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Salt minds: customers are falling for salt pool chlorinators in a big way. Here's how to set one up.

In-line salt chlorinators are more popular than ever. As a service technician, knowing how to work with them begins with learning how to install them.

First, you need to determine if the system is chlorinating a pool, a spa or a pool/spa combination. Then locate the return line where the electrode will be installed. On a pool/spa combo, it's best to put it before the diverter valve so the spa will be sanitized when in use. Because hot water and bather loads use up chlorine quickly in a spa, you don't have to worry about overchlorination.

Most installers should be able to hook up the power supply as well as do the plumbing. If you have any doubts about the electrical work, hire a qualified electrician to do it. For most pool/spa service techs, the wiring should not be a problem if you've done your homework.

Wiring a salt system is the same as wiring a pool pump or timer. Most systems can wire to 120 or 240 volts, and some even have a builtin timer for the pool pump that will replace an existing timer. Add a timer to a pool without one.

Adding the salt

The approach to adding salt is different for a new installation compared with an existing pool. This is a critical point. Existing pools already have a significant salt level if they're using chlorine, but a new pool won't. On an existing pool that uses chlorine, when the salt is used up, it returns to its natural state.

This means you're raising the salt and total dissolved solids levels every time you add chlorine. Therefore, always check the current salt level before adding more. You don't want to oversalt, or you'll end up having to drain some water out.

If you're converting a pool from biguanides, it's best to drain and refill it with fresh water. The polymers in biguanide products can clog the electrodes.

Salt levels can be checked in several ways, but the best is with a properly calibrated electronic meter. While costly, it's more reliable and less expensive per test in the long run.

There are also test strips and drop kits. These kits tend to be 10- to 20 percent off in either direction, so keep this in mind if you get a low or high salt reading from the chlorinator.

Measure the pool to determine the gallonage. Don't rely on the homeowner to give you this information. Once the size in gallons is known, check the installation manual to determine the right amount of salt for new or existing pools. Salt chlorinators can vary from 2,500 ppm to 6,000 ppm of salt needed to operate. Once determined, add the salt so it will dissolve while you complete the plumbing and electrical work.

Note of caution: Do not add salt for approximately two to three weeks if the pool has been freshly plastered. This allows the plaster to cure, and the salt won't damage it.

You should always use salt without yellow prussiate of soda, which is an anti-caking agent. It can cause yellow stains in a pool if the salt is not dissolved immediately and left to lie on the bottom of the vessel. In addition, use the finest salt you can find so that it dissolves quicker.

Installing the cell

Now it's time to install the electrolytic cell in line. Many systems can be installed vertically as well as horizontally, and this may be crucial when space is at a premium. Always check to see if the cell housing needs to be plumbed in a certain direction.

On a horizontal installation, some brands will need to plumb in elbow fittings to raise tire cell above the line. Some units have this raise already in the housings. Vertical installations normally do not require this, so consult the manual or call the manufacturer for technical support if you're unsure.

When gluing in the housing, avoid getting glue on the union nuts. Consult with the manufacturer as to which glue to use because some union ends may be ABS and not PVC. Also, be sure tit install the housing close enough to the control box location, and ensure that it is easily accessible for periodic cleaning. The cell leads are usually only 6- to 15 feet long.

Don't be alarmed if you have to re-plumb much of the installation area. It's better to install it properly rather than put it in a location that is more convenient, but inhibits proper operation.

Finally, never install the cell before the filter or heater.

The control box

When installing the control box, be aware of whether the unit will control the pump or if it will turn on with the pump. If you're using an automatic control system, it will usually supply power. Follow the wiring instructions and connect into 120 or 240 volts (if the unit allows), and the installation will be complete.

Turn the system on and program it, if applicable. Be sure you spend 15 or 20 minutes with the customer explaining how to operate the system. Your job is not complete until this is done, even if you must return later when the customer will be home.
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Title Annotation:Technically Speaking
Author:Arunski, Ted
Publication:Pool & Spa News
Date:Oct 1, 2004
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