Converting a Chlorine Swimming Pool to a Saltwater Swimming Pool

In the mid-2000s, saltwater pools started to soar in popularity in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Saltwater pool owners enjoy a less-intensive maintenance routine and less chlorine odor, in addition to fewer issues with reddened eyes and dry skin. If you already have a traditional chlorine pool, you may be wondering, “Can you convert a chlorine swimming pool to saltwater?” The answer is yes.

A saltwater pool is actually still a chlorine pool. The difference between a traditional “chlorine” pool and a “saltwater” pool is that saltwater pools use salt and convert it to chlorine using a salt cell. Through electrolysis, Salt (NaCl) and water (H20) are converted into Chlorine (Cl2), Hydrogen (H2), and Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH). When the chlorine molecule is depleted, the salt is converted back to NaCl. The process then starts over again. While salt cells require regular cleaning using a mild acid solution in order to dissolve scale deposit, advanced in-ground salt systems are self-cleaning. The cleaning is performed by reversing the polarity to the salt cell, which causes the shedding of the scale. The scale is then dispersed by the water.

clear blue pool

“Saltwater Pools Require No Maintenance, Right?”

No. Saltwater pools require less maintenance, but they do still require some. It’s important to monitor your pool water chemistry. When your saltwater pool appears to be clear and you don’t notice any chlorine smell, you may mistakenly believe that no maintenance is needed. However, if your water level is not properly balanced, staining, scaling, and deterioration of your concrete, metals, and other surfaces may occur, just as with a chlorine pool.

How to Convert Your Pool to Saltwater

Before you start to install components for your new saltwater system, you need to balance your pool water according to your installation manual specifications and ensure that you have proper electricity available to power the system.

What is Needed to Convert to a Saltwater Pool?

  • Salt Chlorinator System
  • Sacrificial Anode
  • Pool Salt

Salt Chlorinator System

The primary component of a saltwater pool system is the chlorinator. A salt chlorinator system includes the salt cell and the control board. As previously mentioned, the salt cell is where electrolysis occurs and the salt in your pool’s water is converted to chlorine. The control board controls how much chlorine is produced.

Choosing a salt system that is rated for your pool’s water volume is critical.  You’ll want to select a system that meets or exceeds your pool’s water volume. If you do not know your pool’s water volume, call the 1Stop Pool location nearest you. Our friendly and experienced team members can help you calculate your pool’s water volume, with accurate measurements of your pool. The most common ratings are 15,000 gallons, 25,000 gallons, and 40,000 gallons.

Sacrificial Anode

We’ve talked about the corrosive power of saltwater. A sacrificial anode is used to protect your metal materials by “sacrificing” itself to absorb the majority of any system corrosion. The anode can be added to your plumbing or as a skimmer insert. It connects using a wire to the metal equipment you want to protect. In essence, the saltwater will attack the sacrificial anode rather than your pool’s other metal components. The anode can be easily replaced every few years and will help keep your pool rust-free.

Swimming Pool Salt

It is strongly recommended that you use salt specifically formulated for use in swimming pools. Other salts like rock salt or solar salt have the potential to result in staining or cause sediment in your swimming pool. By using high-quality pool salt, you can avoid these possible problems.

pool with water feature

Steps to Convert Your Pool to Saltwater

  1. Add the required amount of pool-grade salt to achieve the desired concentration. The amount of salt needed will be based on the volume of water in your pool. To add the salt, disperse across the pool’s surface and give it time to dissolve (this may take up to 24 hours).
  2. Install your chlorination system according to the product manual’s specifications.
  3. Install a non-corrosive check valve between the cell and your heater, if you have a heater.
  4. Connect the salt cell to the control board.
  5. Turn on your pool pump. Check for leaks. Let it run for several hours to circulate the water and dissolve all pool salt.
  6. Turn on your salt chlorinator and enjoy your saltwater pool

Preventing Corrosion in a Saltwater Pool

Salt is a corrosive mineral. It can damage soft travertine stone or the stainless steel surfaces used on pool ladders, pool lights, etc. Over time, constant saltwater contact can pit or erode soft stone surfaces. Sealing surfaces around the pool, with regular cleaning for areas with low rainfall, can help protect soft surfaces from salt deposits. Proper adhesion between sealer and concrete prevents water from getting underneath the sealer. Penetrating sealers that will repel water may help prevent erosion issues. However, some sealers require more maintenance than standard patio applications. There can also be issues with slipping hazards around the pool from certain types of sealants.

A Note Regarding Corrosion

If you have flagstone, tile, or concrete finishes in or surrounding your saltwater pool, you should be prepared to see deterioration over time. Some salt system manufacturers recommend rinsing salt-chlorinated systems with fresh water after use. However, eventually some wear should be expected. If your pool is in need of repair, remodeling, or “refreshing,” please call 1Stop Pool’s Remodeling department at 214-427-8202 or visit www.poolfacelift.com for information on how we can help.