Salt chlorine generators are very popular for consumer's swimming pools as an alternative to standard swimming pool sanitizing options because it eliminates the need to buy, transport, store, and handle chlorine. Salt generators are not a chlorine-free option; they actually just make their own chlorine using regular salt.
The “cell” is the part of the generator that makes chlorine. As your swimming pool water is pumped through the chlorine generator cell by the filter pump, the salt in the water is turned into Hypochlorous acid in a process known as electrolysis. Hypochlorous acid is the same thing that is produced when any chlorine is introduced to water, no matter what form it is introduced in. As the water enters the swimming pool, it will introduce the newly produced chlorine which prevents algae, bacteria and micro-organisms. This creates a clean and safe swimming environment.
I know you are now thinking, well if this is a “salt” system is my water going to be salt water…like the ocean? Ocean water has a salt content of around 35,000 parts per million ("ppm"). Humans have a salt taste threshold of around 3,500 ppm. Most chlorine generator systems require a salt content of 2500 - 6000 ppm in the pool. A unit that needs less than 3500 ppm to operate effectively is optimal which will not give you a discomforting “salty” taste to the water and leave you feeling salty upon exiting the pool. Swimming in a pool with a salt generator is often compared to taking a shower in soft water; you should have no irritation and upon exiting the pool your skin should feel soft and smooth. Swimming in a "salt water" pool should also cause much less eye irritation that a pool being treated with plain chlorine. In the beginning you will add salt to your water to get the system going but then because salt is not evaporated and returned to the water from the chlorine it is very easy to maintain proper salt levels and the only time you would need to add salt is to make up for loss from splash out.
Successful use of a salt chlorine generator system depends on a few important factors. The first is to make sure the “cell” is kept free of mineral or calcium build up. The cell is made up of precious metals that must be maintained in order to allow it to produce chlorine. The other important part is to make sure pool water is maintained at proper chemical levels and that they are balanced, especially pH. This can be done by testing your water regularly and making adjustments as needed.
All in all chlorine generator systems are fairly low maintenance and as long as they are cared for properly and proper water chemistry is maintained they are a great option for your swimming pools sanitizer system.