Saltwater Pool Salt Cell Need Replacing? Here’s How To Tell

Saltwater pools have become increasingly popular among pool owners due to their low maintenance and cost-effectiveness. However, one important component of a saltwater pool is the salt cell, which is responsible for producing chlorine to keep the pool clean and clear.

Over time, the salt cells can become worn out and may need to be replaced. But how does a pool owner know when it’s time to replace the cell? There are a few signs to look out for, such as a decrease in chlorine production, cloudy water, and an increase in algae growth.

By understanding these signs, pool owners can take the necessary steps to ensure their pool remains in top condition and continues to provide a refreshing swim for years to come.

Saltwater Pool Salt Cell Need Replacing? This article talks about what you need to look for when your salt cell starts to go bad. There is also a guide to replacing it your self and tips for hiring a repair person to do it for you.

What is a Salt Cell

A salt cell is a critical component of a saltwater pool system that produces chlorine to sanitize the pool water. It is also known as a salt chlorinator or salt chlorine generator. The cell contains a series of titanium plates coated with a thin layer of precious metals such as ruthenium, iridium, or platinum.

When saltwater passes through the salt cell, an electric current is applied to the plates, which triggers a chemical reaction that converts the salt into chlorine gas. The chlorine gas then dissolves in the water, forming hypochlorous acid, which is a powerful sanitizer that kills bacteria, viruses, and other harmful contaminants in the pool water.

Salt cells are designed to last for several years, but they do require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance. Over time, the precious metal coating on the plates can wear off, reducing the efficiency of the cell and leading to lower chlorine levels in the pool water.

To maintain the salt cell, it is essential to monitor the salt level in the pool water regularly. If the salt level is too low, the cell will not be able to produce enough chlorine to sanitize the water effectively. On the other hand, if the salt level is too high, it can damage the cell and reduce its lifespan.

If you’re curious about using other types of salt in your saltwater pool, I’ve written about using Water Softener Salt in your Pool.

Signs of a Failing Salt Cell

Salt cells are an essential component of saltwater pools. They convert salt into chlorine, which keeps the pool clean and sanitized. However, over time, salt cells can wear out and fail. Here are some signs that your cell may need replacing.

Visible Signs

One of the most obvious signs of a failing salt cell is visible damage. If the cell has cracks or other physical damage, it may not be functioning correctly. Additionally, if there is significant calcium buildup on the cell, it may be time to replace it.

Visible Signs Your Salt Cell Needs to be Replaced

Performance Issues

If your pool is not producing enough chlorine or is not as clean as it used to be, it may be due to a failing salt cell. Low chlorine levels, algae growth, and unstable water chemistry can all be signs that the cell is not functioning correctly.

Cell Warning Light

Many saltwater pool systems have a warning light that indicates when the salt cell needs replacing. If this light comes on, it is essential to have the cell checked by a professional.

Flow Switch

A flow switch is another component that can indicate a failing salt cell. If the flow switch is not functioning correctly, it may prevent the cell from producing chlorine.

Control Box

The control box is responsible for regulating the salt cell’s function. If the control box is not working correctly, it can cause the cell to fail.


Regular servicing of the salt cell can help to prolong its lifespan. If the cell has not been serviced in a long time, it may be time to have it checked by a professional.

Water Temperature, pH and Alkalinity, Stabilizer and Cyanuric Acid

Water temperature, pH and alkalinity, stabilizer, and cyanuric acid levels can all affect the performance of the salt cell.

Calcium Buildup, Hard Water and Minerals

Calcium buildup, hard water, and mineral deposits can all affect the performance of the salt cell.

Bather Load, Rain and Sunlight

Bather load, rain, and sunlight can all affect the performance of the salt cell. If the pool is heavily used, or if there is a lot of rain or sunlight, it can cause the cell to fail.

Heater and Filter, Cleaning and Maintenance

The heater and filter, as well as regular cleaning and maintenance, can all affect the performance of the salt cell.

What Can Happen if A Damaged Salt Cell Is Not Replaced

Ignoring a damaged or inefficient salt cell in your saltwater pool can lead to various undesirable outcomes. Primarily, it can disrupt the proper chemical balance of your pool, leading to unsanitary swimming conditions.

When the salt cell isn’t working efficiently, it can’t generate enough chlorine. This failure can cause the pool water to become unsanitary, leading to algae growth and potentially harmful bacteria. Over time, swimming in such conditions can lead to skin irritations and eye infections.

A damaged salt cell might also lead to excessive salt levels. When a cell is unable to convert salt into chlorine effectively, the salinity in your pool can increase. This high salinity can be corrosive to pool equipment, the pool’s interior surface, and even the surrounding decking.

Lastly, not replacing a malfunctioning cell can cause more extensive damage to your pool’s entire chlorination system. This could result in higher repair costs in the long run.

Remember, an efficiently functioning cell is the key to the optimal performance of your saltwater pool.

How Often Should a Salt Cell Be Replaced in A Saltwater Pool

On average, a pool salt need replacing every 3 to 7 years. If you run your saltwater pool all year round or use it frequently, the salt cell may need replacing closer to the 3-year mark. On the other hand, if your pool usage is seasonal or relatively low, your salt cell could last up to 7 years.

Regular maintenance and monitoring of your pool’s chemistry can also extend the lifespan of your salt cell. This involves keeping your pool clean, ensuring the correct water balance, and inspecting the cell for any scale build-up.

In addition, the quality and brand of the salt cell can also influence its lifespan. Higher quality cells may come with a higher price tag, but they often last longer and perform more efficiently.

Ultimately, it’s important to keep an eye on your pool’s chlorine levels and the condition of your salt cell. If you notice a decline in chlorine production or visible signs of wear and tear on the cell, it may be time to consider a replacement. Remember, maintaining a healthy cell is integral to keeping your saltwater pool safe, clean, and enjoyable.

Can a Salt Cell Be Repaired, or Does It Need to Be Replaced

Some common problems, like scale build-up, can often be addressed through cleaning and maintenance. This process typically involves soaking the salt cell in a mixture of water and a mild acid, like muriatic acid or white vinegar, to dissolve the deposits.

However, if your cell is failing due to age or more serious damage, such as a broken plate or worn-out coating, it may not be repairable. In these cases, replacing the cell is usually the most effective and reliable course of action.

Attempting to repair a seriously damaged cell may only provide a temporary fix and could potentially lead to other issues in your pool’s chlorination system.

The cost of professional repairs can sometimes approach the cost of a new salt cell. Given that a new cell will come with a warranty and the certainty of proper functioning, replacement often proves to be the more economical choice in the long run.

What Are the Costs Associated with Replacing a Salt Cell

The cost of replacing a salt cell in your saltwater pool can vary based on a few key factors: the type and model of the cell, whether you choose to replace it yourself or hire a professional, and where you live, as regional price variations can apply.

The price of a new salt cell itself generally ranges between $300 and $1000, depending on the specific model and brand. Higher-end models might offer advanced features such as self-cleaning or extended lifespan, which can justify the additional expense. Hiring a professional to do the replacement will cost an additional $50 to $150+, depending on the complexity of the installation and local rates.

Also, if your pool’s chlorination system has suffered damage due to a malfunctioning cell, you may also face additional repair costs.

Remember, while the upfront cost might seem significant, replacing a failing cell is an investment in the health and longevity of your pool. Not only does a functioning salt cell ensure the cleanliness and safety of your pool, but it also helps to prevent more costly damage to your pool’s equipment and infrastructure down the line.

Are There Specific Brands or Types of Salt Cells that Are More Durable than Others

Certainly, the durability and reliability of salt cells can vary significantly based on the brand and model. While it’s not appropriate to endorse specific brands, there are a few widely recognized manufacturers in the industry known for their quality products. These often include brands such as Hayward, Pentair, and Zodiac.

  • Hayward has a reputation for producing salt cells that are robust and reliable, with models designed for different pool sizes and needs.
  • Pentair is also known for its high-quality salt cells, offering models with features such as self-cleaning capabilities.
  • Zodiac, particularly its Jandy series, is recognized for its efficient and durable salt cells.

When selecting a cell, it’s important to consider more than just the brand. Look for features that enhance durability and efficiency, such as self-cleaning capabilities, clear cell housing for easy inspection, and compatibility with your existing chlorination system.

Also, check out customer reviews and ratings to get a sense of the product’s performance and longevity. And, of course, consider the warranty provided by the manufacturer, as this can offer an additional level of security for your investment.

How do You Replace a Salt Cell in a Saltwater Pool

Replacing a salt cell in a saltwater pool is a relatively straightforward process that many pool owners can handle themselves. Here’s a general guide to help you through the steps:

  1. Turn Off the Power: Always start by turning off the power to your pool’s chlorination system to ensure safety while you’re working.
  2. Remove the Old Salt Cell: Locate the salt cell in your system. It’s typically situated between the pool’s filter and return jet. Once found, disconnect it from the power source and then unscrew or unfasten the cell from the plumbing.
  3. Inspect the Area: Before installing the new cell, inspect the area for any signs of wear, damage, or leaks that could affect the new cell’s operation.
  4. Install the New Salt Cell: Screw or fasten the new cell into place, ensuring it’s securely connected to the plumbing. Make sure it’s oriented in the correct direction – many cells will have an arrow indicating the direction of water flow.
  5. Reconnect the Power: Reconnect the new salt cell to the power source. Ensure the connections are secure.
  6. Turn On the Power: Turn the power back on and check the chlorination system’s operation. Many systems will have a light or indicator to show that the cell is working correctly.
  7. Check for Leaks: Finally, look for any leaks in the area around the new cell. If you see water escaping, turn off the power and tighten the connections.

Remember, this is a general guide, and the exact steps can vary depending on your specific pool system and the type of salt cell you’re installing. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions provided with your new cell. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable with any part of the process, don’t hesitate to hire a pool professional to handle the job.

Video showing how to replace a saltwater pool salt cell

Should You Hire a Professional to Replace a Saltwater Pool’s Salt Cell

Whether a pool owner can replace a salt cell themselves largely depends on their comfort level and experience with pool maintenance. The process of replacing a cell is relatively straightforward and can often be handled by a DIY-minded pool owner.

The steps…mentioned in detail up above…typically involve turning off the power to the chlorination system, removing the old cell, installing the new one, and then turning the power back on.

However, if you are unfamiliar with your pool’s chlorination system, or if you’re not comfortable handling pool equipment, it may be best to hire a professional. A professional pool technician will have the necessary training and experience to replace the cell quickly and safely, ensuring it’s properly installed and functioning correctly.

Even if you decide to replace the cell yourself, it’s a good idea to consult with a pool professional if you encounter any issues or have any concerns during the process. And always remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions that come with your new salt cell.


Hi, I'm Chris. Who knew there could be so many interesting things about salt?!

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