Saltwater generators use dissolved salt in the pool water to create free chlorine that cleans the pool. The chlorine level in a saltwater pool should be between 1 and 3 parts per million (ppm). If your saltwater pool is not reading any chlorine in the water, don't swim in the pool until you remedy the situation. You'll need to troubleshoot to discover why the chlorine produced by the generator is not staying in the pool—or if perhaps your generator is not producing chlorine at all.
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Give it Time
The biggest problem people have with chlorine generators is they do not allow them to run long enough to produce chlorine. The rate of chlorine consumption is different for every pool, based on the number of swimmers, the amount of rain you get and the amount of direct sunlight the pool receives. Typically, however, saltwater pool owners will need to run their generator for eight to 12 hours a day. If you haven't been doing this, it is possible that your generator simply hasn't been running long enough each day to cover the evaporation and use of chlorine in your pool. Run the generator constantly for 24 hours and retest. If your chlorine levels begin to rise, then you know that inadequate running time was the problem.
Chlorine generators need salt to produce chlorine and can't do so if the amount of salt in the water is too low. The desired salinity level in a saltwater pool is between 2,500 and 3,500 ppm. Get a salt-testing kit from a pool supplier and check to make sure that the levels are within this range. If your salinity is below 2,500 ppm, the generator will not be able to produce chlorine. If your salinity level is low, turn off the chlorine generator, turn on the pump and add salt by pouring it into the shallow end of the pool. Turn your chlorine generator back on only when all the salt has dissolved. A salt table will tell you how much salt to add for the volume of water held by your pool.
Check the Generator
Test your chlorine generator by turning on both the generator and your pool filter. With these devices on, take a water sample from the return line where the water reenters the pool from the generator. If it is working, your water test will show a chlorine reading and you can proceed to troubleshoot other parts of the pool.
If your chlorine levels still read zero, the problem is likely in the generator itself. Check for any flashing error messages or codes on the generator and consult your owner's manual or local pool store for troubleshooting help if necessary. If the generator isn't providing an error code, try cleaning the salt cell, which requires cleaning every three to six months.
To clean the salt cell, remove it from the unit and soak it in a mixture of 15 parts water to one part muriatic acid. Soak the cell for 10 to 15 minutes, but do not exceed 20 minutes. Don't soak the cell if it appears clean. Replace the cell, run the generator for at least 12 hours and repeat the test.
When using muriatic acid, always add the acid to the water rather than adding water to acid. Wear safety goggles and rubber gloves when dealing with acid. Follow all the safe handling instructions on the package.
Test your pool water with a kit that measures pH and alkalinity. If the pH is too low, the water becomes corrosive and chlorine escapes the water. If the pH is too high, it may cause mineral buildup on the pool walls, making the chlorine will be less effective. The proper pH level is 7.2 to 7.6. The alkalinity should be kept between 80 and 120 ppm to help balance the pH. Stabilizer (cyanuric acid) levels should stay between 40 and 80 ppm to retain chlorine in the water and slow its deterioration by UV rays. Once these levels are maintained and your generator is producing chlorine, the chlorine levels will rise.