Salt Water Pool Conversion

A salt water pool conversion is a lot easier than you might think.  The addition of a salt system with a natural chlorine generator will transform any existing chemical chlorine pool so you can experience soft and luxurious water.  Whether you are a residential pool owner or a pool service professional we will guide you through the simple step by step process. 

salt water pool conversion

The first step when considering converting your pool to salt water is understanding how the chlorination process works.  The basic principle is that instead of adding chemical chlorine pucks or powder to your pool on a daily or weekly basis, your pool will produce chlorine naturally from the salt that is in the water by breaking down the salt molecules.  

The salt water creates a more stable environment which means you will not only be able to create your own chlorine but you will need less chemicals and balancing.  You will be decreasing your pool maintenance while being able to experience the benefits of soft and luxurious salt water.  In addition, you also won’t feel the harsh side effects of chloramines that cause things like red eyes, chemical odours and the sticky feeling that can be left on your skin after a swim. 

We'll take a look at the pros and cons of switching your pool to salt water as well as answer questions like how much it costs to convert your pool.  We'll start with the salt water pool conversion process including some helpful tips for keeping your pool healthy, sparkling clean and functioning properly. 

Salt Water Pool Conversion Step by Step

After you have purchased your salt system it's time to install it in your existing pool plumbing system.  It should be installed at the end of your plumbing after the pump, filter and heater right before the return valve to your pool.  This ensures that the freshly chlorinated water that has passed through the salt system and cell enters the pool directly.   

The ideal setup is to run your control panel and pool pump from the same power source and timer to ensure simultaneous operation.  This keeps the entire system is in sync and ensures that the pump is running during chlorination.  You can print off our salt water pool installation diagram for easy reference. 

If you decide on a system that requires more complex installation you will be required to do some basic plumbing and electrical work.  It is recommended that you hire a plumber or pool professional to complete the conversion if you aren’t comfortable with either of these tasks.  If you want to try on your own you can follow our step by step guide on how to complete a salt water pool conversion.

  1. Location
  2. Plumbing
  3. Sacrificial Zinc Anode
  4. Control Panel and Power Supply
  5. Adding Salt

1.  Establish Location for Installation

In most inground swimming pools you will be adding the salt system in your existing plumbing that is fitted for 1.5-2.5 inches diameter.  It should be installed after the pump, filter and heater (if equipped) and within proximity of the power source and control panel. 

It's often convenient and recommended to install the system in your plumbing where the chemical chorine dispenser is located.  You can remove the dispenser and replace it with the salt system because you won't need the feeder anymore!

2.  Plumbing and Check Valve

It might be necessary to use elbows or couplings to ensure that water runs seamlessly to your chlorine generator and into your pool.  Try to minimize sharp angles or obstructions as this will cause unnecessary back pressure on your system and increased work for your pump. 

We recommend using a standard PVC check valve right before the chlorine generator.  This will ensure that water only flows one direction and the freshly chlorinated water doesn't reverse flow and potentially cause damage to the gaskets or o-rings found in your pump, filter or heater.  

Install the generator ensuring that the water flow direction is followed.  With some units it doesn't matter but double check before final gluing and installation.  Install the flow switch if necessary. 

3.  Sacrificial Zinc Anode

If you are concerned about corrosion of your pool hardware we recommend using a zinc anode which is easy to install and very affordable.  The salt content of salt water pool is so low that you shouldn't experience any corrosion unless you have porous deck materials surrounding your pool.  This can be alleviated by keeping your salt levels within recommended ranges and giving your pool deck a rinse occasionally. 

The low salt concentration and the lower levels of chlorine actually decrease the wear and tear on the liner and pool hardware versus a regular chemically chlorinated pool.  In most cases you will see an increased lifespan of your pool liner. 

4.  Control Panel and Power Supply

After the salt system is installed and the main power is turned off it's time to mount the control panel and power supply in an area with easy access.  This needs to be within reach of the chlorine generator cord and it's a good idea to have it next to or near your timer or pump switch.

The last step is to connect and turn on the main power supply.  We recommend calling a professional if you aren't familiar with working with electricity as this step can be dangerous.  After everything is connected you can turn your pool water pump on and wait for the system to pressurize.  At this point you should check for leaks in the plumbing and fix if necessary. 

Any time you are working with electricity especially within proximity of water you should use extreme caution to avoid electric shock or injury. 

5.  Adding Salt 

The next step in completing your salt water pool conversion is to add the appropriate amount of salt based on the current salinity of your pool water and gallonage of your pool.  Use the the formula below to calculate your pool volume and the salt calculation table on our pool salt page to determine the correct amount of salt to add. 

Calculating Pool Volume in Feet (Ft) to determine Gallons

  • Rectangular Pool – Length x Width x Average Depth x 7.5
  • Round Pool – Diameter x Diameter x Average Depth x 5.9
  • Oval Pool – Length x Width x Average Depth x 6.7

If you are converting from a regular pool or from fresh water the salt content of your pool water will be nil or zero.  A rough estimate is to add approximately 30 lbs of salt for every 1000 gallons of water in your pool.  The manual you receive with your salt water system will also explain this in detail. 

If you are adding a salt system to a new pool construction it's very important that you allow at least 30 days for a plaster pool to cure and seal.  You should also wait at least 10 days for vinyl liners to prevent any corrosion or break down or as per the manufacturer. 

After you have figured out how much salt to add to your pool make sure the salt water chlorine generator is powered off before adding salt.  Add the salt to the deep end of your pool and away from the skimmer intake.  The undissolved salt tends to collect on the bottom of the pool and a brush might be necessary to aid in circulation.  Wait at least 24 hours to ensure all of the salt is dissolved.

After the salt is dissolved and the chemistry is balanced your salt water pool conversion is complete.  It’s time to turn on your new salt water system and start enjoying your pool!

Cost to Convert a Pool to Salt Water

The cost to convert your pool to salt water will vary depending on the size of your pool and whether you hire a professional or complete the installation yourself.  There are salt water systems designed for every size of pool ranging from 10,000-100,000 gallons so you can be sure to find one that works for your specific pool.  

We recommend purchasing a salt water system that is rated for pools approximately 15% larger than specified to ensure that you have adequate chlorine production during higher pool usage, increased sunlight hours and during superchlorination (available with some units) that replaces the need for shocking. 

The price for a basic unit starts around $300 that can be installed in as little as 30 minutes by a handy pool owner.  The deluxe units can cost upwards of $2,000 and include features like self diagnostics, chemical feeders and a control panel that will automate all of your pool hardware.  These salt water pool systems are a bit more complex to install into your existing system but for most pool owners the upfront cost is worth the very low maintenance down the road. 

If you install the system yourself you won't need to hire a pool service company but we recommend a professional for complicated systems to ensure it is installed correctly.  A pool technician will charge approximately $250-$500 to install a salt water system but this of course will vary with geographic location and the complexity of the system. 

Salt needs to be added to your pool water whether it's fresh water or an existing chlorine pool.  The cost for pool salt is roughly $1 per pound with the average pool requiring 400 lbs.  After the initial salting of your pool you will only need to add small amounts after significant splash out, heavy rain or during initial installation of salt system.    

If you are unsure about how you will like the feel of salt water in your pool we recommend trying it out before your salt water pool conversion.  Your current pool system will operate as usual so you don't have to alter anything other than experiencing the benefits of salt water.  A salinity of 2,000 ppm is recommended to feel the effects of salt water.  

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