed with the salt water conversion process.
In most instances, a pool wont need to be drained in order to convert to salt water. However, if youre currently using a water sanitizer that contains polyhexamethylene biguanide, you may need to drain your pool and fill it with fresh water because it will impact your chlorine balance.
Balance Your Pool Water
Once you know that the saltwater conversion will work with your existing chemicals, its time to adjust your pool water and get it as close to normal as possible. Balance things in this exact order: chlorine, alkalinity, pH, stabilizer, calcium hardness, and other metals. Test your water again, and continue balancing as needed.
It may take several days to fully adjust your pool, especially if it wasnt balanced earlier. This is because it takes time for pool water to circulate, and the entire pool should be as well-balanced as possible before you continue. Remember to rest different parts of your pool, not just the area closest to where you put the chemicals in.
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Test & Balance Your Pool’s Chemical Levels
Once you know how many gallons of your pool holds it’s time to test your water. The amount of water in your pool will help determine how much of each chemical you’ll need to add after you’ve tested the water for it to be properly balanced.
Here’s what you’ll need to test for and their ideal range:
Your water needs to be completely balanced with all the ideal levels before turning the salt chlorinator on. Read more on testing your water here. An existing pool converting to chlorine will have a salt presence already. you’ll want to know your starting salt level after all the rest of your chemicals are balanced so you know how much salt to add in the next step.
If pool maintenance seems confusing or just isn’t your thing, now is also a good time to add E-Z Pool to your backyard living style. The combination of these two products takes out the need for adding a bunch of different chemicals to your pool to balance out your levels.
Whats The Difference Between A Salt Water Pool And A Chlorine Pool
In truth, there isnt much difference between a salt water pool and a standard chlorine pool. In fact, the only difference is how they generate the chlorine needed to sanitize the water. It is important to understand that a salt water pool is still a chlorine pool. The salt water system is simply a way to generate chlorine automatically, rather than having to add it manually.
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Chemically Balance Your Pools Water
Before installing any new equipment, youll need to balance your pools pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, and chlorine levels. Youve likely done this many times as a pool owner, but for reference, here are levels that experts recommend:
- pH: 7.2 7.8
- Total alkalinity: 80 120 ppm
- Calcium hardness: 200 400 ppm
- Cyanuric acid: 30 50 ppm
- Chlorine: 1 3 ppm
Best Salt System For Above Ground Pools
If you are looking for a salt system for your above ground pool that wont break your pockets, we recommend the Pureline Crystal Pure. The Crystal Pure is a reliable salt system that frees pool owners from intense chemical maintenance while giving swimmers a break from traditional chlorine. The Crystal Pure generator cell easily plumbs in-line and has quick disconnect unions for easy access.
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S To Open Your Swimming Pool
Turn on your filter system and add the correct amount of salt to the water for your pool size. Continue to run the filter for 24-48 hours or until all of the added salt is dissolved.
Turn on your Saltwater Chlorine Generator following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. If you purchased the Saltwater system from us you can find the instructions here Salt System Support
Using test strips, test the swimming pools water total Alkalinity Levels . If the alkalinity level is low, based on the test strip, add Alkalinity increaser . If the alkalinity is high, based on the test strip, add Alkalinity decreaser . Please refer to the bottles instructions for the proper amount to add for the adjustments.
Using test strips, test the swimming pools water pH Level . If the pH level is low, based on the test strip, add pH increaser . If the pH is high, based on the test strip, add pH decreaser . Please refer to the bottles instructions for the proper amount to add for the adjustments.
Add oxidizing pool shock at a rate of 1 pound of powder per 5,000 gallons of pool water.
How Exactly Does The Saltwater Swimming Pool Chlorination Process Work
As weve discussed, saltwater chlorination is the process of turning salt into hypochlorous acid or sodium hypochlorite. But before that, your pools water must have a salt concentration of at least 3,000 ppm for the machine to operate. In other words, you need about 200 pounds of pure pool grade salt per every 10,000 gallons of water.
Luckily, salt is fairly inexpensive and can be obtained by bulk in most cleaning stores. Itll take approximately 24 hours for the salt to completely dissolve.
Once you turn your salt chlorination system on, the control box immediately sends a safe electrical DC charge to the machines cell, prompting it to start.
The cells then use a process called electrolysis to separate the sodium and chlorine molecules passing through their plates.
Eventually, the salt in the water turns into hypochlorous acid the same compound produced when chlorine touches the pools water.
Keep in mind that the salt chlorinator doesnt consume the salt it simply turns it into another compound. As such, the salt will remain in your pool even when the water evaporates.
This is good news because it means you wont have to constantly replace the salt in your pool whenever you want to operate the salt chlorinator. The only time youll need to do so is if you backwash the pool or drain the pool entirely.
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Should You Convert Your Inground Pool To Saltwater
The benefits of converting your pool to a salt system are clear, but it might cause you more problems in the end if your pool is incompatible.
It might not be a good idea to switch to a salt system if your inground pool has any metal parts in the structure or if you have metal accessories. You might also choose to steer clear of salt if you have a plaster surface.
However, in most cases, unless your pool has metal walls that can corrode, a saltwater pool can make pool maintenance much easier and give you a better swimming experience overall.
Still thinking about your options when it comes to inground pools, and whether or not you’d like to use a salt system to keep it clean? Take our Pool Type Quiz, which includes a question about saltwater to help you figure out which type of pool best suits your needs:
If you’d like to learn more about salt systems, feel free to check out our guides below. Happy swimming!
Enjoy Your Salt Water Pool
Get started today! You can convert your chlorine pool into a saltwater swimming pool and enjoy the benefits of salt water chlorination right in your own backyard. If your pool has a traditional chlorine sanitization system, you can easily switch to Haywards advanced salt chlorination system.
Contact your local Hayward Dealer today to learn how you can create an optimal salt water pool experience.
To learn more about the advantages of salt water pools, read our blog article Advantages of Salt Water Pools.
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Maintaining Your Saltwater Pool
As noted above, saltwater pools are fairly easy to maintain, provided you regularly check the chlorine and pH levels. For best results, you should test these levels about once a week. Test strips and drop test kits both provide accurate, inexpensive results. If the chlorine levels are too high, you have several ways to bring them down, including all of the following:
- Lowering the output on the chlorine generator
- Add chlorine neutralizing chemicals like sodium sulfite
- Siphon off a portion of pool water and replace with fresh water
To lower excessive pH levels, you can add muriatic acid. To raise low pH levels, by contrast, you can add either soda ash or sodium carbonate. However, you shouldnt expect to have to raise the pH, since the continuous production of chlorine typically raises the pH as a side effect.
Incorrect chlorine and pH levels can increase the risk of damage to all pool types, including above ground resin pools. So you can do all of the above or if you like to make things easy, you can just use Pepper instead.
Pepper is a special blend of multi-action products designed to work specifically with the unique demands of salt water pools. Regular use of Pepper will
- increase the life and performance of the salt generator
- improve sanitizer effectiveness
- limit troublesome pH fluctuations caused from generating chlorine
- inhibit calcium scale formation inside the salt generator, on the pool equipment, and surfaces
- helps maintain low phosphate levels
Salt Water Pool Facts
Salt water pools are becoming increasingly popular. Unfortunately, so are myths and misinformation about salt water pools. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at how salt water pool systems work, their advantages and disadvantages, and clear up some common misconceptions about salt water pools.
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Install Your New Saltwater Pool Chlorination System
Install the chlorinator per the manufacturers specifications. You may be more comfortable having a professional handle the installation. The general installation process entails:
- Mounting the chlorinator and connecting it to a power source
- Integrating the salt cell into the pools plumbing system and linking it with the control board
- Inserting the sacrificial anode
- Letting the pump run before powering on the chlorinator