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How Long Should Salt Water Chlorine Generators for Pools Last?


how long salt chlorinators lastYou may be wondering: How long should the Salt Chlorine Generator for my inground pool last? Let’s take a quick look, but first let’s take a second to understand exactly how salt water chlorinators actually work.

Salt chlorinators have two major components: the Cell and the Control Board.

The Cell

The cell is the part of the system that actually converts Salt (NaCl) to Chlorine.  Water passes through the cell and over solid titanium plates that are coated with either ruthenium or iridium, which are naturally occurring metals.  As a charge is sent to the cell from the control board and electrolysis occurs resulting in the production of chlorine. 


Eventually the metallic coating on the cells erodes away, requiring the cell to be replaced, but there are several factors that impact how long your cell could last.    

Factors that impact Chlorinator Cell Life

A well maintained cell will last 3-7 years at an average replacement cost of $700-$1100.  The life span of a chlorinator cell can be significantly shortened by two things: Too Frequent or Improper Cleaning

As the chlorinator cell produces chlorine, scale develops on the metallic grids decreasing its performance.  The cell is cleaned by submerging in a mild acid solution (usually 1 part acid to 15 parts water) until the scale that has developed has dissolved. 

Cleaning the cell too frequently or using an acid solution that is too concentrated will prematurely erode the coating off the titanium grids, and thus rendering the cell useless.  Many times, when the cell needs replacing pool owners find that it makes sense to replace the entire chlorine generator because a new unit is only a couple hundred dollars more. 

The Control Board

The working end of the machine, the cell, receives its charge from the Control Board.  The primary function of the control board is provide electricity to the cell, and allow the user to control how much electricity is sent to the cell, thus controlling how much chlorine is produced. 

The primary component of the control board is an internal circuit board.  Due to the nature of electronics, a circuit boards life span may vary dramatically for no obvious reason.  A typical life span is 3 to 7 years at a replacement cost of $500-$900. 

Proper Maintenance For Salt Chlorinators

To maximize the life of your salt chlorinator, consider the following tips:

  • Maintain a consistent salt level (typically 2700-3900 ppm)
  • Clean the chlorinator cell at least once a season or as needed
  • Avoid too frequent cleaning of the chlorinator cell
  • Turn pool equipment off during lightning storms to avoid damaging power surges
  • Keep Calcium levels as low as possible and still remain in accordance with guidelines set by pool equipment manufactures.
  • Purchase Chlorinators with Reverse Polarity, a function that greatly reduces scale build-up on the cell.

Well there you have it, the average life span of salt chlorine generators revealed…..along with a few pointers on how to make yours last longer.   

If you’re new to our site please take a second to look around as we have written extensively on most major topics regarding inground pools.  Also take a moment to subscribe to our blog to stay on the cutting edge of the pool industry. 

Please feel free to share any comments or questions you may have below.  Thanks!


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Can a pool owner clean the cell or should it been done by a professional?
Posted @ Wednesday, June 29, 2011 5:59 AM by Jim Wassum
We are now advising our customers to avoid using cal-hypo shock to reduce calcium load in water. The Pool Shoppe. Opelousas,La.
Posted @ Wednesday, June 29, 2011 11:00 AM by Jim Adams
We have fiber glass pool about 30 years old had 
Had pool resurfaced 4 years ago. We converted to salt last summer. Problem we are having is black spots on sides and bottom of pool. Black algy was treated for but this was not successful What may be my problem and how can I fix. Thanks
Posted @ Saturday, July 02, 2011 9:31 AM by Butch Bertrand
Pool owners can certainly clean the cell themselves. Submerge the cell in a bucket of 1 part muriatic acid to 15 parts water and remove once fizzing stops. Then spray off with garden hose and replace. Great question Jim! 
Thanks for that piece of info Jim...calcium can be a bear huh? 
It sounds like black algae Butch...that stuff is very stubborn and sometimes requires multiple treatments. If it's not black algae, it could be whats known as cobalting, which is when contaminates bleed through the gelcoat and stain the surface. There are cobalting treatments on the market. I think Jacks Magic makes one. Good Luck!
Posted @ Thursday, July 07, 2011 10:50 AM by Jason Hughes
At the beginning of our 3rd season with our pool I am learning there is a lot about taking care of the pool I was not told when the pool was commissioned. I was not told I need to check the salt level. I now know how. I was not told about stabilizer. I do not have clue how to check to see if this needs to be added. I also was not told how to adjust the pH. Your blog talks about excessive calcium. How to I test for that. When the pool was opened by your crew this Spring, the control board would only go to 80%. I talked to Rebecca and she suggested adding 1/2 bag of salt. I did and now the meter only goes to 65%. Salt level is 3740ppm. Chlorine level is good. pH is >8.2. Sounds like I need a comprehensive education about maintaining my pool.
Posted @ Friday, June 15, 2012 8:26 AM by Jim Wassum
I just replaced by Aqua Rite T-Cell-15 with the Hayward Goldline GLX-Cell-15-W. My pool and salt system in 13 years old and this is our 4 T-Cell, which is not bad for Florida. The new cell has been in the circulating system for 4+ hours and the Red Light on the Control Panel is on next to "No Salt". It is not blinking, it is on continulously, whihc means chlorine is not being made. Pinch a Penny tested my water and my salt level is great at 3200 and I'm OK on stabilizer. They told me at Pinch A Penny that it sometimes takes a day or 2 for the control panel and replacement cell to synchronize so that chlorine is being properly made on a steady basis. Is that correct?
Posted @ Saturday, July 28, 2012 3:51 PM by Richard B
You give the right answer about how long should the salt water chlorin generator for pool last and also describe the component of salt chlorinator with their features.your blog also give the tips how can we do maintenance of the cell.I like this blog. 
salt chlorinator cells
Posted @ Wednesday, July 10, 2013 3:24 AM by Shane
I like this blog very much as the features given for our pool are really very helpful.After reading this blog my queries have been solved. Thanks for posting these features....Great job.. Awaiting for your next blog....
Posted @ Saturday, August 03, 2013 12:32 AM by pool salt chlorinator
I purchased a Hayward Aqua Rite replacement Salt Cell my second one in 6 yrs it lasted 1 yr to date the warranty ran out so about 4 months in use I spent over $500.00 dollars I keep my pool up and I let it run just during the day. I sure can't pay $500.00 for 4 months. I contacted the Hayward products and the company that has sold me the cell. They will of course sell me a new one but I will not buy one from them again. Could you give me any suggestions.Thank you, Jackie
Posted @ Friday, September 27, 2013 2:38 PM by Jackie Whetstine
I have a Pentair IC40 Salt Generator. I had to have it replaced within the first year and now, only another 2 years down the line, it looks like I might have to replace it again as the low salt red light is continually on - meaning it isn't making dalt - however, my pool salt level reads fine at 3400. 
I think this is not very good if the salt cells are only going to last between one and two years, is there a better salt cell that would fit my pipes? 
Posted @ Saturday, January 18, 2014 12:37 PM by Janet Bice
We have the Hayward Aqua IC40 Rite cell. It was saying it needed clean and when to add salt. However when we had our water tested there was no chlorine level. We cleaned the cell which was the dirtiest we have seen. Now it is not producing chlorine at all no lights come on to say dirty or add salt. This is only about 5 months old
Posted @ Thursday, March 13, 2014 7:37 AM by
Where would you recommend buying an Autopilot SC-36 replacement cell?
Posted @ Friday, April 11, 2014 1:21 PM by Bobby
@Bobby...I am also looking to purchase a replacement cell SC-36. Check this website out, lowest price for replacement cell. They also have a Compupool cell GRC/AP/SC36 that will work for a whole lot less. Have you found any bargins?  
- Louie
Posted @ Sunday, May 11, 2014 11:38 AM by Louie
I have a Zodiac LM2-24 salt pool chlorinator system. How can I test the output of the control unit? I have checked across the plates in the chlorinator. Voltage depending upon control unit setting varied from 9.4 to 15.5 volts. To me, this implies that the control unit is working properly. Can someone give me expected voltage and actual test procedure?
Posted @ Thursday, May 29, 2014 5:28 PM by Richard Werner
I have a zodiac salt water system lm3-40 that will not come on automatically. It works well manually. I am told that the transformer is bad but it seem the part is obsolete. Can you help? Thanks. 
Posted @ Saturday, May 31, 2014 9:10 AM by Bob Roseman
Same problem as Richard. Pentair, red ''low salt'' is continuously on. Salt level in pool is good, but no chlorine because it's not being generated. Please don't tell me i need to replace it already, it's not even 2 years old!
Posted @ Saturday, May 31, 2014 8:04 PM by Roxane
When I turn on the salt generator I have a cloudy white substance that comes out of the return jets. I have cleaned the cell and it is still doing this. Is it time to replace the cell?
Posted @ Sunday, June 01, 2014 5:22 PM by Angie
My salt system is not making chlorine. The cell was tested at Leslie's, and is good. How can I trouble shoot my control board? (goldline Controler) 
Thank you
Posted @ Sunday, August 03, 2014 9:01 AM by Kim
Has anyone experienced a white film on their coping around the spa area? 
It looks like a salt buildup where our fountain splashes on the coping, predominately on one side. 
Is there a cleaner that will remove this build-up or  
a professional cleaning service that can remove it. 
Posted @ Saturday, August 09, 2014 12:07 PM by Jim
I recently put a brand new panel and t15 cell. It works fine and generates chlorine but after a little while check cell light comes on and stops generating. What could be the problem?
Posted @ Wednesday, August 13, 2014 5:28 PM by Michael
do not buy from Compu Pools, as they have a pattern of complaints concerning warranties not being honored or honored in a timely manner. - See more at:
Posted @ Monday, August 25, 2014 7:47 PM by Brian
My Pentair saltinator device was installed with the pool in early 2007, cleaned only once 2 years ago, and am finishing this season with it working well thus far. My pool runs 6hrs a day, 6.5 months a year. Keep the pool clean and water treated well, and these things should last.
Posted @ Wednesday, September 10, 2014 1:05 PM by Mike
Things that affect electrode life. 
The composition of the coating, Iridium is better than Ruthenium in so far as longevity and production are concerned.  
The best single polarity material to date is Denora's DSA (dimensionally stable Anode) material but again this is subjective. This material has been known in the field and under ideal conditions to last up to 24 years... BUT, water chemistry plays a big part in electrode life. 
This is for single polarity electrodes NOT self cleaning electrodes. 
only 20% of the world's manufacturer's of domestic chlorinators use single polarity electrodes. The rest use reverse polarity to assist in cleaning cells. 
Self cleaning / reverse polarity electrodes are all anode material and have a life rated in hours. 
The best material currently available on the planet is rated to 15,000 hours. 
Most use 10,000 hour material as the cost for the longer life is prohibitive for the slight gain. 
This also all comes back to current density, number of reversals and frequency of reversals. 
While there are other factors that affect life these are the most critical. 
Every time the electrodes reverse coated material is thrown off. 
Water chemistry still plays a more important part in keeping electrodes clean and lower calcium levels are a plus. 
Adding Magnesium Chloride to raise the hardness is far better that calcium chloride. 
With circuit boards, this is an engineering issue and poor engineering results in short life. 
Our product is designed to be reliable and efficient but we currently only make a single polarity electrode set which means that our electrodes require cleaning periodically. 
Our power supplies are known in the field to work reliably for 20 - 25 years without fault. 
The internal technology has changed over time but the outside casing has followed the same design for the last 15 years. 
Salt levels are also subjective to the unit converting the chloride to chlorine. 
Our units were originally designed around a salt level of 6000ppm. This was done so that it would be difficult to get lung damage if a child sucked in a lungful of air or heaven forbid drowned. 
It is closer to isotonic with body fluids which is 9000ppm. 
The reason that most companies use lower salt levels is because people don't like carrying salt. 
The higher salt levels are easier on the skin and take longer to get wrinkly skin.
Posted @ Wednesday, September 24, 2014 1:04 AM by Andrew Romer
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