How to Convert Your Pool to Salt Water – The Easy Conversion Guide

Michael Keenan


Pool Maintenance

Have you been considering converting your pool to a saltwater system? It’s a great option. Not only is it much easier on the eyes, hair and skin, but it’s cheaper to maintain than traditional chlorine pools. But what do you need to consider when making the switch?

This article will provide an easy guide on how to convert your pool to a salt water system. From assessing existing systems in your pool through to balancing chemistry levels and selecting a chlorinator.

Let’s take a dive into all there is to know about saltwater pool conversion!

salt water pool conversion

Quick Answer:

Salt water pools have become popular because they’re easy to maintain and healthier than traditional chlorine pools. Converting your pool to a salt water system is relatively simple and cost-effective, with the chlorinator cell needing replacement only once every few years.

Some advantages include reduced levels of chloramines, fewer sensitivity issues, less green hair problems, and lower maintenance costs. However there are some drawbacks like calcium build up and equipment damage from salt corrosion which can be prevented by installing a zinc anode. Keep reading for all the details you need.

What Is a Salt Water Pool?

When you speak about a salt water pool, the biggest misconception is that a salt water pool does not make use of chlorine to sanitize the water; however, that’s not true and chlorine is still used to keep the water clean.

The main difference is that in a salt water pool, there is a salt cell that works with the salt to produce its own chlorine.

This means that your pool has lower chlorine levels compared to a traditional pool and also, you will not need to add chlorine manually to sanitize your pool because the pool creates chlorine automatically.

And, although the salt water pool contains chlorine, it does not have the same reactions to the eyes, hair and skin and it does not produce unpleasant chloramines.

Reasons for a Salt Water Pool Conversion

Here are some key reasons why you should consider converting a chlorine pool to a salt water one:


Often, we associate the typical “pool smell” of the swimming pool to lots of chlorine; however, this is not true. This is because of chloramines, which are chemicals that are created when the chlorine in the pool comes reacts with your sweat and urine.

Over time, the chloramines build up and reduce the effectiveness of chlorine in disinfecting the water and minimizes its germ fighting effects.

Also, the chloramines cause irritation of the skin, eyes and lungs. The chloramines can build up in the air that surrounds the pool, especially in the case of indoor pools and can cause coughing and even an asthma attack.

Chlorine Sensitivity Issues

Exposure to chlorine frequently can cause you to develop sensitivity or an allergy to it. And, if you’re sensitive to chlorine, swimming in a chlorine pool can cause skin dryness, itchy skin, hives and rashes.

And, if you suffer from respiratory issues like allergic rhinitis, breathing problems or asthma, then swimming in a chlorinated pool frequently can worsen your symptoms.

So, if your chlorine pool is causing discomfort, then converting the pool into a saltwater one is the best solution for you.

Green Hair Problems

Prolonged exposure to chlorine can turn your hair green, which is not very fashionable. This occurs because the copper present in the pool water turns your hair green and the high levels of chlorine in the water can make the color worse.

Copper bonds with chlorine readily, coating your hair green. A salt water pool reduces the likelihood of green-colored hair.

Reduced Maintenance Costs

By converting your swimming pool to a salt water one, there is no need to add chlorine to your pool anymore. A salt water pool is much cheaper to maintain compared to a chlorine pool.

The cost of the saltwater pool maintenance depends on many factors such as the size of the pool, location and quality of equipment.

The main cost is the chlorinator and replacing the chlorinator salt cell i.e. the part which converts the salt to chlorine, constitutes the long-term cost.

A good quality salt cell chlorinator should last up to 5 years if maintained well. Also, you need to keep your water balanced and in the case of a salt water pool, you need fewer chemicals to maintain the water balance, which helps to reduce the cost compared to a chlorine pool.

Softer Water

Salt water is softer on the skin compared to a chlorinated pool. And, if you maintain the pool properly, you can prevent itchy skin and also, salt water pools don’t cause problems such as red eyes.

In fact, salt water pools contain much less salt as compared to seawater, which makes the water much softer and also, you won’t notice the salt and it does not taste salty like sea water.

Reasons to Stay with a Chlorine Pool

As discussed above, we can see that there are several advantages of having a salt water pool; however, there are some limitations too.

Calcium Build Up

While even traditional chlorine pools have calcium build up; however, in salt water pools, there is a rise in the pH levels quite often and if this is not balanced, then you will end up with calcium build up and scaling that causes ugly deposits and clogged filters.

Salt Cell Cost

Salt cells cost between $200 to $700, depending on the type of model and the size of your pool. Fortunately, the salt cells will last quite a long time before they need to be replaced. But remember, you will save on maintenance costs.

Equipment Damage

Typically, salt water corrodes all the pool equipment made of metal and also causes the fading and staining of the pool surfaces. And, replacing the pool equipment can be quite expensive; however, you can prevent salt water corrosion by installing a zinc anode.

Choosing a Saltwater System for Your Pool

If you’ve decided to convert your traditional chlorine pool to a salt water one, then here are a few factors to consider before selecting the system:

Cost of Conversion

Depending on the type of unit, the cost of a salt water system can range between $200 and $2,500. The price essentially depends on the pool size and the extra features of the system.

However, the cost is not restricted to the salt water system alone. You need to also check the cost of the replacement cells, which need to be replaced once every 3 to 5 years. So, you must ensure that these are also within your budget.

Size of the Pool

The salt water system will operate depending on the size of the pool and the amount of water in it. So, you must pick a system that will be able to run your pool efficiently.

Choosing a unit that is larger than the requirements of your swimming pool is fine; however, picking a smaller one means that it may not work efficiently and you will probably replace it within a year.

Installing a Saltwater System

If you have finally decided to convert your traditional pool to a salt water pool, next you must decide whether you want to hire an expert to do it or do it yourself as a DIY project. Doing the job yourself can help you to save a lot of money.

However, you must keep in mind that the job involves some basic electrical and pool plumbing work, using hand tools and cutting PVC pipes and gluing them. So, if you’re not sure about doing these things, then it is better to call in the experts.

If you’re planning to do the job on your own, then here are the things you must do:

Check the Existing Systems

First, you must check all the existing systems and components including the pipes, pumps, interior pool materials. Most pools can be converted easily but you need to be aware of the corrosion mentioned above. It is important to determine if the salt will affect the systems.

Once all the parts are appropriate for conversion, then you can start.

Checking the Existing Pool Water

You need not change the water or drain the pool cleaners before converting the pool because most of them are suitable for use with chlorine.

However, some antibacterial products such as polyhexamethylene biguanide do not work along with chlorine cleaners. If you’re using this, you can either burn it out with extra chlorine or switch out the pool water before converting it.

Balancing the Pool Chemistry

Once you determine that the salt water conversion will be able to work with the existing chemicals, then you must balance the chemicals to get the pool chemistry to normal. Normally, the levels of your pool water should be:

  • pH Level: 7.4 to 7.6
  • Calcium Hardness: 200 to 400
  • Total Alkalinity: 80 to 140 ppm
  • Free Chlorine: 1 to 3 ppm

While the phosphate levels do not have to be balanced, in the case of saltwater pools, it is a good idea to do so because the phosphates act like a glue for the contaminants, which can cause the build up of scale inside the salt cell.

The phosphate level in the pool of less than 200 is usually recommended and if required, you can buy a phosphate reducer.

If any of the levels in your pool water are off, then you must ensure to take steps to correct them and it may take a few days to balance the pool because the pool water must circulate properly and the water must be well balanced before the conversion.

Selecting a Salt Chlorinator

The best salt chlorinator system should be big enough for the pool size and be reliable enough to avoid regular replacement. At the same time, it must be affordable.

There are several different types of chlorinators and any system will allow you to modify the amount of chlorine it produces, which will make it quite easy for you to adjust the pool.

However, advanced systems offer features like freeze protection, automatic cleaning, digital readouts, flow control, etc. Some of these extra features are useful, especially in larger pool installations.

Installing the Salt Chlorinator

When you have selected a salt chlorinator, you can get a professional company to install it or you can do it by yourself. Come on guys! It really is easy enough to do yourself.

However, you must do it soon after you have the pool balanced and ready. Most systems come with clear installation guides. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the chlorinator installation.

Just be careful with electrics! If you need to to move an electrical point it really is wise to hire an electrician. Don’t mess with the old electrics! Make a mistake with plumbing – you get wet. Make a mistake with electricity …. not good.

Adding Salt

Before installing the chlorinator, add the salt by pouring it in. However, if you’re not sure of how much salt is required, you can use an online calculator to determine the amount of salt required.

While the purest form of salt is mined salt, mechanically evaporated salt or solar salt is also fine. Just buy a good quality pool salt brand. These are formulated specifically for use in salt cell chlorinators.

Typically, it takes around 24 hours for all the salt to dissolve; however, smaller crystals of salt will take less time. Simply buy the salt and follow the instructions as per the chlorinator.

Always pour the salt in the pool’s shallow end, away from the skimmer. Pour the salt against the water flow in case you want to pour the salt in different areas of the pool. This will help to create a uniform distribution.

Testing the Pool Water

Test the pool water and note the results. After a week, test the pool again and see if the results are different. After running for a week, your pool should stabilize and if the numbers are not consistent, then there is a problem with the system.

If the concentration of salt is very high, then you may have to replace some of the pool water and if it’s too low, then you must add more salt. You can use a pool calculator to get the right salt concentration.

Once the chlorine level becomes normal, then the salt system will continue doing its job.

Keeping the Chlorinator Clean

You should aim to clean the chlorinator about every 3 months according to the instructions in the manual. You may have to make use of hydrochloric acid to clean the chlorinator; however, it is best to avoid it unless the salt cells of the chlorinator are badly scaled.

Maintaining the Salt System

Once you find the proper setting, the chlorine generator will continue to maintain the balanced chlorine level; however, you must check the chemistry of the pool occasionally to ensure that everything is in balance.

Usually, salt water pools tend to have high pH levels and to prevent cloudy water and scaling, you can add muriatic acid to reduce the pH levels.

Also, keep the pool clean. Brush and vacuum it and keep it free of dirt and debris. You must also maintain the pump to ensure that the water is flowing to maximize the effectiveness of the salt cell and ensure that it is long lasting.

Extend the Lifespan of the Salt Cell

Typically, the salt cell lasts around 3 to 7 years and is quite expensive to replace and so, you may want to take a few steps to ensure that you get the most of it.

As long as the pH level is balanced, it will help to keep the salt cells healthy. Unbalanced pH levels can cause build up and deposits on the generator and cause it to wear more quickly.

Ensure that the salt cell’s blades are cleaned and hose off any visible scaling. You can use a mild acid solution to dissolve any stubborn build ups.

Common Questions:

What type of equipment is necessary to convert a pool to salt water?

To convert a pool to salt water, you’ll need a saltwater chlorinator, a compatible pump and filter, and some additional plumbing components.

How much salt is needed for the conversion process?

The amount of salt needed depends on the size of the pool, but generally around 4-6 pounds per 1,000 gallons is necessary for conversion.

Are there any safety considerations that need to be taken into account when making the conversion?

When converting your pool to salt water, it’s important to take safety into account by making sure all electrical components are properly grounded and installed according to local codes.

How long does it typically take to complete the conversion process?

Generally, the conversion process takes anywhere from 8-14 hours depending on the size of the pool and complexity of installation.

Is Salt Water Pool Concersion Right for You?

Converting a chlorine pool to a saltwater system can offer many benefits, such as reduced maintenance costs and softer water. Although this process may seem daunting, it is actually quite simple if you have the correct equipment and knowledge.

Some people decide to hire an expert for the job, but it can be done as a DIY project with some basic tools. The chlorinators usually come with detailled installation instructions. Don’t be afraid to give it a go.

Before converting your pool, make sure to check the existing systems and components, balance the pool chemistry and select an appropriate salt chlorinator system.

After installation is complete, add the required amount of salt according to manufacturer instructions. With these steps, you’ll have a clean and healthy saltwater pool in no time!

michael keenan author

Author - Michael Keenan

I'm Michael Keenan the owner and creator of the Outdoor Care Guide. I'm a trained horticulturist with over 30 years of experience in pool care, plant care, and landscape care! Seemed like a good idea to share - I think I can make your life easier and save you some time and money!