If you’re curious (even just a little bit) about how a salt or mineral water pool works, you’ve come to the right place. Salt and mineral water swimming pools are becoming popular across New Zealand, and more pool owners are happily making the switch.
There are two main reasons why: softer water, and easier, more consistent chlorination.
This guide will take you through the benefits and drawbacks of salt or mineral water chlorinators, some common misconceptions about them, and also which ones we stock and recommend.
It’s important to understand all aspects of a new device when you’re considering adding it to your precious pool equipment.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
Table of Contents
With that, let’s get fresh on salt and mineral water pools!
What is a salt chlorinator?
In simple terms, a salt water chlorinator is a device that – after installation in your swimming pool or spa pool – generates chlorine from the salt or minerals you add to your pool.
The device itself is relatively small (smaller than your filter) and consists of two pieces: the cell, and the power pack.
The cell is where the chlorination process takes place. Water runs through it and over metal plates that are charged from the power pack, ultimately allowing a chemical reaction to take place: Boom! Salt or mineral water in, chlorinated water out.
The power pack is basically the electricity supply for the cell. You can control how much electricity to supply the cell with, which directly determines how much chlorine goes into the pool. Some models also offer the option of upgrades to allow automatic control of pH or chlorine levels.
What does a salt chlorinator do?
Salt or mineral water chlorinators are often installed in swimming pools when owners desire a softer feel of the water (think sensitive skin, or therapy pools). It’s simply less abrasive.
You can easily change your ‘normal’ pool to one with salt or minerals and a salt water chlorinator, but first of all we’ll walk you through a breakdown of the device and the reasons why you might want to get one.
Salt or Minerals: What’s the Difference?
Salt water chlorinators started to be used about 50 years ago, and the use of minerals instead of salt started in about 2006.
Both systems use the same concept: salt (sodium chloride) or minerals (typically a blend of magnesium, potassium, and sodium chlorides) are dissolved into the water to the level required by the chlorinator, which then generates the chlorine to sanitise the pool.
Mineral pools are recognized as having softer, clearer water than even salt pools, and have less effect on your pool’s water chemistry than salt pools, making them even easier to maintain. The magnesium in the water can be beneficial to some skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Advantages of a salt chlorinator
So far we’ve established that it turns salt or minerals into chlorine. But now let’s talk about the specifics.
Gives you softer water
Imagine a world where irritated skin, red or itchy eyes, and fading, crusty bathing suits after swimming in your pool aren’t an issue.
For sure, there’s still chlorine in the pool, but it’s not as harsh as the stuff you’ve been buying from the pool shop. Your skin will feel softer afterwards (especially in a mineral pool), and you’ll hardly notice you’ve been in the pool.
Makes balancing chemicals easier
Sit back down in your seat – having a salt water chlorinator doesn’t eliminate your maintenance duties. But it does make it easier to keep your water chemistry in balance.
The chlorine production and release are more consistent, which means chlorine makes its way into the pool in measured levels.
Salt water chlorinators will slowly push the pH levels of your pool water up (mineral pools have only a very slight effect on pH) which is easily controlled by a small addition of pH reducer on a regular basis.
Some chlorinators have the option of pH control as an upgrade – which can also be retrofitted if desired after a year or two of operation.
You absolutely still have to test the water and add chemicals, but you’ll be starting from an even playing field instead of mixing potions like a magician to try to get the perfect combo (we’re kidding. Never mix chemicals like a magician).
Less chlorine smell
Because the chlorine that’s produced by the chlorinator is added to the pool consistently, the elements that create the chlorine smell associated with public pools aren’t normally formed in the water.
If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy a pungent chlorine smell, a salt water chlorinator will give your backyard a breath of fresh air. It means you can recline on your sun lounger and relax without feeling like you’re stuck indoors at your local community pool.
Disadvantages of a salt chlorinator
There are a few things to take into consideration when you’re deciding whether a salt chlorinator is right for you.
The cost of the device is expensive: it’ll set you back a few thousand initially. However, if you’re looking for long-term comfort and you’ve already invested heavily into your perfect pool paradise, the cost might seem small in comparison to the value it will give you in the years to come.
You’ll also have to buy the salt regularly too, but this is not a significant expense because the salt or minerals are only lost by dilution with fresh water (rain or top-up water). It’ll cost around $100 a year for an average size salt pool – which is a lot cheaper than the chlorine tablets or granules and liquid chlorine that you’ve probably been using.
Isn’t salt corrosive?
It’s no secret that salt is the enemy of outdoor recreation. Whether it’s baches, barbecues, or bikes, salt can damage your equipment and property. In terms of putting salt in your pool and getting away with it, we have one tip: commit!
There is a risk that if the chlorinator is not maintained and operated within the advised salt range, then low salt levels can damage the salt cell and reduce cell life, whereas high salt levels can also cause the power supply to overheat. So it’s definitely best to read the manual for this one.
All of the materials used in the construction of your pool and pool equipment should already be suitable for use in a salt or mineral pool.
However, if you commit to using a salt water chlorinator properly, as per the instructions of the product, there should be nothing to worry about.
One more pool tool
Obviously, you’re adding one more device to your pool’s set of gadgets, so this is not going to go unnoticed: you’ll have to tend to it sometimes. The best salt water chlorinators are self-cleaning – which is amazing – but you can’t leave them completely alone.
If the pool’s water chemistry gets extremely out of range, then you may need to service the cell (watch a ‘how to clean a salt cell’ video here). Otherwise, maintenance needs are minimal.
Common misconceptions of a salt chlorinator
There’s no chlorine in your pool
There definitely is still chlorine in your pool, because that’s what the chlorinator produces! But yes, you won’t be regularly adding commercial liquid chlorine, tablets, or granules. You will still need to “shockdose” the pool, but the chlorinator will take care of your day-to-day chlorine levels.
It lowers your maintenance time
This is not necessarily true. Some adverts suggest that you’ll never put another chemical in your pool, and you won’t have to clean it with one of these, but that’s not quite right. Your current cleaning regime is still required; it’s just made the water chemistry a bit simpler.
By regulating the production of one chemical and making it easier for you to balance your water chemistry, you’re still adding one more pool tool.
A salt water chlorinator doesn’t need quite as much attention as a filter, especially if you go for a self-cleaning model, but you will still need to check it, and you may occasionally need to clean it.
As for the other maintenance duties? Still there, my friend.
How much does a salt chlorinator cost?
Salt water chlorinators in New Zealand cost anywhere between $1500 to $3000 for an average size pool. On the plus side, you can install them yourself, so you don’t have to pay extra installation fees – or you can use your pool professional to make it easy.
Factor in the energy consumption of the chlorinator (which is relatively low) and the salt which will cost you up to $100 a year on average… and we’ve only marginally increased the initial amount.
The chlorinator does self-maintain for around two weeks, so like we’ve mentioned, the water chemistry is easier and a little less expensive. Basically, it’ll set you back immediately, but you’ll reap the rewards in the long run if you use it properly.
How long does a salt chlorinator last?
Generally, a salt water chlorinator cell will last you about five years before you need to look at getting it replaced. Then it’s time to talk to your trusted supplier about whether your control board needs replacing as well as your salt cell.
As always, we recommend following the maintenance and care instructions for your specific product. This is just a guide.
Is a salt chlorinator worth it? Good question!
By now you know that the number one reason to get a salt or mineral water chlorinator is for the quality and softness of the water. For people with sensitive skin, sports injuries, or a dislike of that distinct chlorine smell, it’s a good option to explore further.
Regarding the cost of it: this investment will be worth it if you are looking to move away from a heavily chlorinated pool and you want all the advantages listed above.
If you’re thinking about shelling out money for softer water, you might as well get a top range one with all the bells and whistles to make your money go a bit further and work for you. If you’ve never been bothered by your pool’s water, then maybe you can stick to chlorine for now.
What is the best salt chlorinator?
We believe in only stocking the best, and that’s why we recommend the following chlorinators. All of these chlorinators are “self-cleaning” and require very little maintenance from you (although we recommend checking them quarterly and tidying up what they can’t regulate themselves).
Hayward AquaRite+ Salt Chlorinator
Features of the Hayward AquaRite+ Salt Chlorinator:
- Compatible with all-sized pools up to 150,000 litres.
- Can be controlled via an app on your smartphone, with Smart Pool Control. Integration (for off-site access, control and management of the pool).
- Modern digital display and simple operation, weatherproof.
- Expandable with optional upgrade kits.
- Cleans the cell automatically, which reduces your efforts in the quarterly clean.
- Suitable for use with salt or minerals.
Noria ROK:XP Salt Chlorinator
Features of the Noria ROK:XP Salt Chlorinator:
- Extensively researched and high-quality product range and brand.
- Long cell life and usually a 5-year warranty on cell.
- Mechanical timer for controlling usage.
- Chlorine levels can easily be controlled by touchpad on unit.
- Cleans itself by removing build-up and scaling on plates (which makes it easier for you when you come to check it and clean it quarterly).
- Compatible with salt or minerals
Features of the Mineralswim System:
- Cleans the cell automatically for less maintenance
- Incorporates an Ozone generator which reduces the chlorine demand in the pool
- Pump control via the mechanical timer
- Compatible with salt or minerals
- Optional pH control for simple operation and better water quality
We understand that “salt” and “chlorine” can seem like polar opposites in the pool world, so if you’re after a quick fix or answer to a simple question, here are a few that we hear regularly.
Do you need to add chlorine with a salt water chlorinator?
Apart from “shockdosing”, no. The salt water chlorinator will turn the added salt or minerals in your pool into chlorine, at a controlled level for good water chemistry.
How much salt does a salt water pool need?
Generally, a salt water pool has salt in a measurement of 3000ppm although this does vary according to the chlorinator’s model.
For reference, the ocean’s salt level is 35,000ppm, and human tears are 6000ppm. Comparatively, your pool has very little salt and you should barely be able to taste it!
Do I need to add chemicals to a salt water pool?
Yes. The water chemistry still needs to be manually balanced! A salt water chlorinator regulates the production and release of one chemical: chlorine. How you are currently testing and nurturing your chemical levels should remain the same.
Do I need to change the water when converting the pool to salt or minerals?
If your pool is reasonably maintained then once the chlorinator is fitted it’s simply a matter of adding the required amount of salt or minerals to the existing pool water and starting operation.
It’s also simple to change from salt to minerals or vice versa.
Ready to switch to salt water?
If you’re interested in turning your chlorine pool into a salt or mineral water pool with a salt water chlorinator, it’s time to talk to the professionals.
Contact our team to discuss your options – we’ll help you make the switch in a jiffy.