How Long Should a Salt Cell Last? How Can I Tell If My Pool Salt Cell Is Working Properly?

How long should a salt cell last? Usually their lifespan is between 5-7 years and costs $200 - $900 to replace depending on your Chlorinator, though we'll dive into it a little deeper.

This guide will cover the following points in identifying how long a salt cell should last -

  1. Basic Salt Cell Troubleshooting
  2. What is a salt cell?
  3. Chlorinator components

 

Basic Salt Cell Troubleshooting

  1. Check Power:The Salt Cell is powered by the control panel, If the control panel has no indicator lights, that's a good sign of no power. Many salt chlorinators also have a fuse inside the cabinet, designed to blow in the event of power overload, or a lightning strike.
  2. Check Water Flow:The Salt Cell needs a certain amount of water flow to operate effectively. Flow rates can be reduced by clogged pump or skimmer baskets, dirty filter, or closed directional valves.
  3. Check Salt Level:The Salt Cell needs a certain amount of salt in the water to convert the salty water to chlorine. Each salt cell is calibrated to work within a certain range of salinity, generally around 4000 ppm. Most salt chlorinators use a salt sensor and display the measured salt level, or have an indicator light or error code to let you know when the salt level drops below the minimum threshold.
  4. Check Water Balance:Your pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness should all be within range so that the created chlorine has the most efficiency, or killing power. Low pH can accelerate the activity of chlorine, burning off more rapidly, and high pH can reduce the activity, making your chlorine sluggish and less effective. You can test these water levels yourself using a 5 in 1 Test Kit.
  5. Inspect Salt Cell:The Salt Cell needs to be cleaned regularly to remove calcium deposits that slow water flow and bridge the gap between metal plates, preventing the electrolysis from happening. Majority of the salt cellchlorinators are now self-cleaning, by reversing polarity on the metal plates, to slough off the collected calcium which is swept away by the water flow. However, even self-cleaning cells need regular inspection, and perhaps occasional cleaning. You can clean cells by giving them an "acid bath" which usually consists of 90% water to 10% acid, and "brushing" the calcium deposits off with a toothbrush. The acid will eat away at the plates given enough time, so be sure to bath the cell for no longer than 10 minutes.

 

What are some signs that your salt cell may need replacing?:

  1. Looking worse for wear, it's lost a few plates and the acid baths just aren't working.
  2. Pool is starting to turn green or cloudy, even though your Chorinator is turned up to 100%.
  3. Your Chlorinator is constantly displaying "low salt", even though you've added salt to the pool.

 

Generic Salt Cells can be half the price of Genuine salt cells, but what's the difference between the two?

SEE ALSO:Generic vs Genuine Salt Cells here

What is a salt cell?

Your chlorinator is a miniature chlorine manufacturing plant. Firstly, The action of salt water passing through the salt cell causes electrolysis which creates chlorine (Sodium Hypochlorite) that is then returned to the pool.

The easiest way to be certain if the chlorinator is working is to make sure the cell is clean by checking the needle or production lights on the chlorinator box. When operating, you should also see bubbles (hypochloride gas) inside the chamber, producing what looks like cloudy water - that's chlorine being created! If you don't have a clear housing to view chlorine being made, many salt cells can be removed from the housing and placed in a bucket of salty pool water. Turn it on and look for tiny bubbles or cloudy water being created.

Tip: Remember less salt = less chlorine. So, check your salt level first.

Chlorinator components

Also important is to clean the electrode terminals, which can develop corrosion similar to car battery terminals. Terminal corrosion can be removed with an old toothbrush dipped into an acid solution.

Check output leads and replace if required, there are also half lead kits on the market to make it an easy fix. The salt cell will eventually lose performance and the controller circuit boards can develop problems over time.

Chances are, at some point you will face an expensive repair to your salt system, I’m talking about either a new salt cell, or a new control board. Both of these repairs can approach half the cost of a whole new Salt Water Chlorinator system.

Astral Hurlcon VX7 Chlorinator Electrode - Generic Solid Plate Salt Cell

Zodiac C170 Chlorinator Electrode - Generic Clearwater Solid Plate Salt Cell

Chloromatic ESC 24/36/48 Chlorinator Electrode - Generic Solid Plate Salt Cell

Please see a list of other useful pool blogs below

Pool Maintenance

Pool Chemicals

Pool Filters

Pool Pumps

Post author:

Tom Hintze

Head of eCommerce & Operations at Mr Pool Man,
Co-Founder at Water TechniX

3 comments

  • I wanted to say a huge thank you for the information on your website about salt cells. I was advised by a shop that I needed a whole new system at a cost of $1800; however, your information matched the symptoms my system was experiencing and I felt confident to buy a generic cell, which fixed the issue immediately. Thank you.

    Colin Grover on

  • Vx7 low salt light stays on thanks for the tip
    Have to replace cell only site that explains this
    Cheers mick

    MIck WEBB on

  • My control box for cell has power from panel but no light r displayed on the control panel for Haywood control box.

    William Ray Porter on

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