How Long Should Salt Water Chlorine Generators for Pools Last?
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.
Then we'll reveal the average lifespan of salt chlorine generators...along with a few pointers on how to make yours last longer.
How long does a salt chlorine generator for a pool last?
A well-maintained salt chlorine generator will last 3–7 years. Replacing the salt cell costs $700–$1100. Replacing the control board costs $500–$900. You can extend the lifespans by maintaining a consistent salt level, cleaning the cell only when needed, and using the reverse polarity function.
How a salt chlorine generator works
Salt chlorinators have two major components:
- The cell
- The control board
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. The control board sends an electrical charge to the cell, and electrolysis occurs, which produces chlorine.
Eventually the metallic coating on the cells erodes, requiring the cell to be replaced.
A well maintained cell will last 3–7 years at an average replacement cost of $700–$1100.
Factors that Impact the Lifespan of a Salt Chlorinator Cell
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.
You clean the cell by submerging it 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 to be replaced, 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. It also allows the user to control how much electricity is sent to the cell— 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 board's life span may vary dramatically for no obvious reason.
A typical lifespan is 3 to 7 years at a replacement cost of $500–$900.
Extending the Life of a Salt Chlorine Generator
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 manufacturers.
- Purchase chlorinators with reverse polarity, a function that greatly reduces scale build-up on the cell.
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Editor's note: This blog article was updated on January 30, 2019.