Saltwater Pool Conversion: Pros, Cons, and How to Do It

Dina Cheney
Written by Dina Cheney
Updated April 29, 2022
family playing in swimming pool
Photo: Tom Merton / Caia Image / Adobe Stock


  • Saltwater pools have less chlorine and irritating chloramines.

  • Saltwater pools don’t irritate eyes and lungs or dry out skin and hair.

  • Unless you’re an experienced DIYer, hire a pro to convert your pool.

  • To convert, balance water, add salt, and install the chlorinator control panel and salt cell.

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You love to swim, but don’t relish how irritated your eyes get after laps in your standard chlorinated pool. Even worse, the harsh chemicals worsen your allergy symptoms and give your blonde hair a green tinge. Enter saltwater pools, which solve all these problems. Read on for the pros and cons of saltwater pools and the basics behind making a saltwater pool conversion

What Are Saltwater Pools?

Although the name suggests otherwise, saltwater pools only contain about 10% as much salt as seawater. Like standard chlorinated pools, saltwater pools rely on chlorine to disinfect the water—just in smaller quantities. Here’s how these pools work: At the beginning of the season, you add bulk salt (sodium chloride) to pool water. This salty water draws into a chlorinator whose salt cell component converts it into chlorine via electrolysis. The resulting water is soft and fresh, mimicking the feel of a lake.

Pros of a Saltwater Pool

Saltwater pools offer many advantages, most importantly a reliance on fewer harsh pool cleaning chemicals, like chlorine and bromine. The lower levels of chlorine and chloramines (irritating chlorine byproducts) result in these pluses:

Health Benefits

Thanks to lower levels of chloramines, saltwater pools don’t irritate eyes and lungs or dry out skin and hair. They also don’t cause health problems that can result from frequent exposure to chloramines, like coughing, asthma symptoms, rashes, and allergic rhinitis. Plus, saltwater pools won’t turn blonde hair green. The interaction between copper (in pool algaecides) and chlorine causes this issue—it’s not a side effect with saltwater pools, which have less chlorine.  

More Safety

With a saltwater pool, you won’t need to store large quantities of dangerous concentrated chemicals, like chlorine or bromine. 

Cons of a Saltwater Pool

Saltwater pools offer very few downsides. 

Initial Expense

You’ll need to shell out $800 to $2,500 for the electrolytic chlorine generator. 

Damage to Metal 

Saltwater can corrode metal, including ladder bolts, diving board brackets, skimmer baskets, light fixture housings, heaters, handrails, galvanized wall panels in vinyl pools, and nearby furniture. To guard against this galvanic corrosion, install zinc anodes. 

How to Convert Your Pool

testing swimming pool levels for chlorine
Photo: recep-bg / Getty Images

If you’re experienced at handling electrical wires, cutting and gluing PVC pipes, and using basic hand tools, you should be able to DIY the conversion without a saltwater pool conversion kit. Otherwise, hire a local pool company.

Here are the basic steps, but check your sodium chlorinator manual for the exact procedure:

  • Test your pool water for free chlorine, pH, cyanuric acid, alkalinity, calcium hardness, heavy metals, and salt. Then balance the water.

  • Referring to your chlorinator manual, add enough pool-grade salt to achieve the right concentration. Allow 24 hours for the salt to broadcast across the pool surface.

  • Turn off the power to your pool. Install the chlorinator controller on a wall near your pool equipment pad. 

  • Wire the controller for power, then install the chlorinator cell. Connect the cell to the controller. 

  • Turn on the pump, check for leaks, and let it run for several hours. Turn on the chlorinator.

How to Maintain Your Pool

Maintaining a saltwater pool is like maintaining a standard chlorinated pool. The difference: you won’t need to add much in the way of chemicals.

Just be sure to check your salt cell for buildup every three months and clean it with hydrochloric acid every 500 hours. Every 3 to 8 years, you’ll need to replace it (at a cost of $200 to $700). It’s also smart to check your rubber O-rings and pump seals for corrosion each month. Regularly test your salt level as well, and use a pool salt calculator to figure out how much salt you need to add.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, unless you use an antibacterial agent containing polyhexamethylene biguanide to sanitize your pool. If you do, either drain your pool or treat it with a high dose of chlorine. If you treat it, wait several days so the chlorine has a chance to remove the antibacterial agent. Then go ahead with the conversion.

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