The Pool Profit

Common Swimming Pool Salt System Problems

Adding a swimming pool to your backyard is a fantastic way to create your own slice of personal paradise. While using saltwater in swimming pools can be less expensive to maintain in the long run than a traditional chlorine pool, regular maintenance is still required to ensure your investment stands the test of time.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common problems that pool owners experience with swimming pool salt systems, as well as a few troubleshooting and maintenance tips that can help you avoid future problems with your swimming pool.

Common Problems with Swimming Pool Salt Systems

Swimming pool salt systems use a process known as electrolysis. Electrolysis is a process in which dissolved salt is used to produce hypochlorous acid and sodium hypochlorite, which act as swimming pool sanitizers.

However, as salt systems are regularly used, pool owners may encounter problems that could significantly impact the system’s effectiveness. Here are some of the most common issues pool owners face with their swimming pool salt systems.


Corrosion is common in swimming pools, particularly at the ladder and diving board, where saltwater can erode the deck anchors and pose a safety hazard. Salt can corrode equipment, cement, lighting fixtures, landscaping near the pool, and any area of the pool where water evaporates over time.

Chemical Use

Because saltwater pools produce their own chlorine, some pool owners believe they don’t need additional chemicals. However, saltwater systems require chemical treatments every week, including cyanuric acid, to ensure that the salt chlorine generator can achieve the proper stabilizing levels. If left untreated, children, adults, pets, and the pool itself may be at risk if cyanuric acid levels become too high.

pH Management

Saltwater pools have higher pH levels than traditional pools, but if your pool’s pH level becomes too high, it can lead to hard water (water with high mineral saturation). Hard water will cause staining and scaling, as well as mineral buildup in your heater’s exchanger or salt generator cell.  

Most manufacturers recommend keeping your water salinity levels between 2,400 and 4,000 ppm. However, operating your pool within the bottom third of this range will stress your salt cell and cause it to become defective much faster. You do not want to control your pool’s pH by reducing your water salinity. Instead, stick with adding appropriate doses of muriatic acid every couple of days or using a carbon dioxide injector system to control your pH in real-time.

Why Swimming Pool Salt System Maintenance is Important

Salt systems are one of the most vulnerable pieces of equipment in any swimming pool.

Because the unit is designed to use a low voltage current to convert the salt in the pool water into chlorine for sanitizing the pool, it can eventually cause a restriction in water flow if not monitored and cleaned routinely. This process allows mineral or hard water buildup to form on the metal flanges inside the salt cell while it converts. The rate at which this mineral buildup occurs can be affected by water temperature, water hardness, and flow.

As a result, pool owners must inspect their salt cells every 30 days to monitor how quickly the buildup occurs and use a professional treatment process to remove it regularly.

Maintenance Tips for Your Swimming Pool Salt System

Although they require less maintenance than traditional pools, swimming pool salt systems should still be monitored and maintained to ensure they continue working the way they were designed to operate. When salt systems fail, they cannot produce enough chlorine to meet the sanitization needs of the swimming pool. As a result, pool water can become dirty, resulting in poor sanitation, algae formation, and corrosion in particular areas of the pool.

Depending on the filtration system and other environmental factors, swimming pool salt systems typically last three to five years. However, over time, salt systems can develop problems that may require costly repairs, which is why regular pool service and maintenance are crucial to ensure peak performance.

Here are a few maintenance tips to help you ensure your swimming pool salt system continues working the way you expect it to operate.

Clean Debris Regularly

Foreign substances in the water can alter the pH of your pool water, so be sure to clean any debris from your pool on a daily basis.

Check the Chlorine Levels Weekly

You should keep chlorine levels between 1.0 and 3.0 ppm in all areas of the pool. Be sure to adjust your swimming pool’s chlorine generator to run for shorter or longer periods if the chlorine level is lower or higher than these levels.

Conduct Weekly pH Testing

The pH of your saltwater pool should be kept around 7.0 and 7.1, especially if you plan on using your pool heater on a regular basis. Lower pH levels can corrode the pool, filter, and generator, while higher pH levels can result in scaling, which can cause your chlorine generator to stop working. Pool stores sell a variety of chemical treatments that you can use to raise or lower pH levels.

Check Water Flow

Sufficient water flow is required for the saltwater chlorinator to function correctly. A clogged or dirty filter, a clogged skimmer basket, and a clogged pump filter can result in insufficient water flow, causing the chlorinator to produce less chlorine.

Check Salt Level

To convert salty water to chlorine, the Salt Cell requires a certain amount of salt in the water. Full-featured salt systems use a salt sensor and display the measured salt level, or they have an indicator light or error code that alerts you when the salt level falls below a certain threshold. However, salt sensors can fail, so it’s always a good idea to check your salt level with salt test strips to ensure your salt level stays within the acceptable range.

Check Water Balance

Your pool’s pH, alkalinity, and calcium hardness should all be within acceptable ranges so that the chlorine produced has the greatest killing power. Low pH can speed up the activity of chlorine, causing it to burn off faster, while high pH can slow down the activity, making your chlorine sluggish and ineffective.

Inspect and Clean the Salt Cell

The salt cell should be cleaned regularly to remove calcium deposits that diminish water flow and prevent electrolysis. Full-featured salt systems self-clean by reversing the polarity on the metal plates to slough off the calcium that is swept away by the water flow, but even self-cleaning cells require regular inspection and, in some cases, cleaning.

Also, make sure that no debris is trapped inside the cell, as some pool filter problems can cause small debris to be released into the pool.

Check Chlorine Levels

The summer heat, poor filtration, sanitization, the number of people using the pool, and the frequency of use are all factors that influence chlorine levels. Chlorine levels can drop by nearly 90% on a hot summer day. Once a week, be sure to check the free chlorine levels and adjust the chlorinator accordingly. Maintaining your pool’s pH will improve its sanitation performance.

Check Calcium Levels

High calcium levels in the chlorinator cell can cause electrode scaling and interfere with its operation. Scale deposits are caused by either a high calcium concentration or a high pH/alkalinity ratio. If you notice scale buildup, clean the cell to ensure optimal performance and avoid permanent damage to the chlorinator cell.

Clean the Generator Cell

Once every three months, remove and clean the chlorine generator cell. If you cannot remove any visible scale, soak the generator cell for a few minutes in a solution of one part muriatic acid and four parts water.

Download the PoolStar Command App

Owning an in-ground swimming pool can be a ton of fun, but unfortunately, it is also costly and requires a lot of time and maintenance to protect. Fortunately, with the PoolStar Command app, you can stay ahead of the curve and keep your pool in the best condition possible.

The PoolStar Command app is a valuable resource for any pool owner. It provides you with access to loads of pool-related resources, tips, tricks, and helpful guides to make pool ownership more manageable than ever before.

  • Integrate all of your PoolSmart IOT systems to create a universal smart pool control station.
  • Get real-time updates regarding water chemistry and water levels.
  • Receive professional ecosystem monitoring alongside a predictive maintenance program.

Download the PoolStar Command app today to get more control over your pool!