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What the Salt Water Pool Conversion Process Actually Looks Like

There are few things more enjoyable than spending your days lounging in your backyard pool. If you want to take your pool experience to the next level, however, converting to a salt water pool system is where it’s at!

There are a ton of benefits to making the switch. Not only will you save a ton of money, but you’ll enjoy crystal-clear water that’s free of harsh chemicals and other benefits like clearer skin and even an immune system boost.

Have we piqued your interest yet? Here’s everything you need to know about the salt water pool conversion process.

4 Things to Do Before You Get Started

Before you jump into converting your pool to saltwater, there are a few important decisions you’ll need to make. This will help ensure the process goes smoothly and you don’t inadvertently damage your pool.

1. Decide Whether to Drain the Pool

First of all, you don’t have to drain your pool to convert to a salt water pool system. However, it might be a good idea, especially if you’re currently using an antibacterial agent.

This type of pool sanitizer uses a chemical called polyhexamethylene biguanide which isn’t compatible with a salt water system. If you don’t remove it, the water won’t be balanced properly, and you’ll have difficulty keeping your water clean.

In this case, you have two options. The first is to drain the pool and start over with fresh water. The second, which may be far less expensive, is to “burn” the chemical out using a high dose of chlorine.

When you do this, the pool water will turn white and stay that way for several days. However, once it clears back up, you’re ready to start your conversion.

2. Test the Water

You’ll also need to do a thorough test of your pool chemistry to ensure that the water is balanced before you start your conversion. You’ll want to test the following things in the order listed, making adjustments for each one as needed until your water is as close to perfect as possible:

  1. Chlorine
  2. Alkalinity
  3. pH
  4. Stabilizer
  5. Calcium hardness
  6. Metals

Once you’ve determined that your pool is balanced, you can add salt to your pool following the steps below. 

3. Make Sure You Have the Right Type of Pool

Before choosing a saltwater system for an inground pool, you need to make sure you won’t cause damage. Luckily, pools with vinyl liners are perfect candidates for conversions.

However, if there are galvanized walls behind the liner and it ever springs even a tiny leak, the steel wall will eventually corrode. Salt water systems also aren’t appropriate for above ground pools with a lot of metal parts, as they will rust. Above ground pools made of resin are just fine, though.

4. Choose Your Chlorinator

Lastly, you need to choose your chlorinator. These range in price from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand.

Make sure you get a size that’s appropriate for your pool and choose the highest quality option your budget allows for. You’ll also want to decide whether upgrades, like digital readouts, automatic cell cleaning, freeze protection, and other automation options are important to you.

The Salt Water Pool Conversion Process

Now that you’ve taken care of all the prerequisites, you’re ready to start your conversion! It’s easy if you follow these four simple steps.

1. Install Your Chlorinator (Or Hire a Pro)

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide whether you want to pay a professional to install your system or do it yourself. Most pros charge around $300 to $500. If you take it on as a DIY project, it will take you about three to six hours.

If you’re going to do it yourself, take some time to do your research and watch a few YouTube videos so you know exactly what to do. There’s some basic electrical and plumbing work involved, so make sure you’re comfortable before taking this on.

2. Add Salt

Once the chlorinator is installed, you’ll need to add salt. Check the owner’s manual to find out how much. In general, you can expect to need anywhere between 400 and 1,000 pounds, depending on the size of your pool

Make sure you have plenty of pool salt test strips so you can keep an eye on your levels throughout the process. When you add the salt, make sure your pool pump is turned on and the chlorinator is off.

Spread the salt evenly throughout the pool and let the pump run for 24 hours so it mixes evenly. After 24 hours have passed, test the water to ensure it’s at 3,000 to 3,500 PPM.

3. Start Up Your Salt Chlorine Generator

The next step is to start your salt chlorine generator, but first, you’ll want to make sure the water chemistry is right. Look for these ranges:

  • pH 7.2 to 7.8
  • Free chlorine 1.0 to 3.0 PPM
  • Stabilizer 50 to 75 PPM
  • Calcium hardness 150 to 400 PPM
  • Total alkalinity 80 to 120 PPM

Set your system to 50% chlorine production and let it run for 24-hours. Then, test the water to see if it’s between 1 and 3 PPM. If not, dial it up or down in 10% increments and keep retesting every 24 hours until you reach your desired levels.

4. Set Up a Maintenance Schedule

That’s it, your salt water system is now up and running! But, you’re not done. You’ll still need to test your water periodically to ensure that the water chemistry is where it should be.

You’ll also want to occasionally clean calcium buildup from the salt cell to help prolong its life.

Enjoy Your New Salt Water Pool!

There you have it – a simple guide to salt water pool conversion! Now you have everything you need to get started!

Want to learn even more about how to get the most out of your home? Browse through a few more of our blog posts today!