Salt chlorinators are a popular choice for modern pool owners because it eliminates the need to buy, store, and handle traditional chlorine. Salt generators work by generating their OWN form of chlorine using salt. The benefits are many: it leaves the water soft, the skin of swimmers smooth, and there are fewer chloramines produced in the generator.
For those who live in climates where they are able to run their pool year round, salt chlorinators may present a unique problem: they have a hard time running in cooler temperatures, leaving many wondering if they can run their salt chlorine generators in winter. The salt cell (where the chlorine is produced) struggles any time the water temperature dips below 60° F and does not produce at its normal level. In fact, the salt cell works much harder to produce chlorine and is unable to do so, overworking the unit and making it wear out faster.
Get to Know Your Cell
Salt Cells are all different. Some may have a temperature sensor that reduces chlorine production when the water temperature dips below 60 degrees and ceases all production if the water goes under 50 degrees. This is to keep the unit from working hard to produce chlorine when cool water needs less of it to keep the water clean.
Other units may have a “Winter Mode” that is usually activated manually. This mode reduces production to 20% in order to protect the salt cell. Algae and bacteria don’t grow well in cold environments and 20% salt chlorine production is typically enough to maintain water clarity. This is a good way to increase the salt cell’s lifespan.
Making a Switch
If you want to switch from salt cell production to a standard method of sanitation in your pool during the winter months, you are more than welcome to do that. In fact, it may be less of a headache if you’re worried about it freezing.
Many pool owners make the transition to chlorine tablets once the water dips to 60 degrees. Tablets can be distributed through a floater or a traditional chlorinator. You could also treat the pool every few weeks with liquid chlorine or bleach.
To chlorinate with bleach, add regular unscented Clorox at a rate of 1 gallon per 20,000 gallons in the pool to raise the chlorine level to 1.0 ppm. Check and balance pH levels and use a cyanuric acid stabilizer at 20 ppm to protect the chlorine from the sunlight.
Removing Your Generator
If you want to remove your salt cell entirely because you live somewhere that experiences freezing temperatures, you can just remove it all together AFTER blowing the lines and draining the water from the cell and tri-sensor. Damage caused by freezing conditions is NOT covered under warranty and will usually result in the purchase of a new unit. Store indoors, preferably in a watertight container. The sensor can be removed or wrapped in plastic for storing until you reopen your pool. Avoid unnecessary damage by capping the connections on the check valve to prevent water from entering.
Once your pool water begins to heat up again (and gets out of the 50°-60° territory), you can transition back to your salt chlorine system.