The 10 Best Salt Chlorinators
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in April of 2015. Sick of stinging eyes and water that smells like bleach? Tired of messy liquid that can stain decks and clothing? Get rid of that hassle for good while keeping your pool or spa cleaner and softer than ever before with one of these salt chlorinators. They convert the Cl in NaCl to free chlorine in order to sanitize your water in a cost-effective, low-maintenance, and efficient manner. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 05, 2020:
We had to remove the Hayward Goldline PL-Plus due to complaints regarding breakdown and units being completely ineffective out of the box. In its place we added the Circupool CORE35, a powerful, high-end unit with many of the same customizable functions and none of the quality issues. We also added the Circupool Universal40, a complete system that can be retrofit onto old systems made by other distributors once they break down. What's great about this unit is its versatility and comparatively low price. Finally, we also included the Intex Krystal Clear, which is compact and intuitive for a device offering so many services.
Two benefits of salt chlorinators are that they tend to cause less irritation to skin than traditional chlorination systems and they can service fairly large pools, but these advantages come at literal price- salt chlorinators are expensive. If you don't have the money to buy one of these, you may want to take a look at the best floating chlorine dispensers or our list of pool chlorine tablets, as both of these options are both simple and very affordable. If you've got a hot tub and can't justify buying a salt chlorination system for such a small amount of water, see our list of chlorine granules for hot tubs.
May 07, 2019:
Chlorine may have once been the go-to option for keeping pool water clean, but these days we have a better choice — salt water chlorinators. Unlike the traditional method, these machines leave your water feeling silky smooth and essentially eliminates the chance of eye or skin irritation. If you have a large pool, between 25,000 and 40,000 gallons, your best options are the Hayward Goldline PL-Plus, Hayward AquaRite, Blue Works BLH30, Circupool SJ-40, and Pentair IntelliChlor. The Hayward Goldline PL-Plus eliminates almost all pool maintenance from your schedule, as it automatically monitors and controls your pH levels too, while both the Blue Works BLH30 and Circupool SJ-40 have an impressive five-year warranty and are some of the most affordably-priced options to handle pools in their respective size ratings. When it comes to ease of installation, there is nothing better than a simple drop-in model, like the Saltron Mini and ControlOMatic SmarterSpa. Be aware though, these are generally for hot tubs and other small bodies of water.
How Salt Water Chlorinators Work
Electrolysis attracts minerals in the pool water to these plates as the saltwater passes through the circulation system.
Many people think saltwater pools don't have any chlorine, but this is simply untrue. They have a perfectly balanced level of free available chlorine, which is constantly generated by the saltwater chlorinator. Traditional swimming pools have a combination of FAC and combined available chlorine. CAC is formed as FAC reacts with amines in the pool, and high levels of CAC are associated with skin and eye irritation in swimmers. FAC isn't known to cause any irritations and won't result in that chemical smell found in heavily chlorinated traditional pools.
Salt water chlorinators use a generator to create electrical currents, which are then passed along a cell. This cell is comprised of titanium plates that are coated with either iridium or ruthenium. Electrolysis attracts minerals in the pool water to these plates as the saltwater passes through the circulation system. A low-voltage current running through the plates breaks the salt and water up into hydrogen gas and hypochlorus acid. The hydrogen molecules then bubble up to the surface and are released from the pool, while the acid remains behind to act as a disinfectant.
This process creates an excess of hydroxyl as it releases the chlorine molecules from the salt. This results in an overly alkaline pool and the leftover hydrochloric acid from the electrolysis process is used to neutralize the alkalinity. This is repeated over and over again, constantly releasing a steady stream of usable chlorine into the pool water.
The salt isn't consumed in the process and is continuously split and reformed as it passes through the titanium plates of the cell. Periodically, new salt must be added to saltwater pools, but this is because some is lost from splashing and other activities like backwashing.
Benefits Of Salt Water Chlorination
Saltwater pools have a number of benefits over traditional pools, first and foremost being the reduction of harsh chemicals. As mentioned previously, saltwater pools have chlorine, but there is significantly less that what is found in traditional pools. They are ideal for people with sensitivities to chemicals who often find that other pool types irritate their skin and eyes. Since you won't be adding pure chlorine directly to a saltwater pool, you won't have to deal with handling and storing a toxic chemical either. This makes it safer and more environmentally friendly.
As an added bonus, you may find yourself saving money on swimwear, as well, if you use your pool constantly.
Saltwater pools also require less maintenance than traditional pools, as they clean themselves continuously. You will still need to periodically check the water chemistry to monitor your pH, ppm, and salinity to ensure your swimming pool is at optimal levels, but rarely will you have to add anything other than a stabilizer. Unlike traditional pools, which often experience high and low levels of sanitizer, the level in saltwater pools stays constant, which results in less formation of algae.
The initial setup cost of a saltwater pool is higher than a traditional pool, but the yearly maintenance cost is significantly less. This means that, over time, you will actually save money by having a saltwater pool. As an added bonus, you may find yourself saving money on swimwear, as well, if you use your pool constantly. Just as saltwater pools are easier on your skin, they are easier on bathing suits, and won't discolor them or cause their material to weaken over time.
Maintaining A Saltwater Pool
You can break up your saltwater pool maintenance into three separate categories: weekly maintenance, monthly maintenance, and quarterly maintenance activities.
Your free chlorine should fall somewhere in the 1 to 3 ppm range.
Every week you should test your pool chemistry to check the pH and amount of free chlorine. As with a traditional pool, you can use a drop test kit or pool dip strips. Ideally, your pH should be maintained between 7.2 and 7.6. Your free chlorine should fall somewhere in the 1 to 3 ppm range. You can add muriatic acid to lower pH and sodium bicarbonate to raise it. Free chlorine can be adjusted via the output control on your system's cell or control box.
In addition to your weekly maintenance schedule, you should test your pool's, salt, stabilizer, alkalinity, and calcium levels at least once every month. It is vital that your pool has enough salt as this is directly related to how much free chlorine your system can create. Your stabilizer, calcium, and alkalinity can be tested with the same testing kit you use for your weekly maintenance, and your salinity level is usually displayed somewhere on your chlorinator. It can be good to periodically check your salinity manually, as sometimes chlorinators need to be recalibrated.
Your quarterly maintenance should include a physical inspection of your chlorinator system. Open your cell and look for any scale buildup that could affect your system's efficiency. You also need to check the coating on your cell as it can be stripped off if you run your chlorinator for too long without enough salt in your pool. While the cell is open, remove any debris that may have made it past your filter.