Salt Chlorinator Problems – Repair or Replace?

zodiac-jandy-aquapure-ei-salt-generator-smlSalt Chlorine Generators do require some maintenance and repair. The salt cell will eventually lose performance and the controller circuit boards can develop problems over time.

New technology in salt systems may also sway your decision to repair or replace your salt chlorinator. Newer models self-clean and self-diagnose and other advanced features.

Chances are, at some point you will face an expensive repair to your salt system, I’m talking about either a new salt cell, or a new control board. Both of these repairs can approach half the cost of a new system.

How do you know if you have a salt chlorinator problem? Usual symptoms are low chlorine output, as determined by your water tests, indicator lights or error codes flashing on the control box, or no lights at all.

Troubleshooting a Salt Chlorinator

plug-for-salt-systemFirst, check power. If your salt cell is plugged into an GFI outlet, make sure that the test button is not popped, or tripped. If your salt system is hardwired, variations in voltage could cause the controller to go a little haywire.

salt-shaker-2Secondly, maintain the proper salt level in the pool. Using salt test strips is recommended, even if your unit displays a digital salt level – it could be wrong.

pressure-gauge-toolCheck the water flow. Dirty pump baskets, clogged impellers or filters can reduce water flow to such a low point, that very little chlorine is produced. Check the pump timer too, for the same reason.

Check your water balance. Especially your pH,pool-testing and your Cyanuric Acid levels. High pH and low CYA can make it hard for chlorine to be effective. Keep a pH level of 7.2-7.6, and your level of CYA (or Stabilizer), at 30-50 ppm, to reduce the workload on your salt cell. Using the salt cell too much increases scale, and may cause premature cell failure.

clogged-salt-cellGot a clean salt cell? As it creates the electrolysis needed to convert the salty water to chlorine, the metallic plates of a salt cell develop a scale build-up that reduces chlorine production.

New Salt Systems can reverse polarity to slough off accumulated scale. Other units may have an indicator light to let you know when the cell needs to be manually cleaned. Older salt systems have neither, and require periodic inspection and cleaning.

try-this-2Good flow, proper water balance and salt level, and a clean salt cell can restore chlorine production, or in some cases, correct unrelated error codes. So try these things first, and you may not need a replacement salt cell, or new controller hardware.

Buy New or Repair Old?

Back to the original question. Well, if my troubleshooting tips didn’t help you, the next step might be to assess the likely parts needed to repair the salt system, so you can determine the probable repair costs, to weigh against the cost of a new salt chlorine generator.

If the salt system is still within the warranty period, by all means, get on the phone with the manufacturer’s support reps, for some advanced troubleshooting, or warranty service.

Most salt cells last 3-5 years, depending on the salt system, and situational factors. The control boards used can last 3x as long, even in the outdoor environment, or they could fall victim to insect, power or moisture issues.

If you’ve invested too much money into your current salt system, and are finding it unreliable, perhaps switching brands would be appropriate. Or, if your system is over 10 years old, you may enjoy the features and benefits available on our newest salt systems for pools.

Davy Merino
InTheSwim Blog Editor


Salt Chlorinator Problems – Repair or Replace? — 6 Comments

  1. Hi Davy, I have an ESR 160 chloromatic cell which one of the outer plates has snapped off on. Could this be causing it to be ineffective in chlorine production?
    Regards Tamara

    • Hi Tamara, If a plate snaps off, this could be the end of the cell, since each plate is electrically charged. However, I’m not sure in your case, does it still produce chlorine? If not, perhaps it could be spot weld repaired, by a knowledgeable welder (?), either to reattach the plate or to seal of the electrical flow to the absent plate.

  2. Hi, I have Ei2 chlorinator which is only a few months old. Its seems to have stoped working, there is no power in the unit. The plug is still working. Do you have any possible solutions for this? Thanks

    • Hi jason, Do you have display on the controller screen? There is a Power Supply error message ‘Output Fault’ that should display if that is the cause. If no display at all, check the power cord, and outlet, be sure the Test button isn’t popped, if it’s GFCI. If you do have power to the unit, but no action visible in the salt cell, check that your flow is proper (clean filter and baskets, check valves), although that should generate a ‘No Flow’ error message. Check that the cable leading to the salt cell is intact and not damaged. Finally, check that the salt cell is clean and does not have scale buildup. Here’s a technical guide on the Ei salt system from Zodiac:

    • Hi Rosie; for the Ei salt system, the pipe is drilled with two small holes, which are sealed up with the ‘Saddle Clamp Assy, R0511700’- which has two small o-rings. There is another larger o-ring used to seal the salt cell to the saddle clamp, pn R0511600. Since you say it’s leaking out of the bottom, it’s likely the smaller o-rings, probably deteriorated from the chlorine.

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