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How does a salt chlorinator work?

The chlorinator cell uses electrolysis to attract calcium and other minerals to a pair of parallel titanium plates, either solid or mesh. These plates are coated with a platinum transition metal, such as iridium or ruthenium. As the salt water travels through the pool’s circulation system, it passes through the cell, between the plates. A low-voltage current (electrolysis) breaks the salt and water into hydrogen gas plus hypochlorous acid. The hydrogen gas bubbles to the surface and leaves the pool, and the acid remains behind to disinfect the pool and gets recycled. In order for a salt generator to work, the salt conventration in the pool must be at least 3,000 ppm (salt in the ocean is 35,000 ppm).

Think of the pool system like your water softener. People who live in an area with hard drinking water will know this very well. The hardness in the water (Calcium and magnesium) precipitates out onto the plates of the cell. The cell will eventually get a build-up of calcium (scale), and it will require a bit of maintenance. Clean the cell with a mild acidic solution which will remove the scale and improve the effectiveness of the system. Overuse, not having enough salt, or using too strong an acid wash can all strip the metal coating from the plates of the cell. If this happens, the entire cell will need to be replaced.