Salt-to-Chlorine Generation

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

Does it sound like magic? You never buy chlorine again. You just add salt to your pool at the beginning of the year, and a little gadget turns the salt into chlorine gas. It’s true, and it’s not even new technology. What is new is that chlorine prices in the United States are getting high enough, and chlorine generator prices are getting low enough that they are starting to make economic sense. In Europe and Australia, where chlorine prices, like oil, are much higher than here; salt-to-chlorine generators have been popular for years.

Forgetting the price, what do you gain? You no longer have to store, transport or handle a very dangerous chemical: chlorine. You swim in water that is very soft and natural, with a salt mineral concentration of 0.35% to 0.6%. That’s too low for most people to taste even if they are very sensitive. As an example, ocean water is 3.75%. If you mixed a glass of ocean water with a half gallon of drinking water, you’d get the saltiness that you’d have in your pool.

A good generator monitors the salt level in your pool for you, and spends a controllable amount of its time electrically making chlorine as pool water passes through it. If it makes too much, you turn it down. Not enough, just turn it up.  To shock, push a button and it cranks up production for a day, then resets itself to normal.


What do you do? Not much. Add a lot of salt the first day, which may cost around what a summer’s supply of chlorine would have cost. Not much gets used, except what you lose to backwashing, splash-out, etc., so you’ll probably top-up with a little salt every year or two. Water balance stays the same. You’ll use a little more chlorine stabilizer now, since you’re not adding it automatically with your chlorine anymore. Other than that, your testing and chemistry are still chlorine-based just like you’ve always done.
What’s the catch? The best units cost more than $1000, and you’ll replace electrodes worth around $700-$900 after five to ten years.

They don’t work well when the water temperature is below 50° F, so you would either use a little pool chlorine to start up your pool, or just wait for it to warm up a little.  Either way, you don’t really need much chlorine when the water‘s that cold. There is a right salt and a wrong salt, but it’s cheap and you only add a lot (maybe ten  bags) the first day.
Like anything else, there are different quality generators available with different features, and different prices. There are disposable units available for around $200 or so, and you’ll buy a new one once or twice a year. However, the cheap units don’t self-clean or self-adjust. They end up being more work than a $30 automatic chlorinator that should last for ten years. We’re still testing cheap units, but we just can’t see where they make any sense. However, come on in and we’ll help you find the right generator for your needs.

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