Are you interested in how to convert your hot tub to a saltwater hot tub? Do you even know what this means? Don’t worry, I am going to explain all in this easy to follow guide.
I’ll explain exactly what a saltwater system is, and how it works. I’ll cover the main advantages and look at any disadvantages. Then we see how to convert your traditional chemical based hot tub to a more eco-friendly saltwater one.
Let’s learn a little about how to get there, shall we?
To convert your hot tub to a saltwater hot tub you’ll need a saltwater conversion kit ($150 – $400) and spa salt. The kit includes a saltwater chlorinator with an electric control unit and a salt cell (or electrode).
It’s a great way to enjoy the spa experience and reduce the use of chemicals. It produces naturally soft, great-smelling water free of harmful chemicals. The process is easy and affordable, but does require some initial setup costs. Over time these costs are offset by savings on traditional chemical sanitizers.
What Is a Salt Water Hot Tub?
First let’s look at most people’s first impression – No, you don’t just fill your hot tub with sea water or drop in some household salt!
A salt water hot tub is a bit more complicated than that. Instead of using plain chlorine as your sanitizer, these systems are powered by a salt cell chlorinator. These can be used in both hot tubs and swimming pools. They are also called saltwater conversion kits. A salt cell chlorinator generates its own chlorine from the respective salt cells.
Most people who convert their hot tub to saltwater do so to reduce the chemicals they use to keep the water clean and healthy. Maintaining this type of spa at home is both convenient and cost-effective. Have a look at my article about the pros and cons of hot tubs – maintenence costs can be a downside!
In the next section, I cover the main advantages to saltwater spa systems.
Advantages of a Saltwater Hot Tub
If you are looking for reasons to convert your spa to a saltwater system, there are several:
- A saltwater hot tub system is a lot more gentle on your skin than a traditional chlorine system. That is because it makes the water soft and your skin and eyes will feel less irritation.
- Since the chlorine is naturally produced, it does not leave any smell behind unlike a traditional tub to which chlorine has been added manually. It does not produce harmful chloramines.
- Salt is a readily available, natural mineral and is relatively cheap when compared to traditional hot tub chemicals.
- Salt water is eco-friendly. So you don’t end up releasing harmful chemicals into the environment after cleaning it.
- Salt water is also great for exfoliation purposes! Most users claim the water feels nicer than traditional chemical set-ups.
- It can mean less maintenance. The salt cell chlorinator regulates itself and releases the right amount of salt and chlorine at all times.
Because the volume of water used in hot tubs is so much less than in pools, saltwater systems are much easier to install and run. That’s a lot of positives if you ask me! There must be a downside?
There really are few downsides to having a salt water hot tub.
- Salt water systems are initially a bit more expensive than regular systems and filters. But once you take into account the set-up cost of conversion, they are cheaper to run.
- Although they are easy to maintain, a salt water hot tub will still need some chemicals. For example, it is good practice to shock your hot tub periodically.
- Not all hot tubs are suitable to convert to saltwater. This is more to do with their construction materials. It’s best to check with you manufacturer before converting.
All seems great so far. Now we get to the how!
How to Convert Your Hot Tub to Saltwater
There are several steps in this process and it is actually quite easy once you’ve done the math.
In fact, you might be glad to know that it takes more work to prepare for the conversion than to go through the process. As always, let’s start with the list of things you will need to finish the conversion without interruptions.
- Drop-in salt water chlorinator
- Sump pump (optional)
- Filter cleaner or new filter
- White vinegar or hot tub cleaner
- Standard test strips
- Hot tub salt
Now you are ready to go:
- Pick a salt water system from the many choices out in the market. Whichever you choose to purchase, just make sure it suits hot tubs.
- Drain and clean the hot tub – flushing out the pipes with a cleaner or white vinegar mixed in water. Personally, I always use a pro spa cleaning product.
- Replace the old filters then refill the hot tub with fresh water.
- Install a ground fault circuit interrupter or a GFCI to your salt water system which helps prevent electrocutions. You will have to call an electrician to get this done.
- Fix the chlorinator control unit on one of the walls of the hot tub and connect it to the drop-in salt cell.
- Check the water chemistry of your hot tub. This can be done using a standard test strip. Check the levels of pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness to make sure they are in the recommended range for your chlorinator.
- Place the cell holder using electrical tape or any other material recommended by the manufacturer. Check the chlorinator kit for this item.
- Add the salt cells. Some are required to be submerged in the water while others float. Some manufacturers also make it in a way that it dangles at the edge of the wall of your hot tub. Read the instructions to make sure you got it right.
- Plug in the salt cell generator using in the GFCI outlet.
- Power up the chlorinator and add the required amount of salt to the hot tub. The water from your source might already have some amount of salt but that does not matter.
If you’re wondering how much salt to add, check the user manual. It will tell you what is appropriate for the system you have purchased.
You must also remember that when it comes to salt water hot tubs, you should not use table salt, rock salt or epsom salt. If you end up damaging your hot tub because of these products, you might void the warranty. They are also bad news for your hot tub’s water chemistry.
That’s how easy it is! As with most things, if you can afford it, spend a little extra on a good qualty salt cell chlorinator. They all come with easy to follow instructions and details of the exact ammounts of salt you need to add based on your hot tub size.
Prices of hot tub saltwater conversion kits range from around $150 to $400 or more. You need to buy one that suits the volume of water your spa holds. Then if you need any extra feaures. Due to smaller water volumes, they are cheaper than pool saltwater conversion kits.
Once installed, they will run automatically and most will monitor the salt levels, telling you when they need a boost.
Now, be sensible here. You still need to monitor your hot tub water regularly to keep it safe and healthy. Regularly test your hot tub water and remember to shock it when neccessary.
My family and I were lucky enough to stay at a beautiful seafront villa in North Bali with a saltwater hot tub and pool. It was my first time experiencing this system. I have to say, you do need to try it to understand why people make the effort to switch.
The water quality was really amazing. No smell, and it just felt nicer – hard to explain. Then there was the maintenance. You still had cleaning tasks but not having to add chemicals regularly was great.
I would recommend trying a saltwater system if you get the chance. Then you’ll want to convert!
What tools and materials are needed to convert your hot tub to a saltwater hot tub?
To convert a hot tub to salt water, you will need a salt water conversion kit, spa salt, a power drill, and a pool test kit.
What type of salt should be used in a salt water hot tub?
The type of salt that should be used is either sodium chloride or kosher grade natural sea salt. You can buy branded spa salt online and from any pool supplies outlet.
How long does the conversion process typically take?
Depending on your hot tub size and condition, the conversion process should only take a couple of hours or so.
Are there any special maintenance considerations for a salt water hot tub?
Yes, maintenance for a salt water hot tub requires regularly checking the salinity levels and adding additional salt when needed. They do need to be shocked from time to time.
Is it cost effective to convert a hot tub to salt water versus using traditional chlorine or bromine treatments?
Converting a hot tub to salt water can be cost effective in the long run as it eliminates the need for regular chlorine and bromine treatments which can be expensive over time.
In The End
Converting your hot tub to a saltwater system is a pretty easy process. Take some time and do your research on the best saltwater chlorinator for your hot tub. They all work in a similar way but some will have better quality than others. They will last longer and be more accurate in their chlorine delivery.
Once you make the switch, your converted hot tub will give you a great experience, starting with the softness of the water and no strong chlorine smells! Great for people with sensetive skin and those looking to be a little more environmentally friendly.
You’ll also end up using sanitizers like chlorine less often than you thought and that’s always good news. You get to enjoy a luxurious spa with very little effort.
Isn’t that the whole point!
Last update on 2023-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API