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How Long Should Salt Water Chlorine Generators for Pools Last?

By: Jason Hughes on June 28th, 2011

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How Long Should Salt Water Chlorine Generators for Pools Last?

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You 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.   

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